I am back from Tanzania safe and sound. Having jumped on the Western train again, I can now say I am feeling home-sick. I lost my heart in Tanzania. To the work there, to the people, to the countryside. I returned with my mind and heart full of beautiful memories (and some rough ones too). Life in Tanzania is way more on the edge than it is here. Life and death, happiness and sadness, winning or losing, they are all so close to each other. But nothing makes you feel more alive than living on the edge. Somehow, with all our safety measures, we seem chronically sedated in the West.
It was probably symbolic for my journey that I came to Tanzania with two bags and returned with only one, due to restrictions on a local flight. With all pleasure, I left a bag full of the past behind. Travelling to Africa on my own has reinforced my inner strength. I found myself entirely happy and fulfilled in doing what I love most, being a woman with women, which is the meaning of the word “midwife”. The bag I took home was one filled with love, hope and confidence in the future. Love for life, love for my work, love for people. I feel a stronger drive than ever before to make my dreams real.
By the way, there was some actual fuzz about my bags too. After having landed at KIA (Kilimanjaro International Airport), I had some issues with customs because I brought in some medical items. Apparently, I needed “a license” (contrary to what the Tanzanian embassy in Holland had told me). I could only take my suitcases after paying a bribe, so it wasn’t the smoothest landing. Later, I found out that the type of dollars I gave them is rather useless in Tanzania, which gave some bittersweet feelings of revenge.
Having arrived late at night, I was too exhausted to be bothered any further by this rather unpleasant arrival. I was happy to find that the driver who was supposed to pick me up was still present. He drove me to KIA lodge, which is just a stone’s throw away. By the time I had climbed out of the car, some Maasai youngsters were already taking care of my luggage. Luckily, I remembered in time that I was supposed to tip them.
After a shower in my traditional African style cottage, I went to the bar, and sipping a late night gin tonic, I suddenly knew crystal clear that I had set the first step into a new life. I was on my first journey to Africa and I wouldn’t be stopped from enjoying every bit of it. It was more than a new page or another chapter in my life, it was an entirely new beginning. Overwhelmed by this, I went to bed and had to put in my ear plugs since the air-conditioning was making a hell of a noise. I got its message: when things annoy or distract you, just close your ears and keep focusing on your dreams.
The next morning, I woke up to a stunning scenery: the Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, shining in the morning sun in their full glory, amid savanna plains. I really was in Africa. Finally. While exploring the garden, I got my first freaky moments when confronted with the abundance of weird insects.
On a side note, a few days before arriving at KIA lodge, I got an email in which I was suddenly charged 35% extra as a sort of “new year’s fee”. Since I already had paid the full bill earlier on, I was not willing to pay any extra charges. When checking out at KIA lodge they too confirmed that I had fully paid my bill in advance. Great was my surprise that while in Tanzania, I kept getting emails asking me to pay additional charges. It was clear that some scam was going on so I refused to respond. After some weeks, I heard that KIA lodge had been closed because of not paying its taxes. I felt bad for all the staff members who had suddenly lost their income due to mismanagement. I hope the lodge will re-open because it is the perfect place to stay when you arrive late or need to catch an early flight.
At 9 AM sharp, Charles, the driver, came to pick me up and bring me to FAME Medical, the hospital where I would be a volunteer in the coming weeks. More on that later, so stay tuned!
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