Leading up to our Tanzanian sojourn I was always puzzled by the term “culture shock.” What the heck is that supposed to mean? Being that my trip to Tanzania was my first in-depth cross-cultural experience, I was almost worried that I’d be somehow “shocked” by the new culture I’d be immersed in. Delightfully, adjusting to life in Tanzania was a breeze. I wouldn’t even use the word “adjustment,” it was easy; it just was.
Coming home however, was a different story. For the first few days it just felt like business as usual (although I always had an eye over my shoulder waiting for the “shock” to come). It was nice to see my friends and family. The street festival on Canada Day was a blast. I guess my mom moved the Tupperware to a new cupboard but that wasn’t too hard to get used to. Then one Wednesday evening I finally came to understand what culture shock is all about.
I was in behind St. Vital Mall chatting with a friend before his movie was about to start. When he took off I thought that I was pretty parched and figured I’d walk into Wal-Mart to grab a small water (maji ndogo as I was used to calling it in Tanzania). It turned out that walking around St. Vital Mall takes about 10 or 15 minutes. A guy could walk halfway across Karatu town in 15 minutes and come across 25 different places that sold maji ndogo – groceries, pharmacies, restaurants, pubs, push carts on the street. Nothing but a concrete jungle at St. Vital Mall. When I finally got inside Wal-Mart it took me another 10 minutes to find some water! First of all the place is grocery now so I had no idea where anything was anymore. I found the drinks aisle and there were only 12-packs for sale. So I hit the front check-outs. The fridge in the express lane had only fruity carbonated drinks or energy drinks. The fridge at check-out 8 had about 10 different energy drinks. Check-out 10: Sodas. Check-out 12: Fruit-flavoured sodas. Check-out 14: Energy drinks. Check-out 16: Sodas. At check-out 18 I finally hit the Vitamin Water and “normal” water fridge. Geeez. Am I too picky? Should I have just gotten an energy drink? Well all I wanted was water, the best thirst quencher. I missed how easy it was to come across in Karatu.
The first sip cooled my frustrations. I hopped on a bus and threw on some Motown. Boy was I groovin’ again! When I hit my stop I got off the bus and strolled across the street. There wasn’t much traffic and I was in no rush. I walked nonchalantly in the middle of a residential street and I whipped my backpack around so that I could put my iPod away. I heard a car come up behind me so I turned to see where exactly it was. The woman in the car sped up as if to threaten me with the powerful machine she had control of. I wrinkled my forehead and said, “really?” I stepped to the side and she sped off, the fumes coming out of her ears almost fogged her windows! Were those seven seconds really that valuable to this woman? If she had some good music playing those seven seconds would mean more groovin’ time! In rural Tanzania the roads were quite bumpy and uneven, so I’d be walking all over the road, wherever the best terrain was. The cars drove slowly, and if they came up to a person (or a cow) blocking the road, the driver would lightly tap the horn twice to let the walker know that he/she was behind and needed to “borrow” the nice terrain to get through. Roads are public spaces. Where has the human decency gone?
So that’s culture shock. Be aware of it next time to come back to North America after a long stay abroad.
Lyrics to “Tanzania, Tanzania”
Tanzania Tanzania, nakupenda kwa moyo wote
Tanzania Tanzania jina lako ni tamusana
Nilalapo nakuota wewe, niamkapo ni heri mama wee,
Tanzania Tanzania, Nakupenda kwa moyo wote
Tanzania Tanzania I love you with all my heart
Tanzania Tanzania, your name is so beautiful/sweet
I always dream about you when I sleep, when I wake up everything is fine
Tanzania Tanzania, I love you with all my heart
Having been gone from Tanzania for over a week now (it seems longer), I think back of the time spent there and my mind lights up with the wonderful memories. All of the schools we visited in Tanzania would sing this song to us when we arrived. The chorus of the song “Tanzania, Tanzania” is simple and sweet. One of my favourite moments was the first time I heard this song. Tanzania is a beautiful country with so much to offer. Jacklynn romantically depicted her senses of Tanzania. She eloquently emphasized many of the same emotions I felt throughout our trip. The knowledge I learned throughout my time spent in Tanzania will definitely change my future endeavors. Just about two months ago, I could not have been more ready to be finished school, and while I cannot say I would like to relive my last and final semester, I can say that after leaving Tanzania, I have a new appreciation for my education. I am now refreshed and motivated to continue learning!
