So I have arrived in Tanzania, and yes, it is beautiful. I woke on the plane around 5.30am, really not having slept well at all, but looking to my left out of the window the love story began. A thin strip of orange light broke across Africa’s Eastern horizon as the stars crept back into the night sky above. As the whole vista filled with light, two strange shapes appeared ahead of me jutting up above everything else. As we drew closer, and as the sun rose almost perfectly behind, Mount Kilimanjaro took shape and painted itself into view in ever increasing detail as we drew closer. A swing around Mount Meru, which if not for living beside Kili would be the most impressive natural sight I had ever seen, we were gifted with spectacular view down onto the plains and landed just east of Arusha in Kilimanjaro International Airport, on schedule, at 6.41am. My journey over the last 24 hours has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for me, not least for leaving everything I know behind, Frankfurt Airport was, well, a classic example of the western society that I have now escaped, where being stuck there for 6 hours I was forced into spending huge amounts of money on very little food and drink. Luckily flying with a non-uk, non-budget airline has its perks, and I ate well on the flight, but being a German carrier, flying from Germany, there was little conversation to be had with my fellow passengers. After showing my passport and visa to the officials, and trying to explain to an intrigued security guard what was in the big box, I was picked up by a taxi and headed east towards Moshi on the Arusha-Moshi road.
Not only my first experience of Africa, but my first real experience outside of everything I have grown up with and know as normal, I was taken back with amazement as we drove away from Mount Meru and towards Kili as it filled the view ahead of us. Not as snow-capped as it used to be, but very much still the overbearing focal point of everything in this area; it looms above the towns of Moshi and Marangu like something out of a fairy tale.
Moshi seemed extremely hectic and busy, and Marangu even more so, but there is a vibrancy to this place that way outshines the dusty tracks and rocky paths we had to negotiate to get to VEPK. Arriving here, I was shown to a small apartment on the back of the main building, with everything I need and much more. I have electricity (with UK plug sockets) a shower with hot water; latrine, kitchen and even a small sitting room with chairs that I get to call my home. Walking around the area, which is extremely lush and well vegetated, I feel like it will take some time before I feel at home here, but for now I have been told by pretty much everyone I have met, that I am most welcome here, pole pole, as they say, take it easy, this is Africa.
Once I got here I just flopped into bed and passed out, finally happy that I could stretch my legs a bit and sleep horizontally. When I woke, I got up and began to meet those around me who I’ll be living with from now on. Katy lives a little way up the hill with her husband Dilly. His son Bob lives next door to me with his wife and three children, who are all so lovely and playful, and it’s really good to see three generations of the same family living in such close quarters together.
I was invited to dinner with Katy this evening, which was a nice opportunity to get to know her a little better and find out how she ended up here, and it’s refreshing to speak to someone who shares my beliefs about the world and our places in it. She too also left behind her career in Law to pursue a dream of coming out here and doing something more positive, and 17 years later she now lives here permanently and has a very good life out of it. There are too few people in the world like her.
In the morning I plan to get down to Marangu, as it is market day tomorrow, replace the toothpaste the German Airport security stole from me, get a SIM card for my phone (after which this blog will be publishable) and get some basic supplies for cooking and living here. I have been assigned a house girl, to clean and do my washing, and also to cook for me, but in reality, Happiness is such a lovely girl, I cannot sit here day in day out while she cooks for me, so I will do that myself, and try to become part of this family in any way I can. None of this is going to be easy, but it sure beats turning up to the same place day in day out where nothing new or exciting is ever going to happen. This is real life and I’m finally living it.