The Little Pink Building: Blur Lines Of Social Class


This bright pink building has come to symbolize the melting of wealthy and poor for me in Tanzania. Every morning I would pull back the hotel curtains to this view, and watch the people of Arusha walking past it every day. People off somewhere, ladies to market, and children off to school walking dangerously close to the road as motorcycles come roaring along. Cultural watching from a guarded window of a fancy hotel.

In Tanzania and most of Africa, there is no separation between rich and the poor. Impoverished nations like Tanzania have visitors on vacation just a stone throw from ramshackle homes made of mud, sheet metal, and tarp as (the picture above) this view from my hotel room window shows. When I first said I would be visiting Tanzania, a couple of my friends thought I would be staying in an isolated tourist safari resort lodge and only venture out to meet the locals when there was not way around it. This is not how I travel, and being dissuaded from witnessing poverty or any form of heartbreak is a disservice to the country you are visiting. Here in Arusha fancy hotels are intermixed with clusters of huts. Wealthy homes and businesses are surrounded by cement or mud homes with tin roofs packed off the main highway along muddy untamed dirt paths or roads. There is no distinction where the rich are and where the poor begins. Arusha is just a city consisting of a stew of all social classes like chicken to ugali.


Curiously interesting cultural experiences to behold when you see this unique society stew first hand. It becomes apparent the absence of overt social class distinctions between individuals on the street. At times I could not tell who was poor and who was wealthy. There is little strife observed through interactions. Any preconceptions to the locals were hard to apply because as Daudi said, this type of environment is where relationships flourish over time. I can see this from a simple observation from a window (bus or hotel) and from walking among the locals in Mianzini area of Arusha.


In class, we discussed this same relationship as a need for trust-based relationships instead of need-based relationships for a community to develop. Toxic Charity also talks about this relationship in the scope of community development and advises community developers to overcome “unintended superiority and the expectation of gratitude” that often gets in the way of development in a community (p3). Being American I can see this in my own country as a problem, but in Arusha this was difficult to see. I found presuming any superiority over people who mingle between different social classes to be almost non-existent. Instead, I was welcomed at every turn with “karibu” and did not presume anything of each other in any interaction.


Maybe we should take a leaf from Tanzania on how to interact with each other no matter our social class.