Just Say Yes: #OffTheGrid in Mbeya

Hey world,

As I mentioned in Sunday's Dear World letter, I took an absolutely spontaneous trip to Mbeya this past weekend -- meaning I found out and decided less than 45 minutes before the car was leaving that I was in!

---

The thing about my travel style is that I am almost never spontaneous. When I travel, I like to have everything researched in advance. I like to know where I want to go and what I can do there and what the cost should be and what I can expect. I like to look at websites and read reviews and travel blog posts and paint a mental picture before I see it for myself. Because of this, I often find myself to be the Trip Master.

This past weekend turned all of that on its head.

The first reason was that I was not the Trip Master. The second was that I thought to myself: what if I don’t plan for a single minute? What if I don’t google anything on my phone? What if I just let plans find me, and live on a whim for a couple of days?

So I did just that.

As a result, I found myself lounging by a poolside at sunset, sitting on a balcony listening to birds wake up, wandering through a coffee plantation, skipping rocks in a stream, hiking Mbeya peak (including a not-so-brief moment of bushwhacking), carving my own chicken for dinner, attending birthday festivities for a person I’ve never met, and going hours at a time without so much of a glance at my phone [the result being a shortage of pictures, but I took a few good ones!].












Mbeya, see you again (hopefully soon)!

This trip was another great reminder to unplug and go #offthegrid, but also to let my travel adventures create themselves.

The motto of the weekend: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

Xoxo,

M

Dear World #4

Hey World,

It's time for the 4th installment of "Dear World!" 

Below is both my letter from the last week, and a guest letter coming from New York!

Hope you had a great weekend!

--------------

Marisa R.
Iringa, Tanzania
August 24th, 10pm
Dear World,

Thank you for this Tinga Tinga themed painting hanging in the Vehicle Registration Office at the Iringa Police Station for making me laugh hysterically during a particularly grueling step of the Tanzanian driving license process on Monday. This painting has it all; and that's what I love most about it!
Snakes on a Plane's prequel: Snakes in the Street!
(obviously soon to be beaten with a stick)

Thank you for spontaneity. I'll be posting in the next day or two more about my impromptu weekend trip, but it always seems to be the case that one great thing leads to a handful of other great things. Being spontaneous has gone hand in hand with trying new things, and I haven't regretted anything I've tried yet!

Thank you for cheeseburgers. Did you know that Iringa has everything you need to make a delicious cheeseburger?! - so thank you for well-stocked stores and butchers who know what people need to be happy. I could live here forever and be a happy cheeseburger-consuming woman! 

Finally, thank you for mountains. Thank you for beautiful views from your peaks. Thank you for beautiful flowers on your slopes. Thank you for challenging me in the best way possible. Thank you for changing up the monotony of flatness. You are Earth's best feature.

xoxo,
M
------------------------------------

Felicia F. 
Auburn, NY
Auburn 20th, 2014

Dear World,

This could not be a more perfect time to thank you for all that you have provided me and my family. While we have been through our ups and downs, we have always had the necessities we needs to get by and the support and love of one another. 

While I always wanted to be the person who could make a change in the world, I feel that I have learned these past few years that if I focus on myself and being the best person I can be, in return I will make in impact on people’s lives in my community will have a trickle-down effect, one day possible making an impact on you; however small or large it may be.



This past year I have enjoyed learning more about our environment and what I can do to help change the negative impacts individuals are making on it. I have really focused on giving back to the individuals who need basic resources; such as the children in the Philippines. Thank you to everyone in my community for being so generous. We were able to put 468 pairs of flip flops on the bottom of the feet of children who truly needed them.

“Nothing is impossible, the word is ‘I’m possible’!” – Audrey Hepburn


-------------




Reminder: 
If you would like to submit a "Dear World" letter, you can email it in with a picture to tcmtgc@gmail.com anytime during the week! 

Pushing Limits: Overs, Bowlers, & Wickets

Hey World,

As I've discussed in previous posts, I've really been pushing myself this year to keep on trying new things. So far I've brought myself to become a kickboxer, I ran a 5K after just 9 days; I gave my first public speech and tried riding a hydro-bike. Some of these were huge accomplishments and some of these are hardly notable, but the key thing is that for each of these, I had never done them before.

One thing I think is key to finding happiness over and over again is to introduce yourself to new things, to find joy in new experiences, and to push your limits and widen the realities in which you're faced with day-to-day.

And while I'm in living in Iringa I want to have no shortages of new experiences, therefore when I was asked last weekend if I wanted to go and play cricket for a few hours, I obviously said "yes"!

Scenes from behind the wicket: I was waiting for my turn to go up to bat

It started quite abruptly: I walked down to the cricket field with B (who has played before but has limited understanding/skills) and we were split - one to each team, and immediately I was expected to play outfield.

