Monday, November 16, 2009

Tanzania - settling in

I arrived in Tanzania two weeks ago. I stayed with my friend Kelly from DC for the first week I was here. She graciously offered me accommodation, a cell phone, and free Swahili translation (she was in Peace Corps TZ and speaks it fluently). Thanks Kel!

A week ago, I moved to the Passionist Fathers hostel/hotel in Mikocheni B outside the city center. I am sharing a room with my colleague, Lisa, who is working with me here in Dar. The Passionist Fathers staff and guests have been fabulously hospitable. Our breakfast is included in the price of our stay and we also are able to get lunch and dinner served almost every day for about $10 a day. The food is really good, but pretty much everything is fried, dipped in oil, or both. Vegetables tend to be scarce, though at least one fruit is generally available at most meals.

However, they have AMAZING coffee and really good wine - which are both included in our meal price. We also never know what we will eat, or with whom. There are new guests almost every night. Most come from Europe, but we have also had an American ex-pat who has been living in Congo for decades, a Tanzanian ex-pat now living in Uganda, and a few European students doing their thesis here in Tanzania as well.

So, almost every day we learn something new at lunch or dinner. We have gotten info on Tanzanian history and geography, life as an ex-pat in rural Congo, and even some info on Finnish politics and life in Helsinki.

The Tanzanians have been very friendly, and like Malians see greetings as very important. You should always ask how they are, about their health, and any other questions you can think to inquire about upon meeting them. However, they will always tell you "karibu" (welcome) in return. They are always smiling, even when telling you they are not going to lower their taxi price, there is no more red snapper, or that they do not have any change. It is extremely difficult to get - or keep - change in Tanzania. No one wants to part with it, sometimes even if it means foregoing a profit.

Oh, and even by African standards, the bureaucracy is out of control here. To get anything done, you must speak with several people, fill out many forms, and inevitably come back another day - because whatever you want cannot be done now, if ever.

Also, don't expect to stand in line here. There are instances where it seems as if people are waiting in line for something, but the line is really irrelevant. If there is an opportunity to get what you need, just go around the person in front of you. If you don't, you will always find that everyone behind you has already conducted their business and left before you have gotten a chance to get anything done.

There is so much to tell and some entertaining stories to come, I promise. However, I thought I would at least give you all some information about life here so far. Thanks for reading.
: )

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