I wonder what made the guys at the wakala stand laugh at me. were they drunk? probably. i’m not upset that they laughed, although it’s a little annoying. i’m quite different from what normally goes on around these parts; me being led by my younger kaka to the store. but that’s ok. at least i didn’t try and do anything mean towards them. not good for the american image, you know.
last nite in bed i determined that education is the most important thing in the world.
bill withers was a completest. what a great interview. he was confident enough in himself that he wanted to do it all and knew he could. ”i want to be a musician, but i have some other shit to do before that.” if he could have gone to school he would have.
i am slowly figuring out the tanzanian people. a very proud people. i just wonder how happy they are. life is short here, shorter than other countries. a developing country has its advantages, off the top of my head the emphasis on family and togetherness comes to mind. i don’t think people get to marry for love, though. maybe they don’t care about that. i want to understand while i’m here.
i hope there is a parallel to integration. integration seems to propagate the loss of one’s own culture. i don’t want to assimilate. i want to follow their cultural ideals when necessary, but i want to stay michigander. i want to see how i can understand from a michigander’s point of view. but i guess to truly understand you must assimilate wholly.
i understand the need for us to be here. i am excited to help out while i am here. i also feel that many africans want to help themselves without the use of the west.
or at least that’s what i hope they feel.
they can do it. they understand the country and her needs better than any donors do. at the same time, the world needs to act in solidarity with one another. if one nation is dying, we all are. i predict that although many cultural divides and norms will be blurred across borders, many cultural differences will become stronger in an attempt to hold on to one’s heritage. like one’s accent becoming stronger around non-speakers. although the world is shrinking, and certain things will become worldwide culture, other things will become stronger dividers than ever in an attempt to feel belonging by cultures and nations. one homogeneous culture is simply too big for 8+ billion people to feel a sense of belonging in. and i think, overall, that is beautiful. certain rights will be granted—women will eventually have equal rights worldwide, gays, children, etc.—and once the entire world is lifted out of poverty, the cultural differences will remain. lack of the use of the left hand, for example. long greetings and respect for elders. big families, extended, with blurred distinctions.
there is no way only 24 minutes remain on this laptop battery. it goes from 1 hour to 1 minute in less than an hour!!!!1111
tonite for dinner we had chapati and a beef stew to dip it in. i like chapati and the stew, and i probably could have eaten twice as much.
ice floes like a river unabashedly taciturn but firm, planted in its ways, unlikely to waver or falter. i wish i was that ice floe. it keeps its chin up. it plays to its strengths. it moves slow enough to think. it surrounds itself with friends. it wakes up for the sunrise and never misses a sunset. it understands that life is precious and death can come at any time. so it goes about its daily routine not knowing whether or not its the last. it lives every day like its the last by treating everything as if its their first. it is so content in its routine that whether or not today is its last day on earth does not determine the expectations and schedule for the day. it is an appreciator and a creator. it goes to bed knowing it gave the world all it could today, and it thanks the world for what she gave it. as the sun sets, the ice floe goes to bed with a heart cradled by silicone and springs, absorbing shocks and falls. buoyant. radiating with life.
what does it mean to be content? can you help me with this? i don’t want to be ignorant and turn a blind eye to the outer world. i know and understand too much for that to work and allow me contentment. i desire a soft heart, light and buoyant. i desire love and to radiate love, and i realize that what i see in others is what i see in myself. how i view the world is how i view myself.
it’s mom’s bday today. nice to talk with her.
training, beer, training beer.
today is sunday. i spent the day off, at our house, learning a bit from mama, laying in bed, reading, watching tele. mama showed me how to hand wash my clothes, light a charcoal stove and a kerosene lamp. whoa, cool.
i love observing mama and the family. watching her scrub the clothes. she has a system down pat. she is really cut, too, i noticed. just strong. lots of manual labor in her daily routine.
this evening, baba took the family for a drive. i rode in the passenger seat, arm out the window, inviting stares at the mzungu, observing and observing, soaking it all in, looking at africa and feeling dirty and missing home and tonite i felt like it isn’t my job to be here. i am helping myself more than helping them, but isn’t that always the case? on the other hand, i am helping myself so that i can help others understand.
