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Going to Tanzania had been a childhood dream of mine and was soon to be realised in the summer of 1998. Now standing at the airport I am not only excited but also afraid of what to come. I had the image you would find in any travel brochure and in my mind, I knew it was false

We boarded the plane and left the runway at 7.45. We arrived in Brussels one hour later to transfer to a plane, which would touch down in Rwanda and take us safely to our final destination of Nairobi in Kenya.

Nairobi was my first experience of Africa, a huge city with a huge population. We left the hotel at 10.10am and just past the door, a small child holding out the hand greeted me. The child followed me across the road to the market we were going to visit. Shortly after entering the market, I was swamped by determined stall owners. Walking the streets was incredibly tiring because there was never a moment?s piece but I enjoyed it all the same.

Arusha was the first place in Tanzania and the second major place visited. It was different yet the poverty and the insistence of the people were very similar to that of Nairobi. We spent our first day shopping but anything we bought we knew we would have to carry for the rest of the trip. What you find as a tourist is that you will be told prices up to ten times the real value and you will have to bargain hard to get a good price.

We visited our first project the Heifer project where we needed to decide whether our money was being well spent and going to a good cause. We were welcomed with the local choir and a speech from the village head. After visiting some families that had been helped by the project, we decided our money should continue helping the project in future years.

We left Arusha for a five-day safari. The most fascinating animal we saw was a leopard, which is very rare. The main thing I noticed was the way it felt like you were watching the animals in captivity because of all the people around. The animals were so close it was almost scary.

The second project we visited was incredibly interesting because visiting a school in Africa was such a shock. When I compared it with the school I attend, I found very few similarities. The main thing they needed was classrooms and tables before they even thought about supplies.

We found a few days to relax on the beach in almost unbearable heat in Zanzibar. Although we were relaxed, we still had a project to visit so our duty was not over yet. We visited the hospital in which sickness both contagious and not filled the halls. To me the most noticeable difference was that it did not smell clean like a European hospital.

On the way, home I was very impatient to get back and was annoyed by the stop at Brussels. When I came through the doors at the airport, I was warned I might suffer culture shock. What I saw was everything I had seen when I left but with a different perspective.

Tanzania was everything and nothing expected

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