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The rainy, ugly side of Dar es Salaam

At times the bus moved slower than that. In Dar es Salaam such a speed is not unusual. But it went against my wish that evening because first, leaving early on Thursday sat awkwardly with me as it is one of my busiest days with the weekend papers approaching.

But the news on TV in our newsroom that the downpour washing the city was a result of a seismic madness somewhere in Asia had propelled me from the office like a bullet from a gun and I had to get home fast. Before I walked out of the office, however, I visited the gents and emptied my bladder to avert a possible inconvenience that, on account of the weather, I was likely to suffer.

When it rains in Dar, the city appears to go through a dramatic change, assuming an ugly face. The number of people seems to multiply, but that of commuter buses appears to be in inverse proportion. To make things worse, the city itself looks as if it is vomiting water, flooding the streets and so forcing the denizens to wade through deep pools when they must cross to the other side. The rain had just started and already the streets were waterlogged as I walked the New Post Office terminus.

I barely made it onto the bus because it was already full up to the door. Nevertheless, I was content to travel standing rather remain out in the rain. The bus was going up to Ferry Front, but if I wanted to make it home first, I would have to make a round trip with it to Tabata where I live. Owing to the cold weather now, I perspired less. That meant I would pass water more and despite having emptied just a while ago, I could feel my bladder beginning to fill again.

I shortly later got a seat and traveled more comfortably as my bladder steadily filled. I wished the bus could fly.Fortunately, at its Ferry front terminus it stopped just a little and moved on, on the return trip. So far things went on well, but ill fate was dogging us. A short distance from the sea we came into a big traffic congestion and the bus literally drew to a crawl. I could feel in my bladder the uncomfortable sensation. I cursed at whatever it was that held up all the traffic.

Couldn’t the goddamn thing go away and let us move on? Normally, the trip from the Ferry Front to Tabata too about 45 minutes. However, on a road with as much traffic as a countryside one, it would take at most 15 minutes because it is roughly 12 km. The bus conductor had made sure he arranged us like sardines for maximum profit. In the humid coastal air of Dar, such crowding made the air stuffy, exacer-The rainy, ugly side of Dar bating our situation.

Moreover, my bladder was filling fast, but we had not travelled even a quarter of the journey! I envied those walking outside. Some other passenger suggested a metro in Dar. That was a distant dream, another one told him dismissively. “If we have failed to construct a bridge across the Kivukoni creek, how could we have an underground train, so much a costly and expensive engineering project?” said the second man.

A third passenger said we had not failed to either have a metro network or a bridge across the Kivukoni creek because we were poor. “We have failed because we are so skilled at stealing the taxpayers’ money and we do it with compunction, then brag about it,” he explained. That did not reassure me. My bladder was filling fast and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. To make matters worse, I was so deeply buried in the midst of humanity on the bus that should I want to walk out, it would be another battle.

We had been on the bus for about an hour and a half, but we were still at the Tanzania Appeal Court, barely a mile and a half away from the Kivukoni Front. Then the traffic merely ground to a halt and remained so for a long time. When, almost an hour later, we heard a siren, we sighed with relief. Murmurs that some government officials held us up, swept within the bus. Presently, some state cars swept past and were gone in the flinching of an eye. Now we would start moving fast, some said.

I could feel so much pressure on my bladder. I wondered if my sphincter would hold much longer. This ring of muscle that will close an opening in the body by contracting can only take an optimum amount of pressure, I thought. Above that…whaw! Almost three hours later, we were at Buguruni flats where we came into what looked like the end of the road. The cars just did not move and water was all over.

The bus stand for my connection trip home was just a short way ahead. Many passengers were disembarking to catch a bus there and I decided to get down with them. Once out in the drizzle, I looked around to find a secure place. The nearest buildings were four storey buildings with some grassy patch around them.

The lights around were dim. I was back in Africa, the land of savannah and having been born and raised there, I knew how best to behave. I walked to the roadside and as comfortably as I could, ‘baptised’ the ground. Then walked away home, comfortably.


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