My Major Adjustment Issues: Expat Life in Africa

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Expat Life Africa

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a struggle.

You’ve seen it on Facebook, you’ve seen it on Instagram. It’s been weeks since I’ve written a blog post that wasn’t a mandatory monthly recap. I’m drowning in emails from 12 days ago.

Becoming an expat in Africa has not been as easy as I’d hoped, and to be honest- not only is it disheartening and depressing, it’s also embarrassing.

Expat life Arusha

I’m this elephant.

What’s Wrong With Me?

I was in expat in China for FIVE YEARSI lost my passport in Nepal. I was poisoned by a sea urchin on a remote island, had an uncomfortable experience on a bus in Cambodia, and spent one year teaching English in a factory town where I was the only foreigner.

You’d think all of these experiences would mean something right? You’d think that by now, nothing could phase me.

But for some reason, it’s taken me almost a solid month to adjust to life in Tanzania. While things are starting to turn around now, I still have moments where I wonder what I’m doing here, and I want to pack my bags and leave. There are STILL times where I want to lay on the couch and do nothing, or cry in my mosquito-net covered bed.

When I list out all of the reasons I feel this way, it sounds stupid. I literally wrote over 5,000 words about what I was feeling and then considered deleting all of it because I sounded like the epitome of a privileged white girl complaining about a country I CHOSE to move to. Meanwhile, there are millions of people on earth who don’t have that choice and are surviving with much less than what I have right now.

Zanzibar Tanzania

A look at life in Zanzibar

I also worried about offending all of the amazing people who have worked so hard to help make Tanzania a home for Chris and I. The last thing I want to do is make those people feel like I hate it here, especially when things are finally starting to become normal.

But I know it wouldn’t be fair if I just posted cute pictures of giraffes on Instagram and never told you about how I’ve been feeling these last few weeks.

I spent a solid two hours googling expat adjustment issues in Africa and really didn’t find much on the subject. So not only am I writing this to fill you all in, I’m also writing this in the hopes that someone in a similar position will read it and feel like they’re not alone.

Park Hyatt Zanzibar

Chris in Zanzibar

Why I Chose to Move to Africa

If you haven’t already heard the news… I moved to Arusha Tanzania!

Yes, I know I write a blog called Adventures Around ASIA, and I’ve built a brand on living abroad as an expat in CHINA, but I moved to Africa anyway. (Maybe I should start a new section on the blog… Adventures Around Africa?)

My fiance Chris works for a safari company based in Arusha, so we decided to head down for a few months and get some work done.

Chris had previously lived in Arusha for 6 months and thought the adventure would be perfect for us. He lived with his boss in her house, where the office was also based. They’d work all day and socialize in the evenings, go grocery shopping in town and cook big dinners together. They had a private chef who cooked amazing meals, and a driver who was available to take them wherever they needed to go.

Giraffe Center

Who wouldn’t want to go to Africa?!

It all sounded amazing! I’d get to live in Africa, go on my very first safari, and I’d have tons of time to finally work on my blog and my business.

These last few months in Japan, Australia, and the US have been really hectic, and I haven’t had the time I need to work on my blog, and actually propel my business forward. I feel like I’ve been treading water just to stay afloat. I haven’t actually gone anywhere.

But with plenty of time to get down to business in Africa, I’d have no excuses. This was just what I needed to really get things done.

Now I’d be living in the Tanzanian countryside, heading out on safari, helping grow the company’s social media accounts while I worked hard on my blog and my business. I’d have a free place to stay, and finally, stop hemorrhaging money and maybe actually grow my savings instead of depleting them.

To be honest, it all sounded pretty awesome to me.

Nairobi National Park

Spotting Rhinos on safari!

Getting To Africa – A Long Journey

I spent a lot of time, money, and energy getting to Africa. $600 on flights, four days in transit, $100 at an airport hotel so I wouldn’t die of exhaustion, almost $300 in travel vaccines, $150 on visas for Kenya and Tanzania… it was a long expensive road to get here.

When I first arrived in Kenya, I was absolutely exhausted. With three red-eye flights in a row(?!) from Seattle to Houston to Qatar to Kenya, all with giant layovers, four days of travel was enough to almost kill me.

