16 months Tanzania, it looks like a long time. But the truth is, time flies here, at least for me. This may seem a bit controversial, as Tanzania is famous for its pole pole-motto, which basically means everything can happen at his own time aka slow. Still, step by step you learn to adapt to this mentality, lock your ‘Western stress’ away in your suitcase and learn how to enjoy the African lifestyle.
There are a couple of tips I might advice you in order to ‘survive’ in Tanzania for a long time. First of all it’s important to bring a great stash of mosquito spray, to always look to the right when you cross a street in Tanzania and to never walk alone after 7pm. Once you know the basics ,you can discover the country. The best way to do that is by becoming a little bit mbongo or local. This starts with knowing the Swahili greetings. When you know all greetings – and there are a lot! – you can surely already have a conversation of 15 minutes with a Tanzanian. Secondly, learn how to live with frequent power-cuts and sometimes even without water. Thirdly, listen and adapt yourself to bongo-flava music. This auto-tuned Tanzanian music will be played in many buses, dala dala’s, bars and clubs so you might as well know how to dance to it. Furthermore, speaking as a woman, it’s useful to have a kanga, a colourful piece of fabric you wrap around your waste. In one second you are dressed appropriate and ready to go. Lastly, dare to take local transport once in a while. Dala dala’s (overfull minivans) or piki piki’s (motorcycle) may not be the safest vehicles , but it’s sure is a hell of an experience the travel with it from time to time! When you become a little less mzungu (white person) and a little more mbongo (local) you quickly learn how to appreciate and enjoy Tanzania on levels you would never experience as a tourist.
Of course, when you live a long time abroad, it’s inevitable that you miss certain things from home. The thing I missed the most -except from family, friends and my dog- is chocolate and cheese. When you’re used to those two products as part of your daily diet, it appeared to be pretty difficult to live one and a half year without them. Off course for every problem there is a solution and soon all my visits from Belgium came accompanied with a portion of chocolate and 1kg of cheese.
In one month I’m back with my two feet on Belgian ground, and although I look forward to go back I’m equally reluctant to leave this beautiful country where I had the honour to live in for one year and a half. So, everybody who doubts about living abroad (or Tanzania) for some time, please do, I promise you will not regret it!