So now on my third attempt, I am finally able to write up a post on my first week in Moshi (the first got cut short because the computer in the internet cafe was having a meltdown, and the second time because of a power-cut halfway through writing – welcome to Tanzania!)
Arriving at Kilimanjaro airport felt very surreal, and I still don’t think it had quite sunk in that I had arrived in Africa. The flight had been really uncomfortable; I was tired and groggy after replacing zero hours of sleep with an overdose of free wine. And I was still dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions after leaving my parents at the airport to embark on this big solo around-the-world trip. I was anxious, I was sad, and excited all at once.
Tanzania was, after all, a place I had always dreamt of visiting after my grandparents had lived there for so many years…but what if I didn’t like it? What if it wasn’t like all the wonderful tales my grandparents shared? What if I sucked at volunteering? OR what if I love it so much that I never want to leave? These mixture of emotions were like nothing I had ever felt before….but in a way, throwing myself into the unknown was quite exciting. I was about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life. And as scary as it was…I was ready for it.
The Tanzania adventure begins…
It wasn’t until I had to go through immigration where I got screened for Ebola that it suddenly felt very real. Once they were happy that I was in the clear, I went through to get my visas sorted, grabbed my rucksack, and was then greeted by a smiley taxi driver that Hostel Hoff had arranged to pick me up. That was relatively easy, I thought. And all the anxiety started to fade away.
The drive to Moshi was around 45 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to take in the views and surroundings. As we left the airport, the scenery grew more picturesque and colourful – locals were busy starting their day and the landscape got greener the closer we got to Moshi. Women roamed the streets wearing boldly coloured khangas, while balancing all manner of objects on their heads; children were frantically chasing after goats and chickens; and local men were setting up their stalls ready for a day’s trade.
The roads were very bumpy and a vivid red from all the dust, and at times were completely chaotic with vehicles coming from all angles. The locals tend to just walk along the road as there aren’t really any pathways, and at times I was burying my head in my hands fearing for their lives (much to the taxi driver’s amusement!). The mayhem, the colours, the smells, the scenery…it was a complete overload on the senses. And then it really hit me. Holy shit…I am in Tanzania. I am actually in Africa! And as far as first impressions go…it was living up to everything I had ever imagined it to be.
An introduction to Moshi…
Once I’d arrived at Hostel Hoff and had some time to settle in and meet some of the other volunteers, Tom (one of the hostel managers) took me on a tour of the town centre, which is only about a five minute walk from the hostel itself. Moshi itself is a medium-sized town located in the foothills of the notorious Mountain Kilimanjaro, and is home to around 200,000 people.
At first I was completely overwhelmed, as there was just so much to take in. It was absolutely peeing it down (typical, I leave the UK and it’s raining in Tanzania!). The streets were bustling with locals as they went about their daily business, and I felt like I was spending half my time weaving in and out of people or trying to avoid getting run over as we walked along the road.
However it didn’t take me long to realise how friendly the locals are, who often shout “Jambo” (Hello) or “Mambo” (How are you?) as you pass them by in the street. While there’s not an overbearing amount of tourists here, the locals seem pretty accustomed to you, and it feels very safe to walk around in the daytime. We didn’t encounter many street hawkers that day, and quite often they will leave you be if you politely say “Hapana Asante” (no, thank you). I found that most of the time, they just like to have a friendly chat with you.
There are a number of restaurants, bars, and cafes so you’re never short of places to eat or hang out with the other volunteers. Believe it or not I am yet to sample the night life here, but I hear there’s a karaoke bar which is the go-to place on a Saturday night!
The hostel provides breakfast and dinner, but you can grab things for lunch from Nakumatt, which is the largest supermarket in Moshi. Quite often when I go in there I get a daily Swahili lesson from one of the staff, and he’ll test me on it the next time I go in. It’s become a bit of a running joke between us now on how rubbish I am!
But one of the most impressive things about Moshi has to be Mount Kilimanjaro. You can only really see it on a clear day, but when you do it’s completely breathtaking. Many of the tourists in the town are here to climb the mountain, which can take a total of five to seven days (depending on which route you take), but unfortunately I don’t think I have the the budget to do it myself (this time around anyway – I already have a feeling I will be returning!).
Final thoughts on Moshi – “a home away from home”
It may be a little bold to say this after only being here a week, but already I feel like Moshi is a home away from home. All the volunteers, staff and locals have been very welcoming and have made settling in very easy.
I started my project at Newlands Orphanage and School earlier in the week, but more on that another day!
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