I was sitting in the veranda of a coffee shop this morning in Moshi, a town about an hour east from Arusha. Sipping on a double coffee, black, I found myself staring at this family across from my table. By all accounts they were a compact unit, the sort of family that wouldn’t draw any attention to themselves. Mama, baba and their dinti, who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, were sharing a Greek salad platter. The mama generously smeared homemade hummus and baba ganoush on warmed pita triangles, while baba went straight for the feta cheese and tomatoes. Their daughter picked at the salad but favored her slice of chocolate cake instead.
I found myself staring at them because I’ve been feeling a faint homesick of late. Tomorrow will be five months since I was dropped off at the Delta terminal at JFK and boarded a KLM flight to Amsterdam, with a connection to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania. It will be five months since I packed two suitcases and left my family, friends and life back in the States. It racks my brain to think I’ve been living and working in East Africa for this long, all the while knowing that I’ve got a mere seven months remaining. I’m halfway there and it’s all moving too fast.
I miss home. It’s October in New York City. Autumn. It’s my favorite season because the humidity and heat of summer has begun to dissipate, ushering in breezy mornings and crisp nights. It’s cold enough that the pumpkin spiced lattes provide exactly the right amount of comfort, yet it’s not cold enough for you to miss out on a few happy hour beers on the rooftop of your favorite bar. The temperature is just right that wearing a blazer to work won’t build a layer of sweat while riding the subway. It’s Yankees playoff baseball, October magic, with basketball season right around the corner. It’s Giants and Jets on Sundays. It’s apple picking with the niece and nephew and road trips up north to Maine to take in the foliage. It’s walks through Central Park and hikes up Bear Mountain. It’s the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas, of dining rooms full of family and lights strung on streetlamps, of bitter cold nights in a bar with a whiskey to warm the insides. It’s comfortable. It’s home.
But as I observed this family sitting across from my table on a veranda of a coffee shop in Moshi, I spotted a Tanzanian dada across the street walking with a basket of bananas on her head and it brought me right back to reality – that now, at this very moment, I’m home. Tanzania is home because, I’ve realized today, it’s comfortable. It’s mbuzi choma on Tuesday’s after work. It’s dala-dala rides on Saturday morning into town to the Maasai market. It’s bagfuls of fruits and vegetables for eflu saba shillingi. It’s bartering for every single damn thing for sale, including hotel prices. It’s mid-morning coffee and cold mandazi during tea break on Tuesdays. It’s hanging laundry across a line on Sundays. It’s Thursday drinks at the Hole and multiple entrees on Friday. It’s weekend trips to Moshi for hikes to tucked-away waterfalls and swims in a nearby river. It’s kangas and kitenges and Kenyan steaks and Kijenge and Kiswahili. It’s comfortable. It’s home.