However, our first full day in Kenya was amazing! We went on a safari in Nairobi National Park, stopped by the Elephant Orphanage, and visited the Giraffe Center which actually shares giraffes with Giraffe Manor!

Sure, I was dead-tired and basically unable to work due to sheer exhaustion, but it was an amazing day.

However, despite the awesome safari experience, I was super excited to hop on a 6-hour (very cramped) local bus and get settled in Tanzania. All I wanted was to unpack, catch up on sleep, and finally get to work.

Arusha Tanzania

The amazing view from our budget hotel in Arusha

Nowhere to Stay in Tanzania

The day before we were set to head to Tanzania, Chris received a message letting us know that the room we were supposed to stay in wasn’t finished being built yet. Whoops.

Due to the rainy season being the worst in a decade (seriously), construction was at a standstill and the room we were supposed to stay in wasn’t anywhere near ready.

So, instead, the company put us up in a budget hotel. While it was super nice of them to pay for our hotel room, it was definitely a bit confusing to arrive and have no idea where we were staying or when the lodge would finally be finished.

Tanzania expat life

Chris says hi from the office!

There also wasn’t any wifi at this hotel, or at least not any internet that actually functioned, so of course, we fell further behind. Thankfully we were able to hitch a ride to the office that weekend and at least get a little work done in between turning the barely functioning wifi router on and off every 10 minutes (it’s fixed now).

After three days of working in the office, I was just starting to feel settled. I’d had a day to meet the team. I became best friends with the office cat, and I was loving the incredible view and the awesome open office plan.

However, once the boss got back to town and had a look at the lodge and realized there was no way it would be ready for the next week or two, we all realized it would be cheaper and better if Chris and I headed out to the new office in Zanzibar.

So just like that, our time in Arusha was done and the next day we hopped on a plane to Tanzania’s tropical paradise.

Zanzibar

Hello Zanzibar!

Heading to Zanzibar

The next day Chris and I were sent to Zanzibar where we’d be living in the new office, which is basically just a large apartment where one of Chris’ coworkers lives. We’d get to work from the office, review activities and excursions we send clients on, and enjoy the sunshine on a beautiful tropical island!

Getting to Zanzibar was most definitely one of the craziest days of my life. We waited in our hotel lobby for a solid 45 minutes to finally be picked up for the hour-long drive to the office. Meanwhile, we worked on getting our new SIM cards installed. However, halfway through the drive, we realized there was a problem- our SIM cards weren’t working!

So, we arrived at the office, picked up some bedding (because apparently there was none in Zanzibar), and immediately turned around to leave. We drove back to town, fixed our SIM cards, and waited patiently for almost two hours for a car to come take us to the airport.

Ugali

At least we got to eat some local food while we waited!

By the time the car arrived, we were already running extremely late. However, we needed to run a few errands on the way, including picking up cash from another staff member (who was nowhere to be found when we arrived). We were also given 3 bags of bedding and pillows to take to Zanzibar with us for the other employee.

So here we are at the airport, check-in is supposed to be closed already, and we have multiple plastic bags filled with pillows, sheets, and blankets in addition to our luggage for the week. I was two steps away from a panic attack when the airline grabbed all of our bags, no questions asked, and loaded them onto the plane for us.

Did they mind that we were checking 3 plastic bags? Nope. Did they make us pay extra? Definitely not. Was it a problem that we arrived after check-in had closed? Not at all! #TIA (This is Africa).

Expat Life Tanzania

A rainy site inspection at Xanadu Resort

Our Unexpected Arrival in Zanzibar

When we arrived in Zanzibar we learned that the apartment key had literally been handed over that morning and we were arriving at an apartment that really wasn’t quite ready for us.

Thankfully we had bedding, but there was no internet in the apartment, no food in the fridge, no kitchen implements, not even toilet paper! The poor girl hosting us was literally on day one of her move.

So of course, we spent much of our time buying things for the apartment, getting settled, trying to negotiate internet, etc.

Not only did we not have any internet in the apartment, our SIM cards didn’t work there either. It was a dead zone for every single Tanzanian provider bar one. Great.

