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Let’s Go Flaneuring in Tanzania

Today’s Flaneuring post is by Amanda, taking us through Tanzania.

A New Kind of Normal

The majestic Mount Kilimanjaro looks over me, appearing so giant and crisp in the early morning it looks like a cardboard cut-out God plopped near this small, dusty town. As I meander through the market watching carefully where I place each step on the uneven terrain, I barely notice the layer of dirt that covers my feet. I pick through heaps of shoes and clothes as the owner of the stall sits atop her loot, having a casual conversation with me in Swahili. Driving down the road it’s nearly second nature to swerve for potholes, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, busses goats and cows. Driving three cars wide on a two lane road is not uncommon, nor is stopping along my route to buy bananas for six cents each from a Mama that’s carrying them on her head. My three year old son asks anxiously, “Can I pay the worker?!” when we pull into the petrol station. He hands the money through his open window and says, “Naomba reciti tafadhali.” And I think to myself, “I never thought this would be my ‘normal’.”

Kili

Nearly two years ago we followed God’s prompting and moved our family of three from our cozy two-story home in Charlotte, North Carolina to a concrete-floored ranch home Moshi, Tanzania. No longer do we flip the TV on and watch the news or catch a show that we’ve DVRed in the evenings. We don’t have a thermostat to keep our house at a consistent, comfortable temperature. We don’t microwave our leftovers, and we don’t wash our dishes with hot water.

VillageMarket5Our new normal is dirt-covered feet all. The. Time. It’s smiling Tanzanian faces, greetings that often last longer than the actual conversation, and chai (that’s tea) offered to us everywhere we go. Our new normal is our three year old being in a preschool with 22 other students, and being the only American among children from five different countries. It’s eating banana stew, pilau, chapati and dengu for lunch – oh and rice. Lots and lots of rice. Normal is hearing a huge THUD in the middle of the night, and knowing it was just a coconut falling off our tree. It’s open windows, dusty floors, always barefoot, mosquito nets and simple living.

This beautiful country is home for us now. Everywhere we go people smile and greet us – even strangers. The Tanzanians are so extremely kind and hospitable, it’s hard not to fall in love with this place. We don’t have a TV, we only have hot water in the shower, and when the power goes off we are rarely surprised. We wash our feet every day at least once, we filter our water before we drink it, and we pasteurize our milk (which comes straight from the neighbor’s cow). We splurge on items like seedless grapes or strawberries when they occasionally appear in the store – paying $5 or more for one small pack – a special treat for sure. We’re used to never having a bag of crisps (potato chips) taste exactly the same, because they’re all made and packaged by hand- and oh so tasty! We wash and re-use our Ziplock bags – precious items brought from the states and unattainable here. We dry our clothes on a rack in our living room or on the line in the yard.

We are surrounded by a great community of ex-pats and nationals and have close friends from a half-dozen different countries. We barely blink an eye when we hear the mosque calling out prayers over the (very) loud speaker several times a day. When our son wants to make a new friend he often asks, “What language do you speak?” When the cacophony of guard dogs and street dogs gets going each night, we’re annoyed, but it’s still normal.

VillageChurch

When a stranger hears our son speaking Swahili, and tells his friend that one day the “mzungu” (white person) will speak Swahili as well as an “mbongo” (African)…

When I get lost in a worship song in a village church, singing in Swahili and raising my hands toward the tin roof…

When I look to the sky as the sun dips behind the trees, after bringing the laundry in from the clothes line, and I see that majestic mountain looking over me…

I’m reminded of what home really is: being right in the middle of God’s plan for our lives.

And it makes it even more clear to me, this is our normal.

usAmanda is a wife, a mother, a photog, a teacher, a friend, a mentor, granola-liking, Trader Joe’s missing, outdoor loving, camping-in-a-tent, beach bumming, small group leading, hurting for Africa, 30-something. I’m transplanted from Charlotte, NC living in Moshi, Tanzania bringing a little Jesus-love to Africa getting my feet dirty and wearing skirts even though I don’t love to… And while those things don’t define me, they do describe me a bit – what does define me is my never ending, sometimes lacking, pursuit of the Creator of Life. That’s right, above all else, I’m a Jesus-following, child of God. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.

By |February 24th, 2015|Categories: flaneuring|Tags: , |7 Comments

Let’s Go Flaneuring in Dodoma, Tanzania

Today’s Flaneuring post comes from Dodoma, Tanzania. Let’s take a walk with Tamie Davis.

I step out of my back door for my evening walk. It’s a circuit of the university where we live and work. There’s no fence around the university but recently huge thickets of thorns have been placed at every possible exit except for the main gate. We don’t expect rain for another month so there’s plenty of material for this makeshift boundary, though the splashes of orange, pink and purple hibiscus mean it’s not as brown as you might expect. I greet the four guards casually sitting at the gate chatting with a woman selling mangoes. There’s something of an exodus of students at this time of day as well, on their way to their hostels for the night, or leaving their campus accommodation to get some food.

I follow a girl in bright green skinny jeans, walking arm in arm with her friend in a flowing floral dress with matching veils. As we leave the university premises, I pick up my pace. Past the shipping containers converted into stationery shops where you can print and photocopy. Past the mini-stores selling soap, chewing gum, water, matches, toothpaste and phone credit. Past the bajajis waiting in the shade. Past the raucous secondary school girls in their bottle green skirts and jumpers, one group calling out the line of a song and the others answering.

I head up the incline towards the top of the university and it’s like a different world. I overtake two shriveled old women trudging along carrying huge loads on their heads, their kangas faded and limp and their ears pierced with the holes of the Gogo tribe. I return their calls with a respectful greeting. I’m overtaken by a lad on a bike, empty containers strapped on either side as he cycles to get water from a well. On the other side of the road a group of four children are herding goats into a building for the night. They point me out to one another and then one of them calls out in English, ‘Good morning!’

bajaji

Their house is nondescript home-made brick but as I come back down the other side of the university, I start to see some new houses, watermelon pink or lime green, water tanks visible above the line of their imposing fences. There is often a mama out the front of one house, packing up her fruit stall and looking rather flustered by her crying baby. A little further is a row of cafes serving chips and fried bananas. There’s a baby there too, wearing a frilly dress and in her father’s arms, and I know I’m heading back towards the world of the university.

There are students arriving at the café. They dust off the plastic chairs before sitting, because everything in Dodoma is permanently covered in dust and without kangas to wrap around them or sit on, they’re worried their clothes will get dirty. It’s not just the fact that they’re eating out that gives them away as students. It’s the crispness of their clothes, and their self-consciousness. Even in groups, they know people are watching them. Their eyes flicker to each other, as if they’re not quite confident in this setting. They’ve made the decision to come to university, but I wonder if the top part of the university’s surroundings feels more familiar to them.

The irony of all this of course, is that my eyes are also darting around, though for a slightly different reason. I’m drinking everything in. We’ve been here two years and I’m hyper-aware that there is much I don’t understand. For all I have seen and learnt and been influenced by my environment, it’s still foreign. A walk is never just a walk; I am constantly taking in information, trying to sort and categorise it, as we westerners are so wont to do.

As I’ve made a circuit of the boundary of the university, I’ve thought of myself as passing from one world into another and back again. But that’s an artificial distinction because the tension between the two worlds is embodied in the students themselves. It’s in their hearts as well as on the streets. This isn’t about contrasting two worlds so much as it is about connecting them. The students aren’t an island of modernity in Tanzania: they are Tanzania, with all its contradictions and uncertainty and energy.

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Dodoma, Tanzania with her husband and 2.5 year old son. She thinks out loud at meetjesusatuni.com.