This is exactly what I imagined Africa to be like.
The difference between East and South Africa is stark! I’ve only been in Tanzania for only a couple hours and it already feels more like AFRICA Africa than South Africa ever did. Vast plains, weird bugs everywhere, local women balancing huge baskets on their heads with ease, oh and it’s hot! It’s dusty and hot. This is what I always wanted :).
After a five hour shuttle, Damaris, Emily (another volunteer who happened to be on the shuttle), and myself were dropped off at the Impala Hotel where a coordinator would come and pick us up. There were locals there who had things to sell; as they were everywhere on the way through the country. Some of them came up to me and told me I must have money because I look like Obama. I don’t know what it is with the Obama thing. Last summer while I was in Peru, strangers came up to me saying I’m Obama so I must be very rich. Do I really look like him? I hope not, especially since a guy in Nairobi told me that Kenyans think Obama resembles a giraffe.
Agatha, a coordinator who lives in Tanzania picked us up in a small blue bus. Inside the bus were my soon-to-be housemates, Danni (UK) and Johnny (London, England). Agatha took us to the first of two volunteer houses. The first house is called the “New House”. Damaris and Emily were assigned here. The rest of us were placed in the “Old House”. I have to say, these volunteer houses are already a hundred times better than the volunteer houses in Muizenberg. The old house is only called “old” because it was the first volunteer house available before the new one. The house itself is comfortably spacious. It comes with a large living area with a bunch of couches and chairs, an outdoor patio with a sitting area and a small yard, three bathrooms and showers, a few bedrooms, and a back area where we can do laundry. The house is surrounded by a huge barrier to protect us from crooks. We have our own security guards who guard the complex 24/7. In addition to the security, we are also staffed with a gardener and a few “Mamas” who cook and clean for us. Volunteers aren’t even allowed to loiter in the kitchen because the Mamas want to prepare our meals and wash our dishes with very little distraction. Yes, here the Mamas do our dishes for us. All we have to do is set our dishes on the counter and they gladly take care of it. The best part is how well we are going to be fed here. The Mamas whip up an assortment of Tanzanian delicacies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week and they make a ton of it! Fresh fruit usually consisting of pineapples, mangos, and watermelon is cut up for us everyday to have whenever we like. I can’t help but compare this to my accommodation in Muizenberg, where we had to do our own dishes, prepare our own breakfast (peanut butter toast) and lunch (peanut butter toast), and always ALWAYS ran out of food. I’m ridiculously pampered here and I love it!
I met a boatload of my new housemates when I arrived. As of now, I will be living with 25 other volunteers. It is going to take me a good week to remember their names but so far everyone is pretty cool. I live in a room with three other guys, Tanner (Edmonton, Alberta), Mike (Washington D.C.), and Johnny. I’m glad I have them as roommates because none of them snores! The beds themselves are fairly large and draped with mosquito nets. The boys have their own bathroom and shower that is separated from the rooms. We have the best shower in the house. So far I’m loving this.
I and a few other new volunteers had a full day to acquaint ourselves with our new home in Arusha before orientation the next day, so a group of us decided to go hiking to Mount Meru’s Waterfall. Mark Boreen, a coordinator, set us up with two locals who would show us the way to the falls. We made our way to town through the use of a dalla dalla. A dalla dalla is a miniature color-coded bus that transports people short distances across town. To my Peruvian amigos, it’s very similar to a comvee. After the dalla dalla, we all rode motorcycles (boda boda’s) through some of Arusha’s jungles and remote villages to the start of the hike. It was unexpected and extremely fun! Also, very unsafe. We put our lives into these local bandits hands. None of us had helmets or padding and these guys were speedy through clouds of dust and unpaved rocky dirt roads. I think those aspects are what made it so adventurously sweet!
The hike was a few hours long as we literally slipped and slid down a muddy mountain into the nooks of Meru’s river system. I knew I would want to go into the water; so I switched into my water shoes, rolled up my cargos, and pretty much walked through the ice cold crests the rest of way. Through the trek we had to traverse through narrow passages and at one point I helped everyone over a gigantic mossy boulder that blocked our path. Soon finally, we made it to the bowl of the waterfall.
It was extremely picturesque and I’d say about 300 feet high. Four of us climbed the mud soaked slope behind the waterfall to proclaim our feat!
Should I jump? It’s literally only my second day in Tanzania-it would suck so bad to become injured this early into my journey. I reluctantly opted out. On the bright side, we get to ride the motorcycles back to town :).
It’s only been two days that I’ve been here and I already am starting to love everything about this underrated country. I’ve been told by volunteers who have been here for awhile about all of the awe-inspiring things I can do in Tanzania.
And I can say this with the most bonafide confidence; the next few blog posts are going to be something extra special.