Park Hyatt Zanzibar

Welcome to the Park Hyatt Zanzibar!

Our First Day in Paradise

For our very first day, we planned to do a site inspection of the Park Hyatt Zanzibar in Stone Town, and then spend the afternoon working poolside from our laptops. We figured we might even run down to the beach after a long hard day of work. It sounded amazing and I was so excited to finally get some work done.

However, when we awoke we learned that we’d be doing a 1-hour spice market tour and local lunch before we headed to the hotel. Sure… that sounds fun. Why not? Yeah, I wanted to work all day, but it’s only an hour… right?

Lipstick plant Zanzibar

The lipstick plant!

Long story short, the spice market tour was really great, and I had a ton of fun. Except we were there for five hours.

I had a great time, but it was a bit difficult to enjoy the day when I was so stressed about not getting any work done for the last two weeks. I had major deadlines coming up, an inbox overflowing with emails and deadlines closing in on all sides.

When we finally made it to the Park Hyatt, it was late afternoon and I was disgusting. Picture me drenched in sweat with frizzy hair and dirt caked under my fingernails stepping into the foyer of a luxury 5-star hotel. Seriously, I’m surprised they even let me in the door. Our site inspection lasted well over an hour, and by the time we finally finished the sun was almost setting.

So much for the work and beach day.

Zanzibar beach

I had a 5-minute break in the rain where I took this photo!

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

For the next week, the rain was intense and neverending. We had island hopping excursions planned that were canceled daily. We never got internet because it couldn’t be installed due to the rain. We waded through ankle-deep water to try and buy supplies for the new apartment.

It felt like we couldn’t win. We weren’t able to enjoy Zanzibar because of the rain, and we also couldn’t work due to the lack of internet.

Chris and I had our week extended to two weeks, and completely ran out of clean clothes to wear. However, there was nowhere to dry our clothes inside, so our underwear and t-shirts sat outside on a clothing line under the torrential rain for days until we could find a cheap drying rack.

Africa expat life

Our Zanzibar local lunch

We lost power constantly, and the generator had major issues keeping up with the demand. We couldn’t walk anywhere and had to rely on a driver to get food. This meant I also had no control over what I ate, which was typically a large meal of chicken, fries, rice, or bread meant to feed at least 6 people. So much for my diet…

The one day we went to the market and bought some fresh tuna and vegetables for dinner was literally my highlight of the week. After all my time in China, I need my veggies, and the fish was so good I literally almost cried.

African Food

I didn’t take a picture of the stupid kebabs so here’s some nice local food instead

Getting Scammed and Feeling Like a Piggy Bank

On our second night, we went to a food market to grab some kebabs for dinner. Chris and I ended up footing the bill for a party of 6, which was around $75. It took us a solid 20 minutes to negotiate the price, which was unusually expensive because we decided to get one lobster kebab each.

The guys at the stall argued so much that we told them to take the stupid lobster out of our order. They eventually backed down, and we agreed on a price we thought was somewhat reasonable, especially considering we had two locals helping us bargain.

However, when we got home and unpacked our food, we realized our fancy “lobster kebabs” were really just chicken. So these guys had not only lied to us about what we were ordering, they also overcharged us based on a lie. Really??!

At this point, I was absolutely sick of the scams and the Mzungu (foreigner) pricing for EVERYTHING. It felt like everyone thought I shit gold. While it’s true I probably have a higher income than most locals, I’m definitely not swimming in a sea of cash either.

Africa Amini

An incredible meal of kebabs for my birthday!

While I’m used to haggling and overcharging from my travels through Southeast Asia, it was very frustrating to constantly be paying for other people all the time, while also having to negotiate every little thing I bought. Africa is also a lot more expensive than Southeast Asia. Sure, I can afford to pay a bit more than a local in the Philippines, but in Zanzibar?

$75 on dinner for 6 people is not something I’m used to dropping on a daily basis. But in Zanzibar, Chris, his coworker, and I somehow always ended up paying for everything. We were expected to provide lunch, and sometimes even breakfast and dinner for the other employees on our own dime, which was super bizarre, especially since I’m not even technically an employee of the company.

