Mwanza doesn’t seem like a bad place to live for two years. Back in January of this year, days before flying out of the UK, I applied for a job with the British Council in Tanzania. A friend who knew I was returning there brought the job to my attention.

On paper I was qualified for the post, but I imagined lots of people with far greater experience than me were applying. Besides, I wasn’t particularly serious about taking up a teacher-training job when my focus was to continue with the book I’d started. With that in mind I filled out the online application, obviously extolling how relevant two-and-a-half years cycling through Africa was to working in a government teacher training college. My hopes of hearing back weren’t very high.

A month or so later I received news inviting me for an interview. The British Council in Dar es Salaam was only a short distance away from where I was in Zanzibar. It seemed logical that a ferry back to the mainland and a face-to-face interview would follow. Instead several more weeks passed before a recruitment consultant in Manchester telephoned me.

The writing progressed slowly out there, as it had been since I started the book, but I prevented myself from getting stressed. Zanzibar wasn’t the environment to worry about a deadline I never really had. As the days and weeks went by I enjoyed the experience of becoming familiar with my surroundings, rather than the more often scenario of preparing to leave. There were always new faces, both local and foreign, including a number of trans-African cyclists showing up. I enjoyed the heat, the simplicity of my days, but most of all the fact that I was back in Africa. I wanted to stay rather than return.

Other than half a dozen talks lined up I had no real desire to go back to the UK. The book wasn’t going to be finished in those three months away, and self-promoting myself as a means to gain more public speaking engagements had little appeal. Ultimately I feared finding myself far away from where I really wanted to be, which was Africa.

And so this job, which brought with it the opportunity to spend two years in Tanzania, with some semblance of structure and stability, needless to say regular income, took on greater appeal. My hopes and future began to be pinned on being offered a contract. Yes the open road and all the many places I still wanted to cycle were in my mind, but I had no big trip lined up. Writing the book was proving time-consuming and I needed something more.

I wanted familiarity with my surroundings – the opportunity to make connections and be part of a community, even if I was an outsider, for a little while. The last time I had something resembling this was when I lived in Japan. That was eight years ago. I also felt that if could get myself comfortably settled I might be able to continue with the book.

Every day following what felt like a ramble of a one-hour interview, where I envisaged boxes being crossed rather than ticked at the other end, I checked my inbox. It was more than a week later before that email finally came. ‘The British Council are delighted to offer you a two-year contract in Tanzania’ were the words I quickly lifted off the screen. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I was delighted and surprised.

A list of 34 teacher-training colleges across the country was soon emailed to me and I was asked if I had a preference. The town names were familiar, but online information about the colleges was scarce. Most appeared to be located many miles from the small towns within which they were listed. I envisaged it taking hours to get anywhere from some remote and unremarkable place. Two years seemed like a long time to live somewhere like that.

One teaching college soon caught my attention when I discovered it was just 8km from Mwanza, the country’s second biggest city. On the shores of Lake Victoria, the location looked appealing. There was an airport with cheap flights back to Dar es Salaam, a ferry connection across the lake and even a railway line running south. There would be none of the coastal humidity up at an altitude of 1100m, and travelling to places like Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi wouldn’t be that difficult. The city even boasted a few squash courts.

It was only when I returned to Tanzania following a ten-day stay in the UK that I got the second bit of news I wanted. Yes I would be going to Mwanza. Butimba Teacher Training College would be my new work place. As for the other British Council teachers (there were 11 who began their contract in May with me) some seemed content with their placements whereas others had little or no preference.

What I knew about the job was as follows. After disastrous national exam results last year, in which most Secondary school students failed, Tanzania’s Ministry of Education recognized the need to improve the quality of English language teaching in Tanzania. English here is the country’s second language following Kiswahili, but it’s used as the language of instruction in Secondary and Tertiary education. One reason many students fail their exams is because a number of teachers lack the linguistic fluency and skills necessary to teach in English.

The truth is I’ve never taught teachers before. I arrived in Mwanza several weeks ago, but haven’t started classes yet. The college, which is comprised of 55 tutors, (those I will instruct) and over 1000 prospective secondary school teachers, is closed until July. Hopefully the course-books provided by the British Council will be at the college then.

After staying in hotels (both in Dar and Mwanza) that boasted several more stars than the type I’m accustomed to in Africa, I moved into a house two weeks ago. This is also a step up in terms of the quality of accommodation I’m familiar with.

My bicycle naturally naturally came with me. It takes me 25 minutes to reach college, about 10km away. That’s less than half the time it would take by dala dala, the ubiquitous death trap of a mini-bus that plies the roads of Tanzania.

With all this free time in June I ought to recommence with the writing. That at least would be one option, but when days of leave are limited I’ve chosen to get back on the saddle. A ferry across Lake Victoria from Mwanza has brought me to Bukoba. From here I am cycling into Rwanda and south to Burundi, a country I haven’t been to before. It’s the dry season and the skies are blue. Without front panniers my load weighs half what I’m normally used to, which will be a big help considering the terrain.

I have my camera, so hope to post some pictures up here when I’m back. Should you find yourself in Mwanza do get in contact. There’s some great cycling around the town.