Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Neighborhood

Hillary’s back at work, so Bodie and I take off for a neighborhood walk. A 10-miinute stroll and we’re at the beach, the Indian Ocean stretching off with incredible azure water. We walk by Coco beach, which has a few rickety rides clearly offloaded from someplace else where there are safety guidelines. Bodie raced over to a sort of carrousel comprised of airplanes. The rides were all closed, maybe even permanently. A young man started running circles, pushing this contraption around and around with Bodie shouting with glee “I’m on an airplane” and “faster”.

Walking home, we passed a cow and a duck-like bird that seemed to be hanging out. I subsequently learned that these birds feed on the flies that accompany the cow, but it certainly seemed like they were just pals talking the latest news. When you read enough children’s books, it’s nice when life hands you real world duck/cow friendships.

Apparently February is when rains start in Dar. This is one of those things that I knew I knew, but only once the rain started. Bodie and I were a good few miles from the house when we got deluged. We were fruitlessly racing from tree cover to tree cover when a car pulled up, and asked if we wanted a ride. Lesson learned: if you’re going to get stuck in the rain, bring along a small child with you.

There have been bouts of wondering about the wisdom of this move. Sitting in a completely empty house, no phone, no internet, no car and a whining toddler can make one question one’s decision-making ability.

We are living in Oyster Bay, which is a peninsula just off of Dar. There seems to be almost no middle class in Tanzania, so most people are very poor, with per capita incomes of under $300/year. Yet the area we live in has tall walled off houses with guards, gardeners, housekeepers and nanny’s tending to the running of the house. It is a strange feeling to drive into these beautiful paradises that signal how clearly we, and everyone else on the peninsula, is guarding our material things.

I think we all have a sense of “other” built into our nature, the seed of racism, or tribalism, or religious intolerance. Some vestigial evolutionary mechanism that we use to define ourselves in opposition to others. It is still early for Bodie, but I’m hoping he grows up with a different framework. So far, he quickly takes Tom’s hand, or hops into Sebastian’s arms, and I’m hoping that this experience creates a very different view of himself in connection to others than most of us experience.

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