Karibu Tanzania!

A door mat with the word "Karibu" meaning welcome!

I’m currently sitting in my tiny 3rd floor dorm room on my mosquito net-covered bed as the hot African sunlight streams in through the barred windows onto my face. “Did I put on enough sunscreen today?” A question I’ve been asking myself a lot, along with other questions like: “Is this the right way to take a bucket shower? Am I using this water filter right? Please God let me be using this water filter right, and What time is it right now in the U.S. again?” as I count backwards with my fingers. My roommate Ellie sits across from me on her bed, and we laugh as we recall all we’ve experienced in less than a week.

To begin our orientation week, we flew into Dar es Salaam, a major city along the coast. We became quickly acquainted with the unfamiliar noises, such as being woken up by the call to prayer or chickens squawking in the morning, as well as the crazy traffic and driving on the left side of the road. We spent time exploring the city, visiting museums and markets, learning traditional tribal dances, and traveling to a small island for a beach day!

Trying fresh coconut at the market!
Trying fresh coconut at the market!
Traditional fish and chips we got to try on the island... and some shells I collected :)
Traditional fish and chips we got to try on the island… and some shells I collected 🙂
Exploring the streets of Dar
Exploring the streets of Dar

After a few days in Dar, we had an 11 hour bus ride to our university, Ruaha Catholic University, which is in the city of Iringa; the city where we will be spending the majority of our semester. Lucky for us, some of the highway to Iringa was paved through a national park. As you can imagine, I gasped and pressed my face right up against the window when I saw a wild giraffe only a few feet away from me. The giraffe was just chillin’ on the side of the road. We found that 11 hours goes by quickly when you’re on the lookout for wild giraffes, zebras, baboons, and antelope the whole ride… even when you have to stop the bus so they can cross the road in front of you!

Settling into Iringa has been interesting, to say to the least. All of us in the program are learning and experiencing so much in such a short amount of time! We’re learning how to take bucket showers, manage sleep in noisy dorms, bargain at the markets, create a wardrobe of only long skirts and dresses (collared shirts for the boys) for our conservative campus, filter our water, and learn what food is and isn’t safe… which I may not have done the best job. On day two in Iringa, I had to take a trip to the local clinic due to a high fever and other flu-like symptoms, have some lab work done, and try to communicate about some confusing lab results with a Tanzanian doctor. I only know greetings, so far, in Swahili! “How are you?” and “Thank you” did not get me very far. Thankfully, my program director was there to translate. In the end, the clinic was able to give me some trustworthy antibiotics to take care of whatever is making me sick. Something that I was praying before arriving was that God would give me peace that surpasses understanding as I knew there would be a lot I wouldn’t understand when I came to Tanzania. Let me just say, He hears our prayers! Although it was a little startling to get sick and have a clinic visit so soon in the semester, I knew I was in good hands and would be okay, and was even able to laugh at the whole experience as it was happening (I’ll spare you of the pictures 🙂 ).

Well, my group is about to walk downtown for dinner (we’re trying a new restaurant every night- food is unbelievably cheap in Tanzania compared to the U.S.!) so time for me to go! More posts about food, culture, and Tanzanian university are soon to come so stay tuned! Thanks for reading.

Stay curious,


Published by Erin McCallum

Class of 2020 CIEE Iringa, Tanzania Psychology w/ minor in Leadership

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