Tanzanian Adventures: Beginning of An Adventure

Traveling to Tanzania has not been a small task. It took months (six months to be exact) to get ready for this one week adventure all the way across the world. In those months I  read about the area in which I was to visit, gather all the supplies needed for this adventure, and visit the doctor to make sure I don’t come home with any nasty disease. After all, this is Africa, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity few people get to go.

The adventure started when I received my daily wake-up call from Maddie who no matter what major event is about to happen, still wants to be fed on her schedule. I did not need to board a plane until the evening (flight left at 10:15 pm PST) and so I went about my Sunday as usual. With suitcase in hand, and a uneventful ride to the airport, I started my adventure.

But things were not going to be uneventful for long……

Seattle Washington to Washington DC:
I feel TSA hates me at SEA-TAC. No other airport TSA has ever made me feel horrible as the TSA agents at SEA-TAC. Seriously they hate me. One minute everything is going just great and next I’m having a full body pat down all over my cell phone! Thank goodness the guy (yes it was a male who did this pat down!!!) decided not to explore certain places I should not mention. After finding nothing I was let go to board my flight.

But it still gets better! Getting told by United Airline’s gatekeeper “I’m in timeout” because there was a backup on boarding the flight. After awhile it got old when he went further in saying “don’t mess with me.” He was joking I hope because of a 10:15 pm PST. I really had not brain complicity to comprehend if he was. I joke about it, but in a way, it bothered me for some odd reason. I may have something to do with a certain incident involving a passenger being kicked off a flight three weeks prior.

To make matters even worst, economy class is horrible with all of us in our group crammed like sardines in the back to plane near the toilets. The turbulence was horrible for a red-eye flight, jolting out anyone from a little nap. At one point I did become sick enough to not know if it was low blood sugar, low blood pressure, or the stifling heat from all the bodies crammed in a metal tube. After eating a whole Pro Meal Bar and drinking some water I began to feel a little better and no longer felt like I was going to faint. I will not be flying United red-eye anytime soon after this experience. No one on the plane got any sleep except the guy in the same row as me by the window who snored all the way from Seattle to Virginia. He must have been a frequent flier to have that talent.

When we all arrived in Virginia (Washington Dulles International Airport) no one got any sleep, all of us were at Starbucks like  real true Seattle-lite and hoping the next flight would produce some sleep on the way to Ethiopia. The layover was five hours long of staring out the terminal windows at a beautiful sunny day in Virginia (and warm too) with flatness for miles.  Trying not to be perplexed by the souvenirs being sold with the word “Washingtonian” which is weird since this is what people in Washington State are called, and hoping we all can have some sleep before touching down in Ethiopia.

Washington DC to Ethiopia:
Thirteen hours of flying across the world at this point and you wonder how is this possible to be going forward instead of going backward? The flight was uneventful (unlike the red-eye) and I slept through most of the thirteen hours to combat the jet lag enough to function for the next few traveling hours to Tanzania. On the plane’s flight progress screen, the flight took us over Spain, Portugal, Egypt, part of Morocco, and Sudan. All those countries below ready to be explored in the near future. On the flight, I was in a row with a woman who was traveling back home to Ethiopia from the states, and she informed me it was winter time in Ethiopia. No snow on the ground except in the higher peaks (the plane flew over some white peaks) and it looked mostly arid desert. Snow is unheard of in these parts of Africa. The airport Addis Ababa is at the foot of Mount Entoto and near the city of Addis Ababa. The airport is an open, sparse hub for Ethiopian Airlines and got really humid waiting for the next flight to Tanzania.  It was here I first encountered a semi-squat toilet and learned toilet paper is not flush-able but instead has to be put into a little trash bin by the toilet after use.

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A glance at Addis Ababa Ethiopia from an airport window
After waiting four hours for our group’s flight to Tanzania in the airport terminal, we boarded the flight, and I can say I have stepped on Ethiopian soil while walking across the tarmac to the waiting plane. I was very much glad to have a whole row to myself which meant I could look out the window when the plane arrived in Tanzania.

Ethiopia to Tanzania:

Plane on the tarmac
The flight was interesting because it was four hours and they fed us all lunch. Surprise!  Once the plane touched down at Kilimanjaro International Airport, it was one of those scenes out of the Ladies Detective Series where there is a huge commercial plane next to a small town airport in the middle of nowhere Africa. As soon as I stepped off the plane the humid heat hit you full on. And being at the end point of travel all my traveling companions agreed we stunk of body odor and need to shower so bad! Getting a travel visitor visa took a while to complete especially in the humid heat with no cool air to relieve. Most of us girls had rosy red cheeks from heat by the time we all reached to window to hand over our passport, visa application, and our $100 USD (must be a  $100 bill, not five $20 bills, or pay in Euros or higher weighted currency, and not Tanzanian shillings)  to the immigration officer. Then after approval, get the real visa stamped into the passport at the visa verification line before picking up our luggage. It’s a process, a long one when there is a huge plane full of people, and I think next time I will apply for the visa prior to leaving the US. After all of us successfully got through visa line, we all boarded a bus to head to our hotel in Arusha.

Green Mountain Hotel, Arusha Tanzania:
Our drive to Arusha from the airport took little over an hour passing what is considered in America as slums where garbage dump is next to a muddy river bank, people rummaging around in it, dogs roaming around, people walking along the road carrying large bundles of stuff home, fields of maize or corn, and crazy driving like never seen in the USA. This is what would be called poverty with muddy dirt roads leading off the paved roads into muddy red dirt roads with shacks crammed together. It is very different from what you see in the Americas.

Our group checked into a small hotel in the middle a busy neighborhood outside Arusha proper. Green Mountain Hotel is where we all staying for five of the nights we were in Tanzania (other was a Lutheran hotel). Once checked in I crashed for three hours before dinner from all the jet-lag. Which did not help later when it was time to actually go to bed. Dinner was a gathering of all of us eating family style, and meeting four new members of our team. After dinner it was off to figure out how to use the shower and then crash again for bed.

Green Mountain Hotel from the road.
More Information:
Flights: United Airlines (Seattle to Washington DC) & Ethiopian Airlines (Washington DC to Tanzania)
Hotel: Green Mountain Hotel

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Why Tanzania?

The question most asked when I tell people Tanzania is where Northwest University is being called to serve in community development. The thing is most have heard of this country from stories of daring climbers who summit Mt. Kilimanjaro and the old world charm of going on a safari and Disney’s Lion King to name of few. But beyond these thrill adventures is a world very few even touch. The porter who lugged your suitcase to your room, the tour guide driving the vehicle on safari, go home to a very different world beyond the luxury we as travelers enjoy. After all, this is Africa, and even in East Africa, there is still poverty starring the traveler straight in the eye.

Beyond the wall of a luxury resort is a reality seen by few who look closely. Even though Tanzania is relatively a safe country, there is still citizens who live below the poverty level of a $1 a day, and unrest still in present in some parts of the country. You can say it all stems from unrest, wars, colonial period (German and British) and refugees coming from other African countries. All are true, and all are a part of the fabric of what makes the Tanzanian people such a vibrant group of people.

This vibrant group of people is the reason why I went to Tanzania. A once in a lifetime opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, and to find what I have been told is Ubantu, “the belief we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards others.” Something I found to be the heart and soul of the people of Tanzania and Africa.

In the following posts is a recount of my journey in the heart of Tanzania, and the ubantu of Africa.

African Proverb: