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Should I stay or should I go? – English

04|01|2014 11:26

– What’s so special about this place? Really, there is not that much. Okay, we have the blue sky, we have the sun, we have the sea, but apart from that? Nothing.

Miraculously but true: this statement comes from the same friend who used to be so excited about Dar. Her enthusiasm about the city she so appreciated two years earlier, had turned into an all-encompassing frustration. She was not the first and she is not the only one. All expats in Dar are familiar with the so-called Dar dip, but it is usually just a temporary bad patch. A gin and tonic at the Yacht Club is enough to get over it. But sometimes Dar dips take longer, or come more frequently. The cause varies: it may have something to do with uncertainty about the future, an insufferable boss, issues with the work permit, issues with the landlord, issues with unreliable house personnel or the inability to find affordable housing. Or all at the same time – the friend in question scored 5 out of 6.

And so for all expats in Africa at some point the question arises: Should I stay or should I go ?
Usually there is a single dominant reason to stay or leave. It can be something small. For instance, someone once said that it was time to move on, “because I see cars driving of which I know the pre-previous owner.” Good point. Someone else stayed because of the international education. Also a good point. Here are some more.

Why would you stay?

  • Because you know a lot of nice, inspiring people in Dar es Salaam with whom you feel at home and by whom you feel known and valued,
  • Because life is interesting and adventurous, never a dull moment,
  • Because your children are in an excellent international school and because you tremendously appreciate the educational philosophy behind PYP, MYP and DP,
  • Because your children are bilingual, and because they make no distinction between white, brown or black, nor between nationality, race or religion,
  • Because you enjoy living in the lee of commerce, and you don’t want to return to a society where commerce reigns with offers, sales, discounts, brochures, advertisements, advertorials, premature Eastern eggs and 3 for the price of 2,
  • Because you have such incredibly nice students and you would love to guide them one by one to a successful graduation,
  • Because the Yacht Club is still one of the finest places in the world, unequalled, and you are able to enjoy it daily, should you wish,
  • Because it’s so nice to be able to see the horizon every day and the high skies, and because it is so great that the view is not spoiled by nasty high buildings close to the road,
  • Because of the sea, the sun, the clouds, the moon, the stars,
  • Because of the divine breezes,
  • Because of the silent, dark silhouettes of trees against the evening sky, which runs from deep blue to pale yellow,
  • Because you like to live in a place where the night is still night,
  • Because it is still quiet at night, except for the call of the water thick-knee,
  • Because it is so delightful to be able to swim a mile in the morning, in a clear sea of acceptable temperature,
  • Because you can never never nevermore live without the colours and smells of Africa, the outdoor life, the ever open doors,
  • Because it is so charming to live in a place where the grass along the roads is allowed to grown high and waving and where the trees are allowed to grow wherever they sprout up,
  • Because you have nothing, really nothing, with manicured lawns.

Why would you leave?

  • Because you would like to be able to sit outside for once without being attacked by tiger mosquitoes,
  • Because you like cycling – the freedom, the motion, the fresh air! – and then preferably on cycling lanes and not along the highway,
  • Because you like to give your children as home country a country where they can build up something: where they eventually can buy a house, where they can vote, where they can find a good job and where they can send their children to a good school without having to pay up to a small annual salary each year,
  • Because Dar es Salaam is getting bigger, dirtier and uglier by the year,
  • Because the hedges and the trees disappear in favor of cement, glass and billboards,
  • Because you are sick of the indifference, ignorance and unwillingness of people in power and the corruption of the police,
  • Because it makes you so sad to see the trash along the roads, the endless barren areas with tree trunks, the effects of dynamite fishing,
  • Because you know that the population growth is such that it can only get worse in the future,
  • Because the weather is in fact only bearable six months a year,
  • Because you see cars driving of which you know the previous owner and the pre-previous owner,
  • Because you like to see your children develop into independent teenagers, who can literally find their own way in life and who don’t always need to be brought and picked up by mom and dad, or worse, the driver,
  • Because you have been getting up at five thirty in the morning for five years and you really, really, really cannot get used to it,
  • Because it is likely that sooner or later you will be summoned out of your house and you rather leave paradise voluntarily than wait until you are thrown out.

My friend, who lived in Africa for fourteen years and who thought she would never leave the continent, eventually left. In the end the sun, the sea and the blue skies outweighed a psychopathic landlord, a stolen car, the endless procedures to get her work permit extended, the income insecurity and not in the least, the desire to live closer to her parents. What can I say? It’s a process.

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