Friday, June 4, 2010

Guest Post: Living and Working in Tanzania

I love learning about the world--and wish I could travel and explore every nook and cranny of our amazing planet. Today Cindy Vine tells us about her experience in Tanzania.

Living and working in Tanzania

“Tanzania?” you might ask with eyes wide open in mock surprise, “Where is that?”

A quick answer would be, “East Africa, below Kenya, above Mozambique, on the Indian Ocean, oh...and we have a rather big mountain.”

“Wow, exotic location,” you’ll drawl languidly.

The thing is, Tanzania might be an exotic location to visit for a holiday, staying in luxury lodges, flying everywhere, but living there is something entirely different. Like other developing countries in Africa, Tanzania is a bit like living in the wop-wops. It is not for the faint-hearted, and it is definitely not a National Geographic experience. You’ll be surprised how many people come here to work imagining it’ll be like living on the Out of Africa movie set. They soon realise with shock and horror, that the realities of living here is nothing like they witnessed Meryl Streep do in Out of Africa.

For starters, Out of Africa never showed the ants of all shapes and sizes who invade everything. Nothing is precious in your home. Then there are the geckos who catch mosquitoes on the wall next to your chair in the living room. Malaria, Amoebas and Giardia take over your body. Potholes the size of a volcanic crater, and speed bumps every few kilometres, roadblocks with corrupt policemen, all meet you when you leave the safety of your home.

The cost of living is so expensive as everything is imported. Frequent power cuts disrupt your life as not only are you forced to go to bed at 7am when it gets dark, but you can’t have a hot shower. Scratch that. You can’t pump water to have a shower. When you do have power, the internet is sometimes so slow carrier pigeons would deliver your emails much faster. Local people think that as a mzungu, you are a walking ATM and will try and get away with charging you triple what they would charge the locals.

Many people who come here to work, and who expect the glamour of Hollywood’s Out of Africa, are bitterly disappointed. They never get over their disappointment, it affects their work and all they see are the negative parts of living here, which I have so kindly pointed out to you. Living here is hard, but also enjoyable, I wouldn’t swop it for anything else. You either hate it or love it. Generally, those loving lattes in Starbucks hate it.

Tanzania is the fifth African country I’ve lived in. It’s also the poorest by far. I’ve also lived in New Zealand, Korea, Thailand and China. Having grown up in South Africa, I’m pretty much an African expert. A fundi is what they call experts here. I love it when I can see Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest walkable mountain in the world at 5895m, peeping out through the clouds. I get excited when I see fresh snow on her summit. Driving through the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and seeing herds of zebra, wildebeest, elephants, lions. Snorkelling in the clear waters of the Indian Ocean. And of course, there’s the people. As corrupt as many of them are, I still love them. These are the positive things to focus on, when you can’t get in touch with your family because the mobile network is down, or the internet is not working. Every country has its negatives and positives and we choose which ones to focus on.

Living here I have come across incessant complainers, whiner-babies, as well as people who have developed such a heart for Africa. They look for the good, and how they can help to make it better. My lush garden filled with mango, papaya, lime and avocado trees, where whatever you plant starts growing the same day, is a refuge. It’s the middle of winter and I’m still wearing summer clothes. This is the kind of a place where you want to raise your children, where going to work is a pleasure and you are inspired to write. There is so much to write about. When I drive long distances, I try and write descriptions of all I see in my head. Spectacular scenery, interesting people. Moving back to Africa, is the best thing I could have done. But, not all of us are alike, and many people struggle with the way of life here. If you do get a chance to travel here, either for a holiday or for a job, do your research first. Contact people who live there. That way, you won’t get such a culture shock when you arrive. Everybody should travel to Africa at least once before they die. Now, get online and book your ticket!

Cindy Vine is a mother, teacher and writer living at the foot of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. As a working mother, she’s managed to write a self-help book called Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet; a semi-autobiographical account of an escape from an abusive marriage called Stop the world, I need to pee; a novel about a little boy’s traumatic life called The Case of Billy B; a novel about jealousy, hate and betrayal and the biggest dilemma of all called Not Telling; and a children’s picture book about solving a problem with a bully called Fighting Fisi. All her books are available on You can follow Cindy’s blogs on; or find out more about Cindy Vine and her books on Follow on Facebook

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