Making new friends in Tanzania

I am back in the US now. I was in Tanzania a little over five weeks. I am surprised how tired I was and my recovery has not been as quick as expected.

Following my visit to Njombe, I travelled to Mbozi Mission which is located in a very rural setting in southern Tanzania. There, I selected seven students for sponsorship. Following my visit, my travel companion (Rose) and I started our trip to Dar es Salaam (Dar), Tanzania’s major city on the Indian Ocean. On the way to Dar, we planned an overnight visit with Rose’s mother. The primary purpose of this letter is to describe this visit, during which I had the opportunity to ask many questions, using Rose as my interpreter.

The inter-city bus dropped us off on the roadside in a very rural and isolated area where we were met by Rose’s sister. From here, we walked approximately one mile along a narrow trail (suitable only for walking or a motorcycle) to the family home.

I mentioned in my prior letter that Rose’s mother was the sixth wife of Rose’s deceased father. She is her mother’s oldest child, with two sisters and a brother. At this time, the younger children are gone from the home. None of the younger children completed secondary school.

Her mother (Juliana) has coronary issues and consequently can only work a limited number of hours per day on the small farm. Juliana repeatedly expressed her appreciation for our sponsorship of Rose’s nursing education.

It was a pleasure to meet Rose’s mother, Juliana. She laughed easily and was comfortable answering my questions. I have to say that our visit with her was the highlight of this year’s travel to Tanzania.

Rose (R), her mother (C) and her sister (L)


I learned that each of the wives in their family has her own home and is responsible for raising her own children and providing food and a small cash income from her plot of land. The wives live in two groupings of three houses. There is limited interaction among wives and their families. In the distance, through the brush, I could see two other houses. One of the other wives is the sister of Rose’s mother. I learned that Juliana was married off at a pretty early age, probably in part for the bride price that was received by her parents.

I should note that multiple wife situations are not uncommon in Tanzania, particularly in rural areas, although having six wives is not common. This year we sponsored three or four students out of 18 that came from a multiple wife family. The sad part of such situations is that poverty and lack of money for school fees is part of the package.

I asked Juliana, now a widow, if she would consider marrying again. She gave me a very firm “no” answer. She indicated that she was very happy living by herself in her new home.

During this visit I was able to see the home that Rose built for her mother and also see the old house.


The new five room house


Toilet close to the house


The new house is placed on a concrete slab. The walls are made with concrete blocks. The cooking facility is outside. The new house is quite a contrast to the old house. I should mention that there is no electricity or running water. Water is fetched in five-gallon pails. Charging the phone requires a visit to town and a small fee.

The old house is near the new house. The sides of the old house are constructed from woven branches and dried mud, using dried grass for roofing. As you can see, part of the roof has collapsed and the interior is very dark. This is what motivated Rose to rent land and raise crops for two years while attending school in order to raise money for building the new house.



Rose’s mother at the old house


Cooking facility with Rose’s mother


All the cooking is done outside in a small open building on a wood fire. During my visit, Rose, her mother and young sister prepared a very nice dinner. I watched the preparation and was impressed that a number of dishes were prepared and served hot, even though there was only a single small fire.


Rose preparing a potato dish


Rose and her mother preparing a salad. Note the small solar lantern.


Rose’s mother presenting the dinner dishes


Sitting down for s delicious dinner

With a full belly, I slept well that night. The next day we traveled by motorcycle to the bus stop. We should have taken a photo – two passengers, my backpack, a small suitcase and Rose’s bag. We arrived by bus in Dar es Salaam that evening.

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