It’s crazy to think I’ve been in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for almost a month now! Things feel familiar now but it wasn’t always this way. I remember feeling really tired, nervous, and anxious when my plane first landed in Dar Es Salaam after over 27 hours of traveling. Can you believe how long it took to get here from Pennsylvania?!
Before traveling to Tanzania I was nervous about learning a new language. Although some Tanzanians know English, most speak an East African language called Swahili. Before I arrived I had never spoken Swahili! My first week here I spent a lot of time taking Swahili lessons with our Tanzanian teacher, Asia. Asia is very funny and loves teaching Swahili. When she taught us the word fo fo fo, which means heavy sleep, she pretended to be asleep and let out a huge snore!
I learned that when you speak Swahili it is important to pay special attention to how you say greet someone. We might just say hello to someone in the United States, but Tanzanians may greet each other up to three times!
During my first few days in Dar Es Salaam, I relaxed near the beautiful Indian Ocean. I almost couldn’t believe how clear and blue the water was! When my new friends and I walked on the coast, we saw incredible rocks, sailboats and crabs! Tanzania does not have four seasons like we do. Instead there is a rainy and a dry season. Right now it is the dry season. That means it is really hot and humid. After spending time in the sun, I was happy to go swimming in the ocean! Do you like to go to the beach?
Another exciting thing I did is go to a bibi’s house to make traditional food. Bibi means grandmother in Swahili. Early Saturday, the students on my program hopped on a big bus called a dala dala and drove outside the city. It was awesome to see some of Dar es Salaam on the way. We passed lots of little dukkas or shops where Tanzanians sell fruits, vegetables and souvenirs!
When we arrived at Bibi’s house we greeted her one by one. She was so excited to see us! Bibi lives with many other women in her home. They were already busy preparing food for us. Because Bibi is the oldest, her relatives listen to her for instructions on how to cook. We could see the women cooking over jikos, which means stove in Swahili. Jikos use charcoal, fire and metal pots to cook food. There was a pot cooking on a jiko outside that was so big you would be able to sit inside of it!
It was really fun when Bibi let us take turns helping her cook. My favorite part was when I ground coconut for coconut rice. To do this I had to sit on a stool that had a sharp, round knife attached to it. To shave the coconut, I had to put the coconut on the blade and move my wrists in circles very carefully. It was harder than Bibi made it look!
I also helped make a common East African dish called chapati. Chapati is made from flour, water and salt that has been mixed into a gooey dough. After rolling it into big thin circles, I fried it in a little bit of oil that had been poured on a hot flat plate. Cooking the chapati was very much like cooking a pancake. I had to be careful to flip it at just the right time or otherwise it would burn!
Chapati is really flaky and tastes sweet. It is fun to eat because you use your hands! Usually you pick up another food, like beans, with the chapati and then put it in your mouth. Could you imagine not using a fork or spoon for an entire meal?! It was so messy!
All of Bibi’s food was so delicious. I must have had at least two plates! I learned a lot and it was fun to cook Tanzanian food. Visiting Bibi and her family reminded me a little of my family, especially my younger siblings. This helped me to feel a little more at home in Tanzania! It’s time for class now but I’m looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you soon!