It was slightly traumatic; some of the cricket guys really wail at the ball! I quickly realized wearing sunglasses was a terrible idea. On the other hand, I was thankful to be wearing sneakers. I was also thankful that I never yelped anytime I got hit with the ball (at least 5 times).

Anyways, the good thing about diving headfirst into a half-competitive, half-just-for-sh*ts-and-giggles game with a bunch of guys is that they:

1) assume that you'll figure out what to do 'naturally'
2) yell when you aren't 'naturally' doing what you should be
3) tell you what you should be doing (ie: the rules of the game)
3) don't hate you when you (still) don't know what you're doing
4) give copious extra chances for 'practice'

So after a couple of hours, I can confidently say that I understand approximately 35% of the game of cricket -- with an extremely minimal understanding of what happens when I (in particular) go up to bat, or when anyone with a bat begins running frantically between the two posts.

However, I can say with 100% confidence that I'll be back to play again next Sunday -- it's such a great opportunity to meet a unique crowd within Iringa town, spend some down time outside and unplugged, and of course, keep learning something new!

What new hobbies/experiences/tasks have you started exploring recently? I've got a couple more in the works [both cooking related] that I'm really excited to share soon!

xoxo,
M

Dear World #3

Hey world,

How is it Sunday again already? The weeks just seem to be flying by -- next weekend will bring with it my one month in-country anniversary!

Anyways, it's time for another Dear World letter! As a reminder, I would love to share your Dear World letters, so if you're interested, just email me your letter + pictures to tcmtgc@gmail.com and I'll post it with my letter for the upcoming week!


---------

Dear World,

Thank you for warm greetings. For sincere handshakes and shoulder bumps and high fives and show-all-teeth smiles. Thank you for sincere questions about how I woke up, my home, my family, my day, and my work. Thank you for people who care enough to ask every time we meet.

Thank you for adorable children in track suits. Thank you for energies and feelings and conversations that transcend the spoken word. Thank you for the many children that make my heart explode every time I find myself in Ipogolo.

Heart explosion #1
Heart explosion #2
Heart explosion #3
Thank you to my core: for putting up with increasing intensity + time crunch workouts -- in just three weeks I can now do 10 minutes of crunches without stopping or my back hitting the floor! Thank you for allowing me to push my limits and not break myself in the process.

Thank you for things that comfort: a grilled cheese sandwich dipped in buffalo sauce; a warm comforter to tuck me in at night, a song that reminds me of good memories, for messages from friends that say 'I miss you'.

Finally, thank you for the warm sunshine that wakes me up slowly in the mornings. And the warm sunshine that warms me up after a knackering few hours in the office. And the warm sunshine that greets me on my walk home from work, and reminds me that the day is not yet over. It's amazing what a hot ball of fire that lives 92 million miles away can do.



xoxo,
M

The Big To-Do: My Top Travel Locations

Hey World,

Now that I've got a steady income and an allotted amount of vacation days per annum, it's time to start looking at the next twelve months (before my benefits start over again) to see where I want to go, what I can afford, and how I'm going to maximize my vacation without comprising giving my job 150%. 

It is my hope that I can take anywhere from 4-6 different trips during a year, each for about 1 week. This would help me distribute the days I'm not at work/in the country across time rather than take longer breaks -- but it's also possible that it may be more beneficial to my work/life balance to take longer breaks less frequently.

Regardless of how it happens, I've come up with a list of destinations that I really want to visit in the next couple of years -- all of which are countries that I haven't been to yet, and which I think are reasonably easy to get to from Tanzania.


On the Continent:
Burundi
Malawi 
Mozambique
Zambia / Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls)
Ethiopia
Somaliland 
Madagascar

In Europe: 
Switzerland
Turkey 
Italy 
Portugal
Greece
Germany

Other:
Azerbaijan


This list, of course, does not guarantee that (all of) these countries will be visited by me in the somewhat near future, nor does it exclude the very real possibility that I may find myself going elsewhere!

However, the mock calendar is being put together now and it's with crossed fingers and toes that I can knock off at least 5 of these countries in the next 11 months!

I may or may not be making an announcement soon to elaborate ;)

If you could go anywhere in the world this year, what countries would be at the top of your list?

xoxo,
M

Beautiful Erosions: Isimila Stone Age Site


Hey World,

After two whole weeks in the confines of Iringa, it was time to book out the car for a few hours, turn the phone to airplane mode, and go exploring!


My first mini-adventure was a solo trip to nearby Isimila Stone Age Site, located just under 20KM outside of Iringa towards Mbeya -- just follow the major road until you see the brand new sign, then take the first left (if it looks like it couldn't possibly be the entrance...that's definitely it)!

After a minute of driving on the path, you'll see this sign and know you're on the right track!
After a junction where it looks like there are pillars/entrance to the left, continue straight and go down a bumpy, bumpy road until you reach this office. Inside you'll pay the entrance fees -- it's 2,000TsH for residents and 20,000 for non-residents. 
No, that's not a path for billy goats. The first step to seeing the site is to climb this!



