While living abroad in Tanzania, I was exposed to a wide variety of living conditions that I love to share because each of them was extremely different. The first two months, I was attending school at Ruaha Catholic University. During this time I lived on campus in dorms with an American student from my program and two Tanzanian students. The dorms were much smaller than I was used to, especially with the four of us. The bathroom and shower room was across the hall from our room and the cafeteria was right around the corner from our dorm building. Bucket showers and squat pots were a definite challenge. At first, I hated both, but soon enough, it simply became routine and I actually enjoyed using squat pots more than western style toilets. Day to day life in the dorms meant electricity wasn’t always guaranteed and running water was also limited.
Some other challenges I came across were the constant visitors we received. As Tanzanians are generally quite social people, we often had three to four extra people in our room helping our roommates with their hair, eating, doing homework, and other such activities. It got quite compressed, especially since many of their friends would stay the night as well. I also was told that if I left any of my personal items out on my desk or bed, they would more than likely be used. For Tanzanians, the space in which they live is a communal one, meaning everything is shared. If something is left out, this is seen as an invitation for anyone to use it. I decided to test this theory and left a box of crackers out on my desk. I left for a few minutes and when I returned, sure enough, there were three Tanzanians each munching on my crackers. A lot of food was shared throughout my time in the dorms, which I obviously really enjoyed.
During my spring break, I traveled all over Tanzania. My friends and I stayed at various hostels throughout the country. This worked out easier than I thought. Each hostel was unique in its own way and each owner was incredibly kind and patient when helping us settle in and find places to visit. The prices were also very reasonable. We had running water and electricity at each place, which was a nice change from the dorms. Our hostels also varied from city life to rural towns, which made the journey of getting there exciting because I wasn’t sure what to expect.
One month, I got the chance to live with a host family, the Longos. This was by far the most challenging environment for me, but not because of the location or even the living conditions. Language was the main struggle for me. I had been learning Swahili, but in this village, Kihehe was more widely spoken as their ethnic language. So, I had to learn a bunch of new greetings in order to get around. The village where I stayed was called Ihanu, and my home was right next to a church and about a mile away from the nearest store. My host family gave me the biggest room with my own shower and squat pot, which was extremely kind of them. At this point in my trip, I was a pro at using the squat pot and taking bucket showers.
My family cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for me every day and even taught me how to cook some of the local foods. The electricity sometimes worked, but there was no running water. I resorted to bottled water or boiled water when I needed a drink. My father was the pastor for the church next door to us, so I attended church and sang with my family in the choir. On most days, I was busy carrying out my own research project with my research assistant, Beatusy. The walks we took through the village were beautiful, even when it rained. The people were extremely kind and willing to talk with us. Overall, this was one of my favorite parts of my entire trip and I’m incredibly thankful for all the wonderful people I was able to meet and connect with.
By Bailey Noonan, an OGO Peer Advisor