Food vendors from the farming areas unloaded their pickup trucks and set up their vegetables in unevenly-trodden grassy areas of land alongside Sokoine Road, usually in front of public buildings that had available open space, and as far into the city as they could get. Farmer vendors who didn’t have
vehicles laboriously pulled their overloaded wooden carts, two or three persons abreast, many miles to these locations where they squatted on the ground
alongside blankets that displayed a variety of produce, including carrots, bananas, pineapple and bags of rice, all neatly laid out in rows. Business was
as the food was sold at bargain prices to business employees stocking up on groceries during a lunch hour that spanned from 12:00 to 2:00PM.
Vehicles jostled with hordes of jaywalking pedestrians. Considering the narrow margin of error between passing vehicles and pedestrians, I was amazed when told of the relatively few accidents. And it was quite worthy to note that, unlike in the west, road rage in Arusha seemed to be non-existent. The
Tanzanian temperament was one of extraordinary patience; horn-honking was at a minimum, and drivers respectfully maneuvered around each other,
signaling thanks with a little hand wave.
But the pollution levels remained difficult to cope with, especially because of the constant traffic congestion. The smog was so bad at times, one could
barely breathe. No exhaust emission controls existed on the majority of old vehicles. I remembered reading somewhere that respiratory disease led the
causes of death in Tanzania. After one return trip to the Majengo site, I usually needed the next day to recover. During one trip in someone else’s taxi (Deo
had not been available) where the windows were permanently stuck in the down position (at least that was what the taxi driver had insisted was the case),
the acrid billowing exhaust fumes were so bad, I had put my hat over my face to minimize the intake. Not much help. Then I’d had an idea that seemed to work well. I took off one of my sweaty wool socks, folded it in half and covered my mouth with it. I placed it over my face to inhale, long and slow.
I took it off to exhale. Hey: I was desperate! Needless to say, I would be “stocking” up on proper facemasks soon.
During my morning stroll on Friday, November 19, I was feeling a little more comfortable among the crowds of pedestrians commuting to work, not
caring if I stood out as I cheerily greeted every passerby. I was in a great mood; the school projects were progressing without any serious problems.
Was it always going to be this smooth, I wondered?
Normally, I would have been a little cautious passing young, opportunistically- minded men hanging around the streets waiting for a white tourist to “walk and talk with.” On one occasion I caught the eye of a young man as I passed and greeted him with a “jambo.” A little later, I could hear the quick pace of footsteps approaching from behind. The same young man had caught up to me. He introduced himself as James Kaaya and, smiling, asked if I needed any help with directions, or general tourist information. I would normally have shooed away his unwanted solicitation, but on that occasion, I remembered that my wife Maureen had wanted me to pick up some art: as gifts for the kids (at 27, 29 and 31 years old, we still call them that), as well as for some for our friends. After chatting for a bit I asked if he could recommend a good place to buy fabric wall hangings. He told me that there were many small shops with local artwork scattered around the city, some hidden away in back streets. He took me to one, a large ramshackle warehouse down a side street that, surprisingly, was only a short distance from the lodge.