Dala-dalas are Dar es Salaam’s form of public transportation. They are buses that run all over the city, charging about $0.30 per ride. There is no set schedule, and they typically only leave once they are full.
Although several Tanzanians warned me about taking dala-dalas during rush hour, I figured it was no big deal. So I would be squished and sweaty, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I took one from work to the city center and I even got a seat! At that point I was thinking, “Why did everyone make such a big deal? This is totally fine.” Then, as we pulled into the main bus station, I finally understood. A group of 20 people or so were running alongside the bus, hanging on by a few fingers and trying to squeeze through the closed door. Seeing what we were up against, everyone on the inside stood up immediately and headed towards the door. Once we finally slowed to a speed of 5 mph, the door was forced open and people pushed their way in as we attempted to push our way out. When it was my turn (and that’s all relative), I sort of leaped out of the bus. There were so many people trying to get on that I stayed perched in mid-air. One of my flip-flops managed to reach ground but I continued to float. A few words were thrown around, including Mzungu, and I finally managed to make a safe landing. But I wasn’t done yet. I was ready to do almost anything to get on the rare Masaki route dala-dala. When I saw it pulling in I ran with the rest of the crowd, throwing elbows and pushing my way through. I made it in the bus but wasn’t lucky enough to get a seat. I was told to sit on the ledge behind the driver, and with my leg in the crotch of the man across from me, I was feeling pretty comfortable and accomplished. But as the engine roared and we took off, I realized my butt was super hot. Not surprising considering I was sitting on the engine of a decrepit bus that my sister, Risa, wouldn’t dare enter due to safety reasons. It took about an hour with traffic, and although happily on the bus, sweat was dripping down my face and I worried my versatile gaucho pants were bound to be singed.
As I walked to work the next morning, I saw a fight go down on a dala-dala. People were yelling, punches were being thrown, arms were flailing – it didn’t look pretty. As men in collared shirts and ties climbed out of the windows, I realized my hot buns and flying experience was nothing in comparison.
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