September 23, 2017
I didn’t realize saying goodbye to Tanzania would be this hard. The airplane just took off from Dar and my eyes filled with tears. When I first landed in Africa I was actually pretty scared and worried from everything I had been told and I was hesitant to officially step off the plane once it landed; however, now as I’m leaving I don’t want the wheels on the plane to go off the ground.
How is it possible that I came as a stranger but left with so many rafikis? Even though these friends may be on the other side of the globe once I’m back in America, they’re still lifelong friends. There’s a connection that is formed when you travel to a new place and befriend the people there. Your friendship accelerates a million times more and the bond you share is so special. I feel that way about all of the people that I met through Work the World and all of the amazing people that actually live in Tanzania.
I just don’t know how to put into words the people that are in Tanzania. They are such beautiful people with such amazing hearts. I’m going to miss walking by the shoe maker Sharkan and the painter Mirajisekulamba every morning when I would go into work and would get back from work. They were always there with a grin on their face shouting, “Maji, mabo?!” I’m going to miss all the phrases and speaking in Swahili and my dear Swahili teacher, Jacob. I’m also going to miss all of the Swahili food and Swahili music/dancing. I’m going to miss knowing so many of the nurses, nursing students, and doctors throughout the various units and how great of friends we all became. Like going on weekend adventures with Florida or going to Jane’s house for dinner and church with her beautiful family. I’m going to miss everyone from Work the World like Mo, Jesca, Edito, Faraja, Beda, Naama, and all the security men. I could write an entire book on everything they’ve done for me. They always asked about my day and were there for me all the time! Jesca went to the hospital with me every time I had to go for my dressing change. I’m going to miss seeing my waiters at the local restaurants and how they’d always hug me and knew me by name. Amos and Maraja were my two favorites. Amos would always make me a special smoothie at the Red Tomato before it closed down and then he moved to Salty’s where I ate my last meal in Tanzania and he waited on me. I’m going to miss our talks about his sweet wife and family and his commute every day. Maraja worked at Shooters and every Thursday when everyone would go celebrate he always chose a special dessert for me. My favorite was the Mississippi Mud Pie. When I had my job interview for Vanderbilt and had to use the wifi at Shooters he helped get me a spot and accommodated me so sweetly.
This was today when I was saying goodbye to everyone.
I’m going to miss how everyday was so different at the hospital and I never knew which new friend I was going to make next! It was always an adrenal rush. I’m actually going to miss the crazy dala dala and bijaji rides too! Even though every time I would get in a mode of transportation here I was scared for my life because of how people drive here. Gotta love no street rules.
Moreover, I’m going to miss going to the local market and bargaining for every item so you don’t get mzungu price. I’ll miss all my friends there too (they literally knew me by name because of how many times I have been souvenir shopping… If only you could’ve seen me at the airport: 2 large suitcases, one backpack, one long side purse that looked like Mary Poppins handbag because of its depth, and my purse!) I wanted to make sure I was able to get everyone at least something from Africa! I wish I could bring all my loved ones here so they could just see how spectacular it truly is.
I’m simply going to miss the way of life in Tanzania with how people live. The people in Dar truly humbled me and I just don’t know how I could ever pay it back. If I had to say what my favorite part of Africa was it would 100% be the people and culture. I’m so grateful to be able to say that I have a family in Tanzania.
In addition, there are two things that have really been on mind over the last few weeks. What is it going to be like going back into a Western country when I’ve gotten so use to life here? Lastly, what am I supposed to do from here? I’ve seen all of these things and my heart and eyes have been opened to so much. My biggest fear is simply going back to the western world and have Africa just be a memory. Africa is literally like a different world. How am I supposed to connect these two worlds that I know? What am I meant to do from here in terms of helping the health care system in Africa? Change is made by many little steps and it takes a long time. However, nothing will happen unless we fight for that change.
I am being overwhelmed with thoughts as I am hopping from airplane to airplane getting closer to returning to America. My first flight from Dar to Switzerland I cried the entire time. The lady I sat beside was actually a retired nurse who use to work at Muhimbli. We had such a great conversation. Her family owns a little pastry shop in the city market. She must have thought I was emotionally unstable though because all I would do when we weren’t talking is just stare at the seat in front of me and let the tears roll down my face. For 8 hours I did that. All the memories flashing in my mind and the fear of returning. I’m not sure why it is a fear. I am just worried this will only be a memory. How do I connect the two worlds? People in both of my worlds aren’t connected and I am anxious with how I will convey with everyone everything I experienced. It is honestly impossible. You just have to experience it yourself. No matter how many times you talk about it or how many pictures you show it doesn’t do it justice. I feel like I will be beating a dead horse and won’t be able to relate to what I once called home. Ignorance is truly bliss.
One thing that has been on my mind is how easy it is to simply come and go for Americans. A lot of people in Africa may never be able to come to America based on restrictions we have. It’s sad that most of the people I know will never go to Africa because of the “unknown” and stories that have been told. On the flip side, most of my rafikis in Tanzania won’t be able to come to the states due to money as well as restrictions we have set forth. It just makes me upset these two amazing worlds won’t get to meet or come into contact. It is something that I am internally struggling with.
Lastly, since I have begun my trip back home a few things have stood out to me. There is ACTUAL A/C, mzungus are everywhere, there is no body odor, there is actual Wi-Fi and proper electricity, there is toilet paper in the bathrooms, and there are no bugs anywhere. All the paint in the buildings is nicely done and there’s no dirt anywhere. It’s funny to me how these things never really stood out to me in Dar. I just accepted them. However, now that I am reacclimating into Western society they are extremely apparent. I am at the airport in Geneva right now and my next stop will be Chicago. From there I will be NASHVILLE BOUND! Yay. Very bitter sweet.