We often take for granted the small things: a simple Hershey’s chocolate bar, toilet paper in public restrooms, and constant electricity. However, here in Africa a cheaply priced candy bar is pricey, you must bring your own toilet paper with you while out around town, and coming home to a pitch black house with no electricity is just something you become accustomed to. But I think that’s what makes it so special to us spoiled westerners.
I’ll come clean. I’m one of these spoiled westerners. When downloading tv shows off of itunes and the download time is longer than 30 minutes I get angry. I’ve always been a little impatient but after a week in Tanzania I expect to come back to the US with an unequaled level of patience. “Pole Pole”, the unofficial national saying of Tanzania, is a reality I never expected to be to the extent that it is. A friend of mine who had been to Tanzania last summer warned me, “Sometimes things don’t go the way they are expected and it takes awhile to do something that would usually take 30 minutes but that’s just the way it is”.
I experienced this firsthand within my first few days here. I arrived on the crowded (and completely freezing) KLM flight from Amsterdam at a few minutes after 8. After going through customs, which took some serious gesticulating and help from multiple other tourists I got my volunteer visa and set off for Moshi with Theresa toward my host family. I remember her saying “This is Moshi!” after about 45 minutes in the car as we drove into darkness. I could see a few people walking around but other than that I didn’t see anything since there were no lights to guide my eyes. I was a little worried that there wasn’t any electricity at all in the area but looking back on that it might have been better if that was the case.
I soon learned that there is in fact electricity however there are constant outages and you just really can’t count on it. Instead of learning how to live without electricity, the people of Moshi live with it on half the time and off the other half. However, since I’ve been here it’s been more like 30/70. To convey my experiences in Tanzania and with my host family fall into two categories: the nights with electricity and those nights without.
A typical night for me with the fam, when there is electricity, is what I would call a little bit of insanity. The two little girls, Clara and Joanne, are wild childs waiting to be unleashed. While Mama Clara, my host mother, prepares a huge feast for me, these two girls are up on the couches, shaking their booties and rocking out to Shakira, Beyonce, and Rihanna as it blasts through the family’s small stereo system hooked up through their TV. After each song, they usually change their outfits to ones that more properly fit the song (at least in their minds). As Beyonce’s Single Ladies starts, Joanne races to her room, does a quick outfit change, and emerges in a pink cat suit with a kitty on the front, a tail attached to the back, little ears on the hood. Giggling and working it under the blue fluorescent light bulbs in the living room, these two girls entertain me as I make a failed attempt to do some summer reading. However, this mini concert is short lived. Within the hour, the power is off, the girls are in their room quietly waiting for dinner and I find a lantern to actually do my summer reading. The rambunctious night quiets with the electricity shortage