why is africa the way it is? better yet, how can africa not be the way it is? the answer lies within. its country, culture, ideals, goals, values. billions of dollars won’t solve africa. africans will solve africa. and they are doing so.
we went out to dinner. what an amazing thing. i am sitting with a husband and wife, granddaughter, nephew, and son, in a morogoro hotelini, drinking sarengeti with a muslim mama while the others are sipping sodas from those devilish 1st world countries, and me, the white boy, silently stares at the world around him like a naive newborn, cooing over the kiswahili language, fumbling towards sentence structures, unwrapping the gift that is africa and the peace corps, watching and observing even more yet, i will never understand.
but i will make inferences.
mama and the females are quieter than the males. they address him. he speaks for all of us, and it surprises me when he confers with mama on the order. maybe a bit more progressive than others in the country? mama drinks? are they content? that is the only question i want answered. this education training is not challenging me. therefore, i am restless. i need challenge. mental challenge. language learning helps that cause.
i still am very happy that i am here. there are moments that still shock me. the people and culture are a learning experience. i am living in tanzania.
language, chai, education, lunch, hiv/aids with a great man and his fro and mutton chops, beer at equeta with jon and sara, steve and stephanie.
yesterday my baba drove his car to a different spot. i thought he was going out to the store or something. i was going to go with him, so i got in, buckled up, and he moved the car about 20 feet. misunderstanding. hillarious.
my swahili is improving each day. i can converse fairly well (with the help of a dictionary) when i am at home. different in the real world, however.
i feel proud of myself today. this is the first time i have ever committed to something for two whole years. college was different. it was more of a location. not a major or class or anything. this is a committment to a job for two years. great practice for the future. i have never stuck with anything that long and that consistently. nothing as consistent as this will be. a full time job in every way. one that took me around the world and far away from my girlfriend and life. i miss it. but i am proud of myself today. you can do it, eric. serve someone, something.
mmm, today was a good day. i say that apprehensively, because it wasn’t amazing. but in contrast to the generally poor disposition of a few days past, things shaped up alright today.
we got out of classes early so i went to morogoro with many others. finally used internet for an hour. got a pair of flip flops and a konga for wrapping/towel, etc. looking forward to getting a shirt or two made. rode the daladala all by myself! a confusing experience, but it is nice to just throw myself into it and get it over with. baptism by fire.
i came home and baba had visitiors. they mostly laughed at me which is fine, i only said hi and then went to take a shower. he is still sick, and i asked mama, she said it hasn’t happened before. gives things some context; wasn’t sure if the kids were used to that or anything. had a great nite for language. a lot of kiswahili came out of my mouth, even if i had to look it up first. in due time.
i wonder how happy everyone is. i already asked that, but it’s true.
listening to graham nash’s album. good stuff so far.
i felt better today. i had gotten over my sadness, and i was determined to have a conversation with michigan today. director williams was visiting the site at cct to give remarks and boost morale, so to speak. that was cool. lunch was awesome, of course. first time i saw raw veggies. more language. a teaching training intro. then to morogoro for the market, etc. i was determined to buy a phone. salma (swahili teacher) fortunately helped me out with payment and buying since the bank was closed and since i couldn’t speak kiswahili.
took a daladala for the first time. sat in the aisle at first, i guess, but shared a seat with charlie murphy/jumapili who was on the dala as well. stephanie and steve got a ride on it, too. just a very crowded, private, dirty, gaseous vw style van.
got home tonite and the power was out. baba has a peptic ulcer and was sick tonite, so the mood was a bit odd in the house. he tried to eat with me but went back in his room, sick. no power, no baba, i just ate, showered, and came into my room to try and use my phone.
i have already had some hard ups and downs. mostly downs, a few ups, and a lot of simply pressing on. right now, i feel like we can do it. other times, i feel i need to come back home. two years seems so long. day by day, just taking it a day at a time, helps.
been listening to paul simon a lot. fitting.
i need to surrender to the idea that my english with begin to sink as i learn swahili. all in. no regrets. ahhhhhhhhh
it’s hard to have a moment of silence or quiet. always something going on outside my window or whatever. i’d like to write more. just feel too busy and everything so new.
i wonder how happy my family and other tanzanians are. why do they live this way? why is it not easier to bring them out of poverty?
