The finale-So prepare for the chance of a lifetime, a shinning era is tiptoeing nearer
Wow-sorry I haven’t updated in a while, things got a little crazy with finals and the wrapping up with the semester. Finals were okay, it’s so completely difficult to judge how I did on them but we will see. I’m just hoping to get our grades before I graduate… But besides that, not too much else has happened or been exciting. Gabe and I went to Zanzibar for a few days, which was nice but it rained a lot which ruined the whole lets-get-really-tan-before-we-go-back-to-the-states idea. But there isn’t too much to be done about that. Everyone is gone now except Emily and Linda, so were naturally going to the beach tomorrow, and that’s about all that I have left on the schedule.
Today was a great day and exactly how I wanted to spend one of my last days. Last night we went to the George and Dragon, which is an English pub that had wonderful fish and chips, as a goodbye dinner. That was a good way to say goodbye to a few friends, and then today they left leaving me basically alone for the first time since getting here (luckily Emily is still here or it would get old pretty fast). So today I went to mwenge and bought the rest of everyone’s gifts, I have so much crap to bring back! So after meandering along for a few hours I got on a dala, not really paying attention. For the first time since being in Dar I of course got on the wrong bus and went the opposite way into town. So I just decided to go with it, eventually getting off and bought maize from a street vender (also a first which is a shame because it has actually grown on me a lot). I eventually got home and slept, but the whole day felt like exactly what I should be doing while in Tanzania for only TWO more days!
I leave on Friday, which feels impossible, strange, scary, and exciting all at the same time. At times like this it is impossible to not reflect, and my apologies if this gets a little too retreat reflection (thank you living in Loyola). For the most part I could not have asked for a better experience. I feel that studying here has changed me in so many ways; the real test will be to see how much that will hold true when I am back in all the old familiar places. I am so grateful for the experiences I have had, I am so lucky to have been able to do such much. Even more than that I am grateful for the people I have met, they have made this experience everything that it was. Especially for me, I have never lived this long without close friends or family in a strange place, but I would say it turned out pretty okay and being a triplet wasn’t so bad either ;)
I think the most important lesson for me has been the ability to relax. As a historically uptight, have to be involved in everything and always running around type of person, it was the strangest thing to literally not have ANYTHING to do. And more than that, to realize that I don’t have much control over many of the events of this semester and that most things will not be working on my schedule. Having the ability to recognize this, and then be okay with it has really been a shift in attitude for me and one that is necessary for living in Tanzania. I also think that I have grown a lot in my ability to survive on my own. Although my parents encouraged traveling a lot and did everything they could to get me out of NH (thank god!), I am still someone that still hasn’t ‘done’ Europe or really done much global traveling, and none of it alone. Africa was ambitious and not most people’s first choice, but you figure out how to survive. Although it took me a long time to be truly comfortable, I think a lot of it has to do with having the ability to still be yourself. For me, living back with a family that I had to be somewhat responsible to, coupled with the inability to travel much by myself and the immense attention that being a female mzungu draws made it feel that my independence and identity that been snatched from me. In reality I was not as restricted as I first believed, but the important part was that I started running again. Not for long distances and really slowly, but it reminded me of who I was, which in turn allowed me to receive every experience in such a better place. I think that it’s an invaluable lesson, and one that I will definitely keep in mind for the future. Also, studying here has made me want to see and do so much and travel everywhere, and whereas that drive always existed I actually believe that I will do it now.
I think I have also experienced so much more in terms of racial and gender inequalities. Coming from overwhelmingly white areas has never allowed me to see how it really can be such a factor. (It was always strange and funny when a baby would burst out crying on the dala because they were scared of our skin color) White privilege is a palpable reality here, as is an Indian elite business class which we were fortunate to get a taste of as well. Even though Dar is definitely one of the better African cities and has made strides in development, there is still a long way to go and I saw poverty like I never really had before. Also, I have never seen the utter inefficiencies of so many public offices, including the police force. Mob justice is something I have only studied at school, and I was lucky enough to not really experience it.
So in sum, it has been wonderful and terrific and as cliché as that sounds one of the best times of my life. Five months flew by, just as everyone said they would and despite those long sweaty sun burnt, mosquito-bitten nights we survived and I think became a better person for it. However, it is time to leave, and I am so excited to be going back home. This summer is going to be great, and I am living at school because I am interning with Save the Children and doing research with the International Studies Department. It is going to be awesome, and now I can always carry with me what I learned here.
In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep, from the mountains of fame to the river so deep, I must be looking for something, something sacred I lost, but the river is wide, and it’s too hard to cross. Even though I know the river is wide I walk every evening and stand on the shore, I try to cross onto the opposite side so I can finally find what I’ve been looking for…We all end in the ocean, we all start in the stream, and were all carried along by the river of dreams, in the middle of the night.