This article is part of a series exploring the locations Year On fellows venture to during the Explore phase of the program. Lydia Dennis, the Year On community coordinator in Moshi, shared tips for how fellows and other visitors can best prepare for their time in Tanzania.
A lot of Tanzanian food is very soft, such as ndizi-nyama (stew made from plantains mixed with some meat) and ugali (porridge made from shredded corn beaten into a doughy consistency). Even Western food more familiar, like pizza and french fries, are less crispy than their American counterparts. Most food is vegetarian, so most protein comes from nuts, chickpeas, and eggs. If you need more protein, you could bring protein powder or eat out at restaurants that serve meat. You can buy many, many cheap fruits and vegetables at the local produce stand.
Tanzania’s “short rainy season” lasts from October to December. It won’t rain every day, and when it does rain it will normally last only 1-3 hours. During October, temperatures are normally in the 80s during the day but drop down to the 60s at night, and by December daytime temperatures are in the 90s and nighttime temperatures can climb into the 70s.
3. What to Pack:
Moshi has frequent blackouts, so you may want to bring some portable chargers to use when the electricity goes out. Power surges are also common, and can ruin chargers even if you use a surge protector, so you may want to bring a backup charger or two (though phone chargers can be purchased for about $10 locally). The internet isn’t always reliable, especially for things like streaming or uploading videos, so if you need guaranteed internet access you should purchase a hotspot. As of fall 2018, many content apps (Netflix, Spotify, etc.) were blocked in the country, so download any apps you need before you go and get a VPN if there’s anything you absolutely must watch. WhatsApp is the most reliable way to communicate in Tanzania, so you and your family and friends may want to set up accounts before you leave. If you want to bring a video camera to document your adventures, you’ll have to notify the volunteer organization ahead of time so that they can file a permit on your behalf and come prepared with a list of the dollar value of your equipment. If you don’t have this, your entry to the country could be delayed for several hours. Last but not least, make sure to bring or buy malaria pills and mosquito repellant!
4. What to do for Fun:
Moshi is surrounded by natural beauty. It’s one of the closest cities to Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. You can rent gear locally and attempt the 6-8 day trek to the summit, or opt for a more manageable one day hike instead. The area is also known for its coffee farms, where caffeine-lovers can see how the beans are grown and participate in the process. There are also many nature preserves nearby, so you can save up for a safari to see lions, cheetahs, buffalo, and more savanna wildlife. Another fun experience that combines shopping with cultural immersion is negotiating prices at local markets (bonus points if you can say the numbers in Swahili!). You can also visit markets for female-owned businesses and watch woman entrepreneurs negotiate prices so each gets a chance to do business. At a nearby Maasai village, for example, women set up their stalls in a circle because its common courtesy to visit and purchase an item from each.
5. What to be Mindful of:
As mentioned above, electricity and internet are unreliable in Moshi. Dress codes for women are more conservative, so it’s recommended that you wear loose clothes that cover your knees, shoulders, stomach, and chest. Even at the beach, women will often wear shirts and shorts over their bathing suit, though if you’re obviously foreign locals won’t necessarily expect you to follow these social norms perfectly. It’s also safest for foreigners to stay in after the sun goes down. Credit cards don’t work in Moshi, so you’ll have to bring a debit card and get cash out of an ATM instead. These limitations may be frustrating when you’re coming from America, but Lydia describes living in Moshi as a chance to learn another way of looking at life. “Our culture seems to be high-strung and full of stress, but here people are a little bit more laid back and prioritize relationship building. They can step back and realize that, ok, we don’t have internet or electricity, but we can sit around and talk to each other.”