I made it to Arusha!

Well, I’m here in Tanzania (!!!!) and it was quite the journey to get here. Travel time from Charlotte to here was about 30 hours, so I was exhausted when I arrived.

Overall, the trip was good! My first flight was delayed about an hour, but that meant I wouldn’t make my connecting flights. So, I had to rebook the first flight and from there, everything was on time and worked as planned. Travelling by myself was not as bad as I originally anticipated. I thought I’d be bored in the airports and on the planes, but I was probably less bored than I had ever been on the plane. Granted, there were some great movies/TV shows and I was reading a great book, but it was really peaceful to travel on my own. In Doha, which is the most amazing airport I have ever seen, I had time to spend in a “quiet room”, which was an air conditioned, small room near my gate that had GREAT reclining chairs. I had a long layover in Doha, so I also got to walk around the enormous airport and stop in a few shops (to dad: just to window shop, I promise).

Going from Doha’s immensity to Kilimanjaro was an interesting comparison – Kilimanjaro’s airport was the smallest airport I had ever seen! The plane literally just parked on the tarmac and we walked down the stairs and into the immigration department. There were no tunnels to walk in, terminals to go through, stairs, etc. It was just one room, which contained immigration, baggage claim, and customs.

Immigration was easy (I think writing ‘student’ on anything makes it easier) and my bags arrived literally as I was walking towards the baggage claim part of the room (such an underrated feeling). I went through customs, which was another side of the same room, and walked outside to find my driver. However, I walked outside and there were probably 30-40 people with signs and none for me.

I waited a little, but it was pretty apparent that no one was going to show. So then I had a choice – I could take a taxi to my housing or I could call my contact at the University of Arusha and see what was happening. Since I wasn’t sure exactly where my housing was, I decided to call my contact, Dr. Akech, even though it would be an international call and therefore very expensive. I called him and he apologized and sent a driver immediately, but the airport is about 30 minutes away from the university, so I went back inside the airport, got out my Kindle, and waited patiently.

My driver eventually came, accompanied by an English speaking man who works as an electrician at the University of Arusha. They were so nice, teaching me a few Swahili words as we drove and pointing out where Kilimanjaro, Moshi, and Arusha all sat in relation to one another. I needed to exchange my money and get a local SIM card for my phone and they helped me with that process as well.

I arrived at the ADRA guesthouse at around 5pm (keep in mind, I landed in Kilimanjaro at 2:30) and it was way better than I expected it to be! I’m staying in a little cottage with my own bedroom and bathroom. Right across the way, there is another cottage with wifi, a kitchen, and laundry. Leah, who works for the ADRA, lives on the complex as well and she was the first to introduce herself and show me my new home. The director of the ADRA also came an hour later to say hello and introduce himself. I unpacked and got settled and laid in my new bed. I was startled by a knock at my door (I apparently fell asleep instantly) and it was the cook, Aziza, saying that dinner was ready! I was starving because I slept through lunch on the plane, so dinner was a welcome sight. I had my first Tanzanian meal with Aziza (who is great!) and FaceTimed my family and then went straight to bed.

My room: using the bednet fulfills my childhood dream of having a canopy bed!

My personal bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower.

The cottage with kitchen, laundry, and wifi!

My cottage! You can see that there are two doors, so each room is a semicircle. I’m the one on the right!

Today, I’m taking the day off to rest (I only woke up at 1pm – thanks, jetlag). I finished the book I was reading, I’m blogging, and I’m just getting settled here. I’ll be going to bed early tonight as my ride to the clinic arrives tomorrow at 7am! I’m excited to start feeling useful (today has been a welcome restful experience, but I am so not cut out for this much free time) and experience medicine again (I miss it!).

As promised, here are my daily 3 questions (I’ll be writing about my day(s) of travel):

What surprised you today? A lot of things surprised me, but the biggest one was how okay I was travelling by myself. Even on the 13 hour plane ride, I wasn’t bored or yearning for social contact.

What touched you today? Here in Tanzania, people are so hospitable. Leah and the director of the ADRA said “you are welcome” multiple times, meaning they wanted me to feel welcome here. I’ve really only interacted with 4 Tanzanians in the time I’ve been here (my driver, Leah, the director, and Aziza), but each one of them has made me feel very comfortable and emphasized that I am very welcome here.

One more fun story I have that touched me – on my flight from Philadelphia to Doha, across the aisle was a sweet Asian lady with two boys sitting next to her. About an hour before we landed, the boy looked really sick and the lady was looking for a barf bag for him. I didn’t have any bags to give her and I left my dramamine in my checked-in luggage, so I offered her a few pieces of gum in hopes that it would help. She was so appreciative and she explained that the two boys were her oldest and youngest son and they were travelling to the Philippines. Every so often, I’d look over at them and she was exactly the sweet, fussy mom you would expect, making me miss my mom each time. There’s nothing like a mom when you’re sick, am I right?

What inspired you today? This one is a little harder because literally all I did today was sit, albeit all over the world. When I was thinking about the boy next to me who was nauseous, I tried to recall my anti-emetic drugs and think about what could be causing his sickness. I got the anti-emetics (med friends – try it and see if you can get it too), but had no idea what could be his problem. Sounds discouraging, but I’m inspired to learn more and actually have substantial knowledge about medicine. Maybe one day I’ll know what I’m doing…?



2 thoughts on “I made it to Arusha!

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