Patchwork

Eds. Note: This is the third in a series of dispatches from 3L A.J. Frey. A.J. is taking part in W&L Law’s International Human Rights practicum, which includes travel to Tanzania to research a human rights issue. This year, the students are researching labor and employment and workers’ rights, with a special focus on women in the workplace. 

Dar es Salaam is a city of many cultures, ethnicities, and traditions. On one Friday evening, as we catch a taxi to explore a new corner of the city, the sound of imams calling people to prayer mixes with the rumble of buses idling in endless rivers of traffic and the country music blaring from our driver’s radio. It’s a strange and wonderful combination.

In all things, Dar is a patchwork. Its city center is all Western-style glass and steel construction. There is a Holiday Inn (the nicest I’ve ever seen) with a swanky rooftop bar. A few blocks away, though, down a quiet side street under a glowing red sign is a place called the Alcove, which feels far removed from the Holiday Inn but much more inviting in its own way. Serving a full menu of both Indian and Chinese cuisine (take note, Lexington), and doing both very well, the Alcove encapsulates the hybrid culture of Dar for me.

On the night we visit, the clientele is as eclectic as the cuisine, and the tables are packed with families enjoying a night out together. The owner, who spent some years working on cruise ships and speaks English, remembers one of our group from a visit earlier in the week and greats us at the door as we arrive. We feast on as much deliciously spiced tikka masala and cashew chicken as we can manage and eventually spill out onto the deserted street and into the balmy Tanzanian night. And yet, at night, the city center is oddly dark and quiet. For all the hidden charm of places like the Alcove, the city center is not where the true heart of Dar es Salaam lies.

The real action is found in the maze of low-slung, sprawling, semi-urban developments that stretches out for miles in every direction from the center of the city. On our last night of work, our ever-accommodating hosts from WLAC take us on a taxi ride out to the outskirts of the city, past neighborhood after neighborhood, until we turn down a bumpy dirt lane and creep slowly through what appears to be a very residential area. After a few wrong turns and some careful backtracking we come to Brajec Pub (named after a prominent Tanzanian-Croatian I assume?), an idyllic outdoor grill, where we sit in lawn chairs, watch soccer on a huge projector screen, eat crispy, juicy barbecued chicken, drink Tanzanian beer (my favorite was Safari; others preferred Kilimanjaro), and celebrate the work we’ve done and the end of our time in Tanzania. For a moment I feel totally at home in Dar, like I’ve lived here for ages.

It’s a fitting way to cap off a trip that has been equal parts education, exploration, and hard work. The next post will be my last. I’ll wrap up the blog and share a few closing reflections on our experiences in this incredible country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: