New Blog!

If you've enjoyed reading about my experiences in Tanzania here, check out the new blog I've started on Wordpress as of November, 2017. It's called "Back to Tanzania" and you can read it here. All new adventures in Tanzania from an older, wiser, more experienced expat.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Few Things Different in Utah than in Arusha

Corn on the Cob: In Utah, this is a wonderful summer treat. Boil it or microwave it inside the husk, slather with butter, sprinkle with salt, and it's soft, a bit sweet, and the perfect taste of summer. Best when bought at the fruit stands along the "Fruit Way" section of highway 91. In Arusha, it's served year around as a street side snack, which I often buy on the way home in late afternoon. Vendors roast it on small charcoal grills along the edge of the road and sell it for 100 T shillings (about 1/10 of a cent U.S.). You get a section of a cob. It's halfway between popcorn and American style sweet corn. It's not-quite-crunchy, often with a couple of kernels that have popped while still attached to the cob.

Roadside Activity: The corn vendors would go broke in Utah, because there's just no foot traffic along the edge of the road. In Arusha, there are hundreds of pedestrians and dozens of bicycles and even a few wooden pull-carts and homemade wheelchairs sharing the shoulder of the road with auto traffic. The first morning I was back in Utah, I drove from my house to the center of town (carefully reminding myself to drive on the right side of the road), and it felt as if maybe the county had been evacuated and I hadn't heard about it because I slept in and didn't catch the morning news (jet lag the first few mornings). The beautiful wide sidewalks were empty. No pedestrians. No bicycles. No sign of life. There weren't even that many cars in the four lanes of traffic.

Static Electricity: This is not a problem in Arusha, where the rain forest crowds the edge of town and springs up in unoccupied gullies. My clothes drape nicely and my hair has a fluffy wave to it with no styling needed. In Utah, where the sagebrush desert crowds the edge of town, my clothes have so much static that they stick to my body and crackle, and it's not attractive. My hair hangs limp like  seaweed on a rock, and is also not attractive. But it's OK because of my blow drier and "product."

Medical Care: From what I've seen so far (which isn't that much yet), doctors in Arusha conduct a brief interview about your symptoms and write a prescription. In Utah, I had an x-ray, an ultrasound, lung function testing inside a glass booth with a breathing tube, a mammogram with three views of each side, a followup mammogram for a fourth view on one side, two antibiotics, two inhalers, and some liquid nitrogen freezing of bad freckles. Half of it was because of pneumonia. Half of it was just routine checkups because I'm over 40. I keep telling myself that's why Americans have a life expectancy 30 years longer than Tanzanians. But I'm starting to feel freaked out by chilled, dimly lit rooms full of computer screens and stainless steel tables. At least the dentist didn't need x-rays this year.

Hot Water: In Utah, my house has a big water heater in the basement that supplies an electric dishwasher, a clothes washing machine, all the sinks in the house, two bathtubs, and two showers on demand. I can stand under a hot shower for about 20 minutes. Aaahh! In Arusha, my house has a small water heater mounted on the wall near each of two showers. I turn on an electric switch, wait about 20 minutes, and have enough hot water for about a five-minute shower. Lots of houses don't have showers, and you take a "bucket bath," in which you heat some water on the stove, mix it with some cold water in a bucket, then use a dipper to pour water over yourself. It all works well enough to get clean every day.

Ma'am vs. Mama: "Ma'am" is a loaded word in America. Usually, it's offered respectfully, but often received as a quasi insult because it implies that the woman being addressed is old. In America, old is bad. Middle-aged women are kind of invisible. I listened to a long discussion on National Public Radio a few days ago in which women my age discussed why they hate to be called ma'am. The author of an article in "The Washington Post" discussed her research about why women hate to be called ma'am. Every speaker started with the unquestioned premise that it's bad to be old.  In Tanzania, most people younger than me, especially men, call me "mama." It also implies that I'm older than the speaker, but being old is fine. "Mama" is respectful and affectionate. Younger people respect older people, notice and greet them, and enjoy their company. I feel happy when Tanzanians call me "mama."

Weight: Being back in Utah, I am barraged by advertisements, articles, TV shows, blogs, and casual discussions everywhere about how to lose weight. The standard of beauty for women here is skinny, but with big breasts (even though the two looks don't often occur together naturally). Having been away for a few months, I notice that American models and actresses are so skinny they look like they must be ill. In Arusha, nobody worries about weight. Most women are considered to be attractive in their natural state, unless their behinds are too skinny. In America, there are more obese people than in Tanzania. In Tanzania, there are more slender people than in America. In both places, there are many people who fall somewhere in between.

