One of the more surprising aspects of our experience here thus far has been the proliferation of "mzungu"(Swahili for foreigner) people raising their families here. Naturally, our first concern before coming here was Amelia's well being - how would we ensure her health and what resources would be available to us in Arusha. Now that we're here, every day that passes makes us feel better about our decision to be here with our infant daughter. Raising her in Arusha is not that much different than raising her in the U.S. except for a few small, exceptional differences, such as:
- Cost: although critical baby products such as disposable diapers, wipes, bottles and formula abound, they are not inexpensive as most are imported from South Africa, the Middle East and EU. A package of 64 wipes costs about $7. And a package of 20 diapers costs about $8. If I remember correctly, it's almost double the price. And retailers refuse to embrace the concept of buying in bulk – even for food – and so the unit price never changes! Of course the converse of all this is that monthly childcare cost about the same as 15 packages of diapers!
- Strollers: they are virtually useless here unless you have a cranky baby between the hours of 3pm - 6pm which you desperately need to nap for 20 minutes. In that case, it can be wheeled in laps around your house by Nana. Our stroller has barely left the confines of our house except for a test run on the dirt roads over the weekend. To be sure, Amelia enjoyed the bumpiness but the Snap n' Go will need some serious tricking out to handle this terrain. At least I don’t have to contend with the 8th deadly sin of stroller envy!
- Communal property: if there is a dirty diaper to be changed or a check for college to be written, you're likely held responsible, otherwise your child is considered a public good and available for all to hold and play with. Quite frequently, the African way is to just remove the baby from your arms as if relieving you of the burden of a heavy shopping bag. While initially off-putting, I am starting to get used to it as is Amelia. She truly knows how to play to her adoring fans.
Those are the most notable differences. Oh yeah, and they’re called “nappies” not diapers!