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Travel Lesson Learned: Tanzania, Africa 1969

Although the following example of a “lesson learned” occurred 44 years ago, the same principle holds true:  If you are travelling in a third world country or remote area of the world, do your research about any products that might not be readily available – and pack accordingly if you need these items while away from home.

In 1969 we moved to Tanzania, Africa, where my father was working for Caltex (a joint venture between Texaco and Chevron).  I was 6-months old and my brother was 18-months old.  Although Tanzania was beautiful, raw and exotic, it wasn’t an "ideal" living environment for westerners in 1969.

My father’s company provided us with housing, albeit basic.  They also provided us with armed guards (think large machetes) who circled our house 24/7 because the political situation was erratic, unstable and dangerous due to Ugandan rebels.  Caltex also provided us with a maid who came every day, all day.  Her primary job was to clean the abundance of centipedes that crawled up through the tile flooring into the house.  This was a problem because my mother had two babies who spent much of their time playing on or near the floor.

By the time the maid had cleaned the centipedes from one end of the room to the opposite end of the room (on hands and knees), the centipedes were starting to crawl in from the outside all over again.  Not that my mother would have packed bug spray prior to moving to Tanzania, but she had no idea that insects were going to be a daily issue (a serious problem when you have two babies who are too young for vaccinations).

In addition, my parents did not realize to what extent baby products/supplies would not be readily available in Tanzania.  Although my mother brought cloth diapers for her babies, she had shipped disposable diapers (new to the market) in our company shipment.  Mom also had the foresight to pack canned milk and powdered milk to feed her children until the pre-bought formula arrived in the shipment.  The shipment was delayed and mom remembers having to continually dilute the canned milk and powdered milk in order to make it last longer, as it became apparent that the shipment might not arrive at all.

There was also no baby food to be found in Tanzania at the time.  Mom and our maid bought fruits, vegetables, poultry and beef to make baby food – without a food processor!  It was also difficult to find “safe” food to eat, whether for a baby or an adult, which later became an issue when my mother contracted dysentery and had to be air lifted to Nairobi for medical attention.

Mom, my brother and I were sent back to the United States while my mother recuperated from her illness. We relocated to Saudi Arabia later that year.

Obviously in 1969 the internet and “the Google” did not exist, so my parents had very little information to help set their expectations and plan accordingly while living in East Africa.  And there was no to purchase and receive orders in a timely fashion.  In fact, contaminated food still exists and certain products and medicine are STILL NOT always readily available in some third world countries and in remote areas.

So do your research and Google it!  Figure out what you need to pack that might not be readily available where you are staying.  If you have special dietary or medical needs, pack these essential items in your carry-on in the event that your suitcase gets lost or stolen.  Always plan ahead for a safe and stress-free journey.

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