And after a hodge-podge tour through the "museum" and a short hike, you'll finally find yourself here!

Hi, from Isimila! 



Notice anything strange in this photo?

How about now? 

Despite traveling through the site with a guide (who I gave 5,000Tsh at the end, but you can pay/tip whatever you feel is reasonable), you are still totally free to climb around, touch, and explore all of the rock formations -- which is awesome!

Moreover, your guide is there to remind you that you are passing through a place which has been inhabited by man for over 300,000 years. THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS! As I was walking on unpaved paths and looking around at the natural wonders, I couldn't help but reflect on the similarities we share with generations upon generations of people whose stories we will never hear.

All in all, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. The tour itself took about an hour and a half, and I allotted about 30 minutes to drive each way to/from Iringa, which meant the whole shebang took less than three hours out of my weekend. Though Isimila is not a place I would come regularly (I thought it was more of a solo hike place -- definitely not true!), it was well worth my time this past weekend, and definitely would be a great place to return to with friends to take some fun photos!

Now that I have Isimila under my belt, I'm looking into a couple other mini-adventures I can take in the next few months, including a game park, a national park, and a nearby farmhouse/spa.

Have you been exploring your local environment? Find any real gems? Sometimes the greatest places are closer to your backyard then you could have imagined :)

xoxo,
M


PS: A Path Unpaved is now on Facebook! You can 'like' it here to know when new posts are published!

Dear World #2

Hey World,

I'm so excited to share with you the second post in my Dear World series, as I have a great submission going up today alongside mine -- coming all the way from Belgium! I think her letter is absolutely wonderful, and I am so thankful Silke chose to share it!

As I mentioned last week, anyone is welcome to submit their Dear World thank you letters; you can send it in anytime to tcmtgc@gmail.com! I look forward to more letters in the coming weeks :)

And without further ado:

--------

Marisa R.
Iringa, Tanzania
August 10th, 2014

Dear World,

Thank you for spices. A garlic, pepper, and a pinch of salt kind of girl, you opened my eyes this week to cumin and paprika, cardamom and coriander. As a result, I was able to make a delicious doro watt + a couple other Ethiopian dishes for my first ever dinner party, and it was a smash hit!

Thank you for people who have the beautiful capability to create with their hands -- to the seamstress who made me a wonderful comforter (which you can see here) to the tailor who is in the process of making two beautiful work-appropriate skirts for me, and the many other fundis here and elsewhere that put things together, keep things together, and innovate new ways of the aforementioned. I am envious of your abilities, and cannot thank you enough for sharing them with the rest of us.


Thank you for crickets. No matter where I am in the world, I feel more at ease when nature can be the only soundtrack to my REM cycle.

Thank you for the serenity I feel here in Iringa. It's a comfortable calm that has allowed me to acclimate to my new home in just two short weeks. It is a gift I wasn't sure you would give me, but I am thankful to have received it.

....but also thank you for the desire (and ability) to wander, and to once again be surrounded by those who are continually planning the next great adventure. I am looking forward to where the path will take me in the next couple of months -- both near and far.

Finally, thank you for samosas -- they have created an insatiable appetite for all things triangular and fried. Despite an imminent weight gain, I will love you just the same. 

xoxo,
M



------

Silke L.
Tienen, Belgium
August 4th, 2014
01:50 pm

Dear World,

Thank you for opportunities to learn. About you, other people and myself. For the books, people, mistakes and minds that empower this never-ending process.

Thank you for travel, for the strangers I meet on the way and the moments I share with them. For the strangers who become friends and for being able to pick up right where we left off, anywhere, anytime.

Thank you for lemon crisp biscuits and tea, for long summer nights and for family to share both with.

Thank you for possibilities, for unwritten letters, undiscovered languages, unread books, unseen places and not yet met people and for making me look forward to all of those.

Thank you for the sudden engulfing feeling of happiness that puts a goofy smile on my face when I, again and again, realise how beautiful you are.


(This picture was taken from my flat in Ghent on a rainy, but sunny day)

Welcome to My Iringa Abode

Hey World,

I've been waiting to post this until my comforter arrived, and since I picked it up this afternoon, I can finally share pictures of my new home with you!

My roommates and I will slowly make changes and updates parts of the house, but even as is, I think it's pretty darn great.

Karibu nyumbani (Welcome home)!

xoxo,
M

----------



Welcome to our sun room!


Living and dining rooms

Fireplace & WiFi wires :)



My room's the one at the end!

Kitchen




Bathroom
Mood lighting in the bathroom; the light's burned out for the moment 

My bedroom
My fancy new handmade comforter!




and not at my house, but where you can find me about an hour a day -- HOME GYM!