How I ended up helping with the setting up of a bar in a mostly Muslim village in Tanzania, on the coast of the Indian Ocean

My life is a stochastic process. Randomness. A visa rejection, a visit to a Romanian friend I haven’t seen in a long time, a dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Lusaka, a bit of chatting about my messy lifestyle and there I was committing to a month in this small place called Kaole – a mostly Muslim village located on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Village life

I’m helping out with the setup of a small bar/place that comes with an amazing view and village life. Of course there’s no warm water (but then again, it’s too hot in this country to really feel the need of a hot shower). Of course that shower means grabbing a bucket of water and a jug. Of course that we keep a cat mostly to chase the rats away – although Tausi is in general cute and nice to cuddle with. The funny part is that the bar is in a mobile network black hole. So the internet office has to be the beach, which is not a bad internet office at all, especially since it’s a quiet corner.

The highlight of last week is that we got running water in the kitchen! Exciting news. Heading slowly (pole, pole, as people say here) towards the good direction where we can actually offer some food to our customers.

When you live the village life, you realize how much longer usual daily things take: hand washing your clothes, swiping (the wind brings the sand everywhere), shower (need to fill in buckets and warm up water if you’re not up for a cold shower), cooking (buckets of water carried from the water source to the kitchen – that was before our kitchen sink), washing the dishes (wash the basins, put one basin with soap, another one for rinsing, throw away the water when done – also before the kitchen sink), hiding food in closed compartments during night (rats), taking food out from closed compartments during day (too hot, it goes bad), carry buckets of water to the small garden so that your plants won’t die in the heat…

Keep calm and pole, pole

I’ve been here 4 weeks and three days so far. It feels much longer. But even so, I’ve decided to stay a bit longer than the one month I’ve committed to initially. Things do move slowly in this part of the world. It’s often very frustrating to be in a hurry. Pole, pole…pole, pole…slowly, slowly is the favourite phrase of Tanzanians. So you take a deep breath or you scream in a bag and you just pole, pole yourself. When in Rome, do what the Romans do.

Mboga saba (luxurious) life – good food and Bagamoyo wine

Pole, pole is not always bad. It sometimes gives a better balance between work and usual life, especially when it’s all so combined and you live at your work place. Living at your work place is for sure not ideal because you don’t really have any free time. There’s always something to do, someone who needs help, something to clean, something to be cooked…you move around like a crazy rasta.

How do you set up a bar and a restaurant in a place where most people cook at home and don’t drink?

Big challenge. Truth is, I don’t know. I guess you rely mostly on tourists and the small community that does like to go out every now and then. I’m just trying my best to help out for the fun of it, the challenge and see if/what works. If you give people what they want, they’ll come back. Maybe I will end up making a similar small investment for myself at some point. Although I’d like it to be more of a social enterprise where the local community benefits out of it.

Things here are basic and when I’ve arrived nothing was here. Considering it’s only been a month, we did accomplish something: we have cooking equipment, a wide range of stock, we have a garden (thank you, Vicky), we have a few clients, we managed to get one loyal customers who’s been helping us to bring more people this side (thank you, Allen), we started to serve also some food, we were able to cater for 10 unexpected customers, we had a burger night (thank you, Teddy), we had a squid pasta night and a curry squid and rice night (thank you, Robbie). But there’re still many things missing and loads of things that still need to be done, starting with the redesign and ending with basic kitchen equipment.

Either way, there’s something homey and relaxing about this place…probably the view and the fact that it’s so close to the ocean.

It’s been for sure an interesting experience so far. I’ve learned a few things – including that keeping track of the beers you hand to people is not as easy as it seems. I’ve realized yet again that working with people comes with challenges, especially when there are different speeds, different views of a place, different cultures, different backgrounds and no boss around. But any disagreement can be resolved.

I’m not yet sure how much longer I’ll be here. Same dilemma like always – you get used to a place, you put effort to make things move, you get closer to people, you get a certain routine and then it’s time to move on. And Robbie left.

Anyway…it is what it is.

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