Over the span of the six weeks in Karatu, I have built many different relationships with people here. Of course the CPAR staff have been most wonderful in welcoming us and making us feel comfortable. Scott mentioned on one of our last days, upon reflecting on our time there, “It’s as though we had a VIP pass in Tanzania!” This is for sure true; the CPAR staff have been so amazing at making us feel comfortable, and giving us skills to interact with people. Without them, I think our experience there would be a lot different. They have taught us about etiquette and the do’s and don’ts. They have helped us learn to speak kidogo (small) Swahili, which has helped us interact with local people.
While being there, I learned the importance of building relationships. I will always remember certain people we met along the way. We went to Mama Kachafu’s everyday while in Karatu. This women made the BEST food, for super cheap! All of the staff would greet us with a smile, and it was comforting to know that they were expecting us everyday for lunch.
The stationary shop, where we bought our kanga fabrics and where Mallory and Jacklynn got their dresses made. The women were enthusiastic and fun!
Camp David (the President’s retreat), was luxurious in its own way. Whenever we went there to get the best chips mayai in Karatu, there was usually someone there to welcome us and make us feel special. Mama, who cooked the chips mayai, was a quite women, but always had a small little smile. She always would say “Asante Sana” whenever we left. Besides her chips mayai, I will always remember her warm modest smile.
Buying food in the markets is not always easy, especially as a Mzungu. Our first experience buying food in Arusha was hectic to say the least. Thankfully Nderingo went with us and was able to get us the local price for food. In Karatu, once knowing what vegetables and fruit should sell for, we felt more confident going on our own. We visited some of the vendors, and some people were not wanting to settle on a fair price. We did eventually find a man who gave us a fair price. Because of that we kept going back to his stand where we would either see him or his wife.
One of our first days after the study tour, Scott and I walked around Karatu. We met a young man named Leonce. He proudly let me know he was 18 and immediately asked if I had a boyfriend (a question us girls got asked often). He had his own little business selling carvings, bracelets and souvenirs on the side of the main road. He showed us around Karatu, letting us know where to buy everything. Leonce was very polite and willing to show us around. We let him know that we were here for a month, and we weren’t interested in buying anything at the moment. A week or two later, we went back to his stand to buy our souvenirs. He remembered us right away. Immediately we were swarmed by about a dozen people, who were pulling bracelets and carvings out of their backpacks. In retrospect it, was kind of comical with the “I give it to you cheapa comments.” Leonce helped us out by letting them know we weren’t just tourists here for a day and we would be back later. We went back to him and his gang, two more times. They would always remember us, and would say “Katerina, remember me?”. The last Friday we were in Karatu, we went back for the very last time to get a couple more things, Leonce showed us where to get the last minute souvenirs and at the end he wanted to give each of us a gift. He opened his bag and let us each pick out a bracelet. We were slightly hesitant, but he insisted, and he was so thankful for our support and loyalty.
The relationships we established here will never be forgotten. Of course some of these relationships will not extend past our time spent in Tanzania, however my mind and heart will be engrained with their presence. The small connections that we made with people here taught me a lot about meeting people and the importance of being genuine. I loved how these small acquaintances meant so much to us when getting to know the town of Karatu. In hindsight, after leaving Tanzania, I realize that the lyrics of the song are so true, and it is not just the beautiful scenery that makes Tanzania so beautiful and sweet, but the people! To tack on a small lesson I learned while in Tanzania: It is the people and relationships built with them that make development projects successful.
