When I was younger, I found family vacations were both exciting and overwhelming. My mom remembers that I would need time to “slow down” and just be in the hotel room for a while. I would often ask “when are we going back to the blue house” (we never lived in a blue house, so this reference remains a mystery). And so although the last nine months of my life came across as a constant stream of adventure, there were many moments when I needed to slow down and remind myself that I would, someday, return to my blue house.
I have gained an interesting perspective after being home for two weeks. It is all too easy to relapse into my old habits of trying to blend in as best as possible and accepting the ignorance of others but I am more conscious of it. I realize now when I make verbal or social mistakes and if I don’t call myself out on it immediately, then I do try to remedy the mistake at the next opportunity. And while I don’t appreciate those interactions which ignore my prolonged absence over the past year, I also don’t want to be constantly reminded of the people, places, and experiences that I left behind. I know that I still look “fresh off the plane” and I also continue to be shocked by certain aspects of my everyday life here:
-The first few days I felt like a visitor on an alien planet. Looking for clothes to wear in the morning was like going shopping in a store where everything is my size but nothing looks quite right.
-I can talk on the phone for an extended period of time without ever running out of credit
-There aren’t switches on outlets so that energy is wasted constantly and there is nothing I can do about it.
-The people I’ve spent the most significant time with over the last nine months are suddenly in a different time zone; a different world.
-I find that I’m more honest with expressing my preferences and opinions. I have less of ablem just being me.
-I have so many responsibilities! In Kayanga sewing lessons, buying vegetables or (not and) hanging out with a friend would be an entire day’s agenda. In Philadelphia I have internship research, reading, going to the gym, reconnecting with old friends, teaching ESL, and art projects (not to mention unpacking) that need to get done every day and I feel constantly overwhelmed. There just isn’t enough time in the day for my extensive agenda!
It’s difficult to come to terms the life changing realizations and moments I’ve had. For now, it’s easier to keep on keeping on. I love getting to spend time with my family and explore the city I grew up minutes from. I like going swimming and cooking. My favorite foods are no longer inaccessible but rather the pantry is stocked full of anything I could possibly crave.
So thanks for reading along as I dove into a new culture, language, and adventure, but I think for now, I’m going to slow down a bit and try to readjust who I am to where I am
“I’m going to East Africa!” I told my friends and last May this is what they said:
white sand beaches
birdies and monkies
all year I said:
After nine months of studying in Tanzania I’m chosing to leave it with such negative feelings? Well not quite.
It has taken me nine months to come to a sort of understanding with which I can come to terms with the rollercoaster ride of Tanzania.
I hated when people would automatically speak English to me; can’t you hear I’mtryingto learn Swahili? I’m sure they were all thinking “can’t youseethat you are white and most white people here don’t speak Swahili?” Oh. Right. So maybe it was rude of me to judge you for accomodating me in your country…
Butwhydo you have to take creepy cell phone pictures of me; I can see you doing it! And don’t you dare tell me it’s becausewenzangu,my companions, are doing it. I’m not with every white person! I’ve never seen that man before!
Oh, you meant companion in the sense of familiarity with which you treat your Tanzanian and African ‘brothers?’ Well what do you know? All you do is sweep the floor for the port authority!
I was rude and ignorant (and still am but I’m trying to change) and slowly I am beginning to understand. I don’t hate Zanzibar or Tanzani; I hate who I become when I feel threatened, uncomfortable, nervous, vulnerable. While my ‘sassy Swahili’ is humorous to me and my friends, I never really thought about those at the recieving end. It was easier to pretend that I couldn’t see the struggle and the sacrifice of their lives so that I wouldn’t have to empathize; it was easier for me to pretend that we were all the same.
But we’re not. I am an over-privleged white girl from America and no matter how much I try I can’t blend in here or truly and completely understand the culture and language; but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
So let me try this again: I am about to board a plane to leave Tanzania and I am taking with me:
and a few seashells