As the plane began its descent, the anticipation started to build, as I was about to take my first steps onto Tanzanian soil. There I was, standing outside the airport by myself sticking out like a sore thumb. As fear began to fill my body, I couldn’t find my ride to my host family. Not only was I nervous because of the new surroundings, but I was frightened as to what I would do if I could not find my ride at the airport. Luckily all it took was a few more minutes of waiting before PJ (my driver) picked me up and we headed off to my host families home.
I have now been in Tanzania for almost a week. The past week has been a learning experience as I begin to embrace the Tanzanian culture and way of life. Everything is new; the people, the fashion, the food, the cities, the language, and pretty much everything else you can think of. Learning to adapt to this new way of life has been challenging, but also exciting as I absorb and experience true Tanzanian culture. While there seems to be a lot of chaos in this city of more than two million, there is also a sense of relaxation within Arusha.
The first few days I was here I had orientation with one of the Projects Abroad staff and he showed me around town and gave me a brief overview of where everything was. After my first day, I was expected to figure out the bus routes and learn how to travel on my own. To put it lightly, I was terrified. Being in a new culture, I had no clue how to communicate and travel on my own. I still get lost in this confusing city from time to time, but somehow I manage to find my way home.
Tuesday was the first day that I began to work on my microfinance project. I took a 15-minute walk to the Projects Abroad office to meet my volunteer team, then immediately afterwards, we all went to a town nearby the city. We worked with 8 different women in this group. Most of the work we did on this day was just making sure that the women’s businesses were still succeeding as well as seeing if they needed any additional training to help their businesses flourish. Since a lot of the women have trouble with simple mathematics, we helped them with some bookkeeping. Most women can add and subtract numbers, but they get confused with negative numbers, so we are planning on doing some training on that subject in the coming weeks.
This is a picture of Hilda receiving a 600,000TSH ($300) loan from Projects abroad.
Within these different groups that I will be working with, each woman owns her own business. Most of the women own small shops that sell anything from medicine to rice, but there are also women who own beauty parlors, gardens, textile shops, and many other different trades. Here are a few pictures of the businesses that I visited throughout the week.
Now that I have been here almost a week, I am beginning to understand this culture a little bit better. Although it will take some getting used to, I think I will like it here.