Asante Sana to the CPAR staff, and to all the people that made my time in Tanzania “revealing and refreshing,” as Jacklynn put it, and most importantly fun as Scott pointed out!
My six-week service-learning tour in northern Tanzania is now over. A few months ago, I decided that a short (and therefore affordable) trip to Dar es Salaam and then Zanzibar would be a good opportunity to see what a major African city was like and then spend some time decompressing and relaxing on white sandy beaches. After a ten hour bus ride from Arusha, I spent just one night in Dar before taking a ferry to Zanzibar. Here are a few urban-rural comparisons that I noted in Dar:
1. Traffic jams are made of cars, not cows.
2. Over 18 hours in Dar, I heard “mzungu” only once. It was more like 18 times an hour in Karatu.
3. Overall, the infrastructure is not much different from rural towns and cities. While the major streets in Dar are nicely paved, have lines painted on the roads, have well decorated medians and boulevards, and have street lights at some intersections, the side roads and back lanes are covered with dirt and/or small stones and are bumpy and uneven. On the outskirts of Dar, the familiar mud hut with a grass-thatched roof is still quite common. The Internet is no better in Dar. At CPAR’s office in Karatu I was able to Skype with family and friends, while in Dar I was unable to find an Internet café that could support it.
4. English is far more prevalent, for obvious reasons. Dar is a huge international city with a population of around three million. The job market in Dar calls for English skills, while most people in rural Tanzania are farmers and have little need to speak English.
5. The people are just as nice. You’ve heard from each author on this blog that people in rural Tanzania were pleasant and accommodating, I’ve found the same in Dar. The woman I sat beside on the bus, Leah, ended up giving me a ride to my hostel after we got off the bus. I’ve been able to borrow cell phones from people in my hostel, on the street, in a cab, or on the ferry. Asking for directions is also quite simple (provided you can pick out an English speaker – see note 4).
Those are few observations that hit me over my brief stint in Dar. I’m not sure how valid they are provided that I only stayed for 18 hours and explored only a fraction of the city. Nevertheless, I am happy that I decided to do the overland trip to Dar after my stay in rural Tanzania. Being a city slicker born and raised in Winnipeg, I felt that I needed to see big city Africa. Check.
After reading the two Globe and Mail articles on June 7th, we couldn’t wait to go to Bunda to visit a gold mining site. Our group talked about visiting the Barrick site in Tarime, since it is only 150 km from Bunda, but decided that it might not be a good idea for a Canadian NGO to show up at such a controversial site with a group of white people from Canada. Our safety could potentially be at risk. Nevertheless, we were promised earlier in the month that we would be visiting a small-scale mining site in Haruzale Village, Bunda District; equally exciting!
Very recently, prior to our arrival in Tanzania, I (Katherine) became interested in large- and small-scale mining in Tanzania, and in fact made the topic the focus of my Global Political Economy thesis. Part of my research looked at the foreign direct investment of large corporations, such as Barrick, and the side-effects for communities surrounding the gold-mines, such as small-scale miners whom often are marginalized in account of large-scale mines. My (Scott’s) interest in the topic has been sparked by my studies in the Global Political Economy program at the UofM, where issues surrounding land ownership and access/control to natural resources are discussed on the regular. I thought that the visit to Haruzale’s small mine would add some depth and reality to issues that we discuss in the classroom.
As we pulled up to the mining site, there were about 50 people including men, women and children, surrounding us and welcoming us with smiles and curiosity. There was a motherly woman, who spoke hastily in Swahili. We learned from Japhet that she was insistent that we take a trip into a mining hole. Her reasoning was that one cannot come to a Tanzanian mining site and not go down into the mines. After asking some questions, we felt ready to get into the mines, but our cowardly instincts drew us from the idea while the word “liability” crossed our minds.
