I am in Tanzania

Posted April 13, 2010 in Africa, Tanzania

I am in Tanzania.

I wasn't excited. I wasn't worried. I wasn't afraid. I was only wondering: when does preparation end and the feeling of "Tanzania" begin?

The plan, in broad strokes, is this:

  1. Work for three weeks for Femina HIP Ltd., the same Tanzanian HIV/gender/sexuality awareness media house I worked with in 2007-2008.
  2. Work through May and June for Rwanda News Agency, in Kigali.
  3. Spend July in Tanzania on a secret project.
  4. In August until the 18th, laze around Tanzania, do some journalism in Tanzania or Rwanda, and/or travel to nearby countries.

I am in Tanzania.

The weeks leading here were a haze. School slurped up my time but I somehow arranged a sublet, packed my things, got my plane ticket, vaccines and medication, shopped, and said goodbye to everybody I could.

Then the planes: a juxtaposition of inefficient travelers and a movie starring George Clooney complaining about them. Little did the people seated beside me realize my chuckles were at their expense. But I didn't laugh when the crew of my second plane supplied the same cardboard meal I'd already somehow swallowed on the first.

I am in Tanzania.

My plane landed before midnight and brought me to the Tanzanian traits I could never remember because I never forgot them: friendly but slow customs officials, a sleeping guard, invisible children crossing a barely-lit street in front of speeding cars, traffic lights that still haven't learned the limits of human patience, and a damned mosquito in the car.

I think I avoided the mosquito.

A problem-solving opportunity presented itself as my guest house door refused to open. My guard and I clanked in futility for half an hour until my new house-mate stepped in to save the day by showing us the hidden latch. Some would call it a half-hour of wasted sleep; but I see a new friend.

I am in Tanzania.

The language, traffic, billboards and mosquitoes didn't drive the point home. There was still something missing.

Until now.

As I sit on my new bed listening to the barely-muffled music from a bar down the road, I begin to sweat. The sweat has no immediate purpose: I'm not terribly uncomfortable, and with no breeze it won't cool me down anyway. Rather, my body has realized that the heat and humidity are here to stay. My sweat pores are stretching: a warm-up for their marathon, which will start at sunrise and end in August.

I soak in the wet and settle in for sleep. I single-handedly kill my first mosquito. I turn off the light and blindly arrange my bed-net.

I am in Tanzania.