I spent the bulk of my time in Tanzania staying with friends in Arusha. It is interesting to see how the permanent residents live. Plus, I got to spend time with my favorite locals.
I would be lying if I said that the travel clinic here in the states didn’t make me a little nervous about the rabies risk from making friends with these guys… especially the formerly nature-dwelling hedgehog, but these guys are too cute to resist.
Arusha at first was a bit of culture shock. It was pretty much like you’d expect Africa to look, but it’s always different experiencing it in person. I’m just glad my first (and only) driving experience in Arusha was at night, before I knew what the streets looked like. Had I known what I was driving through, I would have been much more nervous.
One of the (many) odd things about Arusha was that you could find very nice establishments in the midst of squalor.
One such establishment was Cultural Heritage, a museum, gift shop, jewellery store, and restaurant hybrid. It’s someplace that I would have liked to explore further, but I was still a little shaken up from having been borderline kidnapped (story here) on the way and wasn’t feeling particularly enchanted with Tanzanian Culture just at the moment.
Of course, being the cultured individual that I am, I made the best of it.
I also did my part to stick it to the Tanzanian powers that be by disregarding this sign that said I couldn’t touch the statues.
Part of having these nicer areas intermingled with the less savory is that there really seem to be two entirely different communities sharing one space. There are, of course, local Tanzanians, but there is also a large enough community of expats that they warrant their own establishments. They also work on a completely different pay scale, so there are really two economies here. The expats work for the most part in tourism and hospitality, and are payed what most Westerners consider a living wage. In contrast, the maids for the expats (which they all have), are local Tanzanian women who work everyday, or close to it, and make the equivalent of about $100usd a month, and they are happy with that. It really causes a segregation of sorts. There are areas you would really never see Tanzanians unless they were working there.
One of the more notable of these places was the TGT, a very colonial country club of sorts where the expat community frequented for drinks, rugby, and free wifi.
It was also home to this most confusing restroom.
Your choices are “officers” or “ladies”, and apparently they’d had enough confusion on the matter that they needed an extra “ladies only” sign.
It really was a cultural exchange. I was introduced to local libations.
Though drinking culture was the same, I learned that “hand grenades” are a little different here than New Orleans.
I was also taken to a local club where I was told not to wear anything too revealing as I would likely be groped by Africans. The claims were greatly exaggerated, and the club wasn’t all too different from clubs in America (where there’s also a high likelihood of being groped), of course, I kinda hate clubs in America so it was still a little miserable. Couple that with the local distaste for deodorant and you have a pretty unpleasant combination.
I stayed for the longest 15 minutes of my life.
In exchange for this cultural education, I introduced them to Sour Patch Kids, Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls (or as close as we could get to them)
and Bananas Foster.
Though, shopping for the ingredients was an experience. We usually had to go to several stores to collect all of the ingredients. It was not uncommon for large grocery stores to be out of common ingredients like butter or sugar at any given time. And I never got used to the milk situation. There are literally cows on the side of the road, why does your milk still look like this?
And when it came time to pay that was it’s own ordeal. Almost every establishment in town had a sticker proclaiming that they proudly accepted Visa. What it didn’t say was that more often than not the card machine was not working. If you didn’t have enough cash you would run out the the ATM, which was also an ordeal, and sometimes out of money.
All sorts of things that would inconvenience and outrage the general public in America were an accepted part of the daily routine in Arusha. I had become quite accustomed to this during my time in Arusha. In fact, my first experience of this was trying to pay for safari lodges in the Arusha main office. The total was roundabout $400 and when I tried to put it on my card I was told there would be a 6% service charge. I of course didn’t have $400 cash at the time (or the TZ Shilling equivalent), so I reluctantly accepted. The man behind the counter dusted off a credit card machine and began what would become a 45 minute process.
This process included a call to various hotel managers, the credit card machine company, and my bank. I find it hard to believe that I was the first person to pay for my stay with a credit card, especially since the total would be around 650,000 in local currency and the largest bill you usually saw was 10,000. You would literally have to carry around sacks of money. It just can’t be done.
I’d be lying if I said Arusha wasn’t a bit of an adjustment, but I’m very glad I went. Many things were very different that what I was used to, including (to the surprise of everyone else) the American Garden products that seemed all too insistent on their Americanism.
Seriously Americans, have you ever seen this? I’m pretty sure they’re faking it.
Of course, when it comes right down to it, people everywhere are the same.
Passive aggressive notes are an international language.