The men who went into the mines were shirtless and in sandals, and some didn’t have any shoes at all. They would tie themselves onto a rope attached to a sisal pole and belay themselves into a dark hole. The tools they carried down were minimal: a rope, a bucket, a pick, a hammer, and a spade. During our Q & A, the men expressed concern and said that they would like to have gloves, boots, overalls, and helmets.
Excavation of the site we visited began just three months ago in March. The pits were between 30 and 50 feet deep; shallower in depth in comparison to older sites where the pits would be as deep as 200 feet. You can imagine the potential dangers associated with mining so deep; very poor air circulation, little lighting and fragile soil. Once at a large enough depth, to prevent any collapse, steel pole reinforcements are put in place. Despite this, complete safety is questionable. You may wonder, why continue mining at such dangerous depths? There is a catch 22: the deeper you go, the more gold you get. Fortunately they have not had any collapses of mines in their experience, but minor injuries are not uncommon.
The different gender roles were quite apparent. Women and children may dig small holes and scavenge for extra bits of rock. It is men who do most of the mining and thus are most at risk. But these roles extended beyond simply mining activity. How do gender roles in mining affect the household? Since men are the ones that have the opportunity to mine, they have the access to the profits. The villagers made it clear that gold mining was by far their best income generator, putting more money into the hands of male miners than any other economic activity (farming, fishing, entrepreneurship, etc.). Access to income is a very important development issue, particularly women’s access to income, which appeared to be largely ignored by the villagers at the Haruzale mine. We’ve seen the importance of women having access and decision-making power over household income through a variety of CPAR’s projects. Women are more inclined to spend money on necessities like food, shelter and school fees, so women earning money translates to benefits for the whole family, not just one member. It takes a lot of education and sex-specific discussion to convince men to share their bounty or hand over some economic activities to their wives, something that CPAR takes very seriously.
Land ownership at the mine site was quite interesting. The entire land area was about 300×100 metres with roughly a dozen pits dug into it. One man owned all the land and was paid a ground rent in gold for each pit. The “tenants” were small groups formed from neighbours in the village or family members. To protect from thefts and to keep up the pace of gold extraction, each pit was worked 24 hours a day. Each group had about 5 members and they would rotate around the clock like shift-work. The owner of the land was required to get a small-scale miners license from the mining department in Bunda District (the level of local governance), who in turn would report to the Central Government’s Ministry of Energy and Minerals. The owner made it seem like it wasn’t too much of a hassle to get the license and it was encouraging to see that the Central Government was supportive of small-scale mining.
During our Q & A, there were two questions that we both found very interesting, one from us to them and the other from them to us. In regards to the former, we asked if the villagers were aware of the situation in Tarime and if they feared that the government would push them aside in favour of foreign investment. Everyone nodded and said that they were aware that people were being killed in Tarime for trying to reclaim land that they had been pushed off of. They expressed concern that their day of reckoning would soon come. That is mainly why the mines are worked 24 hours a day, it is a race against the Government’s foreign investment clock. The position of the Government here is somewhat warranted however. Large foreign investors pay taxes (whether those companies are honest about how much profits they are extracting is another question) while poor villagers are exempt from paying taxes. For a Government struggling to find more tax income, there is always a difficult dilemma when it comes to deciding who should have control over valuable resources.
The second question that really intrigued us was when one particularly interested man asked what the purpose of our visit was. Were we investors? Were we a humanitarian group coming to offer safety equipment? Neither, but we were interested political economy students. We told the man that we study the political and economic issues surrounding natural resource management. He asked us what we are going to do to change the “situation.” We all looked at each other, silent for a moment. We wondered the same thing, what can we do to change such situations that seem so unjust? Jacklynn, in her optimistic and hopeful point of view, responded by saying that a lot of what we can do is raise awareness to the Canadian public that the largest mining company in the world needs to be responsible for their actions, and in addition make people aware of the conditions of small-scale miners. Awareness is just the first of many steps in instituting change, the global economy is a powerful force, one that is resistant to change.
