Early on we would always boast and joke about how well we knew Tanzania. Back then we thought we were knowledgeable once we had a certain number of taxi driver’s phone numbers, or began to recognize different areas of town. Little did we know we still had a lot to learn.
If you really want to know if you know Tanzania, here’s how:
· You don’t need a menu when you go to a restaurant
· You don’t go to restaurants where the staff speaks English
· You don’t need to order at a restaurant because they already know you’ll be getting wali kuku and Fanta Passion.
· You confidently stride into the kitchen and gesture around so that your waiter or waitress can fully understand what you want
· You know which place has the best kuku, where to find the softest ugali, which place has the cheapest mishkaki, and where to get the freshest fish.
· You have to say a heartfelt, bittersweet goodbye to the restaurant owner whose eatery you frequent every night.
· You know when you’re being cheated
· You get the price down to 1/10 of what they ask for, and you know you’re still being cheated
· You get the price down from $130 to TZS 30000
· You are known at the market by nationality (the girl from Cameroon, the China, the girls from Sri Lanka, etc.)
· You are known at the market by first name (this is when you know you really need to stop)
· You go to a market one day by yourself and then return later with some Tanzanians in the hopes you will get a better price, and then realize that you’re better at haggling than they are and take over from them to keep from getting severely cheated
· You rattle off the names of the scores of other markets you’ve been to and their prices as part of your haggling strategy
· You are offended by the
· You have a personal tailor, wooden spoon seller, maasai knife vendor, vitenge shop, scarf place, fruit vendor…
· You (literally) chase down a street vendor after he walks away from—and successively ignores—you for giving too low of a price.
· You avoid places with too many wazungu
· You see that there are price lists at the entrance, but you insist on haggling anyway and succeed in getting an entrance for less than half the listed price
· You’ve seen literally everything a town has to offer
· You’ve seen over 60% of the sights in Lonely Planet’s “Do Not Miss” list
· You’ve used every form of transportation (taxi, daladala, bajaj, bodaboda, boat, plane, and safari jeep)
· Your priorities in a place are not running water, hot water, or electricity, but toilet seats
· The owners of your hotel start giving you gifts (shout out to Econo Lodge!)
· You start getting resident rates
· You find out you can ask for more toast at breakfast
· You ask for more toast at breakfast
· You no longer turn on the A/C or use mosquito nets
· You introduce yourself under a Tanzanianized version of your name (usually this means leaving off ending “i”s, leaving out any unnecessary “r”s, etc.)
· You warn wazungu against specific Barclays ATMs
· You can tell people where (not) to stay in different cities
· You stop people from buying seriously overpriced goods
· You know which beggar children will take money and go and which will take it and then follow you around for the next 3 hours asking for more
· You know which places are guaranteed to give stomach issues the next day
· You walk home after your bajaj driver punctures a tire
· You know which cities are best for Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo, or Zantel
But most of all, you known you really know Tanzania when you tell stories of your travels and experiences to locals and they respond with awe, amazement, and envy at having done and seen more than they have.
I’ll miss you, Tanzania.