Temporarily hemmed in by the onset of the rains, I’ve amused myself with a little listicle to pass the time. So here are 7 things I love, and 7 things I love not so much, about life in Moshi / Tanzania to date.
Firstly, the less appealing bits:
1. Bad air. There’s the black toxic clouds pumped out of the back of lorries and buses, the fact everyone just burns their rubbish on the side of the road (understandable, I guess, when you don’t have bin collection services), and then the dust storms that blow up this dry time of year and coat everything in the house with a layer of grime. You seriously notice the air quality. (Not least when you go for a run.)
2. Driving at night. So. Not. Pleasant. No street lights, no cats’ eyes or road markings, no dipping of headlights, the reasonable probability you’ll meet a bus or a lorry flying towards you, scarily deep storm drains along each side and, to top it all, suddenly coming across people taking their life in their hands strolling along the edge of the main road in the pitch black.
3. Power cuts. Oh such a first world problem really. But unless you’re lucky enough to have a generator here, things can pretty much grind to a halt, with no warning.
4. Preachers. Now I’ve had my share of these in N Ireland. But even there, they don’t start on a Friday evening and continue through to 5am, and throughout the weekend, screaming and yelling their hellfire and damnation into sound systems that wouldn’t be out of place at Glastonbury.
5. Mango flies. You maybe don’t want to know too much about these but it’s the downside of having a beautiful mango tree nearby. They lay eggs which burrow into your skin. And a few days later, they develop into squirming little maggots which have to be individually pulled out. Not an urban myth – I already know of two people who’ve had the pleasure. I live in fear.
6. Ants. Everywhere. Even crawling out when you open your Tupperware. (Yep, I don’t understand it either.)
7. ‘Shikamoo’. Now maybe this is the worst. There is a separate form of greeting for anyone who is ‘at least five years older’ than you. It’s bad enough when I get it from someone young and hip, that of course I’ve kidded myself is basically me. But when it’s from someone I was convinced was way older ??!! (Would it be too ‘Trump’ if I started dyeing my grey beard?)
So those are the moans. But now 7 of the things that make it all worth it:
1. The markets. I love my Saturday morning trips here. Especially for the fruit. I’ve gorged on pineapples, mangoes, papaya, avocados and passion fruit. And at any time of year, there is every type of banana imaginable (who knew there were so many?)
2. The colours of the trees. Particularly in the run-up to Christmas, the display from the jacarandas and then the flame trees is pretty spectacular all over town.
3. My jeep – aw, what more is there to say (I’m so attached to it now).
4. Surprisingly, work! Naturally, like every job, it has its less than riveting moments. But some of my most enjoyable, rewarding, fascinating, educational and, yea, challenging experiences so far have been the trips to visit our branches and our customers across the country: maize and rice farmers, tea and coffee growers, brick makers and timber manufacturers, avocado and sugar processors, dairies, bakeries, health clinics. It’s not necessarily always as ‘do-goody’ and worthy as you might imagine: we need to make money as well if the organization’s to survive. But ultimately it very much does give me a sense of being part of something that is having a positive overall impact on the communities and wider economy.
5. The wind-down opportunities. No matter how full-on the day’s been, there’s a pretty superb range of options for breaking away from it all: whether it’s a sunset swim in the shadow of the mountain after work, or a weekend hike through the lush banana and coffee plantations around Moshi or, of course, the ever-tempting chance to spend a few days up close with some of Africa’s most amazing wildlife.
6. The coast. The opportunity to pretty easily escape over here for the beaches, some Dar city life, and the food (coconut, zanzibari spices and Indian Ocean seafood are a pretty amazing combination).
7. And of course, how else could I finish. Moshi wouldn’t be Moshi without the shy, but ever impressive, Kilimanjaro towering over everything. Even after a year, I’m strangely mesmerized by it. If I wake up and Kili is out, I’m sure to be late to the office. (I find you can never have too many photos.)
There you have it: my Moshi listicle. (I suspect, by the end of April, the ‘rainy season’ might feature in section one.)