It was quite ironic that the Globe and Mail articles came out around the same time that we were discussing mining and natural resource issues in Tanzania. The articles and our visit with miners on the ground gave us a sense of the extent of development issues in this country. CPAR has done a lot of work with farmers in Karatu and now in Bunda and has worked with schools and traditional birth attendants to improve their health, skills and incomes. These initiatives were all instigated from the inside. CPAR is connected to the communities they work with and the communities fully endorse the initiatives. The pressures exerted on community development by outside forces can be debilitating. Superprofits often trump local efforts aimed at strengthening communities.
Our visit to the small-scale mining site was insightful indeed. We were able to connect the dots between the local perspective and our prior academic knowledge. Our visit definitely reinforced how challenging it can be to develop communities from the inside out when the outside world can be so crazy!
Katherine & Scott
(Due to multiple power outages during our last week and a few days of travel, this post is a little behind. As they say, better late than never!)
After six weeks in Tanzania, I am still in awe of how colourful and vibrant this country is. I love the way the bold hues of the buildings contrast with the surrounding scenery. But my favourite colours come from the people and their clothing. In Karatu, the women prefer a more traditional style of dress where their wardrobe relies on large sheets of woven fabric. A variety of fabric types are available but the most common is the kanga. Printed with bold colours, the patterns on kangas are usually vibrant and the motif resembles images from nature.
Typically, the kanga cloths are cut in half. One half is used as a wrap skirt while the other half is fashioned into a kilemba. Swahili for turban, the kanga cloth is wrapped around the woman’s head creating a hat like covering. There seems to be an endless variety of kilemba styles, some very simple while others are quite exotic looking. This fashion statement is rooted in culture, but I have seen many women use their kilemba to help them balance whatever they are carrying on their head, allowing them to leave their hands free.
Most will supplement the kanga with second hand clothing, but others can visit a tailor and have the kanga sewn into an outfit. Earlier this week, I decided to get a kanga outfit made. An avid sewer myself, I was curious to understand how the tailors fashioned custom made outfits effectively. Whenever I have made something for myself back home the process is long and tedious. Luckily, the tailor was willing to let me watch her in action and learn her secrets.
She starts by taking a few measurements, jotting them down in a notebook. Laying the fabric on the counter top, the tailor uses a measuring tape and a piece of chalk to make a few markings before drawing the outline freehand right onto the fabric. I couldn’t believe how quickly and simply she created the pattern. Pattern drafting is the most intense part of garment creation. Following the methods I was taught in school, it requires hours of measuring and drawing, and nothing is ever done freehand. Yet there was the pattern, completed in less than 10 minutes.
The construction process was similar. The tailor was relying on experience instead of precision to create my outfit, challenging everything I had ever learned about sewing. Of course, in the end the dress turned out perfect. Fit me like a glove on the first try and only took about four hours from start to finish. Sharing my experience with the team, Jacklynn brought up a great analogy. The tailor is like a cook, who with experience no longer needs a recipe.
The best part of the experience was getting dressed up in my new outfit. The ladies in the shop even used the leftover fabric to create my own kilemba. Even though they could not speak any English, they had me pose and took pictures with my camera, all of us laughing. Then, they insisted I walk home in my new outfit. Everyone I passed looked at me and smiled. Some called me Mama Africa.
This got me thinking about cultural dress. What is the typical Canadian outfit? A toque and plaid fleece jacket? In our multicultural society, has cultural dress has become watered down? While Canadians still identify with their ancestral heritage, for the most part we adhere to a dress code based off European runway fashion trends. While I certainly fall into this category, my experience with the Tanzanian dress maker has definitely left me wanting to learn more about both current and historical cultural dress, and inspired me to use different cultural aesthetics in my own sewing projects.
