Saying Goodbye

My time in Moshi has come to an end, and I’ve returned home safely to California. I definitely feel that two months is too short of a time to spend at the hostel and in Tanzania. I settled in so well and it began to feel like home, then all of a sudden I had to leave. It was really hard, but I’m accepting of it because I feel like I’ve accomplished and experienced very much, and I have my niece and graduation to look forward to here in CA.

Last Saturday we had another BBQ at the hostel then went out to Melindi’s and La Liga. One thing I forgot to mention before is the toilets at the bars/clubs and many other places in town. I really should say lack of toilets because they’re merely holes in the ground. Just imagine squatting all the way down to pee in a hole—you better be in decent shape because you do not want to fall in! Before we went out that night the mood was a bit hindered because Peanut, the family dog (one of the Hostel Hoff guard dogs) had a seizure that lasted nearly half an hour. He has epilepsy, so he has small seizures often, but rarely this severe. He bit his tongue and it was bleeding, and one of the guys held on his lap while he seized. It was really scary and sad. Luckily he was okay, but a lot of people feel that he should be put down because it’s not fair for him to go through this without medication. I don’t want him to suffer, but I would also hate to see him go!

Also last Saturday, I developed some sort of rash on my eyelid that was somewhat painful. It was just a small red area and I figured it would go away. But wearing makeup again that night probably didn’t help. On Sunday it was more painful and still red. Lotte, my roommate, let me use some antibiotic and antiseptic creams and I hoped it would get better in the morning, but it got worse. I woke up and it was so swollen, I could barely open my eye. The red mark almost looked like an open wound because there was a dry ring around it and then it became a bit wet. I looked up pink eye and other causes of swollen eyelids, and I think it was just some type of infection. I kept using the cream and doing some cold compresses, and luckily I had antibiotics that I brought from home. The swelling went down after a day, and it completely dried up and healed after a couple days. It was definitely weird, but I suppose I’d be too lucky if I didn’t get some strange problem or illness while in Africa.

One other annoying thing was the frequent power outages that led to cold showers, untoasted “toast,” and dead batteries. But TIA! Perhaps the hostel should invest in a generator…Also, the termites! They’re giant, buzz loudly, and fly around constantly shedding their wings. But I’d take them any day over spiders (or flies that lay eggs in skin).

I met a lot of really cool local people in Moshi, including the hostel guards, Elia and Paulo, and Richard, the gardener who taught me Swahili sometimes. The other day I told Richard I was leaving on Saturday, and a couple days later when he was working he said “Njoo hapa” (come here), and he pulled out a beautiful printed painting that he gave me as a gift to remember him and Tanzania. He excitedly showed me how to iron and frame it, and he pointed out Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Mawenzi, and elephants in the Serengeti on the painting. It was so nice of him and I was so surprised! I wrote him a thank you letter in Swahili and I got him a black and yellow beaded bracelet from the BCC shop so that he can remember me and where I volunteered, plus I tipped him personally (it’s expected to tip all the staff when you leave the hostel).

On Tuesday I told Violette and Jacqueline that Thursday would be my last day at BCC. They seemed surprised and sad. They asked if I will come back to Tanzania. I hope so! A couple progress updates on Quine in my last couple week at BCC: she’s been improving her hand-eye coordination by building tall block towers. She’s also been increasingly good at understanding to close her mouth and wipe the drool from her mouth and desk. She does this both on her own and when asked.



On Friday it really began to set in that I’d be leaving the next day. On Wednesday I had to say goodbye to a group that went to climb Kili, and on Thursday to a group leaving for safari. Too many goodbyes! Also, Thursday was my last day at BCC. In the morning I picked an Angel Card and I happened to pick the blank one. This seemed appropriate because I knew I’d have mixed emotions. There was a lot of rain that day, so it was only Tuma, Ema, ad Richard at the center. I took some photos and got to see Ema’s sweet smile for the last time. I also got a video of Tuma high-fiving me and saying “hi!” The day felt normal but weird at the same time. Toward the end, Tuma wouldn’t eat and was coughing, sweating, and crying out a lot. I didn’t know what was wrong, and his mom eventually came and calmed him down and took him out to their home next door. I was worried I wouldn’t get to say goodbye! Earlier I had told him it was my last day (in Swahili) and that I would miss him, and it seemed like he understood. After lunch I gave Violette and Jacqueline my thank you card, and they really appreciated it. They also gave me a very nice thank you card. Then it all set in and I started crying. They probably thought I was crazy, but once I started I couldn’t stop! We hugged and they thanked me and welcomed me back a lot. Finally I asked if I could say goodbye to Tuma, and his mother welcomed me into their home to say goodbye. I hugged Tuma and said my goodbyes while trying not to cry too hard! I still felt emotional on the dala dala back; it didn’t feel right to be leaving yet! But walking down the dirt road one last time, I still smiled and felt happy. What a hard day, but my experience at BCC has been wonderful. I hope that the mamas will continue to do stretches and other therapeutic activities with the children so they continue to progress.



