With only about three weeks left in my village, my time here is certainly nearing its end. When every day seems like a week, but every week seems like a day, time moves on in an endlessly confusing way… And now it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s time to say goodbye.
Nearing the end, I naturally think back to the beginning, and all the in between. While there were certainly moments of frustration, near-hopelessness, fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, and loneliness, all those moments have been balanced by the joy that can fill your life from successes, both big and small. I can’t even begin to process right now my windy road of Peace Corps service, the ups and downs, the loops and sudden turns…
All I can say now is how thankful I feel to have lived two years with such an amazing and welcoming community of people. Their hospitality and enthusiasm to work with me and to become my friends has impacted me greatly and allowed me to create some lasting memories. And what instills my gratitude the most is the knowledge that this is all reciprocated – I have impacted the people here as well, and I too will be in their memories. Here are some of the moments that race to the forefront of my mind as I think back up that windy road:
-Climbing my avocado tree with the neighbor boys, while having passing mamas laugh and shake their heads at us.
-Getting feedback from a babu (grandfather) after finishing a workshop to build “watering cans” out of old plastic water bottles – he called it “real education” and then thanked me profusely.
-Racing with a neighbor friend through a rather torrential downpour to return home from a short walk together. She at first wanted to seek shelter, but when I gave up on that and embraced the chilly shower, she joined me and we continued on home, laughing about how wet we were.
-The evening of my arrival: I enter my dark, dirty, and wet cave of a house. It’s empty save for a small bed, a table, and a wooden chair. It’s getting dark outside. I don’t know where to put my things, or where to even sit because every surface is covered in some form of filth. I am alone. Then! My first friend in the village, a primary school teacher, Sophia, comes through my door clucking and shaking her head. She tells me to wait, so I stand in the corner while she runs off. She then returns to dust, sweep, and mop my house, to help me set up the mosquito net and make the bed, and then to cook us dinner… If it weren’t for her I most likely would’ve spent that first night curled in a corner crying.
-Playing guitar for my mamas group, then having each of them try to strum and sing (substantial amounts of laughter always followed).
-Dancing “American style” (aka, jumping around like crazy) with the secondary school students to WALK THE MOON’s “Shut Up and Dance”
-Playing soccer with the guys – here soccer is mostly a man’s sport. People are still shanga-ed (shocked) to hear about it.
-Conversing with my neighbor bibi (grandmother) who is often at least slightly intoxicated. She speaks in a wavering and slurred mixture of Swahili and the tribal language Kibena, leaving me constantly at a loss as to what she’s actually saying, but also endlessly amused.
-Cooking (attempting to cook) a massive amount of ugali, the staple food made from corn flour, with mamas as we prepared for a funeral. FYI, it’s really heavy… and there’s a lot of smoke in the face due to cooking over wood fires.
-On the road between sub-villages with my friend and the previous village chairperson, appreciating the land and the way the clouds were filtering the sunlight upon the hills.
-Hearing my friends try to pronounce “guacamole” after we made it together – they still make it at home to this day, and still butcher the word (and they know it too).
-Trekking along the slippery roads in the rain with the agriculture officer to make garden after garden for our project.
-Being honored at weddings, whether I want to be or not. I am always invited to the front to sit with the families, which is always a joy for everyone, and then am an even bigger hit when it’s time to dance my wedding present up the aisle to the happy newlyweds (a tradition here).
-Seeing the community members I trained to be garden trainers excitedly start to teach others, and getting everything correct.
-Tirelessly distributing gutters to extremely appreciative community members, then seeing them on houses when walking through the village.
-Being stuffed with ugali and beans during various house visits – it seems like people always have some on hand no matter the time of day.
-Visiting the church with my parents when they made it out to my village, and getting the best welcome in the form of some amazing song and dance.
-Joking around with the young guys helping to drill wells about reggae, and dance moves, and how to find proper inspiration in a cup of pombe (the local brew).
-Farming the area around my house with the little neighbor kids – very, very slowly.
-Coloring and reading stories with the kids of my two go-to families here.
I could continue on for ages… I cannot deny that I am excited to move on to an entirely different living and working situation/experience in Dar es Salaam at the beginning of March, but that does not mean that I don’t appreciate every moment I spent in my village with my friends and fellow community members. They have helped to shape me into the person I am today – a person very different from the one who left America two years ago, though I have yet to fully realize how changed she truly is.
This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week five: Hospitality.