I begun my Duara experience from the busy bus station of Moshi which is the town where many travellers stop by on their way to Kilimanjaro or other “most visited places in Tanzania”. I, on the other hand, was not on my way to any of those places but to a little village located in the middle of Tanzanian countryside.
With my mind occupied with thoughts on how this upcoming experience would turn out to be, I found the bus that was heading to the right direction and squeezed myself into the last available seat. When the bus started its engine and we were about to leave the chaos of the bus station behind, a feeling of excitement suddenly took over and I felt ready to face the upcoming adventures.
After looking outside of the window for approximately 1,5 hours and seeing many flourishing fields and beautiful little villages, the bus driver awoke me from my daydreams by announcing the name LEMBENI – my destination for the weekend.
I jumped out the bus, and besides colorful houses and fields surrounding the place, I saw a friendly looking “boda boda” - driver under the shadow of a tree smiling to me and greeting me with a local language. I returned a smile right away, and used one-of- the-ten- words that I know in Swahili and in order to greet the stranger. At that moment the first impression of the villagers was formed, which was definitely very positive.
After calling my hosts-to-be in the village, they rushed to pick me up from the bus stop and we walked a short while to a lovely little house in the middle of the village. At this point I must say that if some people are good at making guests feel welcome to their home the minute you step in, I would say that it is definitely these people. Everyone in the house gathered up into the living room, greetings were exchanged, and fruit and water were offered to me right away.
Afterwards, my contact person in the house, Mary, also introduced my room to me and explained to me where everything can be found. I placed my stuff in the room and then it was time to get to know the members in this household, which was not a difficult task at all, since all of them (Mary, Mary’s two sisters, 8-year old boy and grandmother) were so lovely and genuinely thrilled that I had arrived there to be their guest for the weekend….
When it comes to the activities that I did during the weekend, I must start from my excursion up to the mountains, which was one of the highlights of my weekend. The hike up to the top was not too hard, the view from the top was breathtaking, and the best part of the trip was that a 12-years old boy (Samuel) was following me the whole way up keeping me company as my unofficial tour guide and making sure that I did not get lost at any point.
Other than the hike I also paid a visit to a colorful food market, went to see a local school where around 600 students study, and took part in some family events as part of my new Tanzanian family.
When thinking about the experience afterwards, I would say that the best part of my weekend was the fact that I was able to learn so many things about the everyday life of that particular family living in that particular place of Tanzanian countryside. The family members showed me how to cook traditional and very tasty Tanzanian food, told me about the roles of men and women in the community, and shared with me some insights of the Tanzanian culture and how it influences the life of the people in the village. All those factors made me feel that I was able to experience piece of Tanzanian culture from within - rather than as a tourist.
"Needless to say it was hard to say goodbye to such genuinely lovely people"
At the end the family members were even saying to me that “now you have relatives in Tanzania, if you ever come back to the country” and that “you are part of our family now and we wish that you could stay here just for a bit longer.”
Needless to say it was hard to say goodbye to such genuinely lovely people, but luckily their smiles and the things I was able to learn from them by staying at their place for the weekend will always stay in my memory – long after my plane has boarded from Tanzania towards new adventures to come.