Woah! It’s my birthday!!
This birthday is quite big for me. I am turning 20 (no longer a teen!) and I am turning 20 away from home. I’m really close with my parents, and they have been by my side every year for my birthday. My mom would cook me noodles in the morning for breakfast as noodles signified a long life, and my parents would think of some quirky way to make my day special. This year, I am with my 3 new friends alone here in Tanzania, but my birthday was one of the best I’ve ever had.
I woke up feeling really great, and went down for breakfast. I got a super cute card from the interns!! They are so sweet and I almost cried (lol)!!! The entire day, I couldn’t believe that I’m 20. Saying: “I am twenty now” was so foreign to me.
Even though it was my birthday, we still had to work. Today, we had to give a presentation to class at SAUT to recruit students to work on the probiotic yogurt kitchen project with us. So we rode the dala dala and we went to SAUT. When we were giving the presentation, the Professor of the class played a super weird name game. He asked the interns to stand in the front and have the class guess who was who. He put my name last, and so by process of elimination, everyone knew that I was Iris. When I waved to say hi, the entire class sang Happy Birthday to me! It was so sweet!! We gave our presentation during the middle of their exam too, and it was so heart-warming that they were singing so loudly, even though we were interrupting their class. The class also gave me a really cute pouch, which I now use as my money bag.
We gave our presentation, and I was really startled by the fact that the Professor ripped someones exam paper out of her hand so she would listen to us present rather than continue to write on the paper. That was scary! After, we went to go see Mary, the Vice Chancellor of the University, and saw Jacob – a new friend that we met at the party on Saturday.
We checked the progress on the yogurt kitchen on campus. It’s almost built! Everything is coming together and we are SUPER excited. After this, we rode the dala dala back to town. We stopped by U-Turn – a grocery store catered to expats. They have Nutella, cereal, cheese, ice cream, and etc to lure the expats in when they crave a bit of home. We bought some snacks for this weekend, and I saw some peanut brittle. I bought a few packets to share with the staff at St. Dominic’s.
The interns retired to our respective rooms and we rested. I felt really exhausted and wanted to take a nap, but the internet happened and I ended up watching YouTube videos for like 3 hours… LOL
We made dinner reservations at the Tilapia, and so we started walking to the hotel at 4:30. We had Teppanyaki!! It was so good!! We had a couple of courses starting with potato pancakes, shrimp, calamari, fish fillet, and chicken with fried rice. It was definitely so worth and the food was A++.
While we were still eating, some Chinese people started to sit next to us. We didn’t mind at all. I heard them speaking in my dialect, and so I was pretty excited that these people came from the same region as China as me. What are the odds that I would meet a group like this in Tanzania, of all places. I said a couple of greetings in Mandarin with them, and continued on with my own dinner. However, it got really weird a bit after. They started talking about how one of their sons beat his girlfriend, who was a black woman while they fully knew that I could speak Mandarin. It was really hard to listen and I couldn’t tune them out. They were talking about the black woman like she was some time of unworthy object or scum. I was actually really disgusted by that conversation and shocked that people would say those things. I didn’t have the courage to say anything to them, and so, we left the Teppanyaki and went upstairs to the patio.
We saw chocolate cake! Since we are celebrating a birthday, we each had a slice of cake. TBH it was totally mediocre. We stayed and chatted for a bit, and then one of our new friends Luqman came! It was totally a surprise too! He came and immediately bought me an entire actual cake. I couldn’t refuse his Tanzanian hospitality. People here are honestly so nice. Luqman came to celebrate my birthday even though I just met him 4 days ago. He told me that he was looking for a birthday present for me, but didn’t know what I liked, and so he thought that he will just buy me food (I’m ok with this). Luqman invited Colin (the host of the party on Saturday) to come too! So, we had cake… TWICE. I’ve never been so full in my life, and I vowed that I probably will never eat again, haha.
We chatted for quite a while with Colin and Luqman. They are super sweet people and I’m still so surprised at how nice people here are and how they will treat you as one of their own.
Colin also said some really interesting things about the Chinese people’s impact here in Tanzania, in terms of a business perspective. The informal economy is huge here! Colin said that approximately 90% of business is in the informal economy. This includes people selling fruit and gadgets on the market, people offering piki piki (motorcycle) rides, and some people in the service industry. However, the Chines has bee totally disrupting the informal economy because they are bringing in cheaper goods and selling them. This causes direct competition with the locals. Because the Chinese are backed by the Chinese government to come and in do business, they have a lot more power and ability to adapt to the market, and offer lower prices. This totally undercuts the locals and their ability to be self-sufficient in the informal economy. Colin said some really interesting points, and I think I might even consider this topic for my final research essay!
Anyways, today was absolutely wonderful and I am so grateful for Andrea, Nuri, and Samira for taking care of me and making sure that every moment, I felt special during this birthday away from home! Thank you 🙂