I'm into my third month living in Tanzania and halfway there now. This month I crossed the waters into mainland. I hope you've enjoyed my journey and possibly convinced you to make the trip yourself.
Mainland, here we come.
On Monday 11th April, 07:00, my wife, brother, and I started our journey from Stown Town, Zanzibar, to Kambarage, Shinyanga (Grandparents).
This trip was going to be an absolute trek.
The distance between the start and final destination is 638 miles; for conceptualisation, that's me travelling from London to Berlin or London to Austria, or London to Prague.
FYI Tanzania is a massive country, and Tanzania is over 3.9 times bigger than the United Kingdom.
Before the trip, we had the option of taking a domestic flight from Stown Town to Mwanza and then driving to Shinyanga, which would have been the more straightforward and probably the cheaper option. But since I hadn't been on a boat from Stown Town to Dar Es Salaam, we decided to take a boat in the morning, then take a flight from Dar Es Salaam to Mwanza, and then drive to Shinyanga.
We booked our boat and flight the day before, so it was about ensuring we arrived on time.
No word of a lie; despite us having VIP seats on the boat, I hated the journey. My body couldn't adjust to the continuous movement of the boat; at one point, I thought I was going to vomit. So to ensure I didn't embarrass myself, I stayed in the toilet for nearly half the journey.
Overall, the VIP section of the boat was great. It had highly comfy seats; you were served water and cashew nuts. Every seat had an entertainment system similar to a plane. Despite that, my body couldn't handle the natural movement of the boat.
At 09:00, we touched Dar Es Salaam's shores; like every transportation centre, it was hectic, but once we got out of there, we ordered a Bolt.
- The leading taxi hire company is Bolt. Uber was once there, but they were extracting too much from the drivers; the Government intervened, requesting they reduce their charges, and they didn't comply, so they stopped operating. A chat with a Bolt driver, formerly an uber driver, gave us the DL.
We arrived at Dar Es Salaam Terminal 3 at around 10:30, there wasn't too much traffic on the roads of Dar Es Salaam, but the taxi took a while to come. Our plane was scheduled to leave Dar Es Salaam at 14:50, with the gate opening at 11:50. We decided to chill at a cafe which was closeby to the terminal. At this point, I began to fear that our luggage might be overweight.
Since it was a domestic flight, you were only given 23KG and a piece of hand luggage with a maximum weight of 7KG; I had already accepted that I would have to pay for the extra weight.
Gates are open; we go through the initial security checks, and my brother mentions that we should check the bags before check-in. Once we weighed the bags, my suspicion was corrected; our bags collectively weighed 89KG, 20KG over what we were allowed. So we devised a plan for my wife to approach the Check-in receptionist speaking Swahili only, hoping she'll give us leeway.
To our surprise, it worked out perfectly; the receptionist saw it was overweight, and for whatever reason, she checked the bags at no extra cost. We walked away, heading to our flight gate, shocked and grateful.
But no, our 'Great Heist' shortly ended. As I was about to pass the final security gates, an employee rushed, at first politely requesting payment for allowing the overweight bags to pass through. At first, hearing this, I thought, 'everything comes at a cost,' so I was like, tell me how much.
- In hindsight, this was a rookie move. Next time I'm not asking what they want; I'm just giving and walking away.
So we started negotiating payment. I ended up giving 40,000 TZS which is £14, which ain't too bad in my estimation. But boy, my wife and brother told me how stupid I was to give the dude money.
It is what it is at the end of the day, but I felt comfortable doing it since you can't expect people to do something for free.
At 18:00, we landed in Mwanza after having a 30min pit-stop in Bukoba. As we were getting our suitcases, we saw my Auntie, and we dropped everything and rushed to greet her. She ended up crying, having last seen us in 2014, plus seeing my wife for the first time.
Once we packed our things in the car, we began driving to Mwanza, 93 miles away.
- Mwanza is known as Rock City due to the city's insane number of rocks. I don't know how they got there, but it's beautiful. The city is also next to Lake Victoria, the heart of the River Nile. It's a pretty cool city.
At 21:00, we arrived at our grandparent's house. It's a tradition for my family to make a big thing out of our arrival, with a lot of cooked food and excited family members waiting at the house. That happened, and we were greeted by my grandpa, grandma, aunties, uncles, cousins, and others. It was nice, especially for my wife, because it was a show of happiness for us coming to see them.
That ends our trip from Stown Town, Zanzibar, to Kambarage, Shinyanga.
This is my fourth time coming to my grandparent's place. It feels like home to me, and that's down to the love my grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins have shown every time I return.
