It’s blissfully cool these mornings. My large, loud ceiling fan churns, pulling up the dew-damp air that spills through my windows onto the floor.
Somewhere someone has just lighted a fire; I can smell burning—if I had to guess—charcoal. But the kind of charcoal that looks like a completely burnt tree limb, not the kind that comes in bricks.
There’s a cock crowing, miraculously at the right hour. The sun is just getting up; it’s the first hour. In Swahili time, the hours are kept in relation to sunlight. The first hour starts at sunrise. Sunrise and sunset don’t fluctuate much this close to the equator.
My Swahili improves daily, although I’m still shy when speaking. Soon I’ll be polite, then conversational.
Here in Tanzania, conversations don’t begin until a litany of greetings has been exchanged. I’m working on memorising all of them—and their requisite responses—so I don’t come across as the hurried, impatient westerner that I am.
Sometimes the entire conversation is cordialities; you’re expected to greet everyone, so as we walk, we make acquaintance with everyone whom we pass. We remember most of them, although some who know our names confound us. We greet them nonetheless.
I’ve moved to Tanzania to work with KARIBU Solar Power, producing and distributing solar-powered lamps. I’m just settling; I haven’t started work yet, and I’m focusing on relaxing and slowing down. My jet lag is almost nonexistent—although I’m always down for a nap—and (knock on wood) my digestive and immune systems are as happy-go-lucky as ever.
It’s the pace that takes getting used to. Forget strolling, it’s sauntering, and my up-tempo Boston stride can’t keep that kind of pace. Eating out—well, it’s impossible to plan around. Food arrives whenever. Beer is usually pretty timely, however.
To get in the right mindset to work here, I need to slow down. I need to change the fast-paced habits of my Bostonian body and mind. I should start singing that song from the Pyjama Game, over and over again—only I’m not wasting time, just slowing it down and adjusting it to the sun.
Slow, slow, slow. Polepole, polepole, polepole.