It feels like I blinked though I didn’t miss a thing. With everything new and exciting, time felt elongated as each moment was uniquely experienced, but contradictory, it all went so fast. The other night my teammates and I camped on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. In the morning, I sat there on the edge and watched the sun rising on the horizon, the light turning the clouds orange and the land, a patchwork of scattered rays. It seemed like the ideal place for thinking and reflecting about just about anything, so following the Latin dictum of ‘Carpie Diem,’ I put my mind to work.
Reflecting on the trip I started to think about how I will remember my first experience of Africa and Tanzania specifically. Memories collide as I begin to form my own unique sense of Tanzania. I start with the sounds of Tanzania. My ears are first awoken to the morning call of the rooster, the alarm clock that arouses the town each day. A soundtrack begins to take shape with the twittering of birds surrounding me from all angles. On the street, a herd of cows moo and grunt as they are ushered along by a boy barely taller than the cows themselves, while an occasional goat makes its self known. Children run over yelling, “Hello! Mzungu!” excitedly as I walk by, giggling with each step.
Thinking of the taste of Africa, my mouth is instantly reminded of the savory flavor of beef, followed by the salty taste of chips, the sweetness of the mangos, and the cream of the thick steamed milk. My pallet haven grown from the trip, still recalls the liver-like taste of the cow tongue and the salt of the fish eye. While the scars of Pilli Pilli hot sauce seem still so fresh, my tongue is soothed with the medicinal properties of Konyagi, Tanzania’s locally brewed alcohol of choice. Senses begin to collide as I almost taste the air filled with the tantalizing aromas of rice cooking nearby as the scent of this country takes over. Traveling across the land through the Ngorongoro forest, a pure and organic odor massages the nose with the aroma of green foliage that has been refreshed with water that seemed to be cradled by the plants as though they knew it were a rare commodity in the country.
I could never forget the feeling of Tanzania. Traveling down a red dirt road filled with pot holes 2 feet wide and that nearly threatens to disappear entirely from erosion after a cleansing wet season, we are treated each time to a true ‘African message,’ while our land rover throws us left and right carrying us to our destination. The country seems to hold a steady pulse that reverberates within you: it is calm and relaxed, a rare pace that would make any of the world’s mega cities anxious and unsettled. The saying here, is that ‘time follows people,’ revealing how it is perceived to be merely a suggestion of when things ought to occur, and not held as a constraint to limit and bind you to your appointments.
Feeling never so blessed to be able to have the gift of sight, my memories of the images of Tanzania form mosaics of the most brilliant blues in the skies, greens and browns of the trees, and the richest reds of the iron filled earth. Dust flies everywhere during the dry season and I watch my feet change colors as the water runs over them when I wash them each night before I sleep. Each evening, the land seems to transform at dusk as a warm light colors the landscape in a golden hue. Looking over the Serengeti, shadows scatter across the land in a flowing patchwork, creating luminal spaces where lions and hyenas may hide while stalking the millions the wildebeest that blanket the savannah. Overjoyed with the beauty that nature has created, my thirsty eyes could not drink in the sights fast enough. Burned in my mind is the image of looking up from inside the Ngorongoro crater at the clouds that flowed like water over edge of the tall crater walls so that the sky and the earth overlapped to form a moving white ring encircling us.
All of the senses have combined to form breathtaking moments for me that I will hold dear forever. My first experience of Africa has far exceeded any expectations that I have had and I will always be forever grateful that Tanzania was my first African destination. This experience has changed me in ways that I have yet to fully identify, but that I’m sure will make its self known in the weeks, months or even years to follow. As a medium for education, this service learning project has provided me with the exposure I craved, but could never be achieved in a classroom setting: lessons of pace, adaptability, patience, empowerment, and accountability have been addressed in various ways throughout the 6 weeks. One of the most impactful lessons I have discovered on this trip is that it is through viewing other landscapes, that we are better able to view our own; our perspectives broadens with the distance allowing for a better vantage point in which to reflect from while removing filters and blinders that we are not aware that we have.
