Every city has its moment; that time when after a few days you penetrate the external veneer and make a real connection with the locals. We’ve found it in every city we’ve visited even the ones where we thought we had no chance of ever breaking through. The days ahead of that breakthrough can be tough. In Tanzania, you’re negotiating cab fares with drivers who aren’t sure what to make of the black family that can’t speak Swahili, you’re trying to figure out the local customs around meal times, you’re hoping this isn’t the place where the breakthrough doesn’t happen.
Our breakthrough day in Dar was day 3. After a late lunch at Jambo Inn ( tandoori chicken we never tired of) and the thrill of meeting not one but three Canadians over our meal. We were chatting with one of our new friends Fimo Mitchell as we started the slow walk back to our apartment in search of a good spot to grab a snapshot or two.
When we happened on a group of men playing checkers we stopped to take a look. They looked up as we approached, muttered some words in Swahili and went back to an intense match. We stood on the sidelines and watched.
Then we noticed Ethan was making his way further in and watching intensely. Could he play?
We motioned through hand gestures and way too loud English what he was wondering and to our surprise one of the men gave up his chair!
What followed was a moment none of us will soon forget.
A painted cloth board, two dozen bottle caps, a dozen grown men and us on a street in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It’s amazing what a shared experience can do.