21 October 2011

The day I woke up in Tanzania.


Yes, I just skipped Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  I was traveling all 3 days, and a lot happened so I’ll be sure to fill you in with this blog.  I just wanted to start with Tanzania since I’m here now!


I awoke to the sound of waves crashing into rocks and the sound of donkeys screaming.  Which would have been so much more relaxing without the donkeys.  But they weren’t as bad as the chickens elsewhere, so I was pretty much able to snooze till 8:15.

I got out of bed and fumbled my way to the bathroom, since they don’t have power during the day.  Why waste electricity when you can use sunlight?  It’s brilliant in concept, but when you’re not familiar with where everything is, it becomes a bit treacherous.

I pulled at the sink handle, hoping it had been repaired, because it was broken the day before.  Thankfully, water rushed out of the faucet.  I don’t ever think about thanking God for water in the faucet in America, but I think I might just try to every now and then. 

I opened the door to use the toilets.  They don’t flush toilet paper here, which reminds me slightly of the time I built houses in Mexico for spring break.  They didn’t flush toilet paper either.  Which is a funny habit to get used to. 

I held my nose because they conserve water by not always flushing.  “If it’s yellow let it mellow.  If it’s brown, flush it down.”  Eeew. 

Yesterday the toilets weren’t flushing at all, so we deposited our “brown” waste in another toilet across campus that did flush.  So our “yellow” water has been “mellowing” for quite some time now.

I’m not sure at what point yellow water becomes so dark and smelly that it looks brown so I’m allowed to finally flush the toilet.  

I’ll be sure to consult Julia, my guide to Tanzanian culture and the Swahili language.


I fumble through my bag for the remaining clean clothes I own: a black and brown skirt, a purple tank top, and a green tank top. 

I suppose it’s not really important to match at this point. 

Not that I really have much of a choice.  I left a drawer full of clothes in Zambia on accident.  I was planning to leave all the shirts, except for 1, in Tanzania so it’s not really a big deal.  I figure God needed them to stay in Zambia more.  Which is ok, I just only have 1 t-shirt and 4 tank tops to wear now. 

So matching isn’t really an option at this point.

But at least being clothed is still an option.


Julia and I walk down to the cafeteria of the school to get our morning Chi.  That’s the Swahili word for tea.  The chi is warm and sweet and slightly reminiscent of fruit loops.

I think it might be lemongrass tea!

Or at least a close cousin of lemongrass!!

Which I’ve been dyeing to drink since I left Cameroon and I’m thrilled to start my morning with it.  We also have a slice of bread that I dip into my tea pretending it’s biscotti.  Not that I really like biscotti, but I think I like it better than plain, white bread.  It’s a bit fancier.

One of the kids threw a piece of crust towards the cat.  I assumed it was to shoo the cat away, but no.  The cat pounced on it like a lion might pounce on a mouse.  Then it continued to rip it to shreds while consuming the bread.

Note to self: Tanzanian cats that are full grown but still look like kittens are actually quite ferocious.  Avoid contact if possible.

Julia went to work and I finished my chi while overlooking Lake Victoria.

Did I mention the JFBC compound is right on the bank of Lake Victoria?  Because it is, and it is beautiful, peaceful, and unlike anywhere I’ve lived in the world.  There’s a relaxing “sea” breeze.  There are mountains off in the distance.  There are rocks on our side making a small hill.  There are chairs set up to face the lake.  I could stay here forever.

Except that there are a few more things I’m not wild about.

One, in particular, being the bugs.  They’re everywhere.  Some buzz, some crawl, some fly, and some land in my wine.

Last night, after fishing a bug out of my wine and continuing to drink it, I considered myself fully assimilated with the culture.


So Tuesday, Frances and I took a 7 hour bus from Livingstone, Zambia, to Lusaka, Zambia which is the capitol and where our plane flew out of.  On the bus ride we watched Hanna again.  Only the sound was off and on (we think it might be because the copy is an African bootleg version of the movie) so I still don’t really know what was going on in the movie.  So I still want to watch it in America sometime.  We also re-watched The Chaperone, which wasn’t worth re-watching, but the sound worked so now I’ve seen it twice and still wouldn’t really recommend it.

When we arrived at Lusaka Backpackers we got a key to a log cabin.  How cute.  Only, not bug-proof.  We hunted down a second mosquito net, thankfully. 

We had no internet accesss, as they had internet but did not have any more slips to sell us the internet.  Our room was only big enough for 2 beds and our luggage.  It was still early, like 7 pm, so we walked out to the common area where there was a pool and a bar and a TV with some pre-game soccer starting.  We deciced to join the festivities and have a beer and watch the game.  Manchester United was playing some smaller team.  We had our last bottle of Mosi, the Zambian beer, for the trip and watched the game, talking about life, until half-time.  The score was still 0-0 and we were pretty exhausted from traveling all day, so we called it a night.