I had craved this experience, and was hungry for a new perspective that would challenge what I thought I knew about anything. Coming to Tanzania, I was instantly gratified and soaked up as much as I could from the novelty of being in a completely different environment. I just couldn’t get enough. One of the big differences I noticed from being in Tanzania was in the economies and how people choose to spend their money. Perhaps because there is less disposable income in the average family, there seems to be much less emphasis on buying what one wants and more of a focus on spending money on actual needs. So often in Western culture we buy things that we think we need, but are actually wants such as needing the newest iphone or needing 3 different colors of the same shirt. Skilled marketers have sold us on the idea that we need far more than what we actually do. They convince us that we cannot live without their product and must run out and purchase it right away or risk being unhappy by doing without. It seems our culture has become accustomed to this pressure to buy, but traveling to a country that seems to have far less of this pressure has made me more sensitive to our cultural shopping habits, causing me rethink how I will spend my money in the future.
Some people say that after a trip like this, it’s difficult to return to the ‘real world,’ by which they are referring to your home country and your everyday life. The thought crossed my mind, but then I realized that by saying that, it would be negating my experience in Africa as something unrealistic. Each destination, Canada and Tanzania, are the ‘real world,’ and my ‘real world’ is not one or the other, but both. I will take some of what I’ve learned back with me and incorporate it into my life and with a broader, more revealed perspective and a new lens in which to view my home in Canada, I will steer my future differently. What an experience it has been and I cannot say it enough how lucky and grateful I am to have been able to have the privilege to come on this journey. Thank you everyone who has played a role in this, weather you are a donor, a member of the CPAR staff, a committed blog reader, family or friend. This would not be possible without your support. For giving us all an amazing journey, I thank you Tanzania. Asante sana Tanzania.
– Jacklynn –
For today’s blog post I have gathered several small stories to share. Here are some cultural tidbits we have enjoyed during our stay in Tanzania:
African Massage: the free back rub courtesy of the bumpy roads, received while driving pretty much everywhere.
Instead of saying cheese, Tanzanians say “ndizi” – Swahili for banana.
I no longer pronounce my own name correctly. Every time I introduce myself, Tanzanians have a hard time understanding my name. They think its Mary, Marie, or something else similar. Now I pronounce my name like its two words, Ma Laurie. In Swahili it is spelt ma lori. This always gets a few laughs especially from children… it translates into many trucks.
Anytime we have gone to a restaurant and they don’t have something, the server will go to the next restaurant to get it. Sometimes its eggs for chips mayai, other times it’s because they don’t have any Fanta. One time our server ran across the street to get tables and chairs for us. I even experienced this at a shop where I was trying to buy minutes for our phone. They didn’t sell any at this specific store, but the lady working went and bought the vouchers from another store for us.
We have learned that because we are mzungu, restaurant workers expect us to tip. But many times the servers will work extra hard for it. They polish our glasses in front of us, bring out the fancy dishware, or give us larger portions. Obviously, we respond appropriately.
Growing up I was told not to play with my food, but in Tanzania you are supposed to. Ugali, a super thick porridge made from maize, really stores the heat. To cool it down you take a small piece and knead it with one hand before shaping it into a scoop and eating it with the rest of your food.
Almost every restaurant serves essentially the same menu but cooked slightly different. Your choices are beef, chicken, or fish, served with chips, rice, or ugali. A few places also serve beans. Our favourite lunch spot also brings out avocados, bananas, and cucumbers for the table.
In Canada we are served coffee with about an inch of room for cream and sugar. Tanzanian’s fill it right to the absolute top, on the verge of overflowing. They joke that we need to leave all that room so our long noses don’t get in the coffee.
Walking to the office in Karatu, the children are always excited to see us. They run to the street yelling, “Mzungu” and greet us. In Bunda, they scream with terror. Karatu has a lot more tourism and as a result children in Bunda aren’t used to seeing white people. With our pale skin, long hair, and large black eyes from sunglasses we look like monsters to them.