Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tanzania - Week 1

Oh boy, where to begin?

I can't believe I have already been here one week! I have so much to tell!

If I had to say one thing about Tanzania it is that the people here are so incredibly nice and welcoming! As I mentioned on Facebook, the word I hear most often is "Karibu" which means "You are welcome". It is said in response to "Thank you", when coming home, when sitting down to eat, and to any and all guests and visitors.

The best example of the kindness of Tanzanians I have is when I first arrived. My flight got in at 2 am and there was supposed to be a driver waiting to take me to the house where I am staying. Up until this point I had had absolutely no problems traveling, which, if you know me, is kind of unheard of. All my flights were on time, I had no problems with customs or security (I usually get picked for special searches), and all my luggage made it! But when I walked out of the airport into the warm night air, I couldn't find my driver. There were many drivers there waiting to pick up people who were traveling for safaris and Mt. Kilimanjaro, but no one for me. I decided to wait for a bit before panicking and calling the contact numbers I had. As I waited other drivers kept coming up and asking if I was okay and what company I was waiting for. In other places, this could have been simply an attempt of others to drive me and overcharge, but here the drivers were genuinely concerned for me and wanted to help. When I got out my phone to try to start calling numbers one of the drivers took out his cellphone and started calling for me. He eventually got in touch with the director of the Child Growth and Development Center, Father Faustine, and it was arranged that I would be driven into town to meet him. It turns out there was confusion with my arrival date and they thought I was coming the next night. Despite the fact that I was by myself, at a foreign country's airport, at 3 am, I never once felt scared...I think I would have been more nervous in the same situation in the US.

I ended up having to spend the night at Father Faustine's parrish since the house was not yet ready. The next morning I had breakfast with Father Faustine and he showed me around his church. He told me a little about local culture and the mission of the CGD. He explained that women are still very much considered second-class despite the fact that they do the majority of work. Polygamy is also still common in rural areas and men like to have lots of children because then they have more animals and more prestige. But then women struggle to care for and support so many children. So the main mission of the CGD is to empower both women and children; to teach them how to raise themselves up rather than simply providing charity and then leaving. #girlpower

I eventually got to Tulivu House where I'm staying for the next few weeks. It's in a rural area between two villages (one of them is called Chekereni, because a railroad runs through it...get it? Chek-e-reni...check for train? Hahaha it kills me!), and about 20 minutes outside of the city of Arusha. The house is very nice and meant to sleep up to 6 people but since it's just me this month, the housekeeper/cook is also staying here so I'm not alone. There is normally running water and a shower but there has been an 8 month drought and so I'm currently taking cold water bucket-baths.

Actually, my first day here we got some rain, and then it has rained at least a little every day since (it's currently summer here) and so Father Faustine said that I'm a blessing since I brought them rain. You know where this is going right??

I blessed the rains in Africa. (mic drop)

Sorry, but you had to have known that was going to come up sooner or later!

Judita is the housekeeper, and guys, I swear she's like a ninja! I don't even notice that my shoes are gone until they're back in my room all clean. And she keeps me very well much food! She also always has hot water for coffee out on the table morning, noon, and night and gives me fresh mango and avocado with every meal because she knows I love them. I think we pretend to understand each other more than we actually do, but she is teaching me some Swahili and we go on walks to the villages some times.

I spend my days in the pediatric wards at Mt. Meru Regional hospital in Arusha. It's a government hospital at the state level (there national level hospitals as well). I'll talk a little more about my time at the hospital in a different post, and if you read my last post then you already know a bit.

I haven't ventured out much besides going to the hospital and around the house mainly due to a cold that kept me home-bound this weekend. It's also a little nerve-wracking to go out and explore on my own in the city. I stand out as a foreigner even though there are tourists here and so I get a lot of stares and people greeting me. Again, it's part of the culture of everyone being so welcoming, and I love having kids always waving and running up to say hello, but as someone who gets nervous even talking to people I know, it's a little unnerving having men come up and want to talk to me or invite me in for a soda. On Friday at the hospital someone walked up, asked how I was doing and then said "let's go!" When I asked where, he said "The canteen!"

But overall I love it here! Everyone is kind and so happy and grateful for whatever little they have. It's incredibly humbling.

My neighbors!

That's certainly plenty for now. I'll be back to talk more about the hospital and hopefully have more pictures!

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