Today, I am a bit too tired (mild belly-ache) to think through my thesis, which is still progressing, although still at at tortoise pace…
After the Albatross and the Hydra, the bestiary image that struck me recently was that of Snoopy endlessly typing “It was a dark and stormy night” atop his house. In one episode, he starts adding disjointed fragments: “A door slammed. The maid screamed. While the children were crying from hunger, the king lived in luxury.” (Comment from Snoopy: I will make all the connections in chapter 2… Which you will understand is what I’m writing now.) The he starts chapter 2 with even more disjointed fragments and comments: “I am making life difficult for myself!”
No, it’s nowhere near that bad. I laughed more than cried when this image came to me, which is both a good sign for my thesis and a bad sign for my sanity. Hopefully mostly the former ;-)

So while we are on the topic of fragments, and since people are asking me about my Tanzanian impressions, which I feel utterly unable to provide from our lovely little pad whence, like Snoopy, I am spending part of each day writing, another part just flopping in the heat (summer has started in earnest here…) and another part trying to organize said lovely pad (lovely, but that except of course we’re still waiting for the curtains to cut the sun. And the poles to hold the curtains. And the holes in the wall to screw in the poles. And the drill to make the holes. And the electricity to power the drill. And a new generator in the city to make electricity. (Two broke!) And the boat to come from India to bring the new generator… Does this begin to sound like a calling song?)

So speaking of fragments, here are fragments for a Tanzanian dictionary that I’ve been working on and off, in my spare time, with Veena’s help.

Sidewalk
Uneven strip on the side of the road. Is used by stores to display their wares, street sellers to set up their stands (for clothes, phone cards or Coconut water (q.v.)…), trucks and taxis parking, guards chatting, idlers playing draughts, mendicants with their family… And hence totally unsuited to actually walking. Pedestrians meander between the sidewalk and continually skirt the traffic on the main road. We propose ‘skirtwalk’.

Coconut water
«The real reason why we’re here». (Veena)
Curtains
An obscure object of desire, to quote Bunuel. We tend to forget this, but curtains depend on basic infrastructure, such as poles. Those, unfortunately, have to be installed by Fundis (q.v.). Fundis, to compound the problem, cannot work without Electricity (q.v.).

Fundis
Kiswahili for handyman. A Tanzanian swear word.

Electricity
A strange beast, without fixed schedule though mostly nocturnal, clearly not indigenous to Tanzania. Seems to be kin to the Cheshire Cat.

Schedule
We know we have to make one up, sure. (example: there is a schedule for when electricity is cut.) Er… do you mean you expect us to follow it as well?

Logic (VG)
The expectation that events will follow an orderly sequence. Leave it at the airport (hopefully you can collect it on your way back!)

Gratification (VG)
What you expect to get through payment, social interaction, using basic infrastructure. Forget it!

Instant Gratification (VG+MAP)
Are you out of your mind?

Respite
Ah. A more realistic goal. I mean… you can always sleep, right?

Mosque
A peaceful, quiet place where people go to pray. Quiet, that is, except when the Muezzin call for prayer through loudspeakers (seemingly undeterred by lack of Electricity) five times a day, from 5AM, loud enough to wake us up through closed windows and earplugs.

DalaDalas (VG)
Dirt cheap, somewhat crowded rattle traps with funky music and friendly locals, that actually get you to some nice places.

Beaches
White sands, strong sun, gentle waves, families outing, fewer touts… Can we go again?

Kindness
A constant.

On that last note… Yes, contacts are difficult. Tanzanians are indeed kind, but it is hard to make friends; among Veena’s Tanzanian colleagues, we have had the best chats with a few people who studied abroad. Of course exposure means we have more in common, but on the other hand how many Tanzanians are in that case? Well, not that few as it turns out but yet not enough. We are breaking through the isolation, which is a good thing, but sad to say, mostly through meeting other wazungus (foreigners.) Not exclusively, though. We are here for the long haul, there is hope.

Tanzanians are not only kind, but very polite; I must say Tanzania is beginning to feel suspiciously like Canada. Remnants of a social system still apparent but being dismantled, politeness often to the point of conflict-avoidance, of not making waves… (sad for a coastal country!) The government is very top-down and paternalistic, and people are getting very sick of the way the elections are run (esp. in Zanzibar, but even on the mainland all does not go well for the ruling party) but still, it is only talked about in understatements and a strange mix of anger and fatalistic comments. (And I am quite sure it is not fear, but simply a reluctance to rock the boat.) I hear Zanzibaris are more open about their points of disagreement, and many of them squarely resent the federation act; by all accounts, one feels it is a(nother) distinct society.

So… I hope all is well for you. Deep thanks to the few hardy souls who do answer my collective emails with personal ones, and deep apologies that they mostly go unanswered at this point; I am still trying hard to focus on the thesis. I do treasure these points of contacts, I promise that when my life is more normalized (Chantal told me there is a life after the Masters), I will catch up and you will get more personal answers for your pains…

Tutoanana tena
(See you!)
Marc-Antoine