We awoke the next morning and showered, feeling instantly refreshed!  It would be our last shower in Zambia before we both had long days of traveling ahead of us.

We grabbed filtered (not instant!!) coffee, and sat down to write since we had no internet access.  Again.

While I was getting dressed that morning, I discovered I left my shirts in Kafulafuta, Zambia.  Nice move.  Oh, well, I suppose God needed them more there than in Tanzania where I was planning to leave them before I returned home.

After finishing coffee, we decided to pack up for the airport since Frances had told her parents she would contact them when we got to Lusaka backpackers and if they hadn’t heard from her by the time they woke up, they should call the embassy, worried.

We heard the airport had internet, and so as not to worry the parents, we embarked early.

Which was a pointless move because the airport definitely did not have internet, but it did make us wait to check in.

We had to pass all our bags through security before we were allowed to check our bags.  I was stopped and my bags were searched because they thought they saw food in my bag. I told them I had popcorn and granola bars, and was a bit worried they might take away my food.  But the lady at security just wanted to see my food, not actually eat it. 

Maybe she wanted some.  I guess they didn’t see the millions of pounds of toothbrushes or bars of soap or toothpaste that I was carrying along with me.

We checked our bags in, and since the scales were broken we “estimated” the weight of our luggage for the lady at the check-in counter.

We guessed they were all within our weight limit (30 kilograms) because we hadn’t been in the same room as a scale since we packed them.  Maybe that was God’s way of sliding us through security without making us pay any fines.

When we got to Johannesburg that afternoon, we discovered that we had packed 2 liters of water in one of the bags.  We meant to drink that.  We took them out before Frances flew the bag to America.  And thankfully we did, because her bag was too heavy, so she had to transfer almost 20 lbs to the pink (shared bag full of curios) bag.  She was able to transfer enough weight to avoid paying any fees.

My flight didn’t leave Johannesburg until almost midnight, so I couldn’t check my bag in.  We ate a quick meal at KFC since it was much cheaper than any of the other restaurants in the airport.  We also stopped by the internet café to check emails and say hi to family and friends. 

Then we said goodbye.

I hate saying goodbye.  Especially to someone I’ve spent so much time with.  We shared every moment, every challenge, and every piece of joy for the past month.  She knows exactly what I’ve thought about everything.  And now she’s going back to America while I wait to be able to check in my bags.

I almost wished I was going with her.  Back to America.  Back to my fiancé.  Back to my friends.  Back to chips and salsa and sangria.  Back to food, family, fun, familiar. 

Not traveling all alone to a country I’d never been to before. 

But we said goodbye over the last of our Hit cookies and parted ways.


I passed the time by eating my KFC mashed potatoes slowly.  Then looking in all the airport gift shops.  Then finally playing some card game in my hands that I don’t think I was playing right because I didn’t really do much with the cards.  But I was getting tired and I just needed something to do with my hands.

I got in line to check my bags around 10 pm that night.  They were unable to print my boarding pass for Dar Es Salaam, the capitol of Tanzania, at the first checkpoint so I continued along to the counter.  I had my itinerary, and the updated itinerary I printed right before I left America, almost a month after booking the flight, that had my 2nd plane flight bumped back an hour. 

They were unable to find my reservation for the plane flight.  I pulled out my payment conformation letter.  I’m not sure why I printed it and carried it with me, but I did.  They called the manager over who was able to determine that I “had not paid” for the flight so my reservation was cancelled.

Good thing I printed the payment confirmation email! And I distinctly remember getting a call from my credit card company asking if I really did buy a plane ticket from Johannesburg to Tanzania, because I had never been to either place and I didn’t pay with a credit card for my flights to Johannesburg.  I authorized the payment.  And I remember paying the bill for my flight that month because it was considerably higher than normal.

What happened?

Did my credit card company cancel the transaction?  That would be unusual.  And I had JUST checked my email and I never received a notice that my booking was dropped because I “failed to pay.”

Something here smells fishy.

I stood next to the counter, thinking.  What if they don’t find my reservation?  What if I didn’t actually pay?  Will I have to stay the night in Johannesburg?  Where will I sleep?  Will I have to pay again?   Will I get a refund?  Will I be able to contact Julia and let her know I’m not coming when I thought?

Oh man.

The manager took my payment confirmation email and walked up to the office as I decided not to worry, that God was in control, and he has a reason for everything.

And I’m not alone.  He’s here with me, making sure his will is getting done.  

The manager finally returned with a new itinerary for me.  Turns out 2 more of my flight times had also been changed.  He wanted to keep my payment paper, and reminded me I had a copy in my email.  I’ll just have to remember to print another one before I leave to go home in case something happens.

Sure enough though, when I got to the house in Tanzania, I looked up my credit card statement and I paid.  I don’t know what happened, but I’m thankful it all got worked out.


