After getting to Moshi a week of burr bliss ensued. We left on a Monday and spent the entire day sifting between modes of transportation. Meghan’s friend, Deo, came to get us from the bus station. We stopped for some grub before heading the to hostel to meet the other volunteers. Dinner was accompanied by conversation between new and old friends and our arrival at the hostel was filled with smiling faces and a guitar being passed around. As I settled into our room I remember reflecting on the day and thinking how strange it was to feel so happy. We had essentially done nothing significant that day, but some weight was removed the minute we left the island. Maybe it was the travel bug setting in and kicking up the dust from the past few months. Maybe the reality of Zanzibar didn’t match the hypersensitive memories that manifested within the past year.
Whatever it was, I was glad it was happening. Moshi is beautiful. It is a small town near the base of Kilimanjaro, equal parts hot and cool, and on a good day Kili comes out from behind her clouds. Mainland culture was a breath of fresh air compared to the sometimes claustrophobic life in Stone Town. We freely walked the streets without being harassed. People honestly just had better things to do than involve themselves with us. We found the famous Union Cafe on our first day and indulged in milkshakes and chocolate cheesecake. We made a fool of ourselves trying to figure out which daladala would take us back to our neighborhood. The lady selling phone credit on the corner knew us by the second day and always alerted us when our daladala was coming our way.
One of the trips returning from the city resulted in our daladala breaking down immediately after we hopped on. We rolled backwards downhill and into the round about, pressed uncomfortably against our fellow passengers, and laughed uncontrollably about how we were positive everyone was blaming us for breaking the daladala. I made everyone laugh by jumping out of the back window when we finally arrived at our stop. We made friends with a Tanzanian woman and a german teenager walking into town one day. Our new friend was so excited that we knew Swahili that she walked 20 minutes out of their way to show us where the market was. I started learning Maasai from her. We made friends with the troupe of ladies selling fruit at the market’s edge.
We spent time everyday at Msamaria, a center for street children. The children were full of life and beauty. There are about 60 children who come to the center and 30 stay there full time. Most of them have sponsors to help pay for their school fees, but the few who don’t stay at the center all day. Volunteers flow in and out so the kids usually don’t lack in people to play with, but the few adults who run the place are the only stability they have. I made good friends with a handful of the kids. We learned, played, and even danced. We were invited to come back to the center in the evening to pray the rosary. One of the elders had actually spent his life at Msamaria and stuck around because he knows the kids need good role models.
I talked to him about how the biggest problem for the kids is food. Without enough food their studies are in vain and they can’t grow and develop, mentally and physically. They can have as many volunteers come through the doors as they can fit, but without the resources to buy food, the kids won’t eat.* He said the second problem for the kids is the lack of stability. Volunteers who come and spend time with the kids, make a small impact, but it is rarely lasting. Since we are here until May, we were told that we could help teach the kids through our lives. Creating relationships with the children and maintaining them would impact the kids in a way they aren’t used to. Showing them how to develop goals and work to achieve them is vastly important. We promised them we would return for Christmas and bring the biggest fish we could find in Zanzibar with. Unfortunately, money and time might keep us from making it back for the holidays. For now, I’ve sent a letter for the kids through a friend who is traveling to the area this week. (Thanks, Q, if you’re reading this) I really do hope to see these kids again and see their faces when we show them the biggest fish we could bring.
Moshi has my heart.
*Shameless plug. If you’re interested in learning more about Msamaria and possibly donating to provide food, please let me know. Facebook or email, email@example.com