Geof-frica

A Connecticut Yankee in Tanzania

One wish

I wish I had Vine in Africa.

Damn.

Next time.

Leaving TZ

In the last couple days, I woke up early and took pictures around the village. I knew I would greatly miss being here and I wanted as many reminders as possible.

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Don’t really miss this guy.

On Thursday we woke up, ate breakfast, and took all our luggage to the bus/van. Some of the Bigwa students came to see us off. It was bittersweet, especially considering that we knew we had a long, uncomfortable journey ahead of us. And that’s just the bus ride, never mind the two plane rides.

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The last two pics of Mt. Uruguru, taken from our bus.

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Dar es Salaam, the capital city, where we flew into and out of.

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After the 4 and a half hour ride, but before we got to the airport, we decided to stop for something to eat. We ended up going to a very fancy hotel restaurant, where we all dined on the buffet as if we hadn’t seen food in 2 weeks. For the most part, we hadn’t seen this type of food in 2 weeks, so it was no wonder we took advantage.

When we got to the airport, we said goodbye to the African nuns that had traveled with us on the bus. They were extremely sweet and helpful and we were all very grateful for their support, guidance, and hospitality over the course of our trip.

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Inside the Tanzanian airport. It was very small. A lot of it was actually outside, and inside it was about 1000 degrees.

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The entertainment on United Arab Emirates (this is the back of a seat if you can’t tell). I’ve been on several flights in my life, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this was by far the best airlines I’ve ever dealt with, from the service to the amenities to the comfort level to the flight itself.

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After the 5 hour plane ride, we were back in Dubai for a short layover.

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The Dubai airport was really an amazing place. I enjoyed a Bloody Mary and a $12 water from Norway in a glass cylinder while looking at lush vegetation. It wasn’t exactly Bradley Airport that’s for sure.

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Coca-Cola in Arabic. I really love the Arabic script.

After the brief hiatus in Dubai, a mere 13 hour flight back to America awaited us. I kid you not when I say this was the most excruciating flight I’ve ever been on. It was a combination of things; a minimal amount of sleep plus a 4 hour bus ride and a 5 hour plane flight in quick succession never makes for a fun day. However, the family sitting directly behind me was the real icing on the turd flavored cake. If I remember correctly (I’ve since tried to block it from my memory) there were 2 small children, a baby, and two adults. The adults didn’t think it was a big deal that their kids were kicking the chairs in front of them, screaming throughout the flight, and playing in the aisles. If it wasn’t for the calming influence of my co-teacher/friend Meaghan sitting next to me and the amazing entertainment system I mentioned before, my mind would have suffered irreparable damage .

Instead, I enjoyed Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” about a hundred times, so maybe I did have some brain damage. I also got my Ryan Gosling fix by watching Crazy, Stupid, Love  (mildly funny but ultimately a cut-and-paste romantic comedy) and Drive (an amazing drama/thriller with a great soundtrack). I would have loved a 20 minute nap, at the very least, but that wasn’t happening.

Eventually, we finally arrived at JFK. Surprisingly it didn’t take too long to get through customs and get our luggage.

As we picked up our bags, we all said goodbye. Mostly, we were rushing to get home so we didn’t linger, and I was in a state of walking unconsciousness, so I didn’t have much to say anyway. Besides, with the advent of Facebook and email and texting, saying goodbye is never as difficult as it used to be. 

I do remember one exchange clearly, though. As I said goodbye and thanks to Sister Catherine, the younger of the American nuns, she told me she was very glad to have me on this trip. Then she said: “You were right on the line between teacher and student.”

I was very proud of that. In fact, that is basically how I try to live my life, as a teacher and a student. I feel that I have an innate desire to spread knowledge to others, and I have a continuous hunger for more knowledge and wisdom. A teacher should never stop learning. I was very flattered by the comment, and it was the second time (at least) that Sister Cathy said something that really spoke to my views on life (another was when she was explaining her view on interconnectivity).

Later, as I reflected back on the comment, I considered that maybe she meant that at certain points I acted like a mature teacher and other times I acted as an immature student, but even so, I’m still taking it as a compliment.

I left the airport with my new friend Greg, who kindly drove me back to my car on Long Island. 

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Where it all started.

From there it was another 2 hour drive home, straight into a hot shower and onto my bed for the next 16 hours.

