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Worlds apart

February 10, 2016

La Chica’s lives are so different. No, that’s not a typo, La Chica doesn’t just have one life, she has two lives – one in Australia and one in Tanzania, and the in between bits are usually in an airplane.  Ask La Chica which one she prefers, and she’ll tell you she can’t answer that question, that each life is so different from the other.

When La Chica is in Australia, she finds it easy to do things.  There is electricity 24/7, fast internet connection, running water, shops within easy reach with pretty much anything she wants to buy, smooth roads, traffic lights that work and drivers that on the whole obey the traffic lights and rules, clean and efficient medical facilities, dentists with electricity and modern equipment, and there is such a variety of food.

When La Chica is in Tanzania it can be challenging at times.  For days on end (most recently for five consecutive days) there is no electricity, so even if La Chica is in Arusha town and not in one of her project villages, she can’t maintain a fridge, have cold milk, keep fruit or vegetables more than a day, and if she’s lucky to still have water at home, the shower is invariably cold.  She uses her mobile phone as a hotspot, and has to put credit on her phone regularly, sometimes daily, and if she’s trying to Skype with people in other countries and someone rings her hotspotted mobile phone, the Skype call gets cut off.  In Arusha town she has a local shop near her home.  They sell water, matches, toilet paper, soap, one type of body lotion, and very little else.  The road to her home is a dirt road which floods in the rainy season, and is very bumpy and rocky.  No one obeys the traffic laws, or the traffic lights, and the crazy dalla dallas (public mini buses) will drive the wrong direction down a road or squeeze through traffic or drive on footpaths if it means getting to their destination more quickly.  If La Chica needs to see a dentist she lines up with twenty or so Tanzanians and waits her turn.  As for doctors – La Chica would rather not be sick!

But the scenery – they are on a par with each other.  La Chica spent nine years living in London, with its often grey clouds, and always low sky.  With its population of 64 million it never felt like there was enough space.  Tanzania and Australia both have big skies – beautiful blue expanses that feel endless, and at night, both countries share the same starry vista.  In Longido, the Masai village where La Chica has her own mud huts, there is no light pollution to detract from the night skies, and she’s made many wishes on falling stars.

La Chica loves the wildlife of Australia.  She still exclaims with delight at the sight of the Aussie animals, whether koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, possums or snakes (she screams at the sight of spiders, though).  She also loves the wildlife of Tanzania.  A ‘day in the office’ for La Chica means a drive to one of her project villages, and she’ll usually spot giraffes, impala, dik dik, ostriches and many birds en route.  Tanzania does have tarantulas, but then Australia has huntsmans – both of them are feared by La Chica!

As for the people, there is much more diversity in Melbourne.  So many nationalities, reflected in an abundance of restaurants of so many different cuisines.  Different religions, cultures, languages – Melbourne is such an example of multiculturalism.  In contrast although there are more than 120 tribes in Tanzania each with their own language, in reality many tribes have assimilated and are losing their unique cultural identities and languages.  Arusha town has a range of restaurants, and boasts a mix of food including European, Mexican and Chinese, but outside of town the Tanzanian food is pretty much standard fare – rice or ugali (corn meal), red kidney beans, cooked green leafy vegetables, and meat.

If La Chica didn’t have her two lives, she wouldn’t appreciate the differences, and she wouldn’t be grateful for the benefits of each.  She certainly doesn’t take either for granted.

And so…La Chica feels she’s got the best of both worlds – she’ll never ‘settle’ for one!


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