Weeks 8 & 9: Moshi
Moshi is now my favorite city in Tanzania.
It has a population of around 184,000 people, less than Tanga which I have previously called sleepy and slow, yet it is lively. Plenty of markets, stores, restaurants, clubs, bars and people to interact with. A metropolitan feel transplanted onto small town buildings. And coffee. Lots of coffee. Moshi is in Kilimanjaro Region, renowned for its coffee, tanzanite, and of course the highest point in Africa and the tallest free standing mountain in the world. There are plenty of amazing spots to get a cup of coffee (or a beer) in Moshi and if the weather permits you can see Kilimanjaro’s summit, Uhuru, peaking out above the clouds while you enjoy it. When I arrived in Moshi Thursday afternoon after a 3 ½ hour bus ride and saw Uhuru, I started to realize what I was getting myself into, or so I thought. But Kilimanjaro deserves its own blog post (which you can find here).
Daudi, one of the men in Moshi who helped coordinate our trek up Kili and our stay in Moshi, is one of the most amazing human beings I have ever met. He, along with Joseph Msaki, help organize a small international volunteer organization while organizing and sometimes leading trips up Kili and through Safaris. Daudi seems to know everyone in Moshi, a useful trait when you need someone to smooth over any of the difficulties that Tanzania may throw your way. It isn’t hard to see why. His sharp wit and big heart pull you in easily (and his English doesn’t hurt either). He is fond of “making miracles”. These miracles range from getting you a banana before you know you’re hungry to conjuring a couple hundred thousand shillings to get your climb down-payment and permits in on time when you have problems with the Western Union and banking system. He was the first person I met in Moshi and the last person I said goodbye to.
Moshi was particularly lively these two weeks (pre and post Kili climb) because of the elections. Kilimanjaro region is home to many natural resources, crops, businesses, and tourist attractions making it an economic powerhouse, with the cities of Moshi and Arusha being the major hubs of commerce for the area. Historically, there has always been some friction between this region and the national government. As it was explained to me, Julius Neyrere was fighting for a unified Tanzania (just mainland Tanganyika at the time) independence while the chief of Kilimanjaro was vying for a separation of his region. The chief was unsuccessful. Moshi and Arusha are now two of the strongest centers of opposition party support, with minor clashes between rally members already occurring before a single vote had even been cast. But by and large, these were isolated incidents. The most noticeable signs of competition were the almost constant songs playing from giant speakers strapped to the backs of trucks which added a festive vibe to otherwise normal walks through town.
In Moshi we also met two of Daudi’s volunteers: Luca and Jesse. Luca is a 19 year old from Germany who didn’t quite know what he wanted to do with his life at the moment. So he decided to volunteer in Tanzania. Quite the nervous fellow, I’m curious to see how long he lasts and how he handles the elections in Moshi.
Jesse is a senior at Hampshire College. He is currently in the middle of a digital media project which is taking him to across a bunch of countries, volunteering and taking photos of people that will eventually go into an interactive website he will design. Stops include the US, France, Turkey, Tanzania, Nepal, and Cambodia. His three week volunteer gigs range from camp counselor in the US to art therapy relief work in Nepal to bar-tending on the beach in Cambodia. I feel like he is the type of person I will randomly find taking pictures in a foreign land while I am doing some sort of aid work.
Our time in Moshi was a whirl of family dinners, clubs, coffee shops, goats, markets, Bob Marley themed restaurants, power outages and old forgotten railroad stations.
And of course, the hot springs.
Kuletwa Hot Springs is hidden deep in the midst of arid tundra. The day after returning from Kilimanjaro, Daudi led the four climbers (Sarah, Olivia, Liselot, and I), Jesse, and Luca to the daladala station. We took the small bus as far as it would go, serendipitously picking up a friend of Daudi’s who tagged along, before hopping off and catching two Bajajis. We went off the road and into sparser and sparser vegetation for a long while before finally coming upon a thick stand of trees. Inside lay an unreal network of pools filled with clear warm water bubbling up from underneath a rocky outcropping. Our Bajaji drivers were happy to strip and swim and wait for whenever we needed a ride back. In fact they were the first ones in the water. With a small family’s tent nearby providing cold beers and chipsi mayai and not another soul in sight, it felt like we had found paradise.
Leaving Moshi and my friends, both new and old, was tough. But it was Saturday evening, I needed to be back to work on Monday, and being in Moshi for elections would have been interesting but probably not advisable. So with typical confusion and broken Swahili and English conversations, I navigated my way through three different crowded buses and transfer points for a total 6 hour journey back to Korogwe.
Monday begins the true data analysis and report writing.
Some day this week Tanzania will usher in the government for the next five years.
Till next time.