I believe that preparation gets a lot of things done in life. Not everything, but perhaps enough to keep the messiness at bay as much as possible. When it was announced by the Tanzania Meteorological Association that Cyclone Jobo might make landfall within raining distance of Dar es Salaam, I took some necessary steps.
I started by worrying. Then I got as much information about the situation as possible. Then I worried a bit more and made sure to share the information that I had with friends and with family. Then we prepared as best we could for what might have been three to five days of drama.
Of course nothing happened.
The storm petered out somewhere in the ocean, our fair city of Dar es Salaam was spared and every wag who has ever accused me of being tightly wound was proved right.
Of course in the calm aftermath of cyclone no-show I have been brooding. It isn’t so much that I am disappointed that we’re fine. I am disappointed that we take being fine for granted.
To be fair not all of us do: there were storm preparation items that were stripped from the shelves in the shops in a satisfying manner.
Households of Dar es Salaam now have torches to wield in the long electricity-free nights!
And let it be known that we are still in the rainy season. It is raining. The roads that were temporarily fixed are slowly reverting to their permanent pothole situation.
Drains are overwhelmed. There is too much concrete and not enough green soil to absorb the extra water. Our wetlands have been drained. Et cetera.
We remain as we have always been: oddly impervious to nature’s demands while we design our houses, our roads, our city.
Cyclone Jobo didn’t come to town, but a good weather system like that likes to leave a trail. Almost a century of occupation — maybe even more — and Dar is still not good with the weather.
This is not unusual. If you look at the history of cities, many of them are a bit haphazard in the way they came about. Even our modern ones.
I have been worried that we don’t plan Dar es Salaam well and that this costs us a lot of money as well as other resources. It turns out that this is true, but also very normal.
Cities are phenomena, an encounter between woman and nature. They happen because someone settled down one day and never left. Then someone else joined them. And then someone else and their family. And then another family. You know how it goes. We humans call each other where the living is good.
And there is nothing different about Dar.
Last year we had an earthquake and I of course read up on it. Somewhere in the distant future the country will be split in pieces, as the Rift Valley continues to do what it does. I mean, Madagascar was once obviously part of Africa and look where it is now? Floating off to the right of the map like some renegade jigsaw puzzle piece. What I mean to say is that Dar and Tanzania has always been prone to these kinds of things.
Force majeure. But do we prepare for it? No. No we do not. We can claim poverty and any number of excuses but at the end of the day we’re just being people about it.
Sometimes it is nice to think about Japan. How careful they are with their paper houses, ancient and modern. How their skyscrapers can wiggle and jiggle through most tectonic events. How awesome it is in general, with animation techniques that have inspired generations.
And then I snap out of it. They are people too, for all that technology.
Tokyo might be the biggest city ever, but it started out as a fishing village. It keeps things simple, even where they are not. It’s a bit messy, a bit old underneath the newness. I am fascinated. The people of Tokyo though? Maybe not so fascinated. They are just muddling through it day by day. Maybe they also have a few too many torches, a few too many batteries just in case.
I believe that preparation can get you through anything in life but I am growing out of the habit.
Messiness is part of being alive. Dar is wet. It is raining and puddles are everywhere, especially where they shouldn’t be. But this city doesn’t get hit by cyclones very often and I do know why.
We have earthquakes, tsunami warnings. And we stand. I’ll take it. Also, does anyone need big batteries that used to drive a radio? We might have a few that need re-homing.
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: [email protected]