An interesting conversation

After tea time one day, my student Catherine asked me about my tattoos. She had asked previously in class, but at that time all she wanted to know was if they hurt (yes). This time, she wanted to know if I was worried about what God thought. I hesitated, which she took to mean that I didn’t believe in God (I’ve mentioned how smart these girls are, right?). Then she asked, “So you are a pagan?” I immediately responded, “No,” but thought about it and corrected myself, “Well, yeah, kinda.”

Seeing as it was a Catholic school, I was a little hesitant to state my beliefs completely. A lot of different religious groups claim persecution, but I would argue that no group of people is more persecuted than atheists. However, I never felt that way during my short stay in Tanzania, and I doubt most people would have really cared. The simple fact is, I’ve never been one to wear my beliefs on my sleeve, but I’ve never really been one to hide my beliefs either. I definitely wasn’t going to lie to her, so I was upfront. I told her I was born and raised Catholic but that I no longer identified with any religion. As I assumed, she didn’t judge me. She wasn’t even that surprised (maybe I give off an atheist vibe?). The girls at Bigwa are Catholic, but most have no interest in becoming a nun or being involved in the church in any fashion other than attending mass. But they are definitely affected by Catholic beliefs and teachings, and I think Catherine was a little excited at the prospect of not being so controlled by ideology.

I told her that I don’t believe in God, but if one exists, I highly doubt he/she would be concerned about tattoos. I said I think God would be more concerned with how I treat others. Then I mentioned that many cultures consider tattoos to be sacred, and for most people, they mean something very important. She was intrigued and I was happy to have had the opportunity to voice my beliefs. I was getting a little asphyxiated by all the Church stuff around me.

A few months after I got home, Catherine sent me a picture of her new tattoo.

:-) 

Random thoughts and pictures

I’m getting towards the end.

As I look at my remaining journal notes and pictures, a sense of sadness washes over me. Unlike the actual end of my trip, when I was sad to leave but excited to come home, there is no excitement now. I enjoyed writing about this trip so much because it was like reliving it every time I posted. That’s why it’s taken almost a year to blog about a 14 day trip: I never wanted the experience to end. Blogging about it was a way to keep it going, and now that I’m almost at the end of writing about it, it feels like it’s really coming to a close. And I don’t like it. 

So I guess I’ll have to do a similar trip soon to recapture the magic. The problem is, it will be a different magic. Okay, that’s not really a problem, but it is the truth. I’m sure I will enjoy whatever trip I take, and there will be plenty more amazing experiences to have and amazing people to meet, but this chapter has closed and there’s no reliving it.

Damn that’s sad. 

We can’t live in the past, but we always take our past experiences with us into the future, and I’m grateful that I will always have this experience with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Plus I have a bunch of awesome new friends! It’s even more awesome because we all shared the experience so it makes the memories more vivid, more real.

And I have great pictures! Always an excellent way of capturing and reliving the moments of our past. Here are some I haven’t posted yet (I don’t think).

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Campus cows.

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Campus monkey

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Wall monkey

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Campus computer lab (with some of those awesome friends I mentioned!).

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Birthday cake for Sister Margaret, who celebrated her 75th (!!!!) birthday during our trip.

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Cloudy skies over Uruguru Mountain

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More clouds and trees

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A lizard in the bathroom.

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Bigwa’s fish pond. I must say, I was not exactly craving fish after seeing this.

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Clouds.

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Yup, more clouds!

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Uruguru.

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Uruguru, and the road leading to downtown Morogoro

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Me!

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Kids! My friend Waynetta took this (and the next two) pics. 

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Well, only a few posts left I suppose…

We Will Miss You

More singing and dancing from the Bigwa girls!

Bigwa Dancing and Singing on our last day

A Tanzanian Farewell

Student Performance - Exorcise the Demons!

After the feast, we went back to our hostel. I tried to take a nap, but Catherine was around and insisted on playing, so that’s what happened instead.

In the late afternoon, we went to a farewell celebration put on by the students. First, a large group sang and danced for us (I have some video I will put up next).

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Next, they put on an outrageous play. It involved the devil and an exorcism. The moral was to worship the one true god, but all I got from it was the devil character smacking down the preacher character. It was pretty wild, and all the girls had a blast putting it on and/or watching it. 

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After the performance, we all sang the Tanzanian  national anthem. The students danced some more, then pulled us all in with them. We sang and danced and took pictures for a while.

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The Bigwa staff throws a party for the Americans