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Neema has a problem ..

Her problem has a solution!

When I met the smiling and slender Neema in October 2018, I immediately realized that we were going to be very good friends and… SO IT IS. The first days of her work with me were quite different for Neema, because she was not used to having her bosses staying around the house all day while she did the housework. In general, their bosses left for work early in the morning and did not return until late at night. They were persons who were going to work in Tanzania for shorter or longer periods. Many came alone and not in company of their family, as Sébastien and I did.

As the days went by, Neema and I formed a very special “sisterhood”, unique to me. With my basic knowledge of Swahili, in the morning the dialogue was very simple and basic, but essential for us.

Habari za asubuhi! = Good morning! (morning news)

Umeankaje? = How did you sleep?

Salama!, na wewe? = Very well!, and you?

Safi sana, asante. = Very well, thank you.

Habari za watoto? = How are the children?

Watoto salama, asante = The children are very well, thank you.

At the beginning the communication between us was very funny. We laughed at each other without feeling uncomfortable or annoyed by our teasing: Neema at my Swahili nonsense and I at her grimaces when she didn't understand me. Neema communicated with me in English and Swahili, I spoke English, mixed with some words of Swahili. "We speaksuaenglish!" I used to say.

One morning Neema arrived very thoughtful, with a somewhat anguished tone she told me: "I have a little problem." I asked her if she wanted to tell me what was bothering her. To my surprise, the problem, that gave her a headache, was that she owned a property and had no idea what kind of business she could put there. I told her that that was not a problem, quite the contrary. A problem would be not to take advantage of it. I asked her: "Where is the space located?". She tried to explain to me where the space was, but I couldn't locate it. The most practical thing was to say: "Please take me there." With the phone in hand, I asked her if I needed to call abajaji. She said: "Hapana, bajaji", no, we could walk there. So ... bag over the shoulder, shoes on and we begin to walk.

As is typical in many country towns in Africa, Neema led me through different semi-sandy trails. Between one shortcut and another, I saw houses with their respective showers or latrines outside the home. People greeted Neema with such familiarity that it gave me the feeling of walking through my Cuban neighborhood where I was born and raised. They looked at me somewhat intrigued and to satisfy their curiosity they asked Neema who I was.

With the forehead somewhat sweaty, from the heat, and the powdered shoes we finally arrived. I immediately realized that the property was on one of the busiest corners of Bagamoyo. There was the QX Corner bar, famous for good food, music and good customer service. On several occasions Neema and I went there for lunch. Let me tell you something: Occasionally I dream and taste grilledkuku (chicken), with French fries, salad and a littlepili pili

Amazing, the Neema's "little place" was located 50 meters from the QX Corner bar. In the corner behind the QX Corner bar, there is a hut that sells local food. Across the street, towards the third corner, there is a kiosk that sells French fries, sodas, candies and a lot of other treats.

At the third corner, heading towards Neema's place, to the left of the door I saw a group of motorcyclists, theboda boda, who greeted Neema almost in chorus. Theboda boda are well known for their driving style and good transportation service. For me they are a danger on two wheels. Once I went on a hike with Neema. She insisted that we each get into aboda boda. I refused, but after much insistence I mounted. Puff, there I was... first and last time, I never mounted on one of them again.

Finally, directly in front of the store’s door, I saw a lady sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, fryingmandazi and selling them. Adjacent to Neema's place was a disused butcher shop or something similar. I never saw anyone selling any kind of meat there.

We entered Neema’s local, pushing aside the curtain with both hands. Inside there were two women cooking red beans with coconut milk, rice, sardines and spinach. Very friendly, they smiled at us, welcomed us and invited us to eat…Karibuni chakula! (Welcome to the food!).

Neema introduced us and gave them an explanation about my presence here. They looked at me kindly and smiling. For a while they were talking to each other. From time to time they would observe the place as if asking themselves "what successful business will come out of these four walls?"

Two walls were only plastered. The central wall and the one on the right of the local were not painted, only showing a subtle and fine finish. Looking to the left towards the third wall, there was a cow painted on it, dark brown, with oil paint ... later it took a lot of work to erase that painted cow. The fourth and last wall had a large metal gate that serves as the main door, giving certain security and protection to the property. In the center there was a wooden table and two plastic chairs like those used on the beach or in the garden.

The roof was made up of metal sheets (zinc), unlike some of the surrounding locals that were roofed with dry palm or coconut leaves.Are there roofs like this in the fields of your country?

At first sight, for a place to prepare food, the lack of hygiene was startling, according to gastronomic standards in other countries of the world. On the left side, under the painted cow, on the floor a heap of pots, basins and plastic glasses, dirty and clean ones, were scattered and piled up in that corner.

The ladies were working at the right side of the room. The older one was nursing her baby, while the younger sat on a small wooden bench, gently stirring the beans with coconut milk. This delicacy was sitting on a rustic stove, with a little coal fire. It gave the impression that it was going to fall any time, but that never really happened. The firm pot was aromatizing the whole room and tempting passersby to enter to buy or taste that delicious food.

I observed the whole scene without saying a word. Of course, the three women spoke all at the same time and I didn't understand anything. I just smiled every time they looked and smiled at me. In my mind I was beginning to imagine what could be done there. After half an hour Neema and I returned to the house. After three days I had a concrete idea of what kind of business Neema could create to be successful in the future. As long as she worked hard. So it was...

The next problem was that Neema couldn't find a way to tell her friends to get out of there, because she was going to use the place to start her own business. The three of them had reached a verbal agreement that the two friends had the premises on loan. They did not pay her any rent or give her any benefit from their earnings.

Do you think Neema managed to tell them without difficulty to leave?

If the problem has no solution,
why do you worry?
And if the problem has a solution,
why do you worry?

 (Chinese proverb)

Thank you very much!= Asante sana!
Natividad Gagneux
NatiNee Bags Founder

🙑 🙐



Roofed three-wheeler with a rear seat for two passengers.

Boda boda

Men on motorcycles who act as taxis or take home orders. They usually carry up to three passengers plus baggage.



Karibuni chakula!

Welcome to the food!




Fried bread similar to donut. Original from West Africa, especially Tanzania and Kenya.



Pili pili

Hot chili sauce of theCapsicum frutescensvariety.

Mentioned persons

Neema Msoffe Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/neema.msoffe.3

NatiNee Fresh Matunda Juice https://www.facebook.com/NatiNee-2244985409049628/

Bar QX Corner https://vymaps.com/TZ/QX-bar-and-club-7018/

Tel. + 255 716 410 87


Natividad Gagneux                                                  Basilea, Suiza
Fundadora                                                               © NatiNee Bags 2020

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