Monday, January 31, 2011

Friday, December 17, 2010

why taxi drivers are my favorite

if you read any of my old posts from other countries, you'll see a pattern of political engagement with the local communities that always begins and ends in a taxi cab. being as how most of my transport has been provided by our shy office driver, i thought i might miss out on my chance to do the same here in tanzania. but lo! on my way home from work yesterday i got off at the local shopping complex (to do a lil souvenir hoarding) and had to catch an independent cab on my way back.

as i slid into the front seat, the driver gave me the once-over and guessed (incorrectly) at my italian heritage. when i politely corrected his assumption and revealed my persian background, his eyes came to light. "so what do you think about this ahmadinejad guy?" he asked (no time wasted by this one). here we go, i thought: "hmm, interesting, why do you ask?" and that's all it took.

he promptly launched into an extensive soliloquy, punctuated by references to recent events and historical facts, about the domination of western influence in the arab world (many tanzanians like himself, he explained, are muslim and thus feel a kinship with those in the middle east) and the inability of anyone to stand up to the great satan and its cronies. until ahmadinejad, that is. the driver explained the extreme satisfaction that he (and, by extension, others like him) felt at the continual pricking of iran's thorn into the us's side. "it's about time somebody stood up to those guys!" he exclaimed, as he deflty weaved through the complex of dar afternoon traffic.

what was fascinating about this exchange wasn't his political bent (which is pretty common outside the western world), but rather the way he articulately laid out his thesis, carefully citing past events (the recent political events in iran - including correct names of all players - references to the 1982 invasion of lebanon, the war of attrition, and on and on) and making, in the span of a 12-minute ride, a clear and resolute argument for the demolishment of western power.

as we approached the hotel, i thanked him for the thoughtful conversation and quickly squeezed in a question about his own, tanzanian, which, this well-read and eloquent man responded: "bah!"