Last Sunday evening, Hillary, Bodie and I drove to a shopping area near us called Slipway. The sun was setting and we weren't sure if anything would be open, but we had promised Bodie a smoothie, so were aiming for the juice bar there. We arrived and saw it brimming with people in a way we'd never seen.
Dar has been a central trading hub for the Middle East, Europe and Asia for hundreds of years, and the Slipway that evening seemed to reflect this tradition. On Sunday evenings, they hold a regular mini-fair, complete with popcorn, cotton candy, and face painting. A dozen Arab men clustered at small tiled tables smoking shisha from hookahs; women clad head to toe in black burkas chased children around the playground; Tanzania women, wrapped in bright oranges, reds and yellows also chased children. Myriad families strolled around the playground overlooking the ocean, appearing to represent all parts of the world with palettes of clothes ranging from colorful African garb to sleeveless Europeans to a range of monochromatic Muslim outfits, weaving a multicolored tapestry. We overheard children yelling in a dozen languages -- Swahili, Arabic, Hindi, French, English, and many we couldn't identify -- as parents waited in line for bright pink clouds of cotton candy.
Bodie coveted (a kinder description than "threw a tantrum") a toy ride-on truck he spied. As we tried to pull him away, a bearded man smoking from a hookah, breathed out a plume of smoke and waved him over to take the truck. His boy had already dashed elsewhere.
It felt like this cacophony of languages and swirl of colors could equally have been happening hundreds of years ago. Bodie got his smoothie and got to play with the truck. Hillary and I keep talking about how this experience will affect him. For him, jostling for space on a jungle gym with a view of the Indian Ocean and the passing dhows, surrounded by Arabs, Indians, Masaai, and Europeans, will be his version of a normal childhood.