Picking up from the last post, I was driven from the airport to our hotel around 1 a.m. This was after being up for nearly all of the 33 hours of the trip, as I have never slept well on planes. I had to guard against forming impressions at that hour of the morning, in the mental and physical state I was in. I recalled one of the leadership lessons we teach, which is not judging things or people too quickly. After all, there are few cities that would be impressive at 1 in the morning!
I am glad I waited, as the scene outside my hotel window around 10 the next morning was far different from the night before. The streets were alive with people in a mix of color and noise. Street vendors were hawking foods, electronics and clothing. Awnings and tents marked shops just as much as storefronts and doors. Saturdays in Dar es Salaam are what Main Streets must have been like once in America.
I got to see a bit of the city that afternoon, as we met with our client and got a glimpse of where our workshops were going to be held. A driver was provided to us, so we took care of some personal errands, including activating a pre-paid cell phone and visiting a large mall to exchange currency.
There is a difference between so called "third world countries", and "third world major cities". Dar is a city of 4 million people, and the commercial, governmental and educational center of Tanzania. Building cranes are everywhere, with high rise construction all over the city. Of course, right next to a luxury apartment building can be a run-down hovel. Overall though, the impression Dar es Salaam leaves is of a vibrant, developing metropolis. The guide books generally tell you to skip Dar on your way to safari or to Zanzibar. I could not disagree more, as I love the energy of big cities.
In my next blog posting, I'll talk about a world view shared with me by several Tanzanians, and my impression of where Americans fit in Tanzania's big picture.