As cliché as it sounds, I have experienced more in the last two weeks than some people do in a lifetime. I got a chance to explore a little bit of Abu Dhabi in the UAE during a twenty two hour layover, I have been living right in the middle of the bustling city of Mwanza for the last ten days, I have walked through the streets, bartered in the markets, discovered some amazing foods, gotten a tiny bit sick while my body adjusted to said foods, taken the local ‘boda boda’ motorcycle taxi all around the city, experienced an awesome Tanzanian wedding, spoken with dozens of awesome local health professionals, learned a little Swahili, found my new go-to spot in town, helped fix the wheel of a taxi that fell off in the middle of the night on my way back home from karaoke, made some new friends and I am just getting started. I have only been here for ten days, but I’m already starting to feel at home here in Rock City.
The first few days I experienced a great deal of culture shock. This city is chaotic at first sight. I’m not talking chaotic like Fremont Street in Las Vegas on a Friday night, I mean like REALLY chaotic. Traffic seems crazy when you first get here. There are only two stoplights in the city and traffic signs are few and far between. There are no crosswalks so you run across the street at your own risk. However, eventually you adapt and realize there is a method to the madness and it is actually pretty under control. The people are extremely polite, friendly and welcoming. In the US you often get weird looks if you say hello to a stranger, here you get a warm and enthusiastic reply with a smile. I thought I was being rude because people kept saying “you’re welcome”, or karibu in Swahili, before I said thank you. It turns out, they use the term as a greeting to let you know that your presence is welcome. Southern hospitality has nothing on Tanzanian hospitality. Quite a few people speak English, and those who don’t are patient and understanding of the fact that I do not know how to speak Swahili very well yet. Everyone who speaks both English and Swahili goes out of their way to teach you a word or phrase. Greetings were hard for me to figure out at first. I greeted an elder the way you are supposed to greet someone your age and instead of getting offended by my blunder, she just smiled and laughed it off.
The more I get used to the culture here, the more I notice how spirited and vibrant it is. People always seem joyful and they definitely know how to have a good time. Did I mention how good the food was? The tilapia is some of the best seafood I have ever experienced, with presentation that would impress even Gordon Ramsay himself. I have yet to be disappointed by a meal at The Cask by Rock City Mall and I have tried half of the menu already. I’ve been to several other places in town that have also been quite impressive. I took the opportunity to attend a wedding on Saturday and that was an awesome experience. I only knew four people there, but they welcomed me like we were family. As with every other experience I have had here, the food was excellent and plentiful. I learned a few Tanzanian dances and we all had a good time.
There are two things that really stand out to me in this city. Everybody dresses smart here, people are always looking GQ and I really like that. The other thing is the plethora of awesome 4x4s that you see driving around town. Though it makes sense to own a 4x4 around here, as a big fan of all things overland it makes me quite happy.
That is my general overview of my experience so far. I will soon be sharing some more specific stories of my adventures here in Africa, but for now I just wanted to give you all a taste of what life is like here. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates and details on the progress of our projects and as always, thank you for stopping by!