I'm entirely grateful for the time I came to my grandparents in June 2006. I was nine, and it was the second time I had gone to the country; however it was the first trip I could consciously remember. My father had passed away in February that year, and my mother, brothers, and I were all grieving. Staying with my grandparents for over two months saved and healed me because I genuinely believe I was broken at that particular point in my life. It was an incredibly tough period in my life.
But my grandparents' household lifted my spirit and ushered new life into me. Everyone was loving and welcoming, and I was made to feel that I was one of the family. My grandfather is such a talkative and happy person it's impossible for you not to feel positive when you're in his presence. My grandmother is very much like my mum, strict but wanting the best for you. At my mature age now, she's very much like a best friend.
I'll forever be grateful to Allah for blessing me with such beautiful grandparents and family members because they saved me from despair.
😮 A lot has changed
On all four visits, I have seen the Shinyanga region's development.
Shinyanga is very much like the countryside. Quiet place, with little to no traffic, and a very well-knit community.
When we entered Shinyanga, I was shocked at how completely unrecognisable the region had changed. When I came in 2014, the roads were horrible; I usually vomited because the car would sway side to side and go up and down. After all, the highways and roads were not tarmacked, there were no street lights, and it was a bit of a shambles.
But now, you can see the infrastructure illuminating the importance of good governance. The region's infrastructure is fantastic, all the public goods you expected were there, and the Internet was perfect.
In reality, there was very little difference between Shinyanga and other towns in the UK from an infrastructure standpoint. Of course, Shinyanga has its unique features, but overall the standard of living that I'm accustomed to in the UK is not significantly different from my time in Tanzania.
Which stuck with me a lot during my time in Shinyanga.
- While in Tanzania, I continuously compared my lifestyle to the UK and nitpicked certain things, and I think there is no harm in that since I was raised in the UK. But I did find it troublesome at times since I would subconsciously see the UK as this utopia, a means of reference for other countries. As if I already deemed Tanzania as an inferior nation.
- Yes, decades ago, Tanzania was an impoverished developing nation; there is no denying that, but in recent years the country has developed at such a rate that the magnitude of difference between the two countries is smaller than we think. Once I embraced the unique features of Tanzania rather than see them as backward or inferior, I greatly appreciated the country.
- Having briefly seen recent UK news, I'm not feeling the idea of coming back. It feels like a return to 1973-74 UK, with Trade union strikes on mass, Inflation, an increase in electricity and gas prices, and a government stubbornly ignoring people's demands. Let's hope we don't return to a Three-Day Week in the winter.
From the outside looking in, the UK is in complete chaos.
All the 💕
This trip to my grandparents felt different.
Whilst there, I met many family members who saw me when I was five, nine, sixteen, and now twenty-five.
They've seen my development from a child, boy, teenager, and man.
The words that all of them kept repeating.
You are one of us.
Those words hit different. As I've documented, having been born in the UK to Tanzania and Burundi parents, I've always struggled to know 'what am I?.'
Hearing those words from family elders touched my heart. I felt I belonged. They weren't shamed by my inability to speak their tribal language or the fact I didn't speak Swahili like a native. They accepted and embraced my true authentic self. You can't put anything on that. The confidence that it gives you is unimaginable. Your self-esteem feels impenetrable. You feel at peace with who you are and what you are.
I believe that's what people crave, and having that early in my life is incredible.
For anyone married, you understand the difficulty with in-laws.
In-laws are challenging to manage because you have no control over what they may think, do or say. But I think for my wife, it was important for both of us to see and spend some time with each other's families, mainly out of respect but also to share our kinship with our other family members.
From my perspective, my wife needed to meet my grandparents. They mean so much to me and getting to see and meet my wife before anything happens to them meant a lot. Also, my wife seeing my family before we had children, In Sha Allah, was vital because it allowed my wife time to form a bond with family members without being preoccupied with parental responsibilities.
But it is essential to understand that this wasn't a test as I've teased in the title. I've come to learn that you can't control what your family members think of your partner but what you do want is that they respect them as your partner and treat them as a family member.
- Family members change for whatever reason when you get married, and that's extremely difficult to manage. So good luck to any newlyweds.
My wife thoroughly enjoyed her time with my family. She formed a wonderful friendship with all my family members, especially my grandparents. It was beautiful to see and made me incredibly proud of my wife. Because I was fearful that my wife wouldn't be able to adapt to living in a completely new family environment, but alhamdulillah she fitted so naturally within the family; my whole family loved her. It got to the point that my grandparents forgot about me; my grandma speaks to my wife more often than I do via Whatsapp. I feel a type of way. But I'm pleased it has come to that.
I couldn't ask for more from my family; they made their daughter feel welcomed and part of the family.
My time in Shinyanga strengthened my bond with my family. Increased my love for my wife. Deepend my gratitude toward Allah.
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