The whole thing really led to a lot of awkward moments during our time on Zanzibar. Every time the bill came, I literally cringed knowing one of us three would have to pay for it. This, combined with my inability to work and the constant downpour was enough to make me go crazy!

Zanzibar Sunset

If only the weather stayed this way…

My Zanzibar Breakdown

After days of rain, no clean clothes, bread and meat for every meal, and no internet, I was close to a breakdown. I spent a whole day drowning in the rain while running errands, only to arrive home to no power and a broken bed.

I literally sat on the damp tile floor of my bedroom and lost it.

I’m so sick of the rain and the mud! I’m so sick of the stupid power going out constantly! I just want to have a hot shower, a bed to lay in, power, internet, and food that isn’t bread! Why is that so hard?!!

I was absolutely done. I needed to get out of this hell hole of an island. I wanted to go anywhere but here.

Here I was in paradise, desperate to escape. I wanted to get out of the rain. To work with functioning internet. To stop having to pay for everyone else’s meals. To have my own space, all of my clothes, and control over my life.

Expat life Tanzania

This is not my house.

Renting a House in Arusha

While in Zanzibar we learned about a small house near the office that we might be able to rent. We were tired of the constant rain and lack of internet and just wanted to be settled, so we asked about renting the house. Sure, the lodge was a free place to stay, but we had no idea when it would be finished, and the idea of living walking distance to the office (and high-speed internet!) was too good of a deal to pass up.

A few days later, we had our house and a plane ticket. Of course, the day after we left the rain stopped and the internet was installed. Because that’s how life works, right?

Regardless, I was super excited to be heading back to Arusha. The rain was less constant. I’d have all of my clothes. My own space. Control over what I ate… and I could finally work and stop spending so much money.

On the way back to Arusha we took a teeny tiny plane which flew low beneath the clouds. We had a perfect view of Zanzibar (which looked beautiful in the sun), Dar Es Salaam, and Mt. Kilimanjaro. I spotted Maasai bomas, Mt. Meru, and my stomach did summersaults sitting right behind the captain in a plane with only 5 passengers!

Maybe Tanzania’s not so bad after all?

Enjoying drinks in Nairobi

Our Cute Little Cottage Full of Mud and Bugs

We stopped by a shop to grab dinner since there was absolutely no food in our new house. When we arrived I was glad to see we had power, but our cute little cottage was surrounded by piles of mud and full of spiders, ants, and THIS THING.

Our white couch cushions were covered in mud stains (seriously, who buys a white fabric couch in Africa?), it was hot as hell inside, but we couldn’t open our windows because they didn’t have screens and the mosquitos were intense. Everything inside the apartment was damp. The closet smelled like it would destroy my clothes if I put them inside. We had nothing to even boil water with.

Once inside the house, I literally sat down on the couch and cried. I had nothing to boil water or cook with. No clean clothes. Of course, our 3G barely worked inside. I was sweaty and disgusting. I just wanted to be anywhere but here.

Africa expat life

This road is NOTHING compared to our hill

Life in the Cottage

The next day we were able to finally head to the office, so we began our walk up the hill… which was now a giant mudslide. Unfortunately for me, the only shoes I had on me were Birkenstocks and flip-flops. I slipped and slid in the mud, punctured my heel with a random thorn, and sweat through my dress in a matter of minutes.

When we finally got to the house my shoes were completely covered in mud, and I had to get the thorn out with a pair of tweezers. I also realized about an hour later that I wasn’t feeling so hot. My throat hurt, my nose was stuffy, I had a headache, and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

Thankfully our suitcases were waiting for us in the office, and I was able to pop some medicine and get to work. I was so excited to finally have all of my stuff back (not just the tiny suitcase of wet and dirty clothes from Zanzibar). I was also gifted an awesome pair of sexy cheetah rain boots to brave the mud on a daily basis.

Expat life Africa

This office cat is my best friend

However, on the drive back to the house, we went to get our suitcases out of the safari truck, only to find that the trunk was broken and our suitcases were locked inside. Yes. Our suitcases got locked in a truck for two solid days. Then we went inside to find we had no water. Our sinks and shower were completely dry. Thankfully it only took us a day to fix that problem.

