Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Essence of the Dala-Dala

Now what is the Dala-Dala? Daladalas are basically commuter buses used to transport millions of people every single day, especially in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania. Even though I was born and partially-raised in Dar, I never had to get on the daladala before. There was always somebody in my family with a car. A few weeks ago, I got on the daladala for the very first time in my life. It was actually fun. But when I was going to the Saba-Saba Convention the a few days later, I realized just how irritating and uncomfortable it can get on these mini-buses.

Conductors deciding that they are going to cram 50 people into basically a mini-bus is just not all! I was very upset and I couldn't believe what people would do for money. I thought to myself that this practice was very dangerous. Looking around me while holding onto the handles in the ceiling of the bus, I could not believe it when I saw a 5 year-old girl literally getting squished between grown men and women. And the worst thing about it is that she was standing up, while grown people were sitting down. These practices are unsafe and things should be done to change the conditions of the poor. Because the reality is that most of the people who ride daladalas cannot afford to own private motor vehicles. However, they still deserve to have better and safer travelling conditions.

Now, don't get me wrong. Riding the daladala is fun...just as long as you don't have to stand and be squished by 50 people. I've had many interesting conversations in the few times that I have used daladalas to get around town. It is seriously the most efficient way of getting around town...and the cheapest. So if you ever get the wonderful opportunity to visit Dar, don't be too "uppity" to ride the daladala. Because you never know.....your next best friend might just be a person you met on the daladala.