It was a cloudy, cold winter day when I left Halle (Saale) by train to Frankfurt am Main. It was the first time I traveled alone to a country so far away and I was pretty excited to finally arrive in Moshi, Tanzania! New people, new cultures and all the new things I would soon experience!
CARIBOU TANZANIA! (Welcome to Tanzania)
The plane landed on the runway at Kilimanjaro International Airport after an 8-hour flight. It was still early morning when we left the plane. The weather was beautiful, the air was fresh and warm and I was just so excited! I couldn't stop feeling incredibly grateful for this trip.
After taking my first photos of Africa, I went into the airport building and applied for my visa at the immigration counter. The application went completely smoothly and I got my visa for 3 months. My first impression of Tanzania was:
"The people are just so friendly and nice! I think my stay here will be just great."
A driver from World Unite! – the organization that organized my volunteer and internship program in Africa picked me up and took me to my host family in Moshi. The drive from the airport to my host family's house was a bit longer and it took over an hour by car.
The long road was empty, the birds were singing well and the sun was slowly rising in the east. To my left and right side I could see many trees and different plants and finally a view of the seemingly endless steppe. Not far from us Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa with 5895 meters above sea level showed up.
I could see its snow-covered peak completely free of clouds – a rarity, as the top is usually hidden behind clouds. It was incredible! So I had already checked off one of my travel destinations! The driver often said to me: "Oh Fitri, you are so lucky to see Kilimanjaro free of clouds!" Oh yes, it was a wonderful experience to be greeted warmly by both peaks of Kilimanjaro, Kibo and Mawenzi. I could not hide my smile on the way to Moshi. It was a great start to my adventure in Africa.
My first impression of Moshi
My first day in Tanzania was cool. I met almost all World Unite! Coordinators in Moshi and a couple of volunteers from Germany who also had their local and cultural introduction that day. Together we got a city orientation from Joseph, one of the coordinators, who showed us everything important in Moshi.
In contrast to Germany, it was quite warm in Moshi that day. The town was bustling and we could see daladalas (minibus), bajajis (autorickshaw), bodabodas (motorcycle cabs) whizzing around everywhere in town. This is the public transportation used in Tanzania.
The city of Moshi itself is not big, but the center is always full of people. Along the big street we could see many stores, galleries, supermarkets, local restaurants and hotels. There is also a market where people sell their agricultural or handicraft products, z.B. Beans, corn, bananas and much more. The local tailors sew their handmade clothes, purses, bags and headscarves from Kitenge (a traditional fabric from East, West and Central Africa) and sell them at good prices on the street.
After my city orientation I was introduced to my host family. Tesha family belongs to the Chaggas tribe (the most famous Tanzanian tribe in the Kilimanjaro region). My host father is a cab driver and my host mother is a housewife. Eight people live in the house, including my host parents, their son and his wife, two grandchildren and a maid.
The house is big and has front and backyard. The family planted different kinds of flowers and trees in front of the house. In the backyard there is a cow and a chicken coop as well as banana trees, sugar cane, corn and mango trees.
The warm coexistence with my host family
I always have fond memories of the time when I came back from my internship and relaxed under the mango tree in the garden or just walked through the backyard and talked to the family members about life or just gazed at Kilimanjaro. The whole family treated me very warmly and I always felt welcome.
Every day I was cooked with delicious local food and basically learned a lot from my family about cattle and agriculture as it is practiced in this family. I was even allowed to milk the family's milk cows from time to time. It was difficult at first, but still an unforgettable experience!
Also, my family makes the best chai milk tea ever! Every day I got chai with milk for breakfast. (P.S: Chai milk tea, you are sorely missed!).
Oh yes, and of course I was worried in advance about possible language barriers. In fact, my host father and his son spoke English fluently. With the rest of the family I had to find alternative ways of communicating and body language then also played an important role to be able to communicate.
From my host family I also learned some Kiswahili words (national language in Tanzania). Speaking some Swahili was definitely useful, even if I had difficulties with the greetings in the beginning. But I could count from 1 to 10 without any problems.