the 18th was spent in language training, wandering around the grounds, etc. there were two weddings on site at the center. really cool/funny to see. i think both families were very well off.
woke up on the 19th to have a breakfast and then load up the old charter bus for the road from dar to morogoro. i had one of those whoa moments taking the bus out of the grounds and into the “real world.” bikes, motorcycles, crowded buses, people walking everywhere, african music playing. very surreal moment. felt it. we got to a place in morogoro about three hours later called CCT. christian. saw a world vision truck or two. great lunch, language lessons, and then we loaded up a land cruiser to get dropped off at our host families.
it is a very awkward but funny experience, being introduced to your family. i don’t think i’ll forget it. the day was a bit uncomfortable, but that is given. it was only a few hours of visiting, but it was more than enough to make it awkward. we are all trying our best, though. the warnings and cultrual training they gave before i arrived at the house made me unsure, or just very aware, of what i was and wasn’t doing, as to not upset them. fortunately, the baba is not very strict and isn’t an observant religious person, so rules were a bit more lax.
i mostly talked with baba that nite, explaining michigan, watching their tv. mama asked me to play guitar after dinner so i did for them. heart of gold and let it be. why? i dunno. her cooking is very good, and i love the food so far. for the most part. that nite i had trouble sleeping. i woke up during the nite, asking myself what i was doing there, not thinking i could make it all 2 years. i missed my girlfriend and home.
the 20th began with the call to prayer outside my window, waking me up early. it was a hard day in general. i took my malaria dawa before breakfast and it upset my stomach, so i couldn’t eat their chakula. i left, assuming i would throw up. all day i was sad and depressed. i was really wanting to cash it in and head home. that made me decide i needed a phone asap. we had studies at morogoro secondary for the first time. the days feel long. usually something in the morning, chai, something, lunch, languageeeeeeee, home at 5p. up at 6ish. can’t help it with all the noise outside.
after morosec we got a ride back to our neighborhood. steve and i decided to take a walk up the road and find the town, not necessarily allowed, but we’re grown ass men. we walked in the wrong direction, but it was beautiful nonetheless. this area is amazing, and i still get taken aback by it. it was fun for us to greet locals and just walk around, not be constrained by my house or school. that nite, with my family, talking was way easier, perhaps because i felt more comfortable and at ease, expecting what was coming. avocado was served for the first time at this meal, and it was the best avo i ever had. guitar after dinner again, a bit of chating with the kids, then to my room to iron my clothes and for some nice alone time.
yesterday was easy for the sake of our lives. took an introduction in the morning with the director and then had chai, a bit more intros, lunch, shots, and that was it. lunch has consistently been my favorite meal. beans and rice are always on tap. the first breakfast had some good rice flour balls. everything is deep fried. usually have a cuppa with brekky and chai. can still see leftover british influnce rolling through various parts of the culture.
last nite i had a few beers with folk and just sat out on the patio outside our rooms, taking pictures and talking.
last nite i went to bed at 10:30p and woke up at 2a, wide awake, still on stupid time. listened to sigur ros, neil, g dead, read my calendar, finally drifted back asleep after multiple attempts at 6ish.
this morning was rough and the breakfast was picked over by the time i got there. oops. saftey and security meeting, health (diahrrea, food, water….) typhoid and flu shot, lunch was great again. keep tripping over my kiswahilil, but the best part of the day was after we had a 10 person language lesson, i walked around and greeted several of the tanzanians on the compound. surprised them. also told a cook that her food was very good in swahilili. loved it. need to learn more language. want to become fluent.
goals: fluency, awesome secondary program, no regrets, have fun and improve in the classroom. maintain my relationships back home.
let’s do some good language tomorrow. i cannot believe it’s already been a week since i was at the tigers game. i was just about to say only a week, but it has in fact gone by fast. hm.
also found out we may be spending the first 3 months at site with a finishing volunteer due to the change in the pc tanzania schedule.
Just flew from Newark to Amsterdam. Sat next to a great Italian guy from San Diego named Tony. Just a gentle, nice, still with it old guy. He and his wife were visiting Italy again. Now I just need to stay awake all day. 1am Detroit time, 9a Dar time. Let’s just do.
