Tanzanian Ginger and Other Weird Things in My Backpack

In a facebook Digital Nomad group, someone posted “What are the weirdest things you carry around in your backpack?”

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On one of Laos’ 4,000 islands Don Det with our favorite Spanish travel mates!

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At first, I thought everything I had was perfectly normal, you know like clothes, shampoo, some camping gear… nothing too outlandish. If I was lugging it around on my back from place to place, it had better be super useful stuff.

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Some of the answers on the facebook thread were pretty entertaining. Who would have thought there were people traveling around with ridiculously bulky things like skiis, an extra computer monitor, roller blades, or hand weights (so heavy!)?

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Reading through, I felt slightly smug and thankful about the simple, essential items I limited my bag to. That is, until someone mentioned the spices they brought with them from place to place. It is inconvenient to continually re-buy spices every time you change apartments/cities.

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And then it hit me. My backpack did contain unusual items.

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The first thing was just a pair of hand wraps, or bandages?, for kickboxing. Since I only used them when in Cluj, Romania, it seemed silly to bring them along on a world tour. But they were lightweight and small, so whatever.

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The second item(s) were bottles of spices from Tanzania: lemongrass, masala chai, and garam masala.

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You’ve probably heard of the Spice Islands in Indonesia, but how about the Spice Islands of Tanzania? Again late to the party, I only found out about them after deciding, with my mom and sister, to travel over to Tanzania at the end of 2020.

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Hello, Tanzania! Our introduction to T. began in the economic/business hub of Eastern Africa: Dar es Salaam.

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Because Tanzania was one of the only open countries receiving tourists without restrictions at the time, as you can imagine, both the islands and mainland of Tanzania were flooded with visitors (mostly Russians and Israelis on Zanzibar, and all of Europe, especially the French, on the mainland). And it was especially crowded since we went during the northern hemisphere’s winter. Tanzania sits just south of the equator, making it a sunny, warm escape.

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Because of the great influx of tourists, prices had more than tripled. Although searching around and seeing different areas and living standards proved to be an interesting process, we were unsuccessful in finding a decent apartment in Dar or Arusha. In the end, my family and I stayed for a month at a hostel on a banana farm in Arusha, northern Tanzania.

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Banana Farm Eco Hostel

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(This rabbit hole leads back to the point, probably. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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Staying at the hostel was the best thing, I think. Apartments can be isolating, while hostels often offer daily interaction with both locals and travelers.

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Valentine’s Day with some of the hostel fam.

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I returned to the hostel one afternoon, after shopping at a near-ishby produce market. (which you can read about in my previous post here.) Thanks to my serious love for ginger, the first thing I made on my return was ginger tea with the ginger I had just bought.

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There were three main employees at the hostel, all Tanzanian. There was Veronica, who handled *everything* and was always busy with guests and cooking, and who spoke excellent English. Then there was Olivia and another guy whose name I forget now. xD The guy was in his mid-20s and decided to work at the hostel after being a boda boda driver, or motorbike taxi driver. The pollution from driving had been irritating his lungs, so he made the job switch.

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World’s dustiest road, just outside the hostel. xD

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Olivia was about 21 or 22 and had only been working at the hostel for a few months. Her hours were long and the work endless. But she constantly impressed me with her upbeat attitude and propensity for humor. She only knew a few words in English, but was trying to learn a bit more and was always ready to teach everyone Swahili.

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Olivia is the one being silly~ as usual ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I’m seated next to Veronica

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Olivia popped into the kitchen when I was boiling the ginger for tea. She asked what I was making and wanted ginger tea too. But she looked intrigued when I got out the Tanzanian-made masala chai, which had other spicy spices, like black pepper and more ginger in it. (If you’re wondering, the Germans built ..hm i think it was a railroad? in Tanzania and hired Indians to complete it. Now there’s a significant Indian population living in and influencing Tanzania, hence all the masala.)

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She got excited when I added a heaping spoonful of the masala chai to my ginger tea. I offered the masala to her too, surprised that there’d be another person crazy enough to add pepper and more ginger to strong ginger tea. But there was. Honestly, she was crazier than me. xD

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the well-fed hostel cows, who, whaddya know, love to eat banana trees.

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Often, when she saw me from then on, she’d just excitedly ask, “Ginger tea???!”

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It was a sad day when we ran out of ginger. lol

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I even forced a cup of the ginger concoction on Veronica when she came down with a fierce illness. She also drank it without a grimace at the strong gingery-ness. And what do you know! the next day she was better. But not sure if ginger can really take the credit, hehe.

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Anyway, I still have my bottle of garam masala from Tanzania with me here in Romania. But it’s running out. How ever can I continue to cook when it’s gone? *fake faint*

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Even though there are people carrying around strange and heavy things in their backpacks, those things illustrate the passions that we have and are willing to nurture, despite the extra effort. And it’s worth it. Especially when those items and passions allow us to connect with other fanatics who are crazy in the same ways as us. <3

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Do you travel with any eccentric, or out-of-the-ordinary things? Let us know! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Getting to wash our filthy laundry is always the best thing evrrr @Banana hostel, Arusha, Tanzania
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