Wednesday, April 23, 2008

about the name.

Great cities of the world tend to inspire really good writing about them, and good writers too. London and New York come to mind for me, and maybe Nairobi and Johannesburg, Cape Town. They have Character in spades, as do their citizens. They inspire poems, stories, novels. For me, The City is Dar es Salaam.

This must have happened when I came for some holiday or other as a child and was so warmly enveloped in the heat, the moisture, the lazy rhythms of the place. It has been Home ever since in many ways, some of them undefinable, all of them intimate. We have grown together: Dar from a scrappy little backwater to a booming city of millions, me from a scrappy little tomboy to a scrappy petite urbanite.

Part of what makes living in Dar wonderful is the complexity, though that is easily missed. It is full of delicious contradictions. You survive by your wits, hence the name Bongo, yet it has few of the hard edges that characterize places like Nairobi. Millionaire mansions are built right next door to ramshackle squatter plots, homophobic rhetoric masks tolerant behavior, and jokes are used to get through the hardest times. There is nothing a Bongolander cannot make fun of, no matter how tragic, dismal or inappropriate.

It is also a bit like the Garden of Eden, full of snakes and tropical fruit, though I cannot vouch for the nudity. No matter how frustrating this city gets, with its slow pace and non-committal nature, whenever I leave for extended periods I spend the first half-hour of my plane journey trying not to feel as though I am being forcibly ejected from paradise. Hence the name of this blog, which aims to be a sporadic and terribly subjective meditation on what I can capture about my living in the place that comes closest to bliss.


  1. Hey, nice one! Can't imagine living elsewhere either. Maybe in SA if/when they lower crime rates A LOT...

    I feel you on the humour. So inappropriate. So hilarious.

    Which songs about Dar?

    Look forward to reading lots more.

  2. i do love good old dar

    though the roads need to be fixed. i am still abit shaky from our night ride maeneo ya BOT flats. will have to start travelling with my inflatable and a oar at this rate.


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