Fresh off the plane, I arrived in Dar es Salaam eager to begin work with Tujijenge Tanzania as a Kiva Fellow. First task: find accommodation for the year. Without Craigslist Tanzania, the whole process promised to be daunting.

It was. Here are some of the reasons:

Go to a real estate agent, he charges you $20 for a tour of available properties. But after showing you a gaggle of multiple bedroom apartments after you ask for a single room you get the sense he’s just showing you anything and everything to get his money. “I said my budget was $600, this place costs double that!”

In addition, Dar es Salaam traffic is as horrendous as the beltway around Washington DC, but without smog checks. A few places I’ve taken a fancy to might be only 5 miles from work, but without my own mode of transportation, I’d have to take a bus to the city center, then switch onto a bus heading back the general direction I just came from – with just a slight change in angle.

Then there are the too-good-to-be-true houses where rent is $500 with air conditioning and hot water. You arrive to find a hot apartment with cold water. They say they can install an a/c unit and water heater, but it will take two weeks and the rent will be $800. Good grief. With rent being paid 6-12 months in advance, chances are you’ll be sweating all year but at least you will have cold showers to cool you off.

I saw one house I really liked. I was told the rent was $500 so I thought I could bargain down to $400. When the owner saw that a Mzungu (white person in Swahili) wanted the place, the price quickly inflated to $900…way beyond my budget. Do you see a dollar sign on my forehead? All the landlords here sure do.

Then there are the “dalali.” These unscrupulous real estate hacks are known for pulling a range of stunts to scam you. Word spread fast around town that I was looking for a place. Subsequently I’ve been contacted by several dalali. As dodgy as they are, I am desperate. So I tried a few out. If they miss your call, they call you back and let it ring long enough so you see they called. That way you call them back and they save precious cell phone credit. They tell you to meet them somewhere and then show up late and stick you with their taxi bill. They could take a bus for much cheaper but they don’t care, remember the dollar sign on my forehead? Often, a dalali says he has an apartment to show you but when you get there, tenants who have paid through December are comfortably living there. Sometimes they drag you through several cafés desperately searching out the owner’s sister’s boyfriend’s friend’s mother who has the key. You wait half an hour then they say you must come back tomorrow, but in truth there is no apartment to see. Really they are just wasting your time … and theirs. I can’t understand why they do it at all, they don’t make any money from the whole shenanigan.

And as everything takes so long to accomplish, after an entire day of searching for housing, you realize you’ve seen only two places. But you’ve spent $10 of credit on your phone and $15 on fuel.

Oh yeah, and add the Swahili language barrier to all of this.

“Bado ninatafuta nyumba ya ndoto yangu…” (Still looking for my dream home…)

While I continue searching for housing, you can support the borrowers of Tujijenge Tanzania by using the following link: http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=businesses&partner_id=87&status=fundRaising&sortBy=New+to+Old&_tpg=fb

 

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