We didn’t have anyone to take us into town to buy things to cook with, so we were able to do one grocery run on the outskirts of town to buy a rotisserie chicken, which was pretty much all we had for the next two nights. That… and bread with no sauce.

We were finally able to borrow a pot and pan, which was a godsend, and on our last night with no stuff, Chris’ boss’ mother made us a homecooked meal and I almost cried I was so happy. I had soup, salad, and warm chicken and it was literally a godsend.

THIS was Aurhsa last week

The Worst Cold of My Life

As I said before, I was also super sick this entire week. I could barely get out of bed, and the walk up the hill to the office was enough to make me feel feverish. I spent one afternoon passed out on a couch for two hours, and on the next day, I didn’t make it to the office until 2 pm.

I could barely breathe, I didn’t feel like eating and couldn’t taste anything, and towards the end, I started coughing up yellow gunk.

I was sleeping 10-12 hours a night and could barely function. If my symptoms weren’t that of a very horrible cold, I would’ve worried I had malaria or something.

While being sick sucks, getting sick on the road in a country you’re not familiar with is the worst. I didn’t even have a kettle to make hot water, a fan to cool down at night or more than 2 minutes of hot water for a shower.

The worst part was that because I was so sick, it made it almost impossible for me to really get any work done. I panicked as my emails compounded and my blog was left untouched. It had been weeks since I’d done any real work on my business!

Not to mention, all of my medicine was locked in the back of a safari truck.

Tanzanian food

I can make awesome Tanzanian salads like this one!

Making My House a Home

After a week in Arusha, it was finally Saturday, our day for shopping! We woke up bright and early (which was a major struggle for me, considering how sick I was), and hopped in the van to head to town for the day.

We divided and conquered to get everything for our home. We stopped by a staff member’s shop to grab new bedding and pillows. She’d also managed to pick up a few items for us- pots, pans, a kettle and more! Meanwhile, our driver ran to the local market to grab a washing bin for clothes, a broom, a line to hang our laundry and a few other things.

The best part of the day was stocking up on FOOD that we could finally cook! We bought vegetables, juices, meats, canned goods, and even some favorites from home- feta cheese, refried beans, tortillas, and cereal.

Nairobi Elephant Orphanage

The Nairobi Elephant Orphanage

Getting everything set up at home was a godsend. It was so nice to finally be able to make a cup of coffee in the morning, have a hamper for our laundry, and be able to cook my own hot meals. Sure, running around in town all day almost killed me (I went to bed at 9 pm that night), but it was SO worth it.

That next day, I was super sick, so I stayed home in our little cottage all day. Thankfully, I had some spotty 3G coverage, so I was able to get a little bit of work done. I made approximately 5 cups of vanilla tea with honey, worked on two articles that were overdue, and finally felt like I was at home.

Then the power went out.

Expat life Africa

Happy Birthday to me!

Two Days Without Power

At first, the evening without power was kind of fun. We have a gas stove so I was still able to cook us dinner. Sure I couldn’t take a shower or charge my laptop or phone, but we made good use of our candles and watched Halt and Catch Fire until Chris’ laptop died.

But that morning when we woke up to no power, I started to get a bit worried. All the meat in our freezer was now bad. All of our electronics were dead. When was the power going to come back on?

This day was also my 27th birthday, and we were set to head out to Africa Amini, an incredible Maasai Lodge. A girl we hired to come by twice a week to clean and do laundry by hand (no washing machines here!) stopped by, and we left the house key in her faithful hands.

Africa Amini Life

Arriving at Africa Amini

A Birthday Trip to Africa Amini

After a long drive, we finally arrived in Africa Amini, a beautiful lodge with a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. While this incredible experience deserves a post of its own, I can tell you that I had an absolutely amazing birthday!

We slept in a luxury Maasai boma, ate delicious meals, tried our hand at spear throwing, and watched a Maasai traditional dance at sunset with views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In the evening we split a bottle of wine and lounged in our giant bed.

Living life as an expat is totally different than traveling through a place and is full of its own unique challenges. Tanzania is an absolutely incredible country, and instead of appreciating it, I realized I’d been wallowing in self-pity.

