Epic Trip Stop 2 – Food For My Mind & Body

After another 9-hour flight, I arrived in Dar es Salaam from Amsterdam on the night of June 23, 2015.  It was my very first trip to the continent of Africa and I had no idea what to expect.  Certainly, I didn’t expect that Tanzania would heal my heart over the next month but that’s exactly what happened.

I spent the first week or so in and around Dar es Salaam, being driven around the city, coming to appreciate Jamaican potholes as mere slight dents in the road (I resolved never again to complain about them – others have it worse), starting to learn a smattering of Swahili…

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“Hii ni ya ukweli,” said every Coke ad in Tanzania…”This is the truth.”  I still don’t know exactly what was the truth…Coke, I guess

…encountering hijab for the first time…

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Muslim women in their brightly coloured khanga, Tanzanian fabrics

…visiting a metal workshop…

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As a Game to Thrones fan, I seriously tried to figure out how I could get this dragon to fit into my suitcase…I still don’t know how I was able to walk away without it

…and saying hello to the Indian Ocean for the first time in my life.

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Two ladies contemplating life while looking out at the Indian Ocean

I went on a walking tour of the city with a nice young man and learned a lot about how the regular Tanzanian in Dar es Salaam lives.  I sampled Tanzanian coffee (though I wasn’t a convert yet)…

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I tried not to eat or drink anything from the street because, well, diphtheria…but I did sample some street coffee and a little piece of a peanut brittle-type delicacy

…walked through poor neighbourhoods…

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Ghetto shoe store…the proprietors buy their goods at auctions of second hand imports at the central market then sell what they buy in their stores

…witnessed part of the source of the city’s water quality problems…

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People living on gully banks indiscriminately dump garbage and waste there…believe me, I could have included more graphic pictures but I’m being kind to you

…stopped in at a traditional medicine shop…

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Things like shark tongue and love potions were on sale

…and went to the central market.

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That’s a clothes auction going on behind me in the central market

Everywhere I went, people wanted to know where I was from since they weren’t used to seeing Black tourists.  I learned a lot that day about typical Tanzanian life that I hope never to forget.

A few days later, I went to Bagamoyo, a coastal town where slaves were held before transportation to Zanzibar for further shipment to mostly Arab and Asian countries.  My heart broke repeatedly that day, for example, when I learned that slavery wasn’t finally abolished in Tanzania until 1922.  All I could think was, “My grandmother was already a young lady when the last slaves here were finally set free.”  Slavery seems like a historically far away event but it really wasn’t.  Visiting Bagamoyo impressed upon me the fact that it really was just the other day that slavery was still a real and accepted practice.

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Slaves, ivory and more were shipped out, while cloth, weapons and household items were shipped in

Over the next few weeks, I would travel to different parts of the country, but while I was in Dar es Salaam and its environs, my consciousness of life outside of the narrow and limited box of my existence started to expand.  In fact, by the time I left Tanzania a month after I arrived, I was already a different person and I know that I will never be able to stuff myself back into that old box.

Meanwhile, my host was nourishing my body.  Turns out, she’s a gourmet cook and I didn’t know.  People, I’ve never consistently eaten so well in my life, not before or since that first visit to Tanzania.  She made things that you only hear about on fancy cooking shows and she made them in such a way where you wanted to devour them, not just admire and be afraid to touch.  My narrow food existence got blown to heck and back and it turns out that I’m a bit of a foodie.  Have a look…

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A typical breakfast for my month in Tanzania…parfait and fruits, and usually I’d also have some toast with gourmet jam and tea
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This is something unpronounceable that we had as a starter at dinner one night. That’s fresh ground pepper on it…I didn’t even know that normal people have pepper mills in their house before that…seriously!
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One night’s main course…I don’t remember what it was but even now my mouth is watering for it
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Dessert one night…she did something delicious and cool with the pear and again I have no recollection of what it was called

We ate like this every day.  Every day!  And she didn’t spend all day slaving in the kitchen to prepare these meals either.  She’s Jamaican but I didn’t eat oxtail, stewed chicken or curried goat one day in the entire month I was there, thank God.  Her meals were well planned, nutritionally balanced and beautifully presented.  By the time the month was over, my skin was glowing, my face was blemish-free and I was the picture of health.  By the time the month was over, I had very little interest in the food I had been eating all my life.  By the time the month was over, I had new food goals for my life.

The month I spent in Tanzania expanded my mind beyond its previous borders in many ways – learning some of the history of the country, and its current affairs.  My body was also nourished in a way that it never had been before and hasn’t been since (I’m still on my cooking hiatus) – I thought I knew what healthy and delicious eating was but I learned that I had not the first clue.

What more could this country give to me?  Turns out, it did have something else to offer.  Something huge.

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