From Johannesburg we flew to Dar Es Salaam.  I got off the plane at 4 am, after having tried to sleep in the aisle seat of the plane, and being mildly unsuccessful at it.

I walked in a sleepy state, following the crowd of people down the stairs towards passport control.  I filled in the necessary entry permit, all except for address because I hadn’t thought to print the JFBC address.  And I couldn’t even remember the initials JFBC at the time (I was getting it confused with JMBC in Cameroon) and I didn’t want to lie, so I left that line blank.

I included the address with my visa, shouldn’t that be ok?

I handed the passport officer my paperwork and the only thing he said was “sister, where are you staying?”  If I knew, certainly I would have filled in the blank.  I told him I didn’t know where, but I was staying with a friend and she was picking me up.  That seemed to placate him, because he got my giant stamp out, and I got an entry stamp in my passport right across from the visa. 

I walked towards someone who looked official because I wasn’t sure where to go next.  I needed to get to the check in counter to print my next boarding pass.  I was told my luggage was checked all the way through to Mwanza airport.

But that was a lie.

I was told to wait for my bag by the same great manager that helped me earlier.  If I didn’t shake his hand earlier and thank him for his help, I would have thought he was just an angel sent from God to help me get to Tanzania.  I found it and put it through the customs scanner because that was my only option.  They let it pass straight through.  I was afraid to be stopped by customs, but I never got stopped, thankfully.  Then I was pointed down a long hall that looked more like an alley-way.  I followed another passenger that was in a business suit.  Surely, if we were going to get mugged, he would get hit first.

We made it to another scanner and I passed my luggage through with no problems.  Which is nice, I guess if there was a problem they would have found it at any one of the 8 scanners I had been through in the past 2 days.

I walked to the counter and the man was able to print my boarding pass with no problems, mercifully.  I don’t know what I would have done if I had problems again.

He weighed my bag, but I knew it was 25 kg because they put a tag on my tag stating the weight.  I was allowed to carry 30 kg according to the website, because I was flying internationally since I originated in South Africa.

However, once I picked up my bag, the flight from Dar to Mwanza was considered domestic.

So I was only allowed 23 kg.


He let my bag through being 2 kg over without making me pay a fee.  He told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to have that much over on my way home, but he knew the flight wasn’t full so I was allowed to carry a bit more weight.  Awesome!

I had prayed about what to take out of my bag before I left Livingstone because my bag was too heavy to lift, and the hostel we stayed at worked with a local orphanage, so anything we donated would get put to good use.  I took out half the toothpaste and crayons and notebooks, because those were the heaviest items.  I also took out the bag of jolly ranchers because I still had chocolate and fruit snacks for the children and I didn’t figure they needed the jolly ranchers too.  And they were the heaviest snack I packed.

Turns out I took out exactly what needed to be taken out.  I’m sure the orphans in Livingstone will be thankful for the crayons and sweets and other items!


After checking my bag I made it through the last security checkpoint.  I sat down and journaled, waiting for my plane numbers to be called. 

First was a flight to Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Then was a flight to Mwanza, but all these passengers had orange boarding passes and I had a white one.

A few other people with white boarding passes got up to go (because it was around the time our boarding pass listed for us to board the plane) but they were turned away.  After the crowd made their way to the plane I walked up to the flight attendant with my white boarding pass and made sure I wasn’t about to miss my plane.  She shook her head no and spoke in another language, so I guess that meant I wasn’t supposed to board.  Because if I was she would have grabbed my boarding pass.

Not 3 minutes later, it was our turn to board our plane to Mwanza.  I’m not sure about you, but if I knew there were 2 planes flying to the exact same place, I would have tried to get a bigger plane and make a deal with the other company.

But maybe that’s why I’m not in the airplane business.

I got back on the exact plane flying from Dar Es Salaam to Mwanza.  I just sat 3 rows back.  Really, it would have been nice not to get off the plane at all, but I guess if I hadn’t gotten off, I wouldn’t have gotten an entry stamp in my passport and I would be without any of my luggage.

So I guess it was a good thing I got off. 

Our plane wasn’t completely packed, so I wondered again why there were 2 planes flying to Mwanza at the same time.

We were flying above a thick blanket of clouds, which was a shame because I was hoping to get a look at Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I had a window seat too.  They announced something in another language, probably Swahili, and I heard the word Kilimanjaro.  I looked out my window and sure enough, there was a mountain peak sticking up out of the thick blanket of clouds. 

[What I assume to be Mt. Kilimanjaro]

How neat!  Thanks God!  Now I have my own picture of it!!

I touched down in Mwanza and we rode a bus to the small airport building.  It was even smaller than the airport in Ndola.  The smallest one yet.  I walked through the building to find Julia Ando with a sign that said Kalibu Shannon!!  I wasn’t so sure about the Kalibu,  but I was SO SO thankful to see her, a few tears slipped from my eyes.

