I walked into the city of Moshi from Midlands Lodge where I am currently staying, for the first time today. Moshi is a city of about 400,000 people and is about a 20-30 minute walk from my residence. I was taken aback at the state of the city. I realize that in developing countries cities look quite different, this is based on my experiences in Vietnam last Spring, but there was at least some semblance of what my imagination defines as a “city” there. Moshi could have been any number of road side store fronts that I had passed coming from the airport, just with more people. The streets were cracked and the buildings old, there was a constant unevenness to the city. I was surprised but also charmed by the gritty beauty of the place. The people were incredibly friendly and curious, several folks came up to me and struck up conversations in broken English and Swahili, of which I am learning more and more of. Many people were lounging outside store fronts, business owners were busy dusting their wares off from all the dirt kicked up from the roads, others were walking to and from destinations, stopping to say “jambo” the Swahili word for hello to their passing neighbors, there was an energy on the streets that was palpable.
I went on to buy a cheap phone and was stopped by a young man who began talking with me. His name was Sai and he was surprised I knew some Swahili, so we chatted for a few minutes and pounded fists and shook hands and then he was on his way. After I purchased the phone I was walking back to the main road unsure of how to get back home when up walked my friend. He helped me to find a bus back to the area in which I’m staying and told me he hoped to see me again. The “bus” was a extremely beat up old van with decals and words written all over it such as, “God is God”, “God Father”, and “Home Boy”. The van pulled up and I jumped in, the driver was already going before I even sat down. The vehicle raced along the streets at high speeds, maneuvering around other cars and motorbikes in astonishing ways for such a large vehicle! Tanzanians drive on the opposite side of the street as we do in the US, so already I’m a bit thrown off because my brain is telling me that we are driving on the wrong side and we are going to die! Add to that the reckless driving and speed and you have yourself the makings of an adrenaline fueled ride home! I was dropped off on a dirt road within a 10 minutes walk of Midlands Lodge, I paid the driver 400 Tsh (pronounced: “Tish”) meaning Tanzanian Shillings which is much less than a dollar. The exchange rate is about 1,700 Tsh for 1 US dollar. I only regret that I wasn’t able to get any pictures this time, but I will post plenty of them as my time progresses. Kwaheri for now!