You might ask  that question if you are ever in Tanzania.  Is it because they bear names such as: “God is Great, Jesus Loves You, Sir God or Power of God? ”  Could they be trying to invoke God’s protection as they dash around the rutted and crowded roads of  Tanzania?  If you ever ride one you surely will ask for divine help in getting you to your destination.  One was named: “Road Warrior” but someone with a macabre sense of humor called it: “Road Worrier.”

It is said that pictures are worth more than a thousand words but not in this case, although we have pictures coming your way.  No picture can really convey the experience of riding a Dala-Dala.  You can go on-line and see pictures of them and they look pretty decent.  Would you put a picture of your jalopy on You Tube if you had a Jag in the garage?  We rode them a couple of times and later learned that one of the experienced teachers at Msalato who has been there for years said she rode one once and that was enough.

For your information the word (s) Dala-Dala in Kiswahili slang means five because it used to cost the equivalent of 5 cents to ride one.  Now it is about 19 cents.  Mostly they are Toyota mini-vans resembling the old VW buses of the 60’s.  Everything has been stripped out of them so they can cram as many seats in as possible, usually wooden benches and a few vinyl-covered seats.  No seatbelts,  of course.   Upon boarding, the first thing you notice is the smell ~ a mixture of sweat, worn vinyl, dust, oil and leaded gas.  You are instantly aware of the  heat from the crush of people ~ there is no personal space whatsoever ~ knees touch and half of your derriere might hang off the wooden bench.   The riders looked stunned to see two old muzungus (whites) get on but they hospitably shifted their positions to allow us a space to squeeze in.  On occasion young men gave us their seats.  For those of you who have ridden the New York subway these little vehicles are even more crowded, but there is a friendly atmosphere, not the indifference that you often encounter in N.Y.C.  Looking around we noticed hanging bits of cloth from the headliner of the bus, peeling vinyl from the side panels, rusty sliding doors, and wobbly seats about to come unmoored if indeed they were ever anchored in place.  There is a driver and a conductor.  It’s a show to watch the conductor who has a many-faceted job.  He hangs out the open door and raps and bangs on the side of the bus to make noise so those waiting will know we are coming ~ the dust that is being  kicked up must not count.  He takes the money, makes change ,  (sometimes going into a shop along the road to get change),  calls out stops and can always manage to get a few more passengers with their packages on board ~ bundles of rice, corn, oranges and sugar cane.  There’s no way on God’s green earth that these buses would pass inspection in the United States ~ let’s  say they are well-used.

With the need for food and clean water and adequate medical care it may seem frivolous to want to get a safe bus for the children at Bishop Stanway, but without education there is no hope for this country.  These are bright students and the future of Tanzania.  It seems like a lot of money but we are learning that with  a little bit here and a little bit there the money adds up.  Please think about this and let us know what you think about this new goal.  We think that when you see the faces of the children your hearts will be opened and you will feel as we do.

Jessie and Tally

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