Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nearing the End

          On Saturday Kellen and I got back from my last visit to Engaruka before I head home. We ended up spending 6 days there, which was longer than we had planned but I’m so glad we did! I’ve been lucky enough to see quite a bit of Tanzania during these past 4 months but out of everywhere I’ve been, Engaruka is my favorite, hands down. The thing that makes Engaruka so special is the people that live there. To me, they define the meaning of community: if a person is in need, someone will try to help. If a family is short on school fees, chances are the other villagers will help however they can, even if it isn’t much. We saw a woman who was very sick and going to the hospital. There was no one with a car available that day so a group of other villagers was took turns carrying her to the hospital. The love that the people in Engaruka have for each other, and for visitors, is beautiful and a philosophy I want to live by. 
     We visited Oldonyo Lengai Secondary School and Engaruka Juu Primary school again to talk with the girls in the Empowered Girls Club. Instead of the mzungu (white girl) Q&A that we did previously, I got the chance to talk to them about some life skills! For the secondary students we talked about goal setting: why it is important, how to make goals, the difference between long term and short term goals and some other goal related topics. I hope they found my information useful and will apply it to their own lives. At the primary school I talked about peer pressure, something that seems to be pretty universal. When I asked for examples of peer pressure many of the things said were so similar to the types of peer pressure faced in America. A few of the things they listed were someone pressuring you to have sex, try drugs and gossip and play instead of doing your homework. With them, I talked about the importance of focusing on school instead of letting yourself become distracted as well as the reasons to not give in to peer pressure. The younger girls at the primary school really seemed to have taken in everything we talked about during our previous times there, which was so encouraging! This is the first primary school that Empowered Girls is working with and they have set a high standard so far. 
After I talked, Kellen took some time to give some feminine hygiene products to all the girls who attended the meeting and answer any questions they had about  their menstrual cycle. Imagine having to miss school one week every month simply because you don’t have consistent access to hygiene products. These girls had so many questions and I think that it was one of the first times that they had been able to ask any questions about their bodies without being embarrassed. We also listened to the song that they had written for Empowered Girls and it was great! 

      During the rest of our time I got the chance to talk to a group of widows who make and sell jewelry to support their families and afterwards they asked me to (try) to dance and sing with them. I also spent ore time with the 19 year old widow who lives in the same compound (an extended family’s area enclosed for protection where there are sleeping areas, cooking hut and pens for livestock) where we stay in Engaruka. It still amazes me how different her life is compared to any 19 year old I know in the states. She has had a very hard life, yet she is still such a happy person and has one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. She is an incredibly loving mother, and seems to harbor no resentment or bitterness for the way her life has turned out. Most days she is only able to afford for her children to eat twice a day, breakfast and dinner, and only a very basic porridge. I decided to give her around $20 and told her she should use to it buy food for her family. She told me that instead she was going to buy clothes for her 3 children - for the first time. Her children have always worn simple pieces of cloth. Having food and clothing were two things I always took for granted growing up but is something that is not guaranteed for so many children.  She is truly an awe inspiring woman and I hope to write a much longer post about her in the future.  

      I cannot believe that my time in Tanzania has gone by so quickly, but I have loved every minute of it. I leave this Tuesday and head to South Africa for 10 days to visit a friend before heading home. I’m so glad that I am not leaving Tanzania and going straight back to the States, because there is a good chance I would just “miss” the plane and stay here! 

My first dust storm!
      I think I have already done the hardest part: leaving Engaruka, knowing that it would be years before I am able to return. A piece of my heart will always be in Engaruka, and I know that I will not forget the people there who have taught me so much.  It is strange to have such mixed feelings about leaving Tanzania when it is so vastly different from the world I grew up in. I am so excited to see everyone from back home,  and I know that I will be able to share what I have learned and experienced with many people:  yet, I am really not ready to leave. 


  1. That is awesome !
    I just met Mr. Akinosie 2 weeks ago, and fell in love with all the work he has done. Besides, the chocolate is awesome too !
    Congrats, and take this experience in your hearth and be the change. We need more people just like you.

  2. Thank you! I love everything about Askinosie chocolate, and I packed quite a few itty bars in my suitcase before I came to Africa...great way to make friends and a perfect boost of energy!
    I love hearing that people who don't know me are reading my blog, so thanks for checking it out.