The summer in Arusha began in typical East African fashion; the ICTR forgot to pick us up from the airport. On the bright side, all of my bags made it to Tanzania, which was something I was really afraid wouldn’t happen. I didn’t do such a good job of spreading things out among bags, so I would have been pretty much without clothes if my luggage had been lost. From the airport we went to Ujamaa Hostel, a great little place that encourages long stays and volunteering.
The plan was simple; stay at Ujamaa in their dorm rooms for a couple days while we figured out housing for the summer. It sounded great in theory, but I wasn’t sure how it would work out in practice. I never had to deal with housing issues in the Peace Corps; it was one of those things that we could (usually) take for granted.
Ujamaa turned out to be a great choice for the first few nights in Tanzania. Between some friendly Americans and Aussies and the dedicated Tanzanian staff, we had more than enough people to show us the ropes. The first morning in Arusha one of the staff, Ommy, gave us a mini-guided tour of the area around the hostel, including some good places to jump on the internet and get some food. On top of that, some of the volunteers knew good places to get a cheap bite of local food and a good pharmacy (I decided to wait until getting to Tanzania to pick up my anti-malarials, so this was one of the first orders of business). The biggest things for me were to figure out how much things were supposed to cost and what things were called, since Tanzania uses Swahili. Matatus, for instance, are dolla-dollas. I’ve already picked up on some greetings as well, and hopefully I can pick up some Swahili this summer. In terms of prices, the main difference is that the ICTR and the proximity to tourist attractions makes Arusha a bit spendier than Uganda was.
Figuring out housing ended up taking about four days, just in time for us to avoid getting kicked out of the hostel because it was all booked up for Sunday night. Luckily, my supervisor at the ICTR emailed all of the interns on my case, the Karamera case, some housing information. The first real estate person I called ended up being immensely helpful and drove us around town to see five different prospective apartments. We settled on one that was nice, relatively cheap ($700 per month for a 3 bedroom apartment), and extremely close to town.
The most difficult aspect of adjusting to Arusha and Tanzania for me is definitely going to be the difference in safety. I’ve been urged by many, many people to be extremely careful and never walk around at night. I took the first few warnings with a grain of salt; we were given similar warnings during Peace Corps training back in Uganda, but I was rarely worried about walking around after dark, whether it be in Mbarara, Luwero, Ibanda, Kazo, or Kampala. Once in Tanzania, however, while volunteer and intern opinions differed on whether climbing Kilimanjaro was worthwhile, whether local food is any good, whether bargaining was worth the trouble (it is), the constant was that walking around in Arusha after dark is not safe. Tanzania is similar to Uganda in so many ways that it is difficult to believe that there’s such a difference in safety.
Things I missed from Uganda that I’ll get this summer:
*Krest and Stoney Tangawizi
* Chili Sauce
*500 ml beers
*Extremely friendly and helpful people
*East African and Indian Food (no really, I really missed East African food!)
*The pace of life. Its going to take a while for having free time and not a lot of stress to get old
Things I don’t miss:
* The word “muzungu”
* Getting hassled