Yesterday I touched down at Kiliminjaro Airport, in Northern Tanzania.
Clad in an old black windcheater with a pink and white “Daytona Beach" design peeling off the front, fleecy pants and Birkenstocks with socks, my entrée was unspectacular even for a Collingwood supporter. I hauled a tatty blue pack containing similar outfits, an assortment of hiking paraphernalia I’d kept since boarding school (come at me Kili!), malaria tablets and six months worth of tampons. Despite the schlep of a journey from Australia, I was a souped up mzungu (white person), raring for it all to begin.
By ‘it all,’ I mean volunteering on a microfinance project in Arusha. I would be living with a local family in a community where illiteracy, access to clean water and HIV/AIDS are prevalent; getting acquainted with a diet of beans and ugali, bucket showers and squat toilets. For more than 80% of humanity, many of these factors do not raise eyebrows, and instead represent reality. Yet for me, the girl from North Bondi who has spent the last six years working in marketing for French luxury brands, this was to be a serious departure.
No morning swims in the sea. No boyfriend. No coffees, sushi or salads. No wines. No hairdryer. No heels. No TV. No credit card. No yoga. No yoga pants. No income. Very limited phone and internet. Only a handful of mzungus. Lots of opportunistic crime. 11pm curfew.
As I disembarked the aircraft and set foot on the tarmac, I performed an impromptu double-handed shaka to those around me and jived (yep) my way towards immigration. My so-called life was 12,000 kilometres away, and I was clueless but pumped for everything that was about to hit me.