A First for Everything

This week has been a week of firsts – starting with our first attempt at laundry.  We never realized how much we love washing machines until we had to hand-wash 2 weeks of dirty laundry in a sink in the hotel courtyard.  I can’t imagine being a Tanzanian house keeper, washing every hotel guests’ towels, sheets, and pillowcases all by hand!  It took us 2.5 hours to figure our stuff out…and that was strictly to the rinse cycle!  At least we had the African sun on our side – drying on the line didn’t take very long at all and we were able to get our clothes back in luggage in no time.  Of course, without the spare 2.5 hours, the hotel staff will wash your laundry for you for only 4,000tsh – right Adam?


A taste of what we’ve experienced so far

Food and Drink

We’ve left the world of delicious, variety cuisine for the more standard fare of rural Africa – rice or ugali (an African hard porridge), beans, bananas, and meat (“nyama” which literally translates to meat).  Breakfast always consists of tea and most often a doughnut (mandazi)…usually there are also eggs, which despite neither of us caring for normally, we’ve now warmed to (obviously only covered in chili sauce!)  While in Uyole, we managed to find a café in town (New Bex Café) that has delicious baked goods and a delightful Kenyan server who speaks English and is looking to visit Canada someday.  He was nice enough to translate the menu for us and we’ve been back daily since – the samosas and pilau (fried, spiced rice) are amazing!


We’re getting to spend more time outside and it’s been nice but cooler than we anticipated.  The sun is hot (we’re attempting to get a tan) and there is always a cool breeze; after sunset or in the shade, you often need a sweater.

Daily Life

Prior to Chicken Camp, we got a day off to explore Mbeya and experience Tanzanian life as it will be for us moving forward.  Adam left us and for the first time we were solo in the big city.  We did some shopping for supplies (even managed to negotiate prices in broken Swahili…and win!) and found a second-hand clothing store where we made a friend (Godfrey) and bought a whopping 6,000tsh worth of clothes (conversion: $3.80).  We got to sit on a patio for a pop and journal writing and spoil ourselves with a delicious Indian meal at Mbeya Hotel.


We’ve made some friends at the Usililo Lodge where we’re staying all week – likely because we’re long-term guests and they are getting used to seeing us.  No one speaks English but with time we seem to be able to communicate despite that.  One staff member in particular has been nominated our favourite – she is super bubbly and incredibly quirky!


Wednesday started our three days of “Chicken camp” at Uyole Agricultural College. The campus is located about 4km from the hotel we are staying at, so each morning, and afternoon, we are getting our exercise as we hike to and from school. This walk takes us by a local primary school, where the students are always excited to see us and practice their English. This morning (Friday) the whole school practically followed us down the road after yelling their “Good Morning! How are you?” greetings – we took the opportunity to snap a photo because it’s not everyday that something like that happens!

Chicken camp has been a beneficial learning experience for us.  The way chickens are raised here is very different from Canada and nothing like what we learn in school!  In fact, we have been asked several times how many chickens the average Canadian household has because each household here averages about 10 birds.  It’s funny trying to explain that no one really keeps chickens like they do and we have massive buildings full of thousands of chickens that supply enough for everyone.  Some of the topics we learned about include: nutrition, housing, vaccinations, diseases, and optimal management practices for rural small-holder farmers.  There are a lot of areas we think we can be helpful and after next week’s visits to Ilima and Lubanda, to meet the farmers and see their chickens, we’ll know better exactly how we can make a difference!


We took our first cab and first city bus in Mbeya!  The cab was standard and despite other meetings being on ‘Tanzanian time’, the cab pulled into the hotel driveway 10 minutes early!  The bus, on the other hand, was quite the experience.  First of all, the buses are actually cargo vans with approximately 12 spots for passenger seating.  You wait for the bus to be full (often with much more than 12 people) until you’re able to leave for your destination. We decided to catch it in the busiest bus depot in town (we stress BUSIEST) where all the buses gather and their ‘bus marketers’ yell their destination to the crowd gathering in the market, which is always associated with the bus stands.  Each ‘bus marketer’ also grabs you to direct you into their bus – right one or not!  We just kept saying “Uyole” and looking at the front of the buses, where the destination is stated, and we made it safely onto one.  We even made friends with our ‘bus marketer’ – he spoke to us in Swahili and we nodded politely and spoke back in English.  Neither of us knew what the other was saying…but we bonded.

Swahili word of the day

We’ve become “expert” negotiators in the market so we’d thought we’d share our money knowledge with all of you.  Here’s how to count to ten:

One – Moja

Two – Mbili

Three – Tatu

Four – Nne

Five – Tano

Six – Sita

Seven – Saba

Eight – Nane

Nine – Tisa

Ten – Kumi

Combining those with hundred (mia) and thousand (elfu), you’re able to negotiate prices with street vendors.  For example: we bought a lunchbox, knife, and 2 spoons in the market today and he was asking elfumbili for the lunch box, elfumbili for the knife, and miamoja for each spoon.  We negotiated him down to elfutatumiatano for everything! (maybe not a great deal…but we thought so at least).  Once you get over 10,000tsh (conversion: $6.60), we have no idea what we’re doing…but then again, not much goes over 10,000tsh in the street market.