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End of a journey

 

The days are now numbered. It’s August 31. The volunteers will be leaving on the first, as well as some of the team leaders. Other volunteers, whose assignments have ended, will leave on the fourth of September. I’ll stay in the country another ten days meeting up with a friend and traveling around to more touristy sites. I’m looking forward to it.

Right now, it’s 5:30 in the morning. I got up an hour ago and finding it impossible to sleep started working on photos and finally writing up this draft for my blog. It has been difficult to post while traveling. I have kept notes and will post more about the journey over the next couple of months. There is a lot to go over and a lot to digest. I’m glad I have the photos to jog my memory.

The last couple of days I have been going through every photo, making sure it is the right size, has been processed properly, attributed correctly and posted in the right place. That job is not yet done. I have also been working on slide shows for the returning teams. That had to be finished yesterday. I would love to have given it more time, but that may always be the case for any project with a deadline.

I love the people I have met. It has felt so much like a mash unit, living in rural villages, thrown together in ways you would never usually encounter. Grasiano, Sam and I were in a car for over two weeks. There is a quiet bond we sealed in the last few days on the road. After staying in hotels that were far from perfect, gathering at ceremonies, being too cold, too hot, crowded in the car for sometimes 8 hours a day, and celebrating people and places we may never see again, we are connected. I have a photo of the 3 of us that is my favorite from the summer. Sam had it printed with the help of the Logs (logistics) group, and it sits on my desk in the office at field base for now. It will come with me along with my second (the photo was the first) birthday present. I got it yesterday. It’s a small carved plaque of baobab tree and the Swahili word (Choo) toilet. I had mentioned I wanted one for my toilet at home and the Logs team got it for me. For now, it too is on my desk.

The is so much more I can say about both the villagers and the Raleigh team, but it will have to be written over time. I need to reflect on the connections made and find a precise and accurate way of describing some of the people who have touched me in profound ways and who will forever be with me in my thoughts.

Yesterday, as the groups came back for debriefing and regrouping before they leave the country, I was moved by how many people I have gotten to know. I had an extended time in Mtlili and Sawala with Echos 5 and 6. Every one of those volunteers will forever be friends.

It’s now 6:00 and I need to get up and get to the office. I don’t know if I will go out to the different location where the groups are reconvening or if I will stay at Field base. I must assume for now I will travel, even if it is still in Morogoro it will happen quickly and on a different schedule than mine.

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Tanzania, I love you

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rosie and the local children.

Rosie and the local children.

Training session on culture and diversity.

Training session on culture and diversity.

 

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This journey to Africa has been difficult and challenging. I was naive to think I would just adjust quickly and the different language is adding to the confusion. I’m having no luck at remembering Swahili. Still, everyone is very generous, and the Tanzanians love to teach you their language, from the Noah (Taxi drivers) to the people in the street, they will repeat words until they think you have it.

I have just come back to base camp from a five-day journey to Bwawani with a team of 2 leaders assigned to check out the area and the project before the volunteers arrive. Nothing is left to chance. Raleigh is exact in its requirements for safety and obviously so much can go wrong that it is essential.

The two team leaders I’m with are excellent. Emiliana is Tanzanian and has a way of adjusting to village life as effortlessly as she does to city life. She is elegant and regal. Maddie and I brought several bags and never come out looking anything but rumpled and slept in. Emiliana brought one small bag shaped like an old doctor’s bag but in pink. She dresses every day in a colorful dress that is a balance between traditional and contemporary and her hair at first, left natural has mutated into evenly spaced crown rows.

Maddie, a smallish 29-year-old, from Sheffield in Yorkshire, is as efficient and matter-of-fact as anyone I’ve ever met. I would trust her to lead me through this beautiful and unusual journey anytime.

I’ve picked up the same rash that was going around at field b. The medics prescribed drugs that knocked me out yesterday. I slept all day and all night. I feel better today but still shaky. I also didn’t eat much. The food here is all starch. The were greens added to last night’s dinner, but most of the meal consisted of potatoes and rice. These are food staples, although I hear rice is a luxury. Families that have rice are considered wealthy.

The family we are living with is incredibly generous. They have given us three separate rooms to sleep in, the Daughter of the house, called Dada cooks, cleans and is willing to do anything for our comfort. She is a lovely woman, and at this moment I don’t know her name. I’m waiting for Emiliana to appear this morning and I will get the families name and information. It seems that there are only two people living here. Maddie says sometimes people show up that you haven’t seen before. African village life is a mingling that expands beyond any formal or informal boundary. I realize that I’m still very much a visitor and without a better command of the language I know very little. Perceptions here can be misleading.

It’s 8:12 AM, Maddie, and Emiliana have both appeared in the living room. The television is on; has been since 6:00. Music videos are the programs of choice, and it will run most of the day. The music is beautiful and melodic. I have been exposed to two types of videos, one playing at this house, is a praise of God. The other, seen on the bus ride here is about lost or found love and sex. There were a lot of butt shots of women, and bare-chested men. The directors, many known by their first names, are the celebrities here. The cinematography of this second group of videos is often superbly done and exciting. I can’t understand the words at all.

I’m still feeling exhausted even with all the sleep I have had. It’s difficult to keep writing, but I’m waiting for breakfast, hoping that will give me the energy I need to continue working.

The village is loud, and not at all simple. Piki Piki (motorcycles)(not sure of the spelling) are everywhere, and people ride fast and recklessly, especially younger riders. I think most of the riders are men. Most women walk or have bicycles.

Maddy was a Police officer for five years before taking a career break. She wanted to volunteer and travel and decided this was the best way to get the opportunity. She searched Google for volunteering opportunities and applied to ICS (International Citizen Service) under the British Government that works with non-profits for International change. Maddie had her interview in October and arrived in Tanzania in March of 2017.

Maddie said she had experienced a whole range of emotions she arrived here. “It can go from being stressful to the point where you want just to go home, to [feeling as if] I want to stay here forever and I’m proud of what we have done. She has chosen to continue her service for another three months, and it’s clear she loves what she is doing.

Her last project in Malanje in the Doma Region was mixed with small joys and setbacks. “Kids won’t show up for the Swash (school wash) lessons, things go wrong on the project site, and volunteers will be moaning about something.” All in all, things got done, the project was a success, and it encouraged Maddie to continue.

This village is very different from Maddie’s previous experience. The last village was dry and windy. You could walk the entire village in 10 min. No shops, cafes, markets to tempt the young volunteers and it also meant they had to travel for supplies. Her last cycle was slightly over three months and longer than this one.

Here in Bwawani, it’s very green, it often rains during the day and then stops suddenly. It’s full of markets, bars, shops, a prison, winding roads the lead to more shops and restaurants, and unmarked railroad tracks. Maddie hopes the volunteers will be mature and will grasp the need for rules and regulations. Code of conduct is taken very seriously. Volunteers won’t be able to go off on their own, and no drinking or drugs are allowed under any circumstances. Volunteers will be sent home for breaking the rules, sometimes, the trip home will concur extra costs to them. They will lose any recommendations they might have gained and will miss out on a growth experience you couldn’t possibly pay for.

Fun fact, Noah is the general name for the taxis in Tanzania.

It’s 3:35 PM Tanzanian time. I’ve stayed back at home for a second day now, still drowsy.

More to come. With the lack of internet connection, I’m running behind.