Dar has been good for me in the sense that I have conquered my biggest fear from Nairobi - driving - and have gained a lot of independence that I didn't have there. It is really nice not to feel so chaperoned all the time - I went the other day to get a hair cut by myself, and it was awesome (going by myself, not so much the hair cut). I mostly just drive around the little peninsula that we live on and that is just great for me. But there are some days when I miss Charles...and yesterday was one of them.
We needed to have our car inspected in order to register it in our names and get our diplomatic license plates. The process has been ongoing since Kristoffer bought the car before the rest of us arrived, but today was the day (we were told yesterday) that the car had to be inspected. In the city. During Kristoffer's working hours. Leaving only me to deal with it. If I was afraid of driving in Nairobi, I was doubly afraid of driving in the city, or "in town" as we say here.
I had to drive on the outskirts of town last week for my job interview (again, more on that later), but today I had to go all the way deep into the heart of town. I was pretty stressed...fearing a car accident or flat tire or that I would be stuck in traffic and late to pick up Grace...or ALL of the above happening at the same time.
But I did it!
I carefully studied the city map to have a mental idea of where I was going. I brought along the iPad and the Garmin for backup, and snacks and water because for some reason that just made me feel better. I found my way to the Revenue Authority and asked a police officer to please let me park somewhere while I tracked down the guy I was supposed to meet (parking was like a free for all! totally scary!). To his credit, the police guy did not ask for money in return for his kindness, which I greatly appreciated. Then I waited outside for about 15 minutes for a guy to come meet me and get in the car to direct me the rest of the way. We ended up down a backroad at what I could only describe as a "very sketchy warehouse with a full lot of dead cars". I had the distinct fear that if I died there, nobody would ever be able to find me! But the guy was nice and his colleagues took about 15 minutes inspecting the car before I could go.
I had to make my way home again and deal with the crazy city buses...called dala dalas...definitely not as crazy as Nairobi's matatus, but also definitely driving on their own terms. There was one really nice dala dala driver who let me in when nobody else would, so thank you very much to him. In town the roads are narrower with weird double- and triple-parking arrangements every so often. There are more lights and stop signs here than in Nairobi, and people adhere to them slightly more often here as well (but definitely not all the time). I did much better than I thought I would, and it was much "easier" than I think it would have been in Nairobi. A little bit scary...but I did it! ME! HA HA! Take that, fear of mine!
I haven't decided what is the more "expat" thing to do:
become confident in driving on the "wrong" side of the road and even drive by myself in town, WAY out of my comfort level
have a full-time driver for four years and never drive at all.
But now that I have tried them both, I feel 100% "expat" for the first time.