Tanzania Travels

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Tanzania with Family and Old Friends!    We have just arrived in Arusha, Tanzania, where the 12 of us will be for the next few weeks to learn about the local culture and experience the wildlife and environment of this country’s famous national parks. We consist of my family of 4, Dhara, Ann and my 2 grandchildren, Shira and Drake, and old friends whom I have known since I was 5 years old, Pat, Nina, Marge, and Judy with their partners Rae, Larry and Davis.   We have had very little sleep after 28 hours flying but are already enjoying each others company and the new world around us.

Our group in front of the small grocery store

Day 1

We all tried to get some sleep our first night but it was hard as we sat down to dinner at Tulia Hotel about 10 PM but did not get served our orders until close to midnight!   It was dark when we arrived so our first sight of Arusha is the next morning after breakfast when we set out for a walk along the main road. There we find blocks of traditional cement block shops with hand painted signs on the front alongside small wooden stalls. Interspersed are an occasional very large cement and brick building, mostly abandoned and unfinished.  We were told the largest many-storied derelict construction site imposing over the small town was begun by a local businessman who expressed opposition to the ruling political party and then somehow his building permit was revoked because of “rising river conditions”. 

On the main street

We come to the food store, a small 7-11 size shop which has a little of everything canned and packaged but with little fresh or refrigerated food.  We do find what we are looking for, cans of oatmeal, and Pat finds some small containers of yoghurt.  Along the road we see both local buses and the small private minivans which serve as local transportation, called DalaDala.  A 2 kilometer trip from outside town into its center can cost about $0.50 (as translated from the local Tanzanian Shilling).  

Rae stops and starts conversation with a number of people along the way, both men and women who are happy to speak with her.  On the side of the street are a great number of people with carts filled with used shoes for sale.  I see some men washing shoes on the side of the road and we wonder if these are shoes that have been donated from abroad and have created a number of small useful local enterprises here and elsewhere. 

Our official tour does not start until the following day, but I have arranged for a cooking class in the afternoon offered by a local NGO organization to support women called Lifted Strong who raises funds in part by offering theses classes for tourists.   One of he founders, Joyce meets us and tells us about their impressive programs to educate groups of women in basic skills for survival, such as how to start small businesses, management training, sewing, cooking, and general helpful information about health and women’s rights.  They help abused women as well as provide support for their young women clients to go back to school if they have dropped out or continue their eduction.  

At our meal at Lifted Strong’s House

We are told that after primary school there are set tests which need to be passed before entering high school.  And entering the next level of schooling has additional costs which many people can not afford, such as some tuition, uniforms, school materials, and transportation.  Lifted Strong tries to find ways for their clients to obtain what they need for education and success. We have brought some gifts they have requested including toothbrushes and toothpaste, children’s vitamins, cloth for projects, and most delightful of all to them, beads which Nina had brought from her collection in Colorado.

Gifts of beads to the women of Lifted Strong

Our cooking class is very long and intensive.  Three women showed us how to make an Indian influenced chicken dish, pea soup with coconut milk, rice pilaf with vegetables and coconut, three kinds of triangular fried samosas, one with a stuffing with cabbage, one with potato and one with green peas.  It was interesting to me that none of these women knew that Samosas are a typical dish in India and I wonder how these delicious fried savory triangles made it out to the lands of Tanzania, I assume through the influence of immigrants.  There were also as our last course chapatis made from scratch, rolled out many times to create the crispy layers that characterize really good flatbread.

The only problem was that most of us were too sleepy to fully participate and enjoy the lesson or the interaction with the wonderful women with whom we spent the afternoon.

Making Chappatis

Back at the hotel, we had a very quick buffet dinner and then attempts at a full nights rest. Our first safari day awaits.