The plane ride to Dar was nice. Sat by sara, she knew “Jay the Three Legged Cat Guy,” who we met on tour a few years ago. Nice gal. I tried not to sleep but I did anyway, what can I say. I needed it. It’s okay, because it feels like 12a (which it is). Let’s just see how the morning treats me.
First impressions as we made our way into Dar: It did not look like a 6 million pop city from the air; weak lighting dimly lit the neighborhoods we flew over; we are in Africa. The nitetime brought an extra dose of discomfort as we made our way through customs. Nite can bring theft, bad guys, etc. I felt a bit overwhelmed; I could tell because I was detaching myself from the situation, a key defensive strategy my brain has. I am also having trouble writing right now, probably due to the jet lag. Let me explain:
all times local:
6/14 7a, depart for yellow fever shots
6/14 6p, newark to amsterdam
6/15 10a, amsterdam to kilimanjaro
6/15 9p, kil to dar
6/16 12a, here, in my hostel bed, talking to you
So back to when we arrived. I could not help but think of all the bad images of Africa and black men in particular as we were beginning to make our way to the center. I made sure to take note that that image needs to be fought intensly. An image of a maimed, jaded, or evil African man, of a dangerous one. The sad thing is one negative image can destroy 100 positive ones.
We took a van from the airport to our hostel/christian centre, whose name I will mention when I remember it. There was a lunar eclipse. American music and ac in the van. Jump seats closed the aisle, converting the space into more seating. We were welcomed with gross pbj’s and fruit and bottles of water at the centre. The staff introduced themselves. I am looking forward to jumping into my Swahili lessons. I need to fight the instinct that tells me Africans are less competent than Americans. It scares me. I still don’t know how I will help people here that need it; right now I need the help.
prepare for malaria dreams
I feel like I am leaving a lot behind. There is a lot I had in Michigan, and I am taking a risk by leaving it there and assuming it will be in somewhat of a same situation when I return. I understand things will change, but I also assume I can work my way back into American life, keeping and reforming my friendships and relationships. Right now, I dunno what I am getting myself into. 27 months seems long. This is only day 2.
I feel as though I need to make the most of this trip. Improve the lives of the people that need it. This isn’t about meeting friends and having a good time, though friends will come in turn. This is business. Half the time I still don’t feel like I am leaving for two years; it simply feels like a trip, a vacation, a week long meeting with new friends.
What will i choose to write about? Is this a diary-like lament for my life back home? Do I ponder why I did this in the first place? Do I continue to describe my feelings about vacation versus 2 year commitment? Do I simply write narratives; recaps of each day? Do I solely focus on the ways in which I interact and impact my village and the country? Do I only write about the people of TZ themselves?
This trip is not about what is back home. I love what is back home. It’s home. I will miss it every day. But I came here to do work, to make an impact, to serve something greater than myself. And yes, I came here to write, to learn, to read, to slow down, to grow in contentment.
So from here on out, I will not journal about back home, aside from the possible fleeting mention. This is not about that. Tanzania is not about Grand Rapids. As odd as the decision may seem, I turned a chapter in my life. Gone is Grand Rapids as I know it. Gone is my pre-trip relationship with my girlfriend and friends. That is already in the past. And I don’t want to focus on that. I want to focus on my Tanzanian relationship with home; it will be on my mind, but I will not let it control my decisions. The time here will fly by. Focus on the future, the now.
Instead, I will learn, write, play music. I will work harder than ever before. Two years of dedication to growth and Tanzania. Take these 27 months and grow more than I ever have before.
Most importantly, above anything else, put the needs of the Tazanian community before me.
Today was a 6:30a wake up, a yellow fever vaccine, and a trip to Whole Foods for last minute provisions. I strolled through the same neighborhood Valentiger visited a few years ago. The bus ride gave me a chance to listen to Fela Kuti for the first time. I said it was the missing piece in my musical library. Jets to Brazil was grazed too. I feel ready. I want to set my village up for success. I want to leave something more than my memories.
I am having a hard time not thinking of the education system as a joke. I am assuming it will be very difficult to teach all of my students. A better way to think of it, however, is that I have no idea what this community will be like. Hold judgement. 2:19p on 6/14/11, sitting in Newark International, no one really around me, save for a black couple with a 2 year old. She’s cute. Tracy Morgan is apologizing on the TV, from what I can hear.