I’m On The Block

It takes a minute to get to know your neighbors. I live in a compound without much interaction—the Indian families keep to themselves, the Chinese families do the same. Their domestic help I see outside: washing cars, playing with the kids, sitting and talking to the gate guards. When we moved in, it was one of the maids that brought over a welcome to the neighborhood cake from Unit 3A or 4B—I don’t remember. Mostly, my neighbors are silhouettes behind tinted glass, vaguely waving from their cars as they roll past.

My not having a car is honestly a boon. Sure, it makes shopping inconvenient. Sure, my 40 minute commute to work isn’t ideal. But walking around my little slice of West Upanga, I’ve gotten to know the neighborhood pretty well. Today, I went around the corner to the bus stop, picking up a friend passing through town, and I really noticed it: the kid at the duka on my street shouting out a what’s up as I passed, one of my taxi guys, Hassan, driving by and beeping the horn, Juma, the banana salesman on the corner who I talk to about HIV/AIDS and encouraged to get tested, asking how things were.

When I first moved to Dar, I missed the village. The sense of community. It’s easy to get swallowed up by the big city, especially when you’re too broke to do much social. But it’s nice getting by on a local level. It’s taken almost a year, but I’m back to having a little community. It’s nice. We’re sliding steadily toward the hot season here, so I’m enjoying the last of the cool evenings, walking around, talking to folks. If you need me, you can find me—I’m on the block.

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