Ten weeks of intensive training and 34 volunteers later, April 24th 2014, we officially swear-in. The past couple of months have challenged me in ways I never expected. It was a period of self-actualization. I have become aware of what makes me upset, what calms me up and what motivates me to keep going. I learned to laugh even during the most difficult moments, sometimes cry to remind myself there is strength in vulnerability, to open my eyes, mind and heart to new perspectives and question my intentions, behavior and the way I react to my surroundings.
A couple of weeks ago during site visit, sitting on a crowded colorful daladala (mini van), arms forced against the metal rusted window. Body awkwardly pushed between passengers while conductor bangs against the metal door collecting transportation fee. It’s humid and hot. I glance at the mother sitting next to me with young child between her arms and fruit basket between her legs. The man at a distance with headphones in both ears, face attached to cell phone screen. The young Tanzanian women on the left, makeup, rockafella jeans, nail polish only on left hand and hairstyle resembling Beyoncé’s new album. In the midst of the crowd, reality suddenly hits. I am IN Tanzania –for two more years.
Three daladala rides and two hours walk later, I arrive to my village. I arrive to my new home. Tanga is the region that will claim my body for the next two years. Known for its mountainous view, beaches, generosity and availability of fruits and water. House located in the center of the village, on clinic ground and secondary school nearby. Two health volunteers served in this community. There is definitely an advantage being a replacement volunteer. Most community members are familiar with Peace Corps and the work we do. However, being a replacement can often mean living up to expectations or trying to mend a past that was left broken by the previous volunteer. I am learning the importance of relationships in Tanzanian culture. Relationships are the foundation to building trust in your community. Keeping that in mind, I begin my journey here. I look forward to the challenges, the ups, downs and all the learning that comes with it.
I spend the past ten weeks completely immersing in Tanzanian culture. Intensive language training, technical training and cross-cultural understanding. People say Pre-service Training is the most difficult aspect of Peace Corps, in retrospect, I am beginning to understand why! PST challenges you. You are placed under a microscope. You are adopting a new way of living. Learning a new language can be absolutely stressful. There are many things I've learned and experienced in the past two months:
Bucket showers are not as bad as your mind perceive them to be.
Past the bruised knuckles and back pain, washing clothes by hands is a piece of cake –not really.
When bats fly out of your toilet hole, fear not –they make great house pets. I named my “Blacky.”
Roosters in the morning are the universe’s karma for all the evil you have ever done.
It is not easy being a woman in Tanzania –trust me.
You will have the best cup of tea in the middle of nowhere.
How you see a country depends on whether you are walking through it, living in it. On whether you can laugh at jokes and cry during the saddest moments.
Kiswahili, is almost 50% Arabic influence.
Tanzania celebrates its 50th anniversary, which is easy to forget sometimes this country is just a few years old and has a long way to go.
Thus far, I have had shots for HepA, polio, yellow fever HepB, tetanus, rabies, and flu shots. My body no longer feel pain.
Everyone is always watching. Everyone is always talking. Everyone knows you by name.
My family laughs as my kanga (traditional Tanzanian wrap) slips off my waist. They also laugh when I use rags to carry hot pots. When I wear shoes inside the house. When I use a spoon to eat Ugali. To them, I am pretty much pathetic ☺
Tanzanians are perhaps the most hospitable and generous people I have ever met.
My malaria pills give me the craziest dreams in Kiswahili and spiders crawling out of my ears.
This is a post-colonized, post-slavery country. It is so apparent in the way Tanzanians relate to the rest of the world.
Tanzania showcases a different sky every night –it leaves you breathless.
Witch doctors are very common here. My next-door neighbor is an mganga wa kienyeji.
I am very certain that I have swallowed multiple bugs in my sleep, including spiders.
Update: I became very ill after swearing-in ceremony. I am required to stay in Dar es Salaam for medical treatment. I am recovering well and excited to 'officially' move into my village and begin my service next week.
Family, friends, fellow readers, I am always thinking of you. Sending positive energy into universe hoping it reaches you all in best state of being.