Looking at the calendar I see almost four months that have passed by, and only 5 days left in my program. It’s hard to remember how it felt when I first got here. I have watched the land turn from sunny dusty days, into a rainy green land. Part of me never wants to leave, although part of me is so ready to go. I miss being in the United States, I miss my life there, and all the people! I miss the food so much!! I can’t wait to go to a restaurant and get whatever food I want, and go home and eat cereal! I miss rock climbing, hiking and the nature of the Pacific North West. I miss my freedom to make my day into whatever I want it to be, along with the freedom of my car and the ability to walk wherever I want. I miss my friends and family.
In Tanzania we have very little freedom, we must go places with a buddy and can’t go far. We can’t leave before 6:30am and after 6:45pm. I have learned even more how much I love my home, I am truly excited to continue my life in Washington, USA. Although there are many things I will miss about being here in Africa. The animals here have made my experience. It’s amazing driving down the road to see elephants and zebra crossing the road, along with all my time in the national parks. The Serengeti, the big cats, and the wildebeest migration will be memories I cherish my entire life. The mornings are filled with bird songs, and the nights with all sorts of crazy insects. The culture is exciting and new, and there is a light heartiness to the people here that I want to take home with me. The running trails I will truly miss, the nature and views are stunning. Even though we have little freedom, I feel completely free when I go on runs into the hills and look over our little village and see all the farmers’ homes. Although, the people on this program are what I will miss most. The friends I have made are truly kind souled people. I feel so lucky to have spent my study abroad experience with them, and hope in the future to see them all again.
Although I feel very much like I do not belong here. Many people in this area have only interacted with other Tanzanian people in their lives. Therefore as a visitor I am always a “mzungu”, a white person, a foreigner. I have learned so much from this experience of being stared at everywhere I go, laughed at constantly for the mzungu things I do, and always treated different. I understand more what it must be like for the minorities in the world who feel out of place, and never fully accepted into a culture. I am excited to be treated as a local again.
The ideas of gender equality is something I miss so much. The sexism in Tanzania has been hard to experience as a girl, while trying to still respect the cultural views on the matter. Although, I don’t want to put down any of the people here, they are all still very open and accepting of us living in their village. The locals usually play soccer with us every day, and we have opportunities to volunteer in the local school and help with community service. The people are very kind and friendly, and they aren’t afraid of human contact and greeting each other and us all the time. This is something people in the USA should learn from Tanzanians- that we are all neighbors.
I expect to be in some sort of shock when I get back to the USA. I have lived in a very rural African village for the last four months, and going back to a more developed area of the world will feel different and a bit overwhelming. Although I think the excitement of being home and the opportunities I have there will help me overcome any culture shock I may have. I also can’t wait to tell my friends and family what I have experienced. The “pole pole” (slowly slowly) lifestyle is very different from the culture in the USA. In the United States people are more busy, and active. There is more stress of the busy world with deadlines and hustle and bustle. Here, everyone does their work on their own time, spending much of the day just hanging around each other (mostly the men). I think once I get home I will realize even more the difference of the two countries, and I will find more things I will miss from my time here.
I never want to stop traveling. Being here I have learned so much about the world, things I didn’t know I didn’t know. Although this experience was amazing it was probably the hardest experience of my life, and therefore maybe one of the most beneficial to my personal growth. I feel I have grown and changed so much, and I will realize these changes in myself even more after I go back to the lifestyle that I previously had. This week I leave my program in Rhotia village and will embark on an extra little adventure climbing Killimanjaro, and visiting the island of Zanzibar. I’m very excited to have small trip on my own in this country! I will then be ending my journey and be landing in Seattle in a few weeks. I don’t know if I will ever come back. There are so many places to visit in the world.
Although this experience will shape who I am, and I will always be grateful for my experience I have had here!