Emanuel (Ema or Baby Eems, as I call him)

Emanuel (Ema or Baby Eems, as I call him)



Front view of the center

Front view of the center

dirt road on my daily walk to the center

dirt road on my daily walk to the center

On Thursday night we went out to for a goodbye dinner at IndoItaliano for me and Susanna, one of my roommates, who left the day before me. On Friday after dinner Mount Kilimanjaro was very clear, so a group of us went to a place we call Rooftop Bar, which has a great view of Kili from Moshi. We took some photos and admired the view. What a perfect ending to my trip! Later that night we went out to our favorite clubs for my final time, and on Saturday I packed up and wrote a short note in the hostel guest book.

Group picture at Rooftop Bar

Group picture at Rooftop Bar

Wearing the dress I had made!

Wearing the dress I had made!

While sitting at Kilimanjaro Airport awaiting my departure from Moshi, I felt such mixed emotions. Saying goodbye to everyone at the hostel was hard and just didn’t feel right! But that morning I picked the final Angel Card of my trip, and it was “Adventure.” I liked this, because it sums up what this experience has been—an adventure of a lifetime. And it signifies my next adventure ahead—moving out of California for grad school.

Driving to the airport, Mount Kilimanjaro was clear and beautiful behind me. I also had a view of it from the airplane before takeoff. I remember on my taxi ride to Moshi from the airport when I first arrived, we drove around a turn on a hill and the driver pointed down and said there would be sunflowers soon growing in the field below. On Saturday, those sunflowers were in bloom, shining tall and brightly. My favorite flower!

I really wish my time in Moshi wasn’t over. It seems like I was just on my way there. But it’ll be nice to be home. The other day a friend at the hostel was saying he’s getting ready to get home and start his life. Rhiannon, the hostel manager, was present and said to him, “You know that this is life right now?” I appreciated her saying that, and it really reflects on the message in the book “The Power of Now.” Accepting every moment as it occurs and enjoying it to the fullest.

I hope to have reunions with my new friends from all over the world, and I would absolutely love to return to Moshi in the (near) future to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, visit Zanzibar, and return to the BCC center. Perhaps after I complete occupational therapy school, so that I can provide more advanced services to the children in the program. I also would really like to visit more countries in Africa. I highly recommend Hostel Hoff to anyone who is interested in volunteering in Moshi. It’s a wonderful place and I’ve made lasting memories there. Or if you simply want to visit Tanzania for a vacation, please do it! Be spontaneous, just go. It’s a beautiful country with so much to see and experience, and it will give you a whole new perspective on culture and life in underdeveloped countries.

Hostel Hoff Family Photo May (Version 1)

Hostel Hoff Family Photo May (Version 1)

Things I’ll miss:

*chips mayai
*drinking Coke and eating chips (fries) and not feeling guilty about it
*avocado on bread at every dinner
*watermelon, pineapple, and mango with every meal
*the chai at BCC!
*cheap food (cheap everything, really)
*playing cards on the hostel patio
*Konyagi and Karaoke night at Melindi’s
*dancing with the locals at La Liga
*cheap taxis and cramming 10 people into them
*chili chicken at IndoItaliano
*simosas and chapati
*saying Asante and Pole (I’m sure I’ll find myself saying these a lot at home!)
*other Swahili greetings/friendliness on the streets
*Peanut & Butter (the dogs)
*peanut butter and bananas on toast every morning
*Tuma’s laugh
*Ema’s smile
*the sound of the rain
*geckos and the bird I heard all throughout the day (do-do do-do do-DO-do)
*movie nights and yoga at the hostel
*Paulo’s excited gasp followed by “Pole Sana!”
*everyone at the hostel and at BCC, of course, and so much more!

Things I won’t miss so much:

*covering knees and shoulders
*mosquito bites
*cold showers
*”Mzungo!” constantly
*not being able to walk at night or carry valuables
*fear of death as a pedestrian (slight exaggeration here)
*not having a washing machine

Family Photo Version 2

Family Photo Version 2 with Mary

Asanteni Sana to Hostel Hoff, BCC, and the people of Moshi for welcoming me and making my experience in Tanzania unforgettable. Tutaonana tena siku moja!

Caitlin McConnell



5 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. I’m so happy that you were able to experience your adventure in Africa, and I’m proud of you for handling all aspects of the trip so well. It’s nice to have you safely home, but I hope you do get the chance to return in the not too distant future. Maybe fate will indeed allow you to make a greater contribution to the Moshi community after you complete your OT studies.
    Love you!

  2. Welcome back, Caitlin! We enjoyed following your journey through your blog entries. Sounds like your Tanzania experience made quite an impact, and we hope the memories and lessons will continue to evolve and shape your future path and adventures in life. We look forward to seeing you before you head down to SLO.
    Uncle Jon and Jeff

  3. Thank you, Caitlin for your thoughtful and honest blogs. I have really enjoyed reading them and following your journey. I feel like you and your Mum have become my friends!! My Caitlin leaves for Moshi on Saturday. What a shame that you two could not have had at least a few days overlap. You could have been her big sis! But now we have a good feel about what she is about to experience – thank you so much for that! Good luck with the rest of your studies. If you are ever in New Zealand, you are most welcome to stay. X

  4. What a wonderful journey, Caitlin! Thank you so much for sharing these past two months with us. We truly have a sense of your adventure in Tanzania. And, an adventure it was! What an amazing opportunity.
    We’re also equally happy to have you home again. Looking forward to watching you walk in your commencement ceremony at Cal Poly. And, then a couple months later you’re Boston-bound for your next big adventure.

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