First days back in Tanzania

I always love the feeling when you first get off a plane in a tropical destination. The humidity hits you when they open the doors and it makes it all feel real. Coming from winter in Canada the warmth was welcomed with open arms. 

Mount Kilimanjaro at sun rise.    

Mount Kilimanjaro at sun rise. 



We landed at Kilimanjaro Airport around 5:30am on February 1st. It took us 30 hours of traveling and 3 layovers to reach our destination. We went through customs with ease, paying $50 USD for a single entry visitors visa. A visitors visa lasts for 90 days but we will only be here for 45. As we were going through customs I could see into the luggage room. There was only a small pile of bags from our flight. There was less than 15 people that got off at Kilimanjaro. I kept looking but couldn’t see my bag. I could see Greg’s, but not mine. I had an uneasy feeling but decided not to get myself worked up until I could check for sure. Once I did make it into the luggage room my fears became more real. I couldn’t find my bag. I look around the room and double checked every other bag twice. Mine was still nowhere to be found. We asked a worker at the airport who to talk to about my bag. They pointed us in the direction of a small window in the wall. At the window I was asked to fill out a form and give a description of my bag and it’s contents. We gave them Nelson’s phone number (our friend we are staying with) and they said they would call us when they had any information. I left it at that, as I couldn’t think of anything more I could do to change the situation. Thankfully I had decided to carry all expensive stuff like my camera and GoPro in my carry-on but all my clothes, toiletries and some kind-of important stuff (like my beloved Polaroid) were in my checked bag. It was up to the universe now. 

We exited the airport and immediately saw Nelson waving us down. Nelson brought along Goodluck (another one of our friends and sponsored by Greg’s dad), Nema (Nelson’s wife) and Sabrina (Nelson’s friend). We all exchanged hugs, took some photos and were off. It’s about 50 km from Kilimanjaro airport to Arusha. Along the road we watched the sunrise over Mount Kilimanjaro. I have been to Tanzania before, but had bad luck seeing Kili. So this was my first time viewing the majestic snow-capped mountain. On the way to Arusha we witnessed a bus catch fire in the middle of the road (Dont worry everyone was fine) and were pulled over by the police. The cop was giving Nelson a hard time about passing a very slow truck and was going to write him a ticket. But Nema recognized his partner across the road as a girl she went to school with. And she convinced her colleague to let us go with no ticket. Through these incidents everyone in our van was saying “TIA, this is Africa” a common saying here. 

Every morning Nelson drives his van around Arusha to pickup kids who go to his school. We arrived in Arusha in time to pick up some kids, so we went around to a couple neighbourhoods and had about 5 kids pile into our van. Not many people worry about seatbelts here, so the kids we’re sitting on laps and standing in the aisles. Halfway though picking up kids we were dropped at our house which we are sharing with Goodluck, Sabrina and Sabrina’s mother. It is a small house Nelson is renting as a “hostel” for volunteers who come to his school. The house is very nice. It sits in a compound right across the road from Nelson’s own home. The house has three bedrooms, with one all to ourselves with our own bathroom. Nobody has air conditioning here. You don’t need it since the nights always go down to 17-19 celcius. Tanzanians think its very cold. We did our best to stay awake that day so we could fight off the jet lag since Tanzania is an 11 hour difference from home, but we didn’t have much luck. After a trip into town to buy SIM cards for our phones we both slept most of the first day. We bought SIM cards for data from HaloTel, a phone company here in Tanzania. I bought a plan for 12GB of data for 30,000tzs a month(Tanzanian shillings) which equals about $13USD. I knew data was going to be cheap, but I was suprised when I found out just how cheap it was. I purchased so much data because I knew I was going to use it a lot for staying in touch and also for working on my computer. Not many people have wifi here. Everyone who has laptops just connects it to the hotspot on their phone. Although I am kinda worried I didn’t buy enough data... I have already used 2 GB in 3 days. Instagram burns ALOT of data haha. 


The first night we fell asleep okay, but I was awake by 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep. As soon as the sun rose around 6:30am I went outside and sat till Greg woke around 8. Then we had breakfast with some infamous AfriCafe. They don’t drink a ton of coffee here, and when they do it’s instant AfriCafe coffee. It’s actually really good coffee for being instant. Although it doesn’t compare to the bag of Backyard Beans I brought with me from home in my checked bag.... but that is somewhere between here and Istanbul I think. 

Day two wasn’t very exciting. I got hit with some wicked nausea at breakfast and it left me out for the count the rest of the day. I spent most of the day sleeping, and so did Greg. We aren’t doing very well at fighting our jet-lag. I am starting to feel pretty gross. I only have 1 pair of lulus and 1 shirt that I have been wearing since January 30th. Greg has been nice enough to let me wear his clothes but he has a small supply and I don’t want to use it all. Nelson has been talking with the airport and they said they found my bag, and it will be here tonight!!! Yay! I am so excited to have my things back. For dinner we had fries and curried vegetables. Then we went to the shop Nema owns to buy some water. We sat and talked with Nelson and some of his friends there for a bit before heading back to our house to sleep. I asked about my bag and Nelson said it won’t be be here tonight, but it will be here in the morning. I thought to myself I can live one more night without my bag. 


I fell asleep great again last night. And managed to stay asleep until 3am this time. Again I laid in bed until the sun rose then went outside and waited for Greg. But by the time it was 9am and Greg hadn’t woken I went back into our room and closed my eyes till he got up. We had breakfast then made plans to go into town and  check out some things. We got ready then caught a dala-dala into town with Goodluck and Sabrina. We first stopped at an ATM and took out a lot of cash to last us a while. Its always sketchy pulling a lot of money-making out of an ATM wherever you are. But add some armed guards standing behind you and it makes you feel a bit more cautious. We got our money an immediately hid it in our bag. Next we walked to the Maasai market. A tourist trap where you can find 30 vendors trying to sell the same souvenirs to every muzungu (white person) that walks by. I wanted to buy some comfy pants, and sadly this was the place to get them. Goodluck took us to a stall that he knew from before. But I was stopped 10 times on my way there being asked where I was from, my name, and to come look at their shop for just one second. You just have to be polite and say “hapana asante” which means no thank you. I bought a pair of tie dye flowy pants for 20,000tzs which was about $9USD. Then I bought a purse for 10,000tzs. 

Maasai Market

Maasai Market

Next we took a dala-dala back to our neighbourhood and went to a supermarket. I was suprised at how westernized it was. There was a lot of muzungus shopping here and you could find most things you would want at a grocery store in Canada. I bought some pasta and snacks. Our meals are included in our rent for $5 more a day, but Greg and I have been having some trouble with the food here. And we worked out it would be cheaper if we made our own meals, so we will start doing that soon I think. At this time of day I was feeling really exhausted. We had been walking around during the hottest part of the day for a couple hours on a pretty empty stomach. I was feeling faint and wanted to get back home. But dala-dalas don’t go into our neighbourhood so we had a bit more walking to do. I just kept telling myself “you’re almost home”. When we did make it home I instantly fell asleep for a nap. I only let myself sleep for an hour because I am hoping to sleep longer tonight. Now Greg and I are just hanging around the common area of our place with Goodluck and Sabrina. Still no sign of my bag. Nelson says he keeps trying to find out when it will be here. But they keep telling him “it will be here tomorrow”.... 

Overall our first few days were pretty good. We are just trying to get used to the time change. We will start working at the school on Monday hopefully. I am really excited to meet the kids and see the impact Nelson is having. I will explain Nelson’s school in another post.  


Talk to you soon,  


Gemma WattsComment