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Moshi

This little lady follows us to work every morning. We call her Twix.

This little lady follows us to work every morning. We call her Twix.

Life has found a new(-ish) groove here in Moshi with a move to our very own slice of suburban heaven, walking distance from Amani, in a slightly rough-around-the-edges-but-still-friendly area called Soweto (yes, that’s the same name as the notorious Johannesburg township). We’re sharing it with two of the other Amani volunteers, Jay and Annmaree (last featured in this wedding post) and finally have an en-suite bathroom (yay!), real windows (double yay!), proper water pressure (ah, how I missed you), and yes, the ultimate ‘piece the resistance’ in a tropical country: air conditioning.

We’re also now back to cooking and cleaning for ourselves (normal life, I know), and it’s actually so refreshing to be in control of our of environment again, and to be able to move around without calling a driver (a slice of the non-normal life that you can actually afford here) and to go to and leave work as we please, usually with our new doggy friend in tow. Walking to work we must end up saying ‘Mambo’, ‘Habari?’ or ‘Shikamoo’ (the three key greetings, used depending on the age of the person at the receiving end of it) at least 20-30 times. We get just as many stares – or even outright wonder – when kids scream out ‘mzungu’ (white person!) and run to us to say hello/bye/good evening. Though people here are shy and rather reserved, they’re also unfailingly warm and welcoming. They take the time to acknowledge each other (as Kristy said over dinner tonight), to make that connection – even if it’s with a stranger and even if it’s only for a fleeting second…

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Day 2: waterfall hike on the foothills of Mount K, Day 3: beers by the pool...

Day 2: waterfall hike on the foothills of Mount K, Day 3: beers by the pool…

After a couple of relaxed Moshi days with ol’pops, a refreshingly low-key New Years with friends, a fun but exhausting day at Amani (we both have an entirely new level of appreciation for teachers’ need to have long summer breaks after this experience), we’re getting ready for another journey, this time to the muddy plains of Serengeti and the majestic Ngorongoro crater.

As we pack up to leave our beloved B&B (we’re moving into a house-share for the remaining two+ months) and I try my very best not to stress too much about packing our messy little life up, that strange concoction of excitement, anticipation and jitters sets in our travel-bound bellies. We have four nights in open-to-the-wild campsites ahead of us, long drives on shitty roads, a hot air balloon ride, plenty of questionable experiences in poorly maintained and over-used national park toilets, and hopefully an encounter or two with the magnificent beasts of the East African plains. I’m hoping for a few leopards and a rhino sighting. B’s looking forward to coming car-to-face with the famed Serengeti lions. I think we’re all just hoping to avoid the brunt of the later-than-usual seasonal rains and have the safari of a lifetime…

On that note, we wish you all a wonderful, mindful start to the new year. Fill it with happy moments, big plans and everything good and gorgeous in between.

(Whoop-whoop! This is the 40th post on our wee little blog, by the way. Thanks for reading, caring and sharing, folks.)

-K&B

Never in a rut and resilient as hell.

Never in a rut and resilient as hell.

The ‘pole pole’ (slowly, slowly) lifestyle has made us a little stir crazy. Maybe the shine and excitement of a new place has just worn out. Maybe there’s a bit of culture shock mixed in there somewhere, or perhaps the near-incessant heat has just worn our bodies and minds down. Somehow we’re just in a bit of a rut; not unhappy by any means, just not entirely in the flow of things either. Moshi has gotten too small, the heat too repetitive, the routines a little too set once again.

It didn’t help that our plans for weekend trips fell through because of distances and overpriced hotels. We’ve had to postpone a few cool trips to next year, including one to the lusher-than-lush Usambara mountains, and by default rather than choice ended up spending a few too many weekends in small-town Tanzania. Work is still good – the kids don’t exactly have an ‘off day’, they’re always great and full of energy – but we’ve had a lot of weekend shifts in the past months and I guess our batteries are just near-depleted. Cultural discovery, adjusting, fitting in… it’s exhilarating, it’s exciting, but it’s also exhausting.

B’s wallet also went missing under strange circumstances a few days ago. Suffice it to say this didn’t exactly lift our spirits. It either dropped from his pockets when we were talking home from the taxi, or – more unbelievably and quite likely – was skillfully pick-pocketed by two young girls pretending to be fundraising for a local church right in front of our house gate. We’ll never know what exactly happened but I can’t seem to shake the feeling that there was something ‘off’ about those girls hanging out in front of our gate at sunset, only talking to us, not the locals and asking for donations in a hasty-cum-guilty sort of way. But then again, maybe I’m just imagining things. Maybe it’s the heat playing tricks on my brain.

But what do we really have to complain about? It’s sunny, it’s beautiful, it’s exciting in a subtle kind of way every single day. And our holidays are fast approaching: Zanzibar for Christmas and a second safari after New Years with my dad who’ll be visiting us. Lots to look forward to and lots to be happy about. Every reason to get over this rut, pronto.

Sending some of our over-abundance of pole-pole vibes your way. We miss you (you know who you are).

-K&B

Goodbye sun, hello darkness.

So I meant to put a few thoughts down as our lights went out for the entire day and night on Sunday, but after a lovely but distinctly dark dinner cooked by fellow guests here – a quiet Italian couple (say what?) with a mean knack for pasta – we decided to use up the last of the laptop battery and watch an episode of We Can Be Heroes (a great little Aussie show) before hitting the hay. Lying in our room, open to the sounds of the tamed jungle around us (particularly one supremely annoying bird, I imagine it was ugly too), I was struck by just how deep and all-consuming darkness can be. You get so used to light pollution of varying degrees when living in cities that when you find yourself in a more-or-less rural area during a blackout, even eight PM feels like the deepest darkest night you’ve ever experienced. It feels like you’ve been sucked into the furthest corner of space, suspended weightless in a world of zip zero visual stimulation. No street lights, no reflections of the neighbor’s fluorescent porch light, no stars and no moon. Just total, complete darkness pierced temporarily by my iPhone and laptop with their fast-depleting batteries and an ineffective solar-powered emergency lamp given to us by our lovely host, Sandra.

The power outages are becoming an all too familiar and predictable occurrence here and no one knows for sure if they’ll get any better soon (the rains were supposed to help but apparently the cuts are also politically motivated and deliberate). I don’t mind the outages during the day – we’re either at work or do our best to charge up laptops etc. when power is available – but at night the sheer depth of darkness does kind of do your head in (especially when under-stimulated eyes are compensated for by over-stimulated ears bursting with the near torturous sounds of the bird with a shrill voice).

But I guess there is something soothing about that kind of darkness too. After all, what else forces you to be present and divorces you so fundamentally from the usual cacophony of light and visual attractions (“read me!”, check out this photo!”, “watch this clip!”) than the complete and utter darkness of an African suburb starved of power? It’s so dark your eyes don’t even get used to it and your mind is forced to decide: stay awake and listen to the crazy bird or just shut down, tune out and go to sleep with the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro keeping watch just over your shoulder.

On that note, good night, dear friends. Be grateful for every day of uninterrupted electricity, it sure ain’t the norm in this corner of the Earth.

-K&B