We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…


Life is different here. That might be the understatement of the month. Living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is not the same as living in Fort Wayne, Indiana. That’s not a bad thing. Just different.

For instance, in Indiana, there’s snow. In Dar, there’s no snow. That’s a good thing. At least until I get the urge to go snowboarding.

In Indiana, finding Red Bull required walking down the alcohol aisle in the local WalMart or going to a gas station. In Dar, I can walk across the street and get a Red Bull. It is almost as common as Coca-Cola–and that’s everywhere! On a similar note, in Indiana, I usually refer to Coca-Cola (and its friends) as “pop;” in Tanzania, its “soda.”

Outlets here are a little funny too. If you want to plug an appliance in (provided it has the correct plug shape), you have to switch the outlet on first. But just because you can buy something here doesn’t mean it will fit into the outlet on your wall. Fortunately, buying adaptors is nearly as convenient as buying Red Bull.

Dar boasts a surprising number of imports, so finding a certain “Western” food isn’t too difficult. You can buy Snicker’s bars (they don’t taste quite the same though), pasta, popcorn (they have popcorn in a can here!), cake mixes, and more. The only consequence for craving western food is that it can be expensive. But if all you want is a quick meal solution, getting “fast food” is much faster than driving to McDonald’s–just walk down the street to a “Mamalisha” (literal translation: Mama feeds you) and order your favorite combination of rice, beans, and veggies. It will only cost you a few dollars and the portions are enough to make at least two meals.

In some ways, church in Dar and church in Fort Wayne is similar. There is singing, preaching, and prayer. Its normal for people to arrive late. But there are a number of differences too. It is not unusual for services to last four hours or longer. For offering, everyone (in order by seat) gets up from their seats, walks to the front to place their gift in a basket, and then returns to their seats. At the end of the service, everyone is dismissed and forms a greeting line of sorts, where everyone shakes hands and greets each other. (Admittedly, I have only attended two church services thus far, so this may vary from church to church).

If you get sick, the differences between Tanzania and the U.S. could be good or bad. Depending on where you are, the condition of the hospital and expertise of medical staff can vary greatly. The one benefit of being in Tanzania is that antibiotics can be obtained easily for quick treatment of strep and other ailments.

On a more humorous note, if you’re white, female, and single (or not) and want to feel attractive, Tanzania is the place for you. I feel like I can’t go anywhere without guys whistling, “kissing,” and catcalling when I walk or ride by. I didn’t have that problem in Indiana. Seriously. Besides, in Indiana, I would have beat the guy up (Just kidding. Okay, maybe not entirely!). But, to be fair, I have met a number of very courteous, polite, and kind Tanzanian men (old and young). I understand that as a white female, I am very much an abnormality here (especially on a bicycle!), and as such, draw the attention of people. Such is life. But it is different. Very different.

Ooh! I almost forgot one of my favorite differences. Here, when you buy a bug zapper (tennis racket-shaped thing that zaps bugs), don’t touch it. These things don’t just zap bugs, they fry bugs. Seriously, Indiana, you need to get some of these things. I’m pretty sure the mosquitoes are just as bad there (except that they don’t carry malaria or dengue fever).

The location is pretty different too. In Indiana, my home was surrounded by corn trees and rolling (okay, that’s being a little generous) farmland. Here, my home is surrounded by a variety of tropical plants and trees, a large wall topped by an electric fence, and a city of over two million people. But, here’s the bonus. The beach is only about a mile away. There’s another difference. Here, everything is measured in kilometers, kilograms, litres, and uh, I’m not sure what else. That’s more than a little confusing. Not to mention that most money transactions include numbers in the thousands. Buying a bunch of bananas is liable to cost you about a thousand. At least its not a thousand dollars. But yes, the beach is nearby, though not necessarily a safe place to visit. The idea of being this close to the ocean is pretty nice though.

That’s everything I can think of at the moment. I’m sure there are more differences, but those are a few that came to mind as I was typing… I’m thinking its about time to do another Q & A, so if you have any questions about Tanzania or what I’m doing here, just leave a comment on this post, and I’ll do my best to answer them in my next post.

Side note: When I arrived in Tanzania, I really wanted to be able to use photos to communicate some of the differences, but it is difficult to take photos without compromising my own safety (pulling an iPhone or camera out in public isn’t exactly low-profile). Thus, a written list will have to suffice. As I do get the opportunity to take pictures, I will continue posting them to Instagram and Facebook.

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