First, I want to thank everyone who contributed and supported me in making this dream come true. It is humbling to know that I have such wonderful support out there. I still can’t grasp the fact that after 20 years of dreaming, the four weeks have already come and gone. It has been a very exciting journey and thank you for helping to make it a possibilty. I miss my kids everyday and am grateful for the time that I got to spend with them and being able to help make an impact on their lives. I am so grateful for this experience and again, for your support.
I tried to write a post or two while I was in-country but decided that rather than updating the internet on my adventures, I should focus my energy on actually living said adventures. Had I written the posts then, I am sure they would have had a fresh sparkly spin, as everything was new and different when I first arrived. All the things I found fascinating and new; sights, smells and even sounds that kept me up at night at first, all became expected and normal background noise.
So here I am now, trying to recap and relive everything and I find myself struggling to adjust to being home and frustrated that I can’t seem to find the right words to justify the experience. People ask me how it was, and I reply, “Amazing! Fantastic! It was so rewarding! The people were so friendly!” but that isn’t the whole truth and I feel it is just the cliché answer. In all honesty, it was more than “Amazing!” but there just aren’t enough words in the dictionary to give justice to it all or to truly elaborate on how much this trip impacted me. I know I’m not the first to ever make this trip, but it frustrates me when people say, “That’s what everybody says when they come back.” Every experience is different and I wish I could explain it in a way to make people really understand. Even though I took over 2,000 (!) great photos, I still don’t feel they capture the essence, the experience, the terrain, or the rusty and red dirt-covered shacks. They don’t show the feