July 7th, 2017 – Sawala, Tanzania

October 8th, 2017

It’s July 7, 2017, I have been in Tanzania for over a month and still don’t know how to talk about the country. I can write about surface impressions, the warmth of the people, the beauty of the country, the old traditions of men and woman, the poverty, the lack of so many amenities that I have taken for granted. Most people don’t have a toilet, electricity, internet, paper towels, bed sheets, mirrors, glass windows, central heating. I know that poverty exists in the US, and I experienced some of it when I was younger, but I have not seen or experienced it in years. The lack is startling, and yet, there are questions I have about what is essential and what isn’t. All the extras I concern myself with can be let go of. The people at home at the same economic level seem depressed and almost lifeless. Westerners expect to climb the economic ladder. People expect a better life. There is also a lack of connection in the west. Families have fallen apart, and there isn’t a community connection. All of my reflections make me wonder what is important and what isn’t.

I wonder if I will simplify when I return home. I will be moving into a small home, and it is a perfect time to do just that and discover what is essential.

Here in Tanzania, I have met the most beautiful people. Even with my complete inability to learn the language, I can still communicate. So many people are drawn to photography, my camera is an excellent tool for social interactions. Villagers and volunteers gather around me. A young boy sat next to me and listened to every word. He wants to learn English. The women gather around me asking for photos. Children never a miss a chance to have their photo taken.

Physical age is an interesting thing here in Tanzania. So many people work so hard, they look worn out and weathered. And some people don’t age at all. The villages often ask me my age. They are surprised that I am doing what I do and shocked that I don’t have children and family. I must look little like a dinosaur to them. I sometimes feel that way. At the same time, my age seems irrelevant. My energy is pretty good, my excitement is as high as anyone around me, and without a mirror, I forget I’m old.

My day begins around 6:00. I still get up before anyone else and have been using the time to make sure my equipment is charged, and the photos are processed. It is a good practice. Today I did a couple of interviews on video. I knew the sound was not good and wouldn’t be able to use it, but I can keep it for reference.

I have been enjoying shooting. It’s easier than I thought now that I’m into it and I’m proud of the photos I have taken so far.

I got off track. The day starts early for me, still dark and cold. About 7:30 or 8:00 I take a water-poured-over-me shower, sometimes with cold water. Stella, the housekeeper, takes care of all three of us, the two team leaders, Hannah and Molen and me. Stella is kind and gentle. She works from morning to night and smiles all the time. I hear her singing to herself. She heats the water in a pot in an outside fireplace. The smell of charcoal is in my clothes and on me. Stella washes my clothes even when I plead with her to let me do it. I hate to see her work so hard.

I am fussy with food. I wish I weren’t, but my stomach is not doing well. Almost every day we have a dish made of cornmeal. I can’t spell the name in Swahili. You eat it with your hands and roll it into a ball and eat it with beans. Stellar noticed I wouldn’t eat the meal and made me an omelet for lunch. In the morning she serves a sweet Chai tea and home-baked bread.

The Raleigh work starts at 9:00. I usually go over to the community center and start shooting. The day goes quickly and seems more like fun than work.

One of the men here, Juma, wants to start a photographic business. Sam Duncan, a native Tanzanian and I are encouraging him. We gave him lessons and made a list of equipment he will need. In this Raleigh program, the volunteers are teaching the village residents about running a business. If they are between 18 and 24, they can apply for a grant from Raleigh or one of their partners. Juma is going to pitch his business. That process will happen over weeks, and I’m leaving Sunday but may have a chance to pass back through on pitch day. It would be fun to know who gets the grants and what businesses will be encouraged.

I did get to come back and will write more about it later.

It’s interesting to watch this process unfold. The village people have been coming to classes every day, and they are dedicated to learning.

Friday, July 7, 2017
It’s July 8th 8:45 AM in Sawala. I keep getting confused because my computer is set on LA time.

I have been having the strangest dreams, often dealing with frustration and fear. I suppose that is what I am experiencing on a subliminal level. It’s hard to get anything done, too many people, and the limitations of Tanzania, which are many.

I have been thinking about home, what I’m going to do when I’m back, making lists of jobs and chores to complete. I have thought about living in the garage of the little house, hoping it will be in a livable state. I have just briefly reflected on the fact that the desert house will be sold soon and my friends, Charles and Amy will not be coming out regularly again. My group of longtime friends will not come out unless someone makes a trip to see me or to be in the desert. I do suspect Sherry will come out. I don’t know about Hannah, but that is in the future, and we are all moving on.

I have been thinking about closets and what to build or buy to be able to bring my clothes over to the little house. I have been thinking about what is needed and what I should get rid of. I do have ideas, and I know the Raven house will take money for a while, and that is what I don’t want to do. But today, I have thoughts. I will keep the white chest in my closet and put it in the storage room. I will keep the deco couch for a while longer. I will keep all the bookshelves, probably not the TV console, but I’m still undecided. I may need to see the space before I decide on that. Traditional furniture is not in favor right now, and if Dawn (my estate sale agent) doesn’t sell it, it might stay around. I’m also concerned that Turkish Airlines will be delayed and I won’t get home in time to clean up everything. Nothing I can do about that. Time to move on.

Breakfast is served in Sawala. There is the very sweet Chai Tea and rolls. I don’t know what this bread is made of, but it is different than others I have been served here. It’s moist and tasty, and I forget all about home.

Action Day in Sawala

Action Day in Sawala

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