How is it like to live on the countryside in Tanzania?

I think it’s time for me to answer the questions people have been asking me since I arrived in Africa. I’ve been mainly asked about how whether I’m living comfortably and how the standards are. So far I’ve been a little bit of everywhere, so the standards have varied vastly. For instance, at Brackenhurst, which is just as much a hotel as a conference center, we had hot water and could choose between lamb and beef at dinner. At the YWCA hostel in Dar-es-Salaam, however, we had to share dirty washrooms with many strangers and got two slices of white bread for breakfast. Hence, the living standard depends on where we are.

Now that I’m at Ilula, my base, I can share how it is like here. Ilula is on the countryside, and it takes an 8 hour bus drive from Dar-es-Salaam to get here. A single paved road cuts through the area, and houses and shacks are scattered along it, some near, and some far from the road.

We’re served good food here at IOP. The diet mainly consists of rice, pasta, and ugali (cornstarch mixed with water), vegetables and sometimes we get some meat. Sometimes Emilie and I treat ourselves with mango juice, peanut butter and bananas from the market. 

There is a dress code here in the village. Women can’t expose much skin, and we can’t wear clothes that are transparent or tight. We must wear clothes that cover our shoulders and wear pants or skirts that cut at the knee at the shortest. Not the coolest thing in the world because of the heat, but we’re getting used to it.

The showers and toilets are shared, and yes, the toilets here are holes in the ground. We shower in cold water and wash our clothes by hand. Showering in cold water is more than fine for me, because it’s extremely refreshing after one has walked around in the heat here.

Most of the time we don’t have running water, and sometimes we don’t have electricity. Therefore we take care of all the bottles water we get and use our flashlights when we have to. If we need water to wash our clothes when there’s no water, we fetch some from the well with a bucket that has a rope tied to it.

While writing this, I realize how different it is to live here compared to Norway. I’ve been aware of this the whole time, of course, but it becomes so much clearer once I write it. I must add that adapting hasn’t been a problem. Many things are uncomfortable, but it doesn’t take much time before one gets used to them. In other words, I don’t walk around dwelling on how deprived we are of the luxuries we have in Norway. Everything here just feels normal now. For instance, I’m so incredibly used to washing my clothes and towel by hand that I just do it automatically. It’s certainly not my favorite thing to do in the world, but it’s OK! Although many things are uncomfortable, we have everything we need, and we’re safe :)

Oh, and the only reason I’m able to post this is because we have taken a 1 hour bus drive from Ilula to Iringa, where they have internet cafes.

- Francesca