Hello all! After doing some pre-abroad travel I have finally arrived in Tanzania! We got off the plane and were immediately hit with a wave of heat and humidity. It’s definitely weird to think that this is winter back in the United States. Ada and I traveled together and didn’t take our program’s group flight so we were a bit on our own for a while. Tanzania is really relaxed about their visa process, we just filled out a form and picked it up after we got off the plane. Everyone is super friendly, it’s not like going through customs in the US where everyone is very cold and serious. The woman helping Ada and I keep sing-songing my name “Jeeeesssicaaa!” And all of the other officials went out of their way to make sure we understood what was going on and helped us so much more than I have experienced in other countries. The only down-side to all of this friendliness is that things seem to move a bit slower here, but because we had no place to be we barely noticed.

After we picked up our more than 150 lbs of bags we tried to make a plan for the next 10ish hours. See, because we didn’t take the group flight we were in a bit of a conundrum. The group flight didn’t arrive in KIlimanjaro until 9pm, and our program was unable to pick us up until then. We logged on to decent wifi for the first time in awhile and looked up a place to stay for the day. We quickly realized that the airport is far away from town – like an hour’s drive away. But, good luck, we found a lodge closeby to the airport! As we were looking up this info online, we began to be approached by cabbies. Really adamant cabbies. Our conversations with them went like this:

Cabbie: I give you good price, wherever you want to go.

Us: Great, but we don’t really know where we are planning on going yet.

Cabbie: Ok, how about 10,000 (Tanzanian Shillings)?

Us: …um yeah, well thank you so much for the offer but we are still figuring everything out.

We bobbed and weaved and apologized our way through about 20 of these cabbies and finally settled to go to the lodge, but not until we had looked up reasonable taxi fares in Arusha because we knew we were going to get ripped off just because we looked so clueless. We found a less aggressive cabbie and negotiated our fare and spent the short ride learning new words in Swahili.

We then spent the afternoon at the lodge drinking massive amounts of water and getting used to the heat and humidity. Ada and I were able to arrange getting picked up at the lodge so we just waited around for our program RA of sorts, Becky, came to pick us up. While waiting for her we experienced our first Tanzanian power outage, something that happens a lot apparently – never a dull moment!

Becky came to pick us up in one of our safari vehicles, it looked like a tank, and we have six of them. We then waited for the rest of the group to arrive from their 20+ hours of travel. Everyone was super groggy and jet-lagged. We quickly realized how massive our group was, it’s about 40 people, which is apparently the biggest group this program has ever had. Once we had everyone collected we loaded all of our luggage into a big cargo truck and drove an hour into Arusha – where we would be spending the night. We got to our hostel and had dinner at midnight and then shuffled back to our rooms. No one was really talking a lot yet, everyone was too tired to be excited. We spent our first night under mosquito nets and then woke up the next morning ready to get to camp. After breakfast we drove another two hours to Karatu, where our camp is. The drive was beautiful, lots of open pasture and rural landscapes. There were lots of Maasai herders with their cows and sheep, and everyone waved as we drove by. Lots of people were saying “mambo!” and we all were saying “mambo” back, thinking it was like “hello.” Our driver kindly pointed out that we were completely butchering the greeting. Swahili is very big on greetings, it seems like you say at least three to begin every conversation. And “mambo” is one of these greetings, it has a specific response: “poa.” This greeting doesn’t really translate to english so I’m not going to bother trying to explain it. So we have been practicing that one a lot and have started to learn a few more.

This post has gotten a bit long so I’ll write more later as we get settled, kwaheri ‘til next time!

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