Since my first day here, I have been keen on blending in and not looking obvious that I don't live here. No matter how hard I tried, I was always being caught by the taxi and bajaj drivers. The reason why I was so eager to blend in is because I'm not good at negotiating prices. I never want to negotiate a price so low that it undermines someone's hard work yet I don't want to pay more than an average person would. When you look foreign, as in non-Tanzanian period, some or should I say most jack up their prices from the assumption that foreigners have excess money because it's obvious they're here for touring purposes or on business. Why else, right?
My Swahili still needs work, I can't hold a conversation long without speaking Swanglish, which is a dead give-away amongst locals. Not only that, but my pronunciation is a bit different even when I am speaking Swahili. I decided to come up with, what I thought, this brilliant idea and tell them I'm Tanzanian but I go to boarding school in Malawi or Mozambique (I still look young enough ;) ) as an excuse to why my Swahili is not up to par. That worked for a little bit but unfortunately didn't last. I found this young cab driver that always charges me fair prices so I decided to add him to my list of drivers, incase all of them are unavailable for some reason!?! My young cab driver's name is Abbas and one day as I was approaching his cab, I heard two men debating whether or not I was Tanzanian. They spoke in Swahili and it was so funny listening as they were completely clueless that I was aware of their conversation. I regret not asking them why they were having that debate. I asked Abbas what was it about me that made people question where I'm from? Clearly those men didn't hear me speak so they judged based on what they saw. Is it the way I'm dressed? jewelry? make-up? I knew deep down that couldn't be the reason why because I see women dressed fashionably all the time. It's not like I'm walking around dressed in Gucci glasses and carrying Chanel bags. The most expensive item I have with me is a coach bag!! Abbas let's me finish my rant before he chuckles and tells me why.
He says "the reason why you look like you're a foreigner is the WAY you walk." wha..wha.....Whaatttt?? How can my walk be the reason? As far as I'm concerned, I haven't noticed people walking remarkably different switching hips or doing a weird walk...like from side to side! He laughs and begins to explain this....
"Tanzanian women walk like they have no deadline to meet. They take their time, they look around and enter in and out of shops even if they walk that same path everyday. You on the other hand walk like a foreigner/westerner. You walk like you have no time to waste and aren't even moved/startled by a honk or by a hello, half the time, you're so focused you don't even hear someone speak to you unless you directly look at them. As a cab driver sitting and waiting for a customer, or even if I'm just watching you approaching my post...I see the way you walk. You walk fast, too fast to be a local and so I have my fixed price before we even exchange our first greeting."