Hello Kiva Fans,
A little more than a week ago I was sitting on the plane for the last hour of what had been a 36 hour journey – Boston, New York, Zurich, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam. I watched as the computer generated plane tracker moved across the Kenya/Tanzania border and tried to steady myself for the new circumstances I was about to enter.
This week, I want to share some of the pleasant surprises – of which there are many. One of the unfortunate unintended consequences of the dogged, and at times heroic, efforts of many to highlight to suffering on this continent is that it has come to define the African brand. This is not in any way to minimize the hardships of many, indeed witnessing and hopefully beginning to understand their struggles is in large part why I am here.
The first surprise has been how safe I have felt. Considering I was dropped quite literally half way around the world, with no arranged ride and only the address of a hotel from a guidebook – this was a welcome discovery!
Another surprise was how diverse the community is here in Dar. Take for instance my day on Tuesday. I woke up at my hotel, the Jambo Inn – small, cheap, but clean – which is run by Jignesh, a 32 year old Muslim, who was born in Mumbai. It stands at the corner of Libya St. and Mosque Street. If you take Libya St. 5 blocks west, you will Ohio St. (even here Ohio beats Michigan). William, the Tanzanian who runs the front desk, is a Christian.
I bought a cell phone from Mahmood, Hindu, born in Tanzania to Indian parents. My lunch was prepared by a Somali woman and later I went to a Rosh Hashanah service performed by a rabbi from Brooklyn at a restaurant owned by two Israelis.
Four religions (five if you count the chasm between me and an orthodox rabbi), people from three continents, two great meals, all in one afternoon.I hold no allusions that this day, or any other day that I might have here, is a “typical” day for locals. I just hope that is adds some texture to that heavy, often sorrowful image often associated with Africa.
Oh yeah, the pizza is pretty good too, who knew?
Thank you for your support of Kiva, thank you for your support of the Kiva Fellows. I look forward to sharing stories from the microfinance world soon.