Almost five months later, I know how off target my feelings were that day. I did it, and I thrived. Never before have I been as consistently happy as I have been these last few months in Tanzania. I came here a stranger, but felt at home before week one was over. Despite my Swahili being basic at best those first few weeks, I found no shortage of people willing to help me practice and found the subjects I could talk about growing quickly.
As I sat in a shop on market day in Engaruka last week, helping a Mama out with customers as she repaired clothing, I realized just how much I had learned. We were sitting there talking about America: the people, weather and daily life. We talked about Tanzania: where I had gone, why I had fallen so in love with this country, why I liked the food so much. I talked about myself: what I wanted to study in University, where I saw myself in ten years and how many kids I wanted. We talked about the differences between Tanzania and America, religion and so much more. I spent four hours talking with a woman who knows no English and I felt pretty proud of my Kiswahili.
I've experienced so many new things here. I've held the 3 day old baby of a stranger. I purchased a cow at church. (click for link) I was in my first dust storm. I've spent time with widows who are barely older than I am. I've talked with students about setting goals and peer pressure. I've danced with Maasai women, climbed the tallest mountain in Africa (click for link) and built a chicken farm in Zanzibar. I have seen a woman being carried by her neighbors more than ten miles to the hospital. I have learned that material objects are not what what bring happiness but rather family and love, full stomachs and health, friends and laughter. I've learned to be thankful for what I have; that nothing should be taken for granted and to give what I can. l have been renamed. I have felt more love than ever before. I have seen parents who are grateful to Kellen, Daudi and me, not because we have given their children scholarships to attend secondary school, but simply because we are trying. Whenever I find myself getting frustrated with the difficulties of finding scholarships for 8 students to attend Secondary School (around $5,600 a year total) I will remember the gratitude of the children and their parents and be reminded of why I want to help.