And voila! Our second day in Moshi is over and we’re floating somewhere between cloud nine and a more-severe-than-expected-first-few-days-in-a-totally-different-world-kind-of culture shock.
To be fair, this place has been very kind to us so far – the weather’s been balmy and sunny, and the people are warm and helpful, unfailingly greeting you with either ‘Jambo’ or ‘Jambo Mambo’ (Hello or Hello, What’s Up?). But it’s also been sobering to see how different the reality here is, and how different OUR reality is and will be as well. It’s early days, of course, but suffice to say life in small-town Tanzania as a volunteer is miles away from our cushy lives in Zürich, and adapting to it will take its sweet time.
The hostel we’re staying at for the first six weeks is pretty clean, has good food, lovely people and friendly and helpful staff. It’s a short walk away from the surprisingly bustling and easy-going town center, with a handful of nice restaurants, lots of quirky shops, street vendors and seamstresses, even a well-stocked, if Western-priced, Kenyan supermarket (the prices in shilling makes the whole experience surreal, with a huge flat screen TV costing 2+ million shillings, roughly 2000 dollars). Our room in the hostel is simple, but comfortable enough after some DIY fixes, but I’d be lying if I said we have anywhere near the level of privacy and comfort we had back home; to be expected, of course, but still a bit of a shock when you realize that our bed, covering most of the floor space in the room, is our tiny little mosquito net-covered home for now.
We spent today running errands in town, getting a local phone number, taking passport photos with a very particular blue background for our volunteer visa applications (is it just me or does this blue look so classic somehow?) and buying the most awesome little 21st century life-saver: a portable broadband modem that should help us stay connected with the world in the coming months. So far it’s proven as fast, if not faster, than Internet back home (astounding, really, but I guess that’s modern-day-development for you: tech changes faster than farming techniques or government policies, after all).
We’ve made a pact to use it wisely, though – no surfing around aimlessly or reading Huffington Post – and sparingly (it’s unlimited in name but apparently not in practice, as the friendly, if somewhat dopey sales guys told us). We’re trying to use this opportunity to wean ourselves from our mild-to-moderate net addiction and to get in touch with a world that is refreshingly less desperate for a constant tech fix.
So, the first few days have been wonderful in many ways, but also challenging. Culture shock will rear its ugly head on occasion when we realize just how far removed we are from our lives-as-they-were – from friends, family and creature comforts – and how big of a mental adjustment, change in perspectives – whatever you want to call it – we have ahead of us. It’ll be a huge challenge, no doubt, and one that has barely just begun.
Tomorrow’s our first day at Amani. Proper work won’t start until next week as the school is prepping for a 10th anniversary party on Friday, but we’re getting a tour of the school and will spend the day helping out with preparations and watching dress rehearsals… Can’t wait.
Here are a few pics from our first days – lots of love from East Africa.