On a daladala in Dar es Salaam
a typical bus ride in Dar es salaam
“Pee peeep!” The bus honks to the vendors who have placed their magunia with madera and jelojelo products. It finally comes to a stop right in front of me and I hop on before the many people who have been waiting for a bus to town start fighting for a seat. “Ta ta ta!”-the sound of my shoes in motion as my feet meet the rusty iron of the Tegeta-Kkoo bus. I head straight to the empty seat at the back. I slide in as fast as I can because, a second delay and I am one of the people standing back to back from Tegeta to Kariakoo.
There is an old woman, about my mother’s age, beside me on one side and a young man beside me on the other. I assume he is my brother’s age mate so I do not greet him. “Shikamoo!” I greet the old woman. There is a slight second of silence as though she did not expect my greeting. Once upon a time, a young person must give a shikamoo to an older person. Nowadays, it is not the case. Nowadays, young people rarely give out shikamoo-s to people they do not know. I verify this with the tone of surprise that accompanies her reply, “Marahaba.”
“Aisee hili joto, hasira kwelikweli!” the young man beside me exclaims. This is normal. People talk about the weather all the time. It’s the easiest thing to start a conversation with. “Na hii foleni ndio kabisaa, lazima uloe jasho. Yaani nitafika kwenye kikao nimesha chafuka,” he said. I politely smile and say, “Kabisaa!” in agreement. This too is common. People talk about themselves on the bus all the time. If you are a very good listener, you will know where a person is from, where they are going, what they are going to do, and, if you are lucky, even a little about their family as well. The chorus to these conversations, “Mwenge, Moroko, Kariakoo!” the conductors chant at each bus stop.
When the bus starts moving again I say, “Ukifika kwenye AC za watu waliotoka kwenye praivet kaas wanakushangaa.” The old woman abruptly intervenes and says, “Mh! Magari yenyewe hayo ya kifisadi.” I can’t help it but chuckle. It isn’t the first time someone has somehow found a way to connect the conversation at hand with the government. Before I even finish the thought, a man, about the woman’s age, who is sitting in front of me, picks up the conversation, “Hawa viongozi wetu yaani…” He goes on for a while on a rant about our leaders, then the government, then the ruling party and eventually drives the point home to say that this is why Tanzania is still poor. I watch as every person who can contribute to the discussion jumps in. It is as though my comment has started a group therapy session. Or if you may, a people’s riot.
“Shusha!” The voice of a person wanting to get off seizes the riot. “Ching! Ching!” the sound of the conductors’ coins as he collects nauli clunks. I wish I could do that without having coins fall off my hands. I give my fare and say, “Kariakoo.” If I do not he will not give me tiketi yangu. He is giving it to only the people who are getting off after Makumbusho. I think the conductors have really good memory. They remember every person who gives them the fare. Although, sometimes they forget. When I was still in primary school, I used to always tell the conductor I have paid my bus fare when I haven’t and he would believe me. “Nimekupa,” I would insist, with such conviction that to doubt me is to doubt that the sky is blue. Today, I have to pay my bus fare. I am an adult now, the conductor will not fall for that trick if it isn’t coming from a short and cute seven year old. Nobody would!
“Mwisho wa gari iyo!” The conductor says as we arrive at Kariakoo. I find my way off the bus and hit the busy streets of Kariakoo. This has been yet another insightful experience on a bus in Dar es Salaam. I look forward to another adventure on my way back home.