Step 1: Decide that you are tired of four children (our three plus Sam) plus backpacks plus other assorted children stuffing themselves into your mini-mini van.
2. Decide that it's time to upgrade to an actual mini van.
3. Contact middle man. Tell him what kind of car you want.
4. Middle man sends you lots of websites for car dealerships in Japan.
5. Spend a couple weeks looking over all the cars on all the websites.
6. Choose car. Base a huge part of your decision on how much ground clearance the car gets.
7. Take a deep breath and wire the money to Japan, taking a leap of faith that this dealership actually exists, the car actually exists, that it runs, and that it will make it to Tanzania in one piece.
8. Wait a few weeks as car is shipped to Tanzania from Japan.
9. Wait for two months as middle man works to get the car cleared from port and registered in Tanzania.
10. Get the call to come pick up car!
11. It's a 1999 Toyota Noah. Never heard of it? Well then, you obviously don't live in East Africa. Or Japan. This is like the Odyssey of Dar es Salaam.
13. When you pick it up, take the car immediately downtown.
14. Get the darkest tinting possible on all the windows. This is to prevent racial profiling by police, and prevent thieves from being tempted with what's inside.
15. Get alarm system installed.
16. Get every light fixture, every piece of rubber, everything that could possibly be stolen off the car, bolted down.
17. Secure side view mirrors. Get license plate number etched into every window and every light. This also deters thieves.
18. Buy a fire extinguisher and reflective triangles, since every "random" (see #14) police check includes a request to see these two objects. Mount the fire extinguisher onto the windshield so that you can just point to it every time you drive by a police officer.
(I do, however, wonder what exactly I would ever do with such a fire extinguisher, should my car ever catch fire. I think "run and duck" would be a better strategy in that situation.)
19. Be very thankful for car! Runs great! Lots of room! Great ground clearance! Thank you, Japan!
20. Begin process of selling previous car. A whole other adventure.......