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Career

Why I packed up my life in NZ to move to Africa

Kiwi Sandra Proctor (44) runs a B&B at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro.

Setting up the B&B allows Sandra to be at home while Frank works and Tony is at school.
"I first moved to Africa, to the municipality of Moshi, in Tanzania because the whole idea of it fascinated me.
And now I'm here, in many ways it reminds me of my rural upbringing in Hawke's Bay. It is a beautiful, clean city with plenty of trees. People here grow crops in the backyard and lead a simple life. With a population of about 100,000, Moshi is big enough to grab a decent cup of coffee but not too overwhelming.
I studied resource and environmental planning at Massey University, then worked for the Ministry for the Environment in Wellington as a government policy advisor
for Marian Hobbs, the-then Minister for the Environment.
She was also an Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Overseas Development Assistance) and it was Marian who encouraged me to apply for Volunteer Service Abroad.
I was keen to spend some time living and working overseas and I looked at Asia and the Pacific Islands before accepting the VSA role working for the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments in water governance. The job really appealed to me as it was an extension of what I did back in New Zealand.
Coupled with that, as my first degree was in physical geography, the thought of living in Moshi at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro and close to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater sounded fascinating.
Of course, living in an African country presents its challenges. When I first arrived in early 2006, it was the rainy season and the conditions were so wet it was impossible to drive down the road, which was scary.
There are also language and cultural differences. I do speak a little Swahili – although I understand more than I can speak – but thankfully many people speak English because it is a tourist centre and many foreigners pass through.
I met my Tanzanian husband Frank, a car mechanic, through a friend, who suggested I call him to winch out a car that was stuck in the mud. Later our paths crossed again when I spoke to him about buying a car and we got together soon after that. We had our child, Tony, in 2009 and we married back in New Zealand in 2010.
My role with the VSA ended in 2007, and that's when Frank and I looked at the possibility of setting up a bed and breakfast in Moshi.
Many tourists come through Moshi but there were very few B&B accommodation options and we thought we could offer a more personal service.
We saw it as a genuine business opportunity, which had the added benefit of allowing me to be at home to raise our child.
Our B&B – TemboTamu "The Sweet Elephant" – can sleep up to 11 people. I typically wake at 6.30am and have breakfast with the clients. Most of our guests are out for the day from 9.30am and that's when I organise the cleaners, work on the accounts and bookings, and do any other work that's necessary.
I'll normally pick up Tony from school at 3pm and then prepare for the returning guests between 5pm and 6pm. We might then enjoy a communal dinner or I'll organise takeaways or a taxi for people to eat in town. We try to generate a real family atmosphere.
As part of our service, we also offer customised safaris and climbs. Frank is a former porter who used to carry between 20kg and 25kg up Mt Kilimanjaro every day.
He is very experienced in offering all the guidance and knowledge our clients need. Also, as a trained mechanic, his expertise at fixing vehicles is useful!
On the other side, as I am a native English speaker – Frank speaks good English but it is his second language – I typically deal with most queries our overseas guests may have.
Of course, working in hospitality is never easy. It can generate its stresses, but although it may seem repetitive, I get a real thrill from seeing our guests return from the climb with a huge sense of achievement.
I do hate being a long way from home and I do get occasional bouts of home sickness. Meanwhile, the transient nature of the town means saying goodbye to many friends I may not see again is very tough. That said, I treasure the friends that I have and unless something changes, I see my long-term future here in Tanzania.
I am very lucky in that I enjoy my work. I am very content and settled here in Moshi with my husband and child. I have a real sense of place."
Sandra has made her home in Moshi, a city that reminds her of her life back in NZ.
As told to Steve Landells

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