Thursday, October 1, 2009

Public Transportation

Public transportation in Dar is probably going to be one of the only things that I won’t miss about Tanzania. Riding in a daladala is never comfortable, never a nice, smooth ride, and most definitely never the same experience as the day before. More than anything, though, daladalas in Dar are not cut out for people, such as Americans, who enjoy their personal space.

Today, for example, I boarded a daladala in the morning and was very pleased because I actually got a seat. Just when I thought I might actually have a nice, two-hour ride into town, a chubby old women decided that leaning over my seat was the best place for her. Now, you have to understand that a daladala is also never too full—one more person can always be squeezed in somewhere, somehow. This morning, the particular daladala that I was in was testing it’s maximum capacity. This meant that everyone had to squeeze, even the people in seats. So, I got to enjoy a sweaty old lady and her giggly fat and bouncing boobs in my face the whole way to town (and I really am not exaggerating at all).

When I try to imagine a situation like this happening on a Seattle bus, I can’t help but to laugh. Americans are all about their personal space and keeping it completely to themselves and if anyone gets to close to you, especially in a public place like a bus, it is super awkward. Well, I’m afraid that while I am here in Dar, taking part in public transportation twice a day for 2 hours each way, I will have to forget about wanting any personal space. Maybe when I get back to Seattle I’ll be conformed to the Tanzania way of life and just be awkward…

Riding daladalas for almost 4 hours everyday is quite exhausting, but I realize that I am gaining an insight to a part of life in Tanzania that not many westerners experience (I actually have still yet to see another mzungu on a daladala and I’m certain that the average adventure tourist hardly ever gets on a daladala… even though daladalas are an adventure of their own!) I get to take part in my own cultural adventure, and for that I am thankful even with fat strangers unwelcomingly invading my personal space.


  1. Your story makes me laugh! Brings back fond memories from our India train trips. too. Miss you. pops

  2. Just you wait. By the end of next year you'll miss Daladalas.
    Matatus here just aren't quite the same. They're more aggressive on the road, so it leads to all kind of road excitement, but inside everyone has to be one person to a seat.

    I'm really curious what part of Dar es Salaam you live in. Are you riding mostly big buses? or the small ones? I always found the small ones cramped. They're the ones we use in Kenya, but when you try to over fill a big bus, it some how works. When you try to over fill a minivan, you end up bending over for the whole ride since the ceiling is so low.