Tanzania, One Year Later

Today marks one year since my family of three said our goodbyes to friends, family, and everything that was familiar to us and embarked on our journey to Africa. I remember anxiously sitting in the airport, and then plane (and then another couple of airports and another couple of planes) wondering what our new life would be like. Although I had thought about visiting Africa, I never thought it would actually happen. If it did happen, I always imagined visiting South Africa or Kenya… Tanzania never crossed my mind. But there I was, on a 30+ hour journey with my husband of 6 years and my 9-month-old daughter in tow, moving to a country I knew very little about.
I’ll never forget the drive from the airport to our new house. We passed colorful buildings and sidewalks made of dust. We passed skinny dogs lurking around food carts. We passed people going about their daily lives, not aware of what a momentous day it was for us.
I remember one thing that really struck me was the smell. We never seemed to escape from the scent of burning trash and rubber. “Is this my new reality,” I thought? Now I don’t even notice it. Every now and then I get a whiff of it when I pass a pile of something burning, but it definitely doesn’t seem to be everywhere anymore.
I remember being afraid to walk around alone because of the frequent muzungu muggings I had been briefed about.
Now it’s my primary form of transportation on weekdays.
I remember being paranoid to death that my precious baby girl was going to be bit by one of those malarious mosquitos that were everywhere.
Now I don’t even sleep with my mosquito net… whoops.
It reminds me of a quote I read on my friend Ana’s blog (Post Honduras) a few days ago:

“I’ve heard it said, spend two days in the Middle East, and you can write a book; spend two months, and you can write an article; but spend two years, and you will write only a paragraph. This is true and valid wherever you go. Don’t rush to write or think you have it all figured out too quickly.” -Zoughbi Elias Zoughbi

This does seem to apply to anywhere you go, doesn’t it? When I first arrived I had so much to say. Now I can hardly think of what to write for my First Anniversary in Tanzania post. I don’t think I ever thought I had “it all figured out,” but things definitely seemed simpler to me than they do now. Maybe my mind was influenced from the briefs I received upon arriving. Maybe the avalanche of first impressions was quickly being filed away in my mind and I just felt the need to make sense of it.
I still think it’s a good idea to write your heart out when you first arrive in a new place, though. Take a million pictures and journal away. It’s a great way to document your inevitable changes in perspective. A year later, when the once intensely peculiar place you moved in has become boringly familiar, you can look back and laugh at all the things that once shocked you.
It’s been a hell of a year, Tanzania.
Asante sana.

Comments

  1. So interesting to look back on how you felt when you first arrived and how you feel one year later. I think that is one of the beautiful things about traveling, you don’t realize it at the time but when you look back you realize how much you have changed and adapted to your new area. Amazing how many things that are so new and different when you first arrive just become a part of daily life a few months later. Congrats on your one year anniversary, hope your next year is amazing!

  2. I can only assume the next year is going to be awesome and exciting too!

    I think the first overseas post is most difficult, no matter where we go next at least I feel like I’m more prepared to handle the initial shock of walking off the airplane in a new country! I’m finding the scent of durian less offensive.

  3. I can totally relate to this sentiment. After studying abroad in Dakar for a few months, I felt like such an expert (though I definitely recognized I didn’t have it “all figured out”). But after moving back and now living here for a few years… wow, I really had no idea. I have definitely adapted, yes, but there are so many things I really only scratched the surface on in those first three months. Perspective changes everything!

  4. Thanks for sharing! Really interesting, I wonder what things will be like in comparison once you return to the US. ‘Will you think, wow the air smells so clean!?’ Funny how things go like that.

  5. So nice to look back on your life in a new place which becomes to familiar. I love the quote. Sometimes I don’t feel like expat because I live life here without thinking about all the cultural difference.

  6. Happy Anniversary! I love that you’ve completed a year just as we start ours.
    I love that quote – it’s totally true. I have to say my arrival in Tanzania was pretty anti-climatic and I feel like I’m currently failing to see all the magic of being in a new place. I really like it here already, but I’m not experiencing it yet. I hope things change in the new year.

  7. Not to be a mother, but you should still sleep with a mosquitoe net! Even if you’re used to it, that doesn’t mean the mosquitoes don’t carry malaria! Be careful out there

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