I had my first week back in Moshi, Tanzania after nearly 3 years. This small, dusty urban town has an energy that belies its size with cab drivers honking, bus attendants vying for customers, and curio shop owners calling out to foreigners. It’s been great walking about while being recognized and welcomed by my local friends, especially after so much time has passed.
My first day into town, I thought to myself, “I wish I still had Alfred’s number.” Alfred has been my dependable taxi driver who has always managed to find me every time I visit Moshi. Later that afternoon while maneuvering through crowds of people and cars, I hear behind me, “Hello, my daughter. It’s Alfred!”
I instantly knew it was “my” Alfred. Turning, we met with our arms wide, and, grinning from ear to ear, we embraced as old friends. Though he had started as simply a cab driver on whom I could rely the first time I visited Moshi, he had joined the network of people I consider family in Tanzania.
I’d been to Alfred’s house for dinner a few years back. A humble one bedroom home that sleeps he, his wife and four children! The closeness of the family is palpable and sweet; I felt no cultural divide between us.
When he learned I was headed to Shukuru’s pilot project village, Sanya Juu, the next day, he insisted his daughter, Franciska, accompany me. “It’s better for you to have someone with you on the daladala (the local minibus) when you are traveling far away to the village” he said.
Francisca, whom I had never met prior to this trip because she was attending secondary school away from home, joined me as we set off for what was theoretically a 25 kilometer ride. I later learned the 2+ hour journey is really 50 kilometers! Franciska was the perfect traveling companion.
Petite and generous, she looks younger than her 17 years. Between her simple but careful English and my rusty but returning Swahili, we managed to converse effortlessly. Throughout the trip she kept a watchful eye on me and my belongings.
While waiting for the daladala to depart back to Moshi at the end of the day, Franciska suddenly hopped off the bus and returned with a handful of snacks. “You have not eaten all day! You must eat!” she said. I insisted she eat instead and offered to reimburse her. “No, no, my father gave me money to make sure you do not go hungry!” she maintained. As we ate together on the daladala, I was humbled by her nurturing generosity.
Franciska has been such a gift in just the past week helping me translate when I find myself challenged, or navigating our way through the village where every dirt road looks identical. She is a promising young woman who will be starting college soon and hopes to be a successful business leader in banking. After some discussion, we agreed: she would be Shukuru’s new Tanzanian intern.
Great start to my first week back!