When we began to look for work internationally, we didn’t expect the level of comfort we’d eventually find ourselves. We have running water (though it’s not drinkable, we also have drinking water delivered regularly), a shower (though not always hot, who even wants a hot shower in this climate), flush toilets, and a fridge/freezer (that stay on most of the time). We have access to Tanzania food at the girls’ home and school and North American-style food at the restaurant.
In many ways, we are even better off here. There are house Mamas, women hired to care for the house and make meals for us (and the volunteers when they are here). They make lunches on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and they make dinners on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We can request whatever we like as long as the ingredients are purchasable or grown on the farm and we can explain how to make it. I haven’t had to sweep or wash dishes since arriving!
That doesn’t mean, we haven’t worked to improve our new home, which has been effectively empty for the past year. We’ve spent the weekends hard at work making our house into a home. We spent the first weekend scrubbing the bathroom turning the mostly brown room back into its original yellow walls and white shower curtain. We scrubbed the walls in our room as well and then decorated it. We spent a weekend organizing our kitchen: figuring out the Tupperware, organizing the shelves, disposing of spoiled food, and washing the fridge and freezer. We’ve been down to the guest house to organize their storage space and I’ve even alphabetized the movie collection (though that was likely more just my OCD than anything).
It’s hard to complain though as we’ve felt quite pampered. We have cold water regularly as we fill six 1.5 L water bottles every other day from the office water cooler and keep them in the freezer. We have milk and chocolate milk in small boxes that don’t need to be refrigerated, but always stay in the freezer nonetheless. We even have iced tea, as we make it every Sunday in six 1 L mason jars!
What we don’t have on campus, we can get in the city and this is where we get truly spoiled. In the city, there is a hotel and restaurant called Tilapia. The food and drinks are American prices if not better ($12 meals and $2 drinks) and for $10 you can use their outdoor swimming pool for as long as you want. That, with the high speed internet which I use to do work and download YouTube videos so I can keep up on my Colbert, makes it a paradise!
There’s even a movie theatre in town!
Last Friday, we spent the day in the city. We had an afternoon retreat at Tilipia, which was preceded by lunch at Salma Cone – an outdoor restaurant where we spent $5 for chicken, fries, three apps, and two sundaes – and followed by a night at the movies.
The movies are at Mwanza’s mall – the only one in Northern Tanzania I believe. Despite being built within the last couple of years, it’s in a bad state of affairs. There are few stores inside, other than the two grocery stores on the ground floor. There is poor natural lighting and worst electrical lighting. It’s built like a tire with stores around the empty space in the middle, and it goes up six floors.
At the grocery store though, we did have success! This is where we first were able to buy white milk, votive candles, zucchini, and a power bar that plugs into the walls here, but allows for North American plugs into the bar. We also discovered that “American Garden,” the poorly made, cheap brand of sauces found here has a Canadian cousin called “Canadian Harvest” (made in Dubai).
The movie theatre is on the top floor. We had been planning to see “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage,” but ended up arriving an hour early and didn’t want to wait around. So instead we chose to see an Indian movie. The plot, as we read online, involved a man who was blind finding love, facing tragedy, and then getting revenge. We were intrigued!
When I lived in Toronto there used to be $2 Tuesdays. I’d go every week and when I’d fun out of Hollywood movies to see, I’d go see foreign films. I watched French movies and Italian movies that I would have otherwise never bothered with. But you get use to subtitles pretty quickly, and a good story is a good story!
By the intermission, Bethany had to use the bathroom and I went out to the snack bar to eye up the slushies. I’m a big fan of slushies, but recalled eating one from a gas station in Honduras and Bethany telling me a story about her sister having one internationally and being hospitalized since they had been made from local water. At the time, I looked at her for a moment and then continued eating it; if I was going to be hospitalized it was already too late (I turned out to be fine)! However, this time that concern was too much, so after Bethany came out of the bathroom I went in.
When I came out she was waiting for me with a slushy! She’d asked and it was made from bottled water. It was like home and I now want to go see bad movies all the time, just to get one!
So as you can see, we’re living pretty happily here in Tanzania! We’re a little spoiled and going back to sweeping will be a pretty big burden!