I had traveled many days, many hours, and had almost not made it to Tanzania for several reasons.  (lost bookings, overweight bags, unknown address for where I was staying) But God has me here for a reason, and He is much bigger than any of the tricks the enemy has up his sleeves!

Julia, a girl named Stephanie from New Orleans, and a girl named Kayci from Tulsa and I walked next door to have breakfast.  We had a quick breakfast of instant coffee in warm milk with 2 spoonfuls of sugar, which I have decided is the best way to drink instant coffee.  We ate some kind of fried dough filled with beef and vegetables.  Then we had a “girls day out” in the town, because we had a few errands to run.

I felt a bit like I was sleepwalking, but not too bad.  I really just needed a nap, but since that wasn’t really an option, I followed Julia around trying to keep my head above water.


We stopped at the bank and pulled out money.  1600 shillings is = to 1 dollar.  I’m so confused with Kwacha and Rand and Tanzanian Shillings.  It’s so much more trouble than dollars!  But about 8000 is = to $5 and 10,000 is about $6, which is what my money is in denominations of. 

We went to the post office where the girls mailed post-cards.  I got a few to mail out next time we’re in town!

We went to the grocery store called U Turn.  Ok.  Julia and Stephanie and Kayci all had lists of things to buy and I just floated around trying to be helpful but not really doing much.  It was the biggest grocery store in town, but it was only half the size, maybe even smaller, than any of the stores in Ndola.  Which surprised me.  We got the basics like sugar and flower and granola and almonds, and then a few fun things like wine and cheese and tortilla chips!

We also got ice cream, which made me really happy!!

Then we went to market, which was quite similar to markets in Zambia and Cameroon, thousands of small shops with mismatched inventories from who-knows-where and brightly colored fabric and salesmen trying to convince you to buy their products.  We got Julia a nice French press.  Well, I bought Julia a nice French press because then we can drink delicious coffee together and she can continue to drink good coffee when I’m gone.  It was kinda a selfish purchase meant to be a blessing to her, but she was super excited about it, so the goal was achieved!

We found Stephanie a dress and Julia some chitengue fabric (they call it a chitengue here, but I think they pronounce it a bit different).  They also have some kind of fabric that looks like a chitengue but isn’t as long and has a border on it, that they call something else.  Julia really bought that thing.

Then we bought fruit and vegetables and held them in wicker baskets which made me incredibly happy.

Carrots and tomatoes and onions and zucchini and mangos and pineapples and limes and cilantro and avocados and peanuts!

It was fabulous!!

SO exciting!!

Except everything was done in Swahili, which I have never heard before today, and I was really lost.

We finished shopping and drove home.  We had a great late lunch of  Nshima/ some word that starts with a U here but means the same thing and beans.  Delicious. 

We sorted my things out for the kids.  I washed all my clothes. 

By hand.

For the first time ever.

It took a lot more effort than I thought it would.  Then we hung all the clothes on a line to dry.

Then I took a quick nap.

After napping I met all the children and got a quick tour of the school and Children’s Home and then it started pouring down rain. 

I met Chris briefly.  He’s 26 and he bought and built this children’s home and school.  He had somewhere to go and Stephanie and a bunch of rabbits went with him.  If I had been more awake I would have remembered where they went maybe, but I think we’re meeting up with them to go camping on Saturday, so maybe I’ll find out then.

When it finished raining we tried to navigate the showers.  Julia told me there are 3 showers. Only 1 has a light.  Only 2 drain.  Only 1 has working hot and cold water.  Only 2 have doors.

So which one is the best to use?

The middle one, the one without a door, is the only one that has hot and cold water.  It’s also the only one that drains.  It isn’t the one with the light, which makes for a dark shower. 

But at least it’s a warm, dark shower instead of a cold one or a boiling hot one.

We used a chitengue as a door (yet another great use for this multi-functional piece of cloth!)  I got fabulously clean (the kind of clean that you don’t realize is possible because you’ve traveled for so long that you just think the dirt is a part of you)!

So problem solved!  Well, solved as good as it can be for here I guess.


That night Julia, Kayci, and I drank red wine and cooked quesadillas and made guacamole and had salsa.  It was a fabulous meal and I was really thankful for it!!  It made me feel at home.  We ate at a table overlooking Lake Victoria. 

Then we went to bed and I slept like a log.  Wonderfully!


So, I’m officially in Kitonga, Tanzania now.  I’ll be doing health check-ups on all the girls at the Children’s home starting next week.  I’m so excited to be here!!  Hopefully I’ll pick up some more Swahili on the way :)

Continue to look for more blog updates next Monday!

Lord, My life is in your hands!!

No comments:

Post a Comment