Wow. I cannot believe that tomorrow night I will be back in Springfield for the first time in 5 months. It feels unreal, but I am starting to get pretty excited! Today at lunch, as Katherine and I both made lists about our time in Africa, I realized just how much I will miss this continent. I still cannot upload pictures, but, in the mean time, I thought I would share my list with you all.
The best thing about my time in Africa: Telling Saning'o that he would be able to attend school this year. Being out of my comfort zone for 5 months...and realizing how much I was able to experience because I was out of my comfort zone.
The most challenging thing about my time in Africa: Kilimanjaro! Also, living in a country where very few people speak English. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I didn't realize how little English I would speak/hear while in Tanzania. I'm so glad it was that way because it made learning Swahili a much higher priority.
How I've changed during my time in Africa: I think I am more independent than I was five months ago. I'm much more up for an adventure and am okay with being completely flexible with my plans. I have also become a less picky eater - and if you know me, then you know that is a big change. As cliche as it sounds, I have also become much more aware of just how fortunate I am in the life that I live.
Favorite foods I've tasted: Mbuzi (goat), chapati and Kyela rice!
What I have loved most about Africa: Engaruka and the people I have met everywhere. I have learned so much about how to be a welcoming and loving person from those whom I have had the opportunity to meet these past months. These people are happy to open their homes and hearts to a stranger.
What I've missed from home: My people! I haven't been homesick since week six (and only a small amount then) but I do miss my people. I am so excited to see everyone when I get back home. I'm lucky enough to have a pretty awesome line-up that will be waiting for me at the airport, and I can't wait! One of the things that will get me on that plane tonight is the thought of seeing my mom and dad, my grandparents, Debbie, Emily, Alexa and Zayden, Brandon and everyone else!
What I'm looking forward to: As cheesy as this sounds I am so excited to find out what my future has in store and where my life will take me. Or maybe it's where I will have life take me. I am very sad to be leaving Africa, but buoyed knowing that there are many more adventures ahead of me.
Favorite experiences: Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro - a very proud moment for me. Going cage diving (or 'cage breath-holding') with Great White Sharks. Going paragliding; which officially marked the end of my fear of heights. Learning Swahili and using it everyday to connect with people and learn the stories of their lives. Buying a cow at church. Speaking with the secondary students in Tanzania. Getting to know Kellen and Daudi much better and being inspired by them every day! Being willing to try new things that I wouldn't have tried a year ago: trying strange foods, being willing to talk with people in a different language despite not speaking it fluently, paragliding, going Sokkie dancing in South Africa.
I am glad that I have been able to so honestly share my experiences--the good and the bad--while in Africa with everyone who reads this blog. It has been a privilege to give you all a look into the first half of my gap year. I still have lots of stories to share about Tanzania once I get back home, so be sure to check back. The rest of my gap year will be very different than the first half, but I will still be sharing the stories of my adventures with all of you!
Thank you for all the support you have shown to me. It means so much to me.