5 Things to Know Before Arriving to Tanzania

My experience as a volunteer in Africa was great, and if you are planning to volunteer aswell, here are the 5 things you need to know before you arrive to Tanzania: 

1.) Throw Away Your Cellphone:

Okay, maybe not literally, but you may be going into this trip with the same anxieties I had…what if someone tries to contact me? What if I need to contact someone? How will I check facebook to see that my cousin’s cousin got in engaged and is moving to Peru?? I won’t know anything that’s going on in the world! Believe me, I had those same concerns, but when you arrive in the village you will soon learn to forget that irrational need to reach into your pocket every 3 mins. You will actually learn to do what they once said in old story tales…  “live in the moment.”

2.) You Only Need The Minimal:

I was told to bring only one piece of luggage with me, and it couldn’t have wheels. So my only options were a small duffle bag or a golf bag. I chose the latter. I was very pleased with how little I managed to bring with me when I arrived, everyone looked at the size of my bag and asked, “that’s all you brought with you??” At first I was terrified by the thought that I was completely unprepared and didn’t have everything I would need. Aside from a borrowed sheet to use as a blanket (do not forget your own blanket, there will be no hotel concierge to bring you one) I was completely fine and truly learned how much excess stuff I have in my life at home. I learned that having the minimal amount of belongings creates so much less stress in my life. There less stress when there are only two options in which shoes you should wear. So, bring what’s on our packing recommendation list and nothing else!

3.) Prepared To Get Dirty:

Living and working outside was something I had very little experience in. I must admit, before going on this trip I had never been camping. I also had never been out of the country…but that’s beside the point. Needless to say I had no idea what to expect. Our days consisted of digging holes, carrying buckets of wet cement, and laying bricks. By the end of the day, I was sweaty, sunburnt, and literally covered with dirt. And guess what? I loved every filthy second of it. It was so refreshing to not care about how you looked and settle  into well, being dirty. Bathing at the end of the day consisted of taking a bucket of water to a wooden stall, scooping up a cup of water and pouring it over your head. But let me tell you, that cold water running down your back was probably one of the most refreshing things I had ever felt.

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4.) Jump Outside Your Comfort Zone

People laugh when I tell them I performed an acoustic cover on stage of “We Are The World” by the late Michael Jackson in a Maasai village, but for me it was one of the scariest things I have ever done.  Stage fright has been a friend of mine for my whole life so when the idea of me performing a song for the village I immediately wanted to go hide in the 10 foot hole we had just dug. But after much needed support from the other volunteers I waddled my way up there and performed. Who’s to say it was any good (it honestly wasn’t probably), but I was proud of myself. So take this opportunity to not be scared, to not overthink your fears, to get outside your comfort zone.

5.) There is Beauty in the Breakdown:

I’m not going to lie and say everything was perfect; there were moments where people had to take a second to take a walk, breathe, and shed a few tears. We called them breakdowns. And everyone had at least one.  I woke up in the middle of the night to loud whispering and everyone hovering over one of the volunteers bed. I later learned that the volunteer had woken up to a bat crawling in her hair.  This story is not meant to scare, but to prepare you that everything will not go as plan and there may be times where you just need to hug another volunteer and sob on their shoulder, and that’s okay. Go into this trip not expecting anything, because everything you are expecting will most likely be entirely different…and that’s the beauty in it