Damn, it's bloody hot! That was my first thought. My next thought was Well duh, I'm in Africa and near the equator. What did I expect?
After about 18 hours on the plane, I finally landed at Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania. The flights were alright except for the second leg from NYC to Amsterdam where I was stuck next to this African man who kept telling me how much he liked to drink water. Like, he loved it. He kept yelling at the stewardess for more water. One cup wasn't enough, he wanted five at the same time. And then more after that. And then he felt the need to remind me of his love for water every time I was starting to nod off to sleep. He also told me that I eat slow, to which I replied 'so?' He also asked me if I was going to drink the wine I had just ordered, to which I said 'yes,' to which he responded, 'I don't like alcohol, I like water.' blank stare.
The flight from Amsterdam to Tanzania was hassle free and I was able to think without being told how good water was. We landed late in the evening so I wasn't able to notice anything about my surroundings as I stepped off the plane other than the fact that it was really balls-sticking-to-my-legs warm. Ahhh where's the AC??....You're in Africa doofus, deal with it. My bag successfully came through like hot curry and I was soon on my way with Charles, my driver, to Moshi - the nearest town to Kili.
Charles was able to teach me 6 Swahili words on the road and he warned me that he would test my memory when we arrived (I chuckled inside, does he know who I am???). The most important thing he taught me after though was mipe bia moja (give me one beer). I was set. As we neared Moshi, I could make out the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro even in the dark. The peak is just a monstrosity booming up into the sky with nothing else around it. Quite intimidating, I must admit.
The Keys Hotel is nice enough, with a quaint little courtyard where you can hang out and sip on some brewskis and a questionable swimming pool in the back yard. No AC in the room, but a fan (thank god a fan!!). It was late but I went down to the bar to order some Tanzanian stew dish that turned out to be pretty delicious. Ate it all while watching 'Black Hawk Down' which was playing on the TV, where a few locals were intensely watching....not the most welcoming movie for an American coming to Africa....Either way, it's a good movie and I hadn't seen it since it came out in theaters back in like 2001. I actually remember the date I was on when I saw it and remembered how it made me want to visit Africa (not because of the violence, but because of the landscapes, of course). I forgot how many (now) famous people there are in that film who were nobodies back then!
Anyways, I digress. That was all last night. Today I woke up having slept (inside my mosquito net) like a baby. Grabbed some eggs and bacon for breakfast, went back to sleep, met a few of the team members, then wandered into town. I must say, I've never traveled anywhere in the world where locals look at me like the way they look at me here. I dunno if it's because I'm white, or because I'm really white, or because I'm tall, or because I'm really tall, but it feels really strange to be just stared at. Not like glanced at, I mean full on watching-my-every-move stared at. Aside from that though, everyone is so friendly and it seems that Tanzanians love American culture. I've gotten a lot of random fist bumps, peace signs, and thumbs ups, which when I volley back at them, makes their faces light up with the biggest smiles. I saw a car that had the words "Michael Jordan" stickered HUGE on the windshield, because hey, if you're gonna put some words in big block letters on your windshield, who WOULDN'T put Michael Jordan?
What's probably impressed me the most is how everyone carries things (balances things, rather) on their heads. What a talent! And I mean everything - grocery bags, picnic baskets, water coolers, etc. I guess it's more efficient and leaves your hands free to do whatever you want (like fist bump a tall American tourist). Can you imagine if everyone in America carried things like that? You'd be at say, Best Buy, and people would be walking around the parking lot looking for their car while balancing PS4s and MacBook Pros on their head. Ha!
Also, who knew 'The Lion King' was so useful! A bunch of words from it are real Swahili words. Hakuna Matata (no problem). Asante Sana (thank you very much). Simba (lion). Rafiki (friend). Props to Disney.