I've been back in Tanzania for about 3 days now. In less than 72 hours I exceeded my maximum baggage weight allowance for the plane, managed to negotiate my way into the worst airplane food imaginable, ate my first (and what will be my only) burger in Tanzania, went camping out in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, slept on the ground - twice, and discovered termites in our house.
Thankfully, I managed to talk my way out of the $200 overweight penalty, I didn't get sick from the burger (although it was closer to beef jerky than steak) and now have a bed. As for the airplane food, well, that was all my fault. On my last flight to Tanzania, the meals were awful - "chicken or fish?" This time, I thought I would beat the system so I called ahead to request vegetarian meals. Little did I know in the world of Ethiopian Airlines vegetarian = vegan which meant I didn't get the brownie, mashed potatoes, croissant, yogurt or cheese omelet the guy next to me got. Instead, I was blessed with soggy cabbage spring rolls, some sort of dry dairy free roll with margarine, and eggplant soaked in tomato sauce with rice. Yummy, yummy!
Saturday night I went to the nearby town of Marangu and hiked up the foothills (aka: mountains!) to a campsite overlooking the valley and Kilimanjaro. It was breathtaking. There were 8 on the trip and we arrived shortly before nightfall. There is a small village surrounding the campsite and one of the families from the village prepared a dinner of ugali (like stiff grits), beans, cooked cabbage, potatoes and stew for us. We ate well and traded stories late into the night. Unfortunately, thanks to the jetlag I woke up freezing at 3am and never fell back to sleep. Around 5:30 I left the tent to spend some time reading (thanks Mrs. K. for the great book suggestion!) and watching the sunrise. All in all, it was an incredible experience. I am blessed to be back here.
For those of you who were following along on my last trip, I am in a different house in the same town of Moshi in Tanzania. Our house mom, Fatuma, and her daughter, Sumaya, are living with us and it feels like my home away from home. Fatuma takes such good care of us! Jasen is here, as well as a woman named Margaret from New Zealand and a girl named Marian from Denmark. We have room for two more volunteers in the house and I'll be screening applicants to fill up the space over the coming weeks. While I can't say I am loving the fact that we only have a squat toilet, I am ecstatic about the fact that we have hot water for our showers. That's Africa for you - you get a little, you give a little!
As I've said before, life moves at a little - o.k., a lot - slower pace here. I thought maybe this time I would be more prepared for it, but it's only been 3 days and if I here "T.I.A." (This Is Africa) one more time, I may scream - or at the very least ban the use of that phrase from our house. Unfortunately, it seems to be used more often as an excuse than an explanation. I am thankful, however, to have met some great new friends here who are doing independent research or work with some smaller organizations that are making big differences in their communities. Our conversations keep me encouraged and have sparked some ideas about what I will be able to accomplish here over the next year.
All in all, it is great to be back! The transition has been easy and minus the Mac and Cheese I forgot to pack, I pretty much have everything I need here. Thanks to everyone for sending me notes of encouragement and keeping me in your prayers! You'll hear from me again soon!