Sure, some of my worries were actually justified, like the fact that I had barely gotten any work done in the last month, or the fact that I was struggling to find actual food to eat. But now that I had a house with power and internet within walking distance, I knew things would start looking up.

Expat life Africa

Such an incredible lodge!

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

On our way home from Africa Amini, the skies opened and the rain poured down on us. Of course, I had some major concerns about returning home to my little cottage house.

Firstly, we had an issue getting back to the house because the torrential rain had made the roads impassable for everything aside from the lightest of our safari cars. Thankfully, I had boots, but Chris’ shoes weren’t quite so lucky.

There were workers trying to fix the problem by digging a trench on the side of the road, however, that’s also where the power line is located, which explains why were lost power for two days. I really, really was not confident that we’d have power when we arrived home.

Our laundry line also hangs over a field of muddy grass. I pictured arriving home to zero power, a moldy fridge, and sopping wet clothes, half of which were laying in a pile of mud.

However, I needed to wait until evening to see the disaster that was most likely my home. So I spent an entire day at the office worried about my house, my clothes, my food- all of which were most likely a mess.

Luxury boma

We bought these hanging charms from Africa Amini!

Things Are Going to Be Okay

But guess what: I was wrong!

I came home to a clean house with electricity! The girl we hired had cleaned up most of the mud and bugs and had brought all of our laundry inside, which was laying half-dry on the couch.

Chris and I cooked an incredible meal, hung up our clothes on random hooks and rods (and roof support beams) around the house, and marveled at our good fortune!

We had also purchased a few house decorations from the local Massai community while at Africa Amini and spent the evening finding places around the house to hang them.

Looking around at our damp clothes, African charms, and spotless floor, I couldn’t help but finally feel like this was MY house, and not just some random, damp, cement cottage filled with weird bugs.

Sure, the couch is a bit dirty but it’s MY couch. Yes, we still have the scariest spider-esque thing named Greg who lives under our couch, but he’s harmless and he EATS the other bugs. Of course, the roads are completely flooded in mud, but at least our house is flood free! Yeah, we have to block the giant crack under the door with a piece of wood so scorpions can’t crawl in, but at least they’re not the kind of scorpions that kill you…?

Africa expat life

Chris and I in Seattle before we left for Africa

An Issue of Expectations

When you list everything out point by point, it’s all a bit rough, but nothing I haven’t experienced on my travels before. That’s why I was having such a tough time sharing all of my thoughts and feelings with you here. Roughing it, dealing with the rain, eating less than healthy food, feeling isolated- none of these things are new.

The issue for me, is that I need to prepare myself before I dive headfirst into a situation. Listening to Chris’ experience from three years ago set my expectations in a certain way, and I planned everything around that without doing my own research. While we knew the office had moved to the countryside, we really didn’t ask the right questions before we made the move, and both naively assumed our experience in Tanzania would be exactly the same as what Chris had described.

I’m totally fine to trek through mud, go two weeks without a shower, or head to places with less than functioning internet. But when you bring a suitcase full of clothes you actually care about, and head in with the expectations that you’re going to be able to work all day every day and easily continue your healthy diet and get in shape for that upcoming wedding, having the wrong expectations can really mess with you.

This whole experience really reminds me of when I moved to China for the first time after graduation. I went to Ningbo with the belief that I’d be right in the city with other foreign teachers, and I’d have that cool China “expat experience” I’d been dreaming of. Instead I was dropped off in the middle of nowhere “Factoryville” where I was the only foreigner for miles. It wasn’t the situation that was the problem, but the fact that I hadn’t mentally prepared myself for that kind of experience.

Knowing what you’re getting yourself into before you move to a country is really important. Feeling in control is key for any expat moving abroad. You need to do your research and make your own informed decision before you hop on a plane. Just because I lived in China for five years doesn’t mean I can just show up in Africa without knowing what I’m getting myself into, especially if I have a business and my entire financial livelihood resting on my shoulders.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

A glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Looking to the Future

Now, a few days later things are really looking up. The rain has started to slow down. We haven’t lost power for more than an hour or two. The wifi in the office is (mostly) going strong, and we’re going to try another SIM card that might actually have service in our house.

