Life in Tanzania: Becoming neighbours

Tamie Davis, originally from Adelaide, works with CMS Australia and blogs at In this series, she reflects on her family’s first year in Dodoma, Tanzania.

Twelve months ago, we were the new mzungu (white) family who had moved in next door. Four little boys would stand at the wire fence between our two properties and stare while we had language class in the shade of the frangipani tree. They would shrink back if you spoke to them, but we could only do greetings in Swahili anyway. We wondered, would they be good friends for our son (called Elly in Tanzania, as we quickly discovered that ‘Elliot’ is a confusing name for many people)?

Elly playing with his neighbours

Elly playing with his neighbours

Six months ago, they were ‘those naughty boys’, the ones who threw rocks at our goat, poked our tortoise with sticks, and weed through the fence. They would stand at the fence and call out in a sing song voice ‘mzungu mzungu’ even though we’d told them many times that his name was Elly. I was concerned that perhaps they wouldn’t be the right influence on him and that they would continue to tease him.

Now they are little Noeli who needed my husband Arthur to hold his hand because the rumble of our 4WD starting was scary; Richardi who took our little Elly on a tour of their family’s animals, laughing as he flapped his arms about the baby goats and snorted at the pigs; Johnson who dobs on his brother to me when he tries to climb the fence, and Aron, who now calls out ‘Baba Elly’ in a sing song voice when he wants some attention from Arthur.

One year in, their grandfather comes to ask if he can pick some flowers from our frangipani tree to brew up to help him sleep. We pop over to borrow a bit of charcoal for our stove if we’ve run out. The older boys know they are welcome to pick our pawpaws and we send them home with bananas from our garden. Every now and then their grandmother comes over with eggs from their ducks or chickens, and when we see them, the adults tell the children to greet us politely.

One year in, we may still be a novelty, but we are more than just the new people next door, and the boys are more than just the kids at the fence. We know something of each other. There is a budding relationship here. We are neighbours.

Follow the Davis’ adventures in Tanzania on their blog.