On the second day I was picked up by Joseph and brought to my internship site. It is a small clinic for general medicine. Since the clinic was a good distance from my host family, I used the daladala to get there and back. In the clinic there was one doctor in charge and five other staff members, including two nurses, pharmacists and two lab technicians.
The clinic staff was very friendly to me and included me very patiently and openly in the daily clinic routine. Although I was only there for one month, I learned a lot about medicine. During my first two weeks, I mainly observed and looked over the shoulders of the staff and was mostly busy getting over my culture shock. During this time, I often longed for my friends and Germany – I even felt homesick.
My everyday life in the clinic
After the first two weeks, however, I felt like I had finally really arrived and was able to enjoy my work in the clinic and my time in Moshi. It was a great feeling to do tests on malaria and UTI (urinary tract infection), give injections to patients, or learn about the different types of medications. Working with the doctor, I was also able to learn a lot about local medical conditions. At that moment, I felt like a real medical student for the first time!
On the last day of my internship, there was a small farewell party for me at the clinic. We cooked chapati (my favorite food in Tanzania, right after rice with coconut milk), mchuzi (vegetable curry) and fried chicken. It was a beautiful but at the same time sad experience and I found it difficult to leave Moshi after one month.
I have often heard that a trip to Africa without a safari is not a real trip. Therefore, on the occasion of my birthday, I went on a two-day safari in Tarangire and Ngorongoro National Park. I found it brilliant to see four of the five African "Big Five" live and enjoy the beauty of the national parks. Another wish on my bucket list had come true!
The safari tour was really worth it and I think it is an experience you should have done at least once in your life!
After my exciting experience in Moshi and my acclimatization to the new culture, I flew to Unguja, an island that belongs to the Zanzibar archipelago and is known as Spice Island. Upon arrival, thousands of thoughts raced through my head: Would my new roommates be friendly?? I would be able to integrate well?
At the airport I was met by World Unite! and taken by a driver to Stone Town, the historic old town in the western part of the island, my place of residence for the next four weeks. I lived in a shared flat with other foreign volunteers.
In contrast to the host family, I catered for myself in Zanzibar. What an adjustment to suddenly have no one preparing my delicious breakfast, cooking my dinner, running hot water for my bath, or caring when I came home late!
Zanzibar is incredible!
I didn't expect it, but in Zanzibar I spent the best time of the whole trip. During the city orientation the next day, I felt like I was in Indonesia. Everywhere the women and girls wore hijab (headscarf). The Muslims there greet each other with "Salaam Alaikum" (a Muslim greeting meaning "Peace be with you"). I was impressed!
The people treated me very friendly and nice, the food was very tasty, the sunset in Stone Town was amazing and I generally felt very safe in Zanzibar. Living in Stone Town reminds me a bit of Venice in Italy, because it is also a labyrinth with many small alleys where you can easily get lost.
During the evenings in Forodhani Park, one must definitely enjoy the local delicacies at the Night Market, such as z.B. Zanzibar pizza, urojo, seafood, chapatti and local drinks (z.B. Sugar cane juice with lemon and ginger, tamarind juice, avocado juice. Most of the food in this market is a bit more expensive than elsewhere, but it is really worth trying it.
A month among medicinal plants and spices
In Zanzibar I did an agricultural internship for one month. I learned about herbal medicine there at a local herbal medicine clinic from the best botanist on the island, who is known as Mr. Madawa is known or in German "Herr Krauterheiler". Madawa is a great teacher who taught me not only about medicinal plants, but also about the important role of religion (in this case Islam) in herbal medicine.
I had a lot of fun during the lessons because I also learned to collect herbs and make medicines. On other days, we had a spice tour in Kizimbani, where Mr. Madawa and the locals educated me about the herbs and spices in the area. Afterwards we also visited ZARI (Zanzibar Agricultural Research Institute).
Now this amazing journey is over! However, it will always remain an unforgettable experience in my life. I learned so much about living in a far away country. Going on a trip also means facing different challenges and discovering new things every day! I don't mind trying this again on another occasion.