Aloha! My name is Erica and I blog over at To the Sea. I never thought I’d live on the African continent. When my husband told me we had the opportunity to move overseas for his military carreer, I quickly said yes. Yes. YES. I had dreams of returning to Central or South America, where I spent a summer studying Evolutionary Biology in the Galapagos Islands. I loved life abroad. I loved being able to work on the Spanish I grew up speaking in South Texas. I was convinced we’d luck out and get to live there again. Or at least I was willing to take my chances. You see, the catch was we didn’t get to choose where we’d be going. We knew it could have been anywhere. Still, when I received the text from my husband saying we were moving to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania within the month, my response was “You’re f***ing with me, right?” But he wasn’t; and a few weeks later my husband, my 8-month old baby, my two cats, and I made the 36-hour journey to East Africa.
As far as expectations go, I’ve been both pleasantly surprised and shocked since moving here. Before arriving, I was told it wouldn’t be safe for me to walk around alone. “Sure, whatever,” I said, recalling my solo journeys through the streets of Manila, Paris, and Guayaquil. I had always dismissed that advice as paranoia, for stupid people who walk around in dark alleyways with purses and expensive cameras. But when I got here I realized how real the threats are. I constantly hear about muggings, and even sexual assaults, of female expats walking alone in broad daylight, on main roads. I almost can’t blame people for stealing with the intense poverty that exists here. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but it makes poor people in America look pretty well off. It has been truly eye-opening for me, even more-so than I thought it'd be.
I don’t mean to paint Dar in a negative light. For the most part, the locals I’ve met here are awesome and extremely friendly. I’ve been taking Kiswahili classes and trying to practice with them as much as possible. Normally this ends up in laughter, which is never a bad thing.
The beaches here are gorgeous and there are even waves for my husband and I to surf. The surfing community is small, which is also pretty awesome. Unfortunately I can't go to the surfing beaches alone, but my husband and I are able to make it there couple of times a week.
I've been able to find a couple of volunteer opportunities, and I have more in the works. This is probably the coolest thing about living in East Africa.
We haven't had a chance to go on safari yet (because our vehicle still hasn't arrived from Hawaii), but there are a lot of cool animals I can't wait to see just a few hours away. I'm also looking forward to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, if we can find something to do with the baby in the meantime (come visit me, mom!).
I'm optimistic about the next year (or so) that I'll be living here. I know there will be hardships and days that homesickness creeps in and overwhelms me with melancholy. But there will also be moments when the light comes on and I realize THIS. This is why it is all worth it: to learn, to discover, to grow... to not only see what the world has to offer, but to live it.
Thanks so much for writing Erica! Be sure to stop by her blog and show her some love!