Kama kawaida and the everyday comforts

Instead of focusing on the long term, there is comfort in focusing on what will be around every day for years on end.

With little to rely on and unexpected occurrences happening on a daily basis, it is comforting that some things never change.

The world may be burning or perhaps our President has announced yet another tough rule, but some things always remain just as they are.

The Swahili expression kama kawaida is used very often as a kind of comforting remark to say ‘all as usual.’

Day by day, plans and projects are postponed or go up into thin air along the way; but the big noises seem to die down and after awhile nothing is heard but the routine.

So instead on focusing on the long term, there is comfort in focusing on what will be around every day for years on end: there are the very early morning calls of the mosque, followed by the sound of sweeping in the yard.

Later there will be a man on a bicycle wearing his straw wide brim hat who calls out in a beautiful voice, sharing with us all what is for sale on the back of his bike: Yaeh mboga mboga, mchicha spinachi matembele, bamia. Yeeeeeh, mboga mboga.

Towards sunset Mr Azam comes along on his ice cream tricycle without fail. The crackling tape of  ‘O Sole Mio’ announces his arrival from afar; today he may turn to give us a second chance to decide.

Seated on the same old chair, the security guards slowly shift their position to stay in the shade as the sun moves during the day.

As always, there is a greeting as a pleasant acknowledgement that we’re all still around and noticed.

If I’m early enough I will find Mama Chapati at her work place, on a mat in the sand under a sheet of corrugated iron.

Weekdays or weekends, whenever I pass by, she’s working and customers continue to buy.

Some things may change and times may be uncertain, but kama kawaida says life goes on — as usual.

At the same time I’ve decided to stop with my weekly columns: to write again about Bwana Ndizi or Kahawa, Mr Azam or roadworks will become boring and more of the same. I hope more writers will continue to contribute their impressions of life in Dar.

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About the Author

Josie van den Hoek

Josie first visited Dar es Salaam in 2000 and is still here. She writes about encounters on her daily walks and Tanzanian life.