A brief guide on how to choose a daladala
1) If there’s any doubt that the entire ten minute daladala ride is going to be a bit about how it’s soooo hilarious that you speak Swahili freshi and revelations as you roll your eyes—“She understands!”—walk in the other direction. To be fair, the fact that there is a bit isn’t as annoying as the fact that you’re not included in the bit and the bit is not that funny, so you can’t ever get it on it. Oh, Swahili humor…
2) Avoid daladalas with kondas (conductors, my added ‘s’) who will load the daladala to the max and then pick up ten more people along the way, get stopped by the police, and then continue to pick up more people after being written up and paying what I assume to be a pretty measly fine/bribe. Those are usually the same kondas who don’t believe you when you say, “Hamna nafasi,”—there’s no more space, dude, I can’t scoot over.
3) Avoid daladalas where the konda and other passengers laugh when you ask for your correct change back and say, “Anajua!”—she knows! Yes, of course I know the correct fare for the daladala I take every single day to the same place.
4) Of course the main problem with all of these “tips” is that you can’t really predict your daladala experience very well from the get go. Sure, it’s a bad sign if there’s a lot of commotion over the fact that you can say, “I’d like to get off at such and such stop,” or “Are you going to Mwanyanya?” But other than that, it’s a tough call. So this brings us to the last point: stick with what you know. Scope out your daladalas, have a few unpleasant experiences, and then stick with your go-to guys. On these daladalas, you can roughly trust the driver not to drive at breakneck speeds or try to race other drivers, roughly trust the konda not to load the bus to the brim, and you are in on the bit. The bit goes like this:
K: When are you going to Mwanyanya? (The daladala I take goes to Mwanyanya, but I get off every day at Mtoni Marine to swim.)
S: I don’t know, maybe tomorrow!
K: Ah, you take the daladala there every day, you have to go sometime! It’s a nice place. I will show you around! When are you going? Tomorrow?
S: I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after tomorrow?
So it’s not really that funny, but “When are you going to Mwanyanya?” has given us all a few laughs, and I am at least in on that one…