We have arrived safe and well in Moshi, Tanzania. We had an easy flight (zero crying babies!), followed by a painless visa/customs/immigration process. Our bags were already waiting for us by the time we cleared customs. The guesthouse manager, the school driver and a long-term volunteer from Minnesota (!) met us after customs and we had an easy drive to our guesthouse. We checked in with no problems, unpacked a bit and enjoyed sitting on the balcony under an incredible night sky.
I laughed, because I had spent so much time warning Joost that life in Africa is never easy. Problems arise; people flake out on you; everything takes much longer. I couldn’t believe how smoothly everything had gone!
Then we went to get ready for bed and discovered that I had accidentally grabbed somebody else’s suitcase at the airport. To be fair, it was the exact same rubbery white, grey and black duffel bag with a bright red, two-piece Emirates Airline luggage tag–what are the chances? So we spent most of the first night trying to get a hold of the German luggage owner (to see if he had our bag) and KLM (to find out if our suitcase was still at the airport).
We woke up the next morning with the knowledge that somewhere in Moshi, a German man had Joost’s bag and was in desperate need of his gear, as he was leaving to climb Kilimanjaro the next day. In a country like the USA or the Netherlands, it would be very easy: you text them, ask for an address, plug it into a GPS and off you go to make the exchange. In Tanzania, it goes as follows:
- Text German man to ask for address. Remember that there are no street names in Tanzania.
- Ask Tanzanian driver if he knows where ‘Mountain Inn’ is. Maybe it’s ‘Mountain Lodge.’ No, we’re not sure which of the multiple Mountain Inns he’s at. We think it’s in town. Or maybe outside of town.
- Locate on GPS when we have wireless. Narrow it down to two locations.
- Start driving. Stop every few hundred metres to ask the locals loitering on the side of the road if they have ever heard of ‘Mountain Inn.’ No? Okay, asante.
- Continue driving.
- Almost run over a man on crutches.
- Almost run over a woman carrying a tray of bananas on her head.
- Drive. and ask. Drive. and ask.
- Almost run over another man on crutches.
- Drive. and ask.
- Almost collide with more than a few other trucks and vans.
- Arrive in the vicinity of the first location. Look up and down the streets. Ask more people. No luck. Maybe it doesn’t exist anymore?
- Decide to off-road down a long dirt ‘road.’ Watch the dashboard light up with service lights, engine lights and a few other scary-looking red lights with every new pothole we hit.
- Finally get a hold of the German man, who informs us that he’s 6 miles east of Moshi–that’s as accurate of a location as he can give.
- Start driving on the road that takes us East.
- Continuously thank the driver for his patience.
- FINALLY SEE A SIGN FOR ‘MOUNTAIN INN!’ Pull a u-ey, beep at the front gate, jump out of the car and lovingly embrace the German.
It was hard to tell who was happier–the German hiker or our driver!
This is how things in Tanzania go, though. They may not always be the fastest or the most efficient, but things (almost always) work out!
We haven’t started our projects yet. We arrived Thursday night and spent Friday morning tracking down the bag. Hopefully we’ll hit the ground running at the start of the week. We did, however, get to mosey over to the school and meet some of the kids! They are eager to learn and spend time at school, which of course got us excited to spend time with them. Until then, we are enjoying the view of Mount Kilimanjaro from our balcony and spending time settling in and relaxing (for Joost, this apparently means teaching himself how to play the harmonica and learning magic tricks)!