Soda: People in both Utah and Arusha drink a lot of soda. I tend to drink a lot more soda when I'm in Arusha, although I'm trying to make iced tea and keep it in the fridge. A few times Tanzanians have made remarks to me implying that Americans are odd because we like to drink water. Soda comes in smaller servings there, about 12 oz. It comes in the old reusable glass bottles. I like this size much better than the American 20 oz. plastic bottle. Diet soda is available in only a few places, and only in cans. There's no recycling in Arusha, and garbage disposal is not as regulated as in America, so I drink regular soda from bottles. At home, I drink diet soda from cans. While I was here, I had to remember to always order the smallest drink at fast food places so I wouldn't get 32 or 46 oz. of diet Coke. And I'm sure the Coca-Cola Company would deny it, but the regular Coke tastes better in Tanzania. Maybe it's like Mexican Coke, with sugar cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

Cars: Although there are plenty of newer cars in Arusha, there are a lot more new cars in Utah. Cars here come in a wider variety of makes and models. White cars are very popular in both places. Even though America, especially Western America, is notorious for big cars, our cars are not as big as Arusha cars. In Arusha, all those giant safari Land Rovers that can haul 10 paying tourists have got us beat. 

Twilight: Arusha is in the southern hemisphere, but very close to the equator. All year around, it gets light at about 6:30 am and dark at about 6:30 pm. Here in Utah, I've been enjoying those beautiful, long summer days in which the sun doesn't go down until 9:00 pm and being home before dark is no problem. Even being here for only two months, I've noticed the days getting shorter as we ease into fall.

I have allergies that play havoc with my sinuses in spring and fall. Now that we are easing into fall, my allergies are kicking up, so it's time to head back to Tanzania. I've started packing. Last time, I packed light, mostly travel/hiking clothes and no accessories and certainly no household items. This time, I'm packing a few more things. Almost everything I need, I can buy in Arusha and don't want to carry it back and forth with me. But there are just a few things...

Sheets and Towels: I bought sheets and towels in Arusha, but I couldn't find any high-quality, luxurious ones. Most are imported from China. No 300-thread-counts. K2 and Cece urged me to buy second-hand things, because I could have gotten high-quality sheets and towels from America or Europe that were used and donated somewhere and found their way into the Arusha second-hand market. Logically, I should have done that. But it made me shudder to think of using someone else's sheets (I know, I've slept on sheets used by other people every time I've been in a hotel). I think it's a culturally-based aversion because several of my American friends shuddered, too, when I told them about it.

Contact Lens Solution: I found an optometrist shop in Arusha that sells the contact lens solution I use, but they charge about $18 for it! It costs about $10 here in Utah, which used to seem like a rip-off to me, but now I'm good with it.

Accessories: I seldom take scarves or jewelry when I travel, because I can live without them for awhile and they'll probably just get lost somewhere. But now that it feels less like traveling and more like living somewhere, I want some of my scarves and jewelry so I can be stylish when I teach at the tour guide school or eat out with my friends. Oh, and some of my cuter tops and skirts instead of all hiking clothes all the time. Oh, and also some workout clothes and my extra-wide sneakers. I could buy those in the South African department store in Arusha, but they'd be really expensive.

Vegetable Peeler: I found everything else I wanted for my kitchen, except this. I did find one, but it was so dull, it wouldn't even peel carrots. So I'm packing one of those little aluminum jobs that cost something like $2.49. K2 can peel potatoes with a knife in a jiffy, but I can't because I'm used to my peeler. And he laughs at me.

Over-the-Counter Drugs: Maybe if I worked hard enough at it, I could find everything I want at various pharmacies in Arusha. But they tend to sell super-strength combo meds. When I tried to buy phenylephrine, a decongestant that I use so I can avoid suphedrine which makes me sick, it was mostly formulated in pills that included suphedrine. The closest I could come to plain phenylephrine was phenylephrine plus caffeine. I did find ibuprofen and bought a foil card with eight doses. When I asked to see the large bottle of 200 tablets, it turned out that the pharmacist had opened it and was selling it one dose at a time. He also had a few one-dose packets of things marked as samples not to be resold. Although, all the expiration dates were current.

Okay, I'm finishing up this post a few days after I started it. It's 11:30 pm and I leave for Tanzania tomorrow morning. I'm having a bit of a problem fitting all my purchases and my nicer clothes into my two biggest suitcases. Plus, I'm waiting for the last load of laundry to come out of the dryer. I can't believe I'm up this late. Why didn't I do my laundry this morning?


  1. Oh dear! We didn't get to meet this time and you are already heading back? Well, safe travels and keep posting

  2. We'll try again next time! Or maybe I'll still be here whenever you set up your African safari