If you are looking for a truly off-the-beaten track weekend trip when volunteering in the town of Moshi, Tanzania, look no further than this extraordinary cultural homestay experience. Two-times education volunteer Marije recently returned from host ‘Anna’s’ home and shares her thoughts on this unique and special opportunity.
Who do you stay with during this cultural homestay?
Earlier this year I spent two days and one night in the home of Anna, an incredible woman who is part of the African Impact Foundation’s Women’s Group in Moshi, Wakipa. This inspiring group of Tanzanian ladies came together a number of years ago to support each other’s entrepreneurial spirit and provide a platform to earn a shared, sustainable income. Using their skills, the women of Wakipa form a cooperative and as a volunteer in Moshi, we help them along the way. Aside from their sewing and catering business, the women of Wakipa open their homes to us for a once-in-a-lifetime culturally-immersive experience.
I first saw the cultural homestay opportunity in the ‘Trips and Tours’ folder at the volunteer house and, of course, was immediately interested as I had spent time working with the ladies during my daily volunteering. But, this was completely different and worried me a little bit. I didn’t know what to expect and it seemed completely out of my comfort zone.
Those thoughts were completely shattered by the time I finished my stay at Anna’s – I enjoyed every minute of it!
What my cultural homestay experience was like
Anna (my host) and Sunlight (the Chairperson of Wakipa), picked me up from African Impact’s volunteer house on Saturday morning, and together we got a dala dala (local bus) straight to Anna’s home. It costs 400 Tanzanian shillings on the dala dala, which is about 15 Euro cents. When we arrived, I was shown around Anna’s home, which is small, but has a lovely little veranda outside. She also has a little farm with cows, goats, pigs and chickens, as well as a small garden with vegetables and a couple of banana trees. In the middle of the house there was a living room, with two bedrooms either side of it. I was to sleep in the room on the right, which had a nice, wide bed (and mosquito net, of course!), and Anna was to sleep in the room opposite.
For lunch that Saturday, we prepared food together, which was a lovely experience and meant I was able to taste some traditional Tanzanian dishes. Before we started cooking I got a chitenge material (traditional fabric covering your legs so your clothes don’t get dirty!) and a headband to cover my hair – something most women wear here. We then cut and cleaned the green bananas that Anna had bought earlier and boiled them with chicken and vegetables in the pan. Most of the time we were preparing the food on the verdana outside, so everybody who walked by Anna’s house said “hello” to me. It was definitely a very authentic experience!
As the food does take a while to cook, Anna invited three children from the neighborhood (who could speak English very well) over to meet me. We laughed a lot during that time and they asked me a lot of questions. It was great to be able to ask them a lot of questions about their culture too, so it was certainly a two-way learning experience.
After lunch, we took a walk around the neighborhood and bought some flour for making chapati’s in the evening. Chapati’s are very common in Tanzania so you must try one if you visit! When we arrived back home, we began to make the dough – believe me, it is a lot of muscle work! Later on, we fried the chapati in a frying pan. It takes about two hours to make them, but they’re worth it. Delicious.
24-hours living a truly Tanzanian lifestyle
On Sunday morning, Anna woke me up at 9 o’clock and gave me a warm bowl of water to wash with. For breakfast, we had fresh milk straight from her cow with powdered chocolate and a lot of scrambled eggs from her chickens. All the meals were so great – Anna did a very good job of making sure I was stuffed after every single meal. After that, we did the dishes together and already began preparing lunch! We cooked rice, fried green bananas, made some local porridge (called uji) and of course, threw in some chicken.
The entire cultural homestay was amazing!! I was Anna’s first guest and she did a wonderful job. She made me feel very welcome and the language barrier wasn’t too much of a challenge as the three children helped us translate anything we didn’t understand.
I would recommend that everybody does this cultural homestay experience as you really do feel like you are living the life of a Tanzanian for 24 hours.