Arrival in Arusha

Trip Start Sep 08, 2003
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Outpost Guest House

Flag of Tanzania  ,
Tuesday, September 9, 2003

I have finally arrived. The journey was fairly uneventful, slight panic when there was an accident on the M4 - had visions of not making the airport in time. But due to a detour along country lanes, we made it with plenty of time to spare. I met the group I am going to be spending the next 6 months with outside Costa Coffee in Heathrow Terminal 4. We all looked like rabbits caught in headlights - and I am sure the same thought went through all our minds - are we doing the right thing? So much will have changed when we get back

The first flight was 9 1/2 hours and took us from London Heathrow to Dar es Salaam (with appalling inflight movies!) Being little and flexible suddenly became an advantage though as I donned the very stylish and fetching airline eyemask and socks and promptly curled up in my seat and went to sleep. Some of the lads in the group are over 6ft - so didn't have such a good nights sleep!!

Perhaps this is a good time to introduce the group:

Ben - Canadian- and he is soooooo tall! I don't think you would be able to get both him and me in a photo!

Vicki - She is 18 and from Staffordshire. She is a big Foo Fighters fan, so that was always going to be a good start - and she is the girl I will be living with for the next 6 months.

Kirsty - 18 from Kent, a bit nervous and her first time on an aeroplane! What a way to start travelling! She is also quite ickle, so makes me feel better!!

Stuart - 21 and reminds me of my little brother. Doesn't let me cheat at pool though!

Lee - 21 and did Accountancy at Uni.... Oh no.. don't do it, run away!

Alastair - In his 30's, and has worked in a bank for 18 years. Some career break!

& me....... I leave you to fill in the blanks!

On arrival in Dar es Salaam we had to queue for visas. I am beginning to understand the slogan "no hurry in Africa" because unless you slipped an extra few dollars in with the Visa you would be waiting all day. The workers are so slow! Chatting to each other, yawning and stretching. This is a work ethic that am beginning to see is typical in Tanzani... do as little work as you can get away with!

Within a couple of hours we were all accounted for and could proceed to the next airport for our connecting flight to Arusha. The next airport was teeny-tiny. I think it would fit in our back garden. The waiting room was a couple of plastic garden chairs along a wall, and passport control was the undertaken as the luggage was shoved into the belly of the plane. The plane sat twelve, with two pilots. It was then decided to take one of the pilots out of the aeroplane to squeeze in another passenger. I tried not to look concerned! The pilot proceeded to chat to the new passenger for the whole journey, using huge gestures with his hands as he talked, and throwing back his head as he laughed. We were all looking at each other with the same thought.... does he not need to look were he is going!

We decided to try and think what our preconceived ideas of Arusha would be before we arrived there, and then compare to the reality. However the debate got stuck on whether or not McDonalds had hit Africa yet.... oh dear!

The plane made a brief stop in Zanzibar, which looked very pretty from the air, and is somewhere I definitely want to go back to. The next stop on the chuckle bus was Arusha.

My first impression of Arusha was the heat and the dust. The dust is terracotta red, and rises in fumes around the roads resting on everything, and then in complete contrast you look away from the road to see such lush vegetation as to rival a rainforest. Big ferns and palm trees grow along the river edge, creating a boundary between where the green starts and the dust stops. There are no pavements to speak of, and the space where cars can drive along debatable. People sit along the roadside selling their wares on a teatowel, jumping up every now and then to dodge a bicycle or truck. Everywhere there are people waiting, watching. No one is in a hurry, and will sit by the roadside all day observing the world go by. The second thing I noticed was that we were the only white people - and this attracted a lot of attention. "Mzungu" "Mzungu" was shouted everywhere, from the boys on the street, to the women in shop doorways. I learnt quite a lesson that day from another volunteer Elliot who has been in Arusha for a while. He made a point of saying hello to everyone, even the street sellers, and you would see them hesitate, and as soon as Elliot said hello they were all smiles. It is just that we have to make the first move, up to that point they are slightly scared, a white person doesn't often pass through the back streets - let alone stop to say hello. So many children have tried to touch my hands and rub the "white" off!

Arusha itself is not too big, it has as shanty town on the edge of the city, where the level of poverty was quite upsetting. Children pulling carts standing in the place a horse should be, heaving the load from one field to the next. Women carrying hay bales on their heads across the dusty road to towards the sheds that they count as home. The sheds don't have a floor or any windows and just a curtain across the doorway. It all has a temporary feel, even the more solid concrete houses are lived in as if they were mud huts - but they look more devastating on the landscape when they fall into disrepair. The sheds can be knocked down easily and rebuilt, the concrete is left to ruin with a new building built next door. The scaffolding made out of tree branches strung across the windows! Africans don't seem to be house proud, I didn't see anyone with a broom, or tidying the property up - if it fell down, they built another one. There is no sense of preserving what they already have. In the meantime the men sit in the shade of the trees, watching the women and children work.

From the airport the group spent a few days at the Outpost Guest House in Tanzania. It was a good opportunity to get to know each other better and start learning Swahili.

(and in case you were wondering ... no McDonalds, but something very similar called McMoodys!!)
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