Chris and I are creating healthy-ish meals we can cook on a stovetop. We’re finally starting to get work done. My cold is FINALLY starting to subside (thank GOD), and our house is beginning to feel like a home.

That said, we do have a few kinks to work out. For one, we still have issues getting to work in the mud, especially considering we can’t find mud boots that fit Chris’ giant size 13 feet, which means we’re reliant on a car to pick us up and take us over the muddy patch… that, or Chris just has to deal with the fact that his shoes will be entirely covered in mud.

Africa expat life

We need a good car for these roads!

We also have a slight transportation issue. Because we don’t have a car, it’s pretty much impossible to go anywhere unless someone else is going there too. We can’t go grocery shopping whenever we feel like it, go see a movie, or head out to dinner at a local restaurant or hit up a bar.

That said, we literally just found a car to rent for $150 a month after the mud clears up. Sure, it’s ANOTHER big expense I wasn’t expecting, but we really do need some form of transportation since there isn’t a live-in driver constantly available this time around. Having some form of independence will really, really make living in Tanzania much easier.

I can honestly not wait to get behind the wheel and have a dinner and movie date with Chris or head out to the grocery store to pick up some necessities. I just really hope the mud clears up sooner rather than later.

Expat life Tanzania

Cheers to Tanzania!

I’m Actually Very Lucky

While these last few weeks have had a LOT of ups and downs, writing this post has really made me aware of how lucky I actually am.

Every day I see locals walking to work in the mud with inappropriate shoes or bare feet, while I have a car that can pick me up (even if I do have to wait for it), and cute cheetah boots to get me where I need to go. While my house isn’t always ideal, at least I HAVE a house with working electricity (most of the time).

I have the luxury to cook healthy-ish meals, work in an office with (mostly) functioning internet, and I have a whole team of people in Tanzania who are here to help me when things go wrong.

I had Chris’ boss who sent us to Zanzibar and negotiated a great deal for the rent on our house. Her mom fed us when we literally had no food in our entire house, and they’ve driven us into town more times than I can count.

Expat life Africa

Chris lookin’ good at Africa Amini

I have Chris’ coworker who put us up in her house for almost two weeks with less than 24-hours notice, despite only receiving the keys THAT MORNING. I have her neighbors, two extremely nice men from Lebanon who cooked us dinner TWICE and invited us to smoke shisha with them almost every night.

I have Chris’ local coworkers who have helped us buy things for our home, find SIM cards for our phones, scoured markets for boots and washing tubs, and helped us carry all of our stuff up the giant hill to our house in the pouring down rain.

Lastly, I have Chris who has literally been an angel throughout these last few tumultuous weeks. I’ll admit that depressed Richelle isn’t much fun to be around, especially when she’s angry-crying on a tile floor in the dark. Chris had all the same issues, anger, and worries as me (minus the horrible cold), but yet he still kept a brave face for me… most of the time.

This month has definitely been a great pre-marriage test for us, and I’m actually really glad it happened. If we can overcome this last month without killing each other, I think we can make it through anything.

Expat Life in Africa

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Now Let’s Hear From You!

What do you think? I’d love to hear more from expats who had a rough start to their move, or any advice from people who have lived in Africa!

As always, if you have any questions about why I moved to Africa, what I’m doing here, or anything about life in Tanzania, be sure to leave me a comment below! I’m always checking for new comments and messages, and I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP!

Oh… and if you ever want to go on a safari, be sure to shoot me an email!

Comments

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

20 comments on “My Major Adjustment Issues: Expat Life in Africa

  1. I LOVED reading every bit of this – thank you for sharing! I had some similar feelings when I moved to India as it was monsoon and the mold and dirt covered the furniture, walls, and closets, and no electricity for days got to me quite a bit. It looks like this is going to be an amazing adventure for you two and I wish you all the luck!! Also, look into an invertor if you can buy a second hand one. They are huge batteries like car batteries that charge up then when the power goes out they keep fans and certain plugs running for as long as the battery lasts (could be a whole day it helps). In India, they are around $1000 brand new, but maybe they are cheaper there and a used one could be less? It’s a lifesaver here!

