Wednesday, June 18, 2014

View from the Passenger Window

I have seen a lot of Dar as a passenger crawling through traffic on my way to meetings around town.  The experience has given me a new appreciation for the city and I am sure shaping my experience.  Getting from my place to the CHAI office downtown or to the businesses participating in my project requires a significant amount of time crawling through traffic.  The time in traffic and inability to avoid the delay is something similar to the commutes people have in large US cities like Chicago or New York, but I have enjoyed being the passenger and not the driver.  I don’t have the stress of cars constantly shifting lanes or motorcycles sailing through the backed up cars.  I don’t worry about the inconsistency of street signs or lack of street numbers.  I just get to observe.

Single vendor on right; motorcycle lane in center
I love the number of vendors that pace up and down the traffic on the backed up main roads selling things to a fully captured audience.  Most of the items that are sold make sense, but it is fun for me to notice what else is on offer to commuters like myself.  Many of these salesmen offer the types of products that you would expect for people sitting in hot cars for hours: cold water and soda, cashews, chips, ice cream and fruit.  The most commonly sold fruit are bananas and mangos.  A banana is pretty easy to eat in a car, but a mango seems a bit tougher, however, kitchen knives are also regularly on offer solving that dilemma.   Beyond these immediate use items there are many other items consistently for sale including shoes, a variety of laminated 3’x5’ maps and educational posters, child costumes, and sports equipment.  My favorite unique sighting was a full aquarium complete with decoration and about a dozen fish (sorry camera not pulled out in time.)

Two lanes of right turners: one source of the congestion
My favorite times in the car, however, occur when my driver attempts to beat the traffic jam by weaving through the side streets.  This means shifting to uneven dirt roads with potholes especially large this year due to a heavier rainy season than usual.  In Kiriakoo, the market district these streets often become one-way due to parked cars or crowds.  It has been on these roads that I get to see a greater variety of business in Dar and the natural clustering of similar businesses (like metalworking, lumber, pharmacies, computer shops, and others).  For the pharmaceutical importers that I work with, most have shops here to take advantage of the number of people from across Tanzania that come here to procure materials.

It is probably linked to my time in car and the parts of the city I visit that I see Dar as a very commercial city.  Despite the construction of a new Bus Rapid Transit system, I anticipate the view I have enjoyed from the passenger seat in traffic will continue as opportunities continue to increase in Dar.
Traffic eases off main road near city center

A bonus shot of the local ferry to a local island with a nice beach:
Bongoyo Island near Dar
Wooden Ferryboat to Bongoyo Island

No comments:

Post a Comment