In Swahili, there are no silent letters. Every letter written, using the same Roman alphabet as ours, is pronounced. So locals pronounce the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club as “Yatcht Club”. Which has some logic to it.
There are a few clubs or gathering spots that are primarily dominated by ex-pats of one sort or another, and the Yacht Club is one of them. It has a nice family beach, a little snack bar and bar, and it is where people keep all types of boats, from Lasers to motor yachts. Our friends Kindra and Kirk are “Phase 1 - Prospective members” – they’ve been sponsored, but not yet voted upon. The club was founded in 1933 (when Germany still controlled Tanganyika). Getting into the Yacht Club is very old school snooty, involving being sponsored and seconded by members, having a probation period (I can imagine everything falling apart if Bodie, running around naked on the little beach, pees in front of a commodore.), and being formally voted upon by the membership.
We went to the club beach with Kindra and Kirk and their baby, Marissa. The tide was out, creating a 40-yard stretch of knee deep, beautiful white sand slowly wending into clear warm Indian Ocean water, perfect for small kids to splash and explore tidal pools. It was really beautiful. I also want to teach Bodie to sail so we will aim to get in to the club.
We’ve met a few other families like us – attached to USAID, NGOs or the Embassy -- with small kids, that use the club for its Monday pizza nights, or for the beach. Everyone has been very welcoming, and somehow the shared dislocation makes creating community a little faster and easier.
The club, and trying to join, raises some of the issues Hillary and I had discussed and feared a bit. We want an experience of knowing Tanzanians, befriending locals, and getting to really know local culture and customs. We know it is far too easy to live a removed “ex-pat” life – to befriend only ex-pats, visit ex-pat clubs, and retreat behind walls. I think it will be easier to break these barriers through work, but it doesn’t seem easy. We stand out, and every mzungu (white person), generally drives a car and, by comparison, has money. Breaking through these barriers is an important objective for us.