    • Thanks so much Rachel! I can totally see how you’d have a very similar experience in India. Even a lot of the houses I’ve seen pictured in Goa look really similar to my house in Arusha (the small, old concrete ones). I’ve heard from a few locals here that you can get a small solar panel installed for free, and when you use the electricity you just pay for the electricity. You can get ones that are literally just enough power to keep your fridge going! Maybe we’ll look into it if it’s still a problem. For now, our power usually only goes out for 1-2 hours. Our biggest problem now is that the car we were planning to rent doesn’t work…. lol

  2. I understand the challenges you experienced and actually would have probably just bought a ticket and moved somewhere else! So more power to you for hanging in there and making it to a place where things are better.
    However one point, when you say expat adjustments to Africa, you paint an entire continent with 54 countries with a very broad brush. The continent has many large cities and varying degrees of modern conveniences that offer expats adjustment of varying degrees.

    • I totally agree with you and that’s a good point. I only said Africa in the title and Pinterest etc. because I wanted to catch people’s attention. I’ve also noticed that when I tell people I’m moving to Tanzania, most people think I’m moving to Tasmania…. Yeah. I was also hoping that people who moved to Kenya, Uganda, etc. might strike out when looking for advice on their countries, and may search for Africa instead. I completely get where you’re coming from though, and I definitely didn’t want to generalize. Maybe I’ll go through and make sure it’s really clear from the start that I’m talking about Tanzania. As for booking a plane ticket out- I guess I had spent so much time and money getting here, I didn’t want to give up before I’d even really given Arusha a chance. It’s also been pretty good for Chris’ business, and we have a big staff meeting and trip at the end of May, so we were always going to at least stay for that. We also kept thinking things would get better. in Arusha we thought Zanzibar would be better. in Zanzibar we thought moving to the house would fix things. In the house we thought getting a car would fix things… etc. etc. etc.

  3. Wow, what an experience!!! I really liked reading this post. My (now) husband and I moved to South Korea in 2012 and I think the kind of team building that we worked through together really brought us closer. Even though it sucks so much sometimes, this is like one of the best stories you’ll be able to tell later, haha! I definitely have some of those.

    • I can definitely see how moving to a new country with someone is great marriage practice! Chris and I lived in China together, but we’d both been there for years, and were really used to it. I definitely think we’ll have some funny stories out of this one… eventually. “Remember that time we moved to Tanzania and it wouldn’t stop raining for a month straight and everything was flooded and we couldn’t go anywhere??” hahaha

      • Haha yeah exactly!!! We’ve got plenty of those, too. “Remember when our cab ran out of gas in the middle of a tunnel on a highway in Manila, and the driver made you get out and push? LOL” it wasn’t funny at first, but now it’s like a story we tell all our friends

  4. What a great experience you have shared with us!! Your traveling experience is really adventurous. After reading this blog, I would like to go for a travel around Asia. It’s really inspiring!

    • Thanks so much Karen! You definitely should if that’s what you’ve been thinking about. It’s really easy to plan a budget trip to Southeast Asia, or get a job teaching in China!

  5. having previously lived in ghana for a while, volunteering at a hospital, i can sympathise about bug and power cuts. they day i had a regular shower rather than a freezing cold bucket bath was incredible! Hope things get easier! Tanzania is an amazing country!

    • Oh wow that must’ve been an incredible experience! But I can definitely see how that must be really hard. It’s been so chilly lately I can’t even imagine taking a cold bucket shower! Thankfully I have hot water that lasts about 5 minutes. We’re currently trying to solve our black mold problem (lol) but hopefully everything is sorted soon. Still waiting for that rain to stop!

  6. I am a local here and found out about your Blog through twitter with the tag #Tanzania.So sorry to see you have encountered various problems here.Hopefully you will come to love this nation and I hope you and Chris settle here for a long time as it is so peaceful and even as a bonus you become citizens here (kidding).Best regards!!

    • Thanks so much, Richard! I think our life here will be great when the rain stops and we can finally get down the hill! There’s so much of Arusha I’d love to explore, but unfortunately, we can only borrow the company driver once a week to quickly buy groceries. I definitely want to come back when the weather is a bit better, and I’m super excited to explore when the mud clears up and we can take a car into town.

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