Hey Baby, Come Here Often?
When I first moved to Dar es Salaam I wrote a blog about attending the end-of-year party for Jaden and Rowan’s school. I had only been here for a few weeks and I really didn’t know any people with kids – so I thought that the party would be a perfect opportunity for me to meet new people and organize a few play dates for the kids.
Instead I felt like I was a desperate girl at a bar, trying to get someone to take me home before last call.
It seemed like everyone was so clicky. And there wasn’t a lot of patience for a newbie like me – my desperation clearly laid out for everyone to see.
As a result, I wasn’t particularly successful. I went home with two hard-fought new numbers and eventually invited one of the women – Olga - a lovely Russian lady – over with her son for Sunday brunch and a swim in our pool. Seven members of her family showed up that morning – none of whom spoke English except for Olga.
It was like she arrived on a first date with a U-HAUL.
We haven’t had a play date since then.
Oh what a difference ten months can make.
Now, I attract newbies like flies. They come to me asking for advice and seeking friendship. I’m nice to them. I try to remember how desperate I felt just ten short months ago.
But the truth is - I am sick of making new friends.
I bet you never thought you’d hear me say that – not in a million years. But alas, it is true.
Living in a vibrant ex-pat community in Africa means living in a maddeningly transient place. I was told when I moved here that people who have been here for a long time don’t particularly like making friends with those of us on short term contracts. For them, we are too much investment for too short a ride.
It used to make me mad – since there are so many interesting long-termers here. Now I understand.
Dar es Salaam is like a pick up bar. You go out, you meet someone new over the eggplants at the vegetable market, and you exchange telephone numbers. It is very likely that you will get a call within a few days. And before you know it you are on your first date. Sometimes there is a second date. Quite often it ends there. But there are hardly enough days in the week to go out with all the people you are already dating AND the first timers who pick you up/you pick up.
I’ve never dated so much in my life!
Sunday afternoon I was sitting at the pool at the Sea Cliff and I was approached by a woman with a kid about the same age as Jaden and Rowan.
“How long have you been here?” she asked.
“About two hours,” I replied.
“Me, too,” she said. “We must have been on the same flight.”
“Oh no,” I told her. “You mean how long have I been in Dar? Coming up on a year.”
“Wow,” she said. “That’s such a long time. Me, I’m just moving here with my husband. We’ve just arrived.”
I sat and talked with her for awhile on Sunday and we even exchanged phone numbers. But I kept my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t call.
She wants a date – a double date - with me and the kids.
I am totally a B-lister here in Dar. I am neither among the most popular people, nor to I get invited to the hottest parties or hang out at the Yacht Club or the Swedish Club, or the one fancy smancy gym we have in town.
But I do have a nice wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Most of the relationships I’m having are very much on the surface. It is hard to develop deep relationships here – there’s not a lot of time – and multiple partners keep you from getting to know people really well.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve managed to make a few good friends who I can imagine knowing for the rest of our lives. As a bonus prize, one of my best friends is moving out here in a few weeks. So you can see, I am well cared-for.
I have always considered a new friend (especially as an adult) a precious thing. I always craved having more friends. I like them. I like it when they like me, too.
So it is ironic that now I am ready to pull the plug on the friendship dating scene.
When the lady from the pool called for a date earlier this evening, I told her I was too busy but she could call back in a week or so.
I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.
Is it progress? Craziness? Self-caretaking? I have no idea. I just know I’m ready to remove myself from the dating scene for awhile and get back to the people who I care about and who care about me.
I’m leaving the bar before last call and been announced.
Perhaps I’ll be back tomorrow.