Tales & images from life as me…

Goodbye Tanzania


How do you actually say goodbye to your home? I think I’ve reached the conclusion that you don’t. I mean I’ve never really said goodbye to England despite having been away for almost a decade and I’ve talked often about the fact that whichever country I am in I talk about ‘going home’, referring to the opposite one. So perhaps Tanzania (or rather East Africa) needn’t just be cut off completely. In this brave new world, this smaller boundary-blurred world, there can be a blend.

I am heading back to friends in the UK who have lived here and shared in this experience, and leaving friends behind who come from England originally and thus will travel through and come and visit. I am bringing furniture and artetfacts and photos and memories. We will have Skype and Viber and mobiles (though not post, not really!) and I will have to come back and visit family in Dar and Nairobi anyway so it’s not as though this is my last moment here.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much!
And yet… I cannot help but feel there is an ending here. It’s not the end, just an end and one that must take place to facilitate the next adventure and are honestly excited to face. But the past few days, as I’ve made it my reality instead of just a far of concept, have been tough. There is no question that my every day life is about to change dramatically and all the people and experiences that were a natural part of that, no longer will be – I think I am allowed to mourn that.

The weather in Mwanza has just slipped into rainy season and several wild night-time electrical storms, followed by torrential warm rains and grey days. This meant that (apart from Saturday night’s firework party)
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getting out on the lake and enjoying the city wasn’t quite going to plan. In some ways this worked well as it meant I simply didn’t have to face the goodbyes or the good stuff, but on Tuesday the skies cleared enough for sundowners at the Yacht Club and my head cleared enough to realise this was really happening.

Brightly kanga’ed ladies with bulging bags atop their heads sauntering down our weather beaten road; the smell of earth and rain in the air; children clamouring and clambering up mango trees to find the best fruit as it reaches ripeness; endless building work with no electricity or machinery; flame trees’ bursting red flowers; barking dogs; the bleats of the neighbour’s goat; the gentle irregular click of rainwater drying in intense sunshine on mabati; and the constant sweep-sweep-sweep of someone brushing at the dirt, are a background I now make foreground as I work to imprint it all carefully to my memory.

But it is friends and the everyday camaraderie of survival and overcoming difficulties that are the hardest part. It all began with the Yacht Club drinks;
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progressed to a beautiful boat ride in post-storm sunshine the following day


(huge thanks to Vicky and Don for that) where fish eagles purveyed the lake, impala scattered across Saa Nane island and monitor lizards ventured out to bask; followed by a fantastic lunch with some of my best girl friends; goodbye to our fantastic house staff where my Swahili stumbled at the number of things I wanted to thank them for and wish them; and my final flight out of Mwanza on Thursday morning. Each stage ended in tears! At each point there was someone important and amazing, someone I admired and was grateful to, to say goodbye to. And at each point the tears filled my throat and I never really said all that should be said.

But they knew, I know they knew, how much I’ve loved our adventures, my classes at Isamilo School, the plays, the 6th Form, Tofani Porini, International Award, craft fairs, movie nights, Charity Balls, singing with The Budgie Smugglers and The Mosquitoes, open mic nights, the safaris, the drinks and barbeques and laughs and tears and cups of tea and coffee; how much I’ve appreciated the help and the listening and the advice; and how I’ve loved sharing the celebrations and congratulations between us all.

This is a world of extremes though, and there are certainly things I won’t miss – at least not for a while! Ants in my kettle; being directed into a parking spot by someone who can’t drive and is standing in my blind spot; mosquito repellent; the sounds of crows ripping the air outside our bedroom; our disgusting spitting neighbor on the one side or the annoying one who beeps ten times when he gets to his gate (no matter what time of day or night)… oh I could go on, but who am I kidding?!

Lots of my Mwanza girls got together to get me a present when I left – and they came up with the ultimate idea. A Mwanza withdrawal symptoms treatment kit! It features everything comedy that might remind someone of there, without actually making them want to return! Items like revolting Blue Band margerine (widely reported to be one step away from the chemical formula for plastic!), toxic local ketchup, Africafe instant coffee, the sachets of locally brewed Konyagi (approx. 20p for those who can’t afford a bottle). But they also added lovely cards and notes, little paper-rolled beads, reminders of places I’ve loved and local beers and many, many other bits. What a fantastic zawadi.

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So, having left Mwanza on Thursday, I’ve spent the last two days in Dar getting the doctor’s clearance to fly and taking a ‘soft exit’, extracting slowly, from Mwanza first, then – tonight – from Tanzania kabisa. It’s 40 degrees in Dar es Salaam right now, the temperature drop tomorrow morning at Heathrow could be interesting (especially with my very limited plus size wardrobe!) but I know my family is meeting me and there are new baby twins to meet and friends I haven’t seen in quite a while.

The final hurdle: a tearful (guaranteed) goodbye to my amazing husband at the airport. I have to keep remembering I’m better off than so many expat wives – when he does finally join me, he’ll be staying. But a whole month suddenly seems a daunting prospect – hard to imagine that five years ago we hadn’t even met yet! Life does have a funny way of finding you the gems, if you’re brave enough to go along for the ride.

A big thank you and masses of love to all my Mwanza Peeps. I will see you all soon, somewhere along the way. Happy sunsets and safaris. Stay in touch x

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