First Impressions: Arusha, Tanzania

            My first impression of Tanzania as a country was that it was very wet. We touched down in Kilimanjaro airport to pouring rain, and this rain did not let up for the nearly full hour that we were driving. In general, this was far more rain than I had expected an African country would receive. We were, however, informed that it was still the rainy season, and that as such it would rain for great portions of time during the day. This was great to know, but did little to prepare us for just how much rain would be coming down while we were attempting to go about our business.

            On our first full day, we decided to go to the markets. This was a fun and stimulating experience for me because I had been to markets similar to these during my time in Guatemala – I found that the Maasai markets were very similar to Guatemalan markets in that they were mainly open-air and also that a customer could barter down the prices on goods that they wanted. In this regard I felt very at home at the Maasai market. A way in which I was not entirely comfortable in the Maasai market was that I do not yet speak passable Swahili. I learned a handful of useful phrases, such as (and pardon my misspelling, but I am working phonetically) poa kichizi kyamandizi, which apparently translated to “crazy cool like a banana in a freezer.” This might not seem like a phrase which is all that useful, but as it is commonly used slang, it helped shopkeepers and street salesmen to know that I was familiarizing myself with the culture of Tanzania and that I could get by in their streets and markets.

            By and large, Tanzania is a friendly country (or at least Arusha is a friendly city. Every person on the street was saying jambo! “Hello!”,  mambo vipi “Hey, what’s up?”, or jambo mzungu “Hello, tourist”, and this is more welcome than any person is likely to get on the streets of Grand Rapids, Holland, or Detroit. This was refreshing, because it can be overwhelming to be in a country or city as a foreigner. This all worked to make me feel very welcome in this new place, and helped me to feel like I would have no trouble at all finding a place for myself in this culture.

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