Buying a Car in Tanzania, Part 1

I had the privilege to meet a 1995, Mitsubishi Pajero… a picturesque safari cruiser (see image below); but safari will not be the work for this tank, because it has a new special home…hopefully…in the village of Magagura. Once in Magagura (my old village) this beast will serve as a livelihood for Sili, a resource for the community, and a mode of transportation for the East Africa Fund staff. I have named this blog, part 1, because the Pajero still has much terrain to pass; we haven’t even left Dar es Salaam, eek!

So how does buying a car in Tanzania work?

I was fortunate to find a classified posting for this car from diplomats here in Dar – they happen to be some of the most genuine and wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet in Tanzania. After meeting them and their ‘95 Pajero, I knew it was the car for me and Sili. The process has not been quick or easy, but their support and patience has made it much more bearable!

I gave myself two weeks to complete the process of finding a car and registering it with the Tanzanian Revenue Authority (TRA). We are going strong on week three at this point (slamming hand against head). Mostly due paperwork hold-ups with the TRA office…shocker…I really should know better than to give myself deadlines here.

Some More Luck
Two days after my arbitrary planned date for departure, the car broke down, it wouldn’t start at all. Because we had been delayed, that breakdown fortunately happened in the seller’s front yard and not on the side of an interstate. The mechanic told us the breakdown was immanent and it would have happened; good thing we were two miles from his shop and could easily tow it. Asante mungu (thanking God)…at least someone has a plan here!

Over the last two weeks we have seen five different mechanics and spent countless hours at various shops. What was supposed to be a quick tune-up by a well-respected mechanic, turned into a circle of lies and discoveries. But overall, with humor and hindsight, I wouldn’t change any of it. Being lied to by the first mechanic who agreed to change the oil update all fluids, and fix a starter delay, gave us a huge learning opportunity, mostly for Sili who will quickly become the caregiver of this car. Lesson # 1 for Sili: NEVER TRUST WORDS, only trust your eyes. After learning this lesson, Sili and my drive Simon, spent close to five days sitting in various mechanic shops physically watching as the Pajero was given its needed tune-ups, including: an oil change, radiator flush, temperature gauge repair, fuel pump installation, and tire alignment. Each of these opportunities become a teachable moment for Sili, who enjoyed every second of it! The kid is a natural learner and we was beyond thrilled to spend his afternoons at the car shop, watching, learning, and even lending a hand. Hindsight is 20/20 and I am again thankful for how this has all worked out.

While we did learn the errors of too much trust in the hands of a stranger, I am again reminded through this experience, to trust the process and to trust Tanzanians. When I embarked on this endeavor, I knew that I would never be able to purchase a car on my on in here. The first thing I did was seek out a local advisor who would walk with me, step-by-step, and be my advocate. The man I found, Simon (pictured below), has not let me down. He is intelligent, detailed, humble, and extremely honest. I have put a lot of trust in his hands and he has not failed us. I am thankful that he can be a role model for Sili and he has been a super advocate for me!

I write this blog post as Sili and I sit around waiting for word from TRA. I am sending prayers that we get the word today, just as Simon keeps reminding me to be patient (que the eye roll). But I do trust and have faith that it will go as it should, and we will be on the road when it is our time. If it happened sooner than later, that would be great too 😉

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