An old man left the gate as I negotiated my bijaj trek from Mlimani.

He wore a Muslim cap and a long overshirt. I ‘shikamoo’ed him, of course. That was a bad idea. He inched close and chomped a fairly crunchy toothpick. “Hujambo, Unapenda samaki?”

“Napenda.”
“Samaki gani?”

Fumble with words . . . “Kila samaki.”

He listed off all the types of samaki available in Dar; Red Snapper, Tuna, Blue Fin, etc. etc.

I smiled and shook my head, ‘Oh yes, I like them all.”

“Unakaa wapi?”

I was confused. I assumed he must know where I stay as he left from my gate and I therefore assumed he was the Ethiopian neighbours friend or baba.

It’s hard to be vague in Kiswahili, especially when you are paying off a bajaj and clearly close to home. We entered into a culturally and linguistically confusing discourse, him insisting to bring me samaki, and me trying to be non-committal, stand my ground in Kiswahili, and discern whether he was being a friendly babu, a pervert or a determined salesman. All the while, Joseph the neighbour askari and the bajaj driver stood and watched in the dark. My askari stood there too, except he so conveniently released all details of my house location and agreed that should he come to see me they would let him right on in. Hm, he's my security guard?


My other askari ran around the corner to break my 10 so I could pay the driver as he had no change. This made the whole charade much longer, which may have been a good thing as it took me quite a while to get up the nerve and find the right moment to ask what the hell was actually going on.

I couldn’t tell if he was being generous and gifting me some fish, or if he was looking to catch a sale. I did not want to insist he not bring the fish if indeed it was a gift, as that may be offensive especially as he was an old mzee. But, I didn’t want the fish. And as he tried harder and harder to explain he would come jioni kesho, I realized more and more he was making some definite arrangements.

“Ninahitaji kulipa kwa samaki?”

“Yes.”

OK, no thanks then. I don’t want to pay for fish from a street Babu who knocks down doors for samaki sales. 

 


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