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April 16th, 2010 | Africa

Dodoma Days…

Big Fella had pride of place on the porch of the Nam Hotel...

The management of the Nam Hotel are probably still shaking their heads, well after my departure… I became firm friends with most of the staff, and when I left this morning, they even offered me another night, free of charge !! Each time one of the staff walked past me, they would point at me, shake their heads and burst into a fit of giggles… I practically had the run of the place, and wandered in and out of offices, cracking jokes, answering telephones, threatening disciplinary action, and generally causing a bit of mayhem wherever I went…

Breakfast was a frugal affair... Slice of bread and a banana, and a cold chipati to "plug things up"...

I was always warmly greeted, and did my best to answer in Swahili, much to their vast amusement… I was constantly being corrected, and encouraged to speak their language, which I enjoyed… Makes you feel accepted… The waitresses would take turns to serve me, and rush off to tell the others what I had said, or asked for…

Having seen that I liked my coffee, each night a flask of hot water and a teaspoon was put on the dinner table just as I was about to leave for my room. (I have my own sugar and coffee that I carry with me…) If I was still up much later, Robert would knock on my door and ask if I needed any more hot water… I told them that coffee was my “petrol”, and after that, I would be asked if I wanted “Petrol” or Fanta with my meals…

If only I had a cat....!!!

You gotta love it...!! Or go crazy...!!

The room costs TSh 18 000 per night and includes breakfast. (That’s about R110.00 !!) Breakfast is a rather bleak affair however, but you can order eggs and sausage for an extra TSh 4000…. But sorry, there are no sausages… At least there were never any on all the days I stayed there, even though I was duly offered them each morning !!

The room was tiny, and had there been a cat around, I would have been tempted to give it a swing, just to confirm how small the room was… The bathroom was…er….unusual…, in that it had  a shower, toilet and basin… all in one… The first night I turned the shower on, I forgot to remove the toilet paper from the bathroom, and ended up with a very soggy roll… The water from the shower even wets the opposite wall, and naturally, everything in the bathroom as well, including the toilet… Ah yes…the toilet… You will first of all notice that there isn’t a seat… The first time I sat down on it, I forgot this rather important bit of info, and almost ended up with my knees around my ears… You might be asking yourself what the bucket and jug are doing in the bathroom… That’s the flushing system…  The cistern is there purely for aesthetic reasons…

Dodoma is the legislative capital of Tanzania, and parliament sits here to decide on the fate of the nation. One evening I met a few Members of Parliament, having a quiet drink out on the back patio, where a big flat screen TV was blaring out the local news… They invited me to sit with them, and asked about my trip, which they had heard about from the staff… The conversation turned a bit more serious when I asked them what they were doing for the people of Tanzania… There was much spluttering and clearing of throats, before one of them said, “We try and use the donor money as best we can, but we do not get enough…”

Mmmm, I thought… Donor money…the scourge of Africa… If the Western World had spent more time managing the money they dished out to Africa, by rather building the schools, roads and hospitals themselves, than handing it out to corrupt governments, Africa would have been far better off than it is today… Naturally I did not say this out load, otherwise I might be getting a striped tan in some out-of-the-way jailhouse, rather than writing this…

Airtime to the left, Fanta to the right, here I am, stuck in Dodoma with you...

Just outside the gates of the hotel, there are two tiny spaza shops, one selling general goods and cold-drinks, and the other selling airtime, two things I tend to need a lot of… I would buy my Fanta’s here, and pay half the price that the hotel charged, much to the consternation of the manager…but he got used to it and always looked the other way when I would come strolling past him, bottles “clinking” in the bag swinging at my side…

Usually on his son was present in the shop on the left, but on the last day I was in Dodoma, the guys father had come in especially to meet the Mzungu with the big “Piki-Piki”… Swahili for motorbike… He pulled up the plastic chair from next door for me, and questioned me at length about my reasons for doing this trip… I explained that due to circumstances beyond my control, I had decided to make a dream that I had come true, and wanted to experience it before my 50th birthday… I asked if he had any dreams, and he said that his only dream was to be able to afford to send all his children to school… His son is working in the Spaza until his father has saved enough to send him back to school…

On my last night there, a wedding was taking place up on the open-air roof of the hotel… The music went on until 2.00am, which wasn’t as bad as the drunken guests who staggered down the passage past my room, talking loudly, and generally making a nuisance of themselves… Being the only Mzungu in the hotel (and miles around for that matter!), I put up with it… I was heavily outnumbered you see, and one can of pepper spray doesn’t go all that far…

Wedding reception, Nam Hotel...

The hotel was beautifully decorated for the wedding, and I took a few photos from the parking area outside… I briefly considered taking my video camera into the party and claiming to be the official photographer, but couldn’t come up with an appropriate disguise… Shoe polish doesn’t wash off that easily…

The open-air top floor, lit up in lights for the wedding reception...

You might think that the ceiling in the internet cafe is a little low...

That's because it is...!!!!

Trips to the internet café, which is in the centre of town, a few miles from the hotel, were undertaken in the same taxi that drove me about town on the night I arrived. Abdoulah made himself available to me at any time of the night or day… All I had to do was call him up and say,

“Abdoulah, it’s Ronnie….” To which he would reply,

“I come dere…” ….

All very simple and civilized… The fact that his English was only a little worse than my Swahili, made for many an interesting journey, to places I had not intended to go to… But we worked it all out in the end… If I said “NDRB…” he knew I wanted to go to the ATM… If I came out of the hotel with my laptop under my arm, it was straight to the internet café…

With a name like “Abdoulah”, you will have guessed that he is not a Methodist, or an Anglican for that matter… The first time I greeted him with a “Salaam Ailikoum”, he broke into a huge smile, and from then on, we had a standard greeting and farewell, a mish-mash of English, Swahili and Arabic…

“Salaam Ailikoum, Abdoulah ”

“wa al laikoum salaam, Bwana!”

“Habari ?”

“Mzuri, Bwana… Wapi? NDRB?”

“Ndio…. Step on the gas…”

And when we were through,

“Asante sana, Abdoulah !”

“Karibu, Bwana… Kwaheri ”

“And goodbye to you too… See you tomorrow…”

“Insh Allah, Bwana…”

“Indeed….”

And that’s much how it went every day… Sometimes he forgot to charge me…or perhaps I forgot to offer to pay… Either way, no money changed hands…!! I think he got a kick out of driving me around, and drew attention to us wherever he went, by hooting at his friends and waving to all and sundry…

I have met many interesting people here in Dodoma, and came to enjoy the short time I spent here, believe it or not…!!

But it was now time to move on…

© GBWT 2010

1 comment to Dodoma Days…

  • Stuart Campbell

    Sounds like you had fun in Dodoma. I can assure you the Nam is much improved although breakfast still needs to be worked on. We were offered filter coffee but forgot to add on 30 minutes to get it served – ho hum .. OiT.

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