Monthly Archives: November 2011

On Our Way, continued: Packing for Western Tanzania

We are now about two hours away from landing in Dar es Salam.  It is now just shy of 6:00 am on Wednesday at home.  It is almost 2:00 in the afternoon in Dar es Salam and we have now eaten two breakfasts and two lunches since being picked up at our home 23 hours ago.

So what DO you pack for a trip to Western Tanzania (and we are not talking about an area normally visited by tourists.) 

The Kigoma area of Tanzania sits, in part, along the eastern edge of  Lake Tangayika, one of the deepest lakes in the world.  It also shares some borders with Burundi, which experienced civil war within the past 20 years, sending refugees across the border to Tanzania.  The roads in the area are mostly unpaved. A paved road is being built in the area, but it is not yet complete.   Most folks survive by subsistence farming.  Families are large; just as many hands were required to work American farms a century ago, Tanzanians see large families as a source of labor and security for their old age.

There is currently no power infrastructure in the Kasulu area, although one is in the process of being built.  The compound where we will be staying has a generator which is run for about 3 hours every evening.  The Bible College, where we will be doing some of our “checking up” has a generator and we have also installed solar power and batteries to run the internet café.  Also, the diocesan offices have 24 hour power from a next door NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) which rents land from the diocese.  Part of the rent is in the form of electricity for the offices.

There are no “land-line” telephones in the area.  The infrastructure, poles and wires, to support them has never been built.  But there IS cell service.  Boy, is there cell service!  Everyone has a cell phone.  Including us.  (But not our normal “home” cell phones.  Last time we checked, the rates for AT&T cell phone service in Tanzania was over $5.00 USD/minute and they have no international plan in Tanzania.)

As far as weather is concerned, there are two seasons:  dry,  when everything is coated in red dust, and rainy, when the roads all turn to mud.  We will be visiting during the rainy season.  The rainy season also means mosquitoes and with mosquitoes comes malaria.

So what do you pack for a two week stay in this environment?

Not too many clothes:  Cathy brought 5 or 6 T-shirts, one pair of pants (worn while traveling) 1 pair of capris and two reversible skirts.  A night shirt, lots of underwear and a couple of pairs of reefs sandals and she’s basically good to go.  (In the interests of full disclosure Cathy also brought some scarves to dress up my skirts for church, brought a second night shirt so the first could be laundered at some point and wore a REAL pair of shoes while traveling.  we also brought  ponchos and rain jackets.  This IS the rainy season.  For Bill, very similar:  4 or 5 pairs of cargo pants (some of which can become shorts), 5 or 6 shirts, lots of underwear and 4 or 5 pairs of socks.  Bill’s footwear of choice is sandals, even while traveling:  he just adds socks to his outfit.

What else?  Mosquito repellent, sun screen, a small first aid kit.  Any drugs you need on a daily basis or might need in case of emergency.  Toiletries.  Cathy, being female brought a supply of camping toilet tissue.  Electronics:  lap tops, cameras,  Bill brought his iPad, Cathy brought her kindle, fully charged with lots of  books to read.  Flashlights, all of which use AA or AAA batteries to keep the weight down.  A couple of old “unlocked” cell phones for which we will buy local sim chips once we are in Dar es Salam. Chargers for all of the above, along with plug converters as Tanzanian plugs are different than American plugs.

The composing of this post was interrupted by a serious need to take a nap.  We have now landed and are at the hotel.  The next post will cover our first night and day in Tanzania.

On the Way…but first..

IMGP3752We are currently about 40 minutes out of Dubai, the first leg of our journey to Tanzania.  We have spent over 11 hours on this flight.  Just getting to Tanzania takes about 24 hours.  There is still a lot more travel to get to Kasulu, our final destination after we arrive.  But preparation for this trip began months before we packed our suitcases (or duffels) and headed for the airport.

As you might expect, we had to have passports in hand to even board our flight.  Different countries have different entrance requirements and Tanzania requires that you have a visa (not the credit card).  Although you can get a visa when you arrive in Tanzania, it is best to get it before you leave the U.S.  For us, because we are not traveling on a pre-arranged tour, we have to provide a letter of invitation from the Anglican Diocese we are working with, provide our planned itinerary and proof of financial resources.  All this along with our passports, additional passport pictures and a fee and sent to the Tanzanian Embassy in New York.  We usually pay an additional fee for quick processing and have our passports back in hand in just a few days.  This time, in the confusion of a holiday weekend and an unexpected mailing address, our passports were initially misplaced.  They were found and returned to us in good time, but the lesson here is to apply for our visas early enough to allow time for slip-ups.

Traveling to Tanzania also requires health preparations:  If you are entering the country from certain other countries, proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is required.  Because water and food can be somewhat “iffy”, hepatitis and typhoid vaccinations are recommended.  Tanzania is also an area where malaria is endemic.   While a vaccination is in the works, it is still experimental, not available to the general public and not completely effective.  So you take pills.  Every day.  And the best pills (Malarone) are very expensive if your health insurance does not pay for them.  Bill has been going to Tanzania every year, so his vaccinations were pretty much up to date.  Cathy has not been there for 5 years, so she needed to get a couple of booster vaccinations.  Prescriptions filled, we are now ready to start packing for our trip.

We interrupt this blog entry to announce that we have arrived in Dubai, purchased one final Starbuck’s coffee (yes, there is Starbucks in Dubai) and are now waiting to board our next flight, which will take us to Dar es Salam, Tanzania.


We’re waiting for the boarding call now at JFK. Of course with all of the electronics I bring with me for helping out at Kasulu Bible College, I set off all the additional checks when going through security. (Can you hear Cathy laughing?). But we are through and are looking forward to our first flight from NY to Dubai. I will post something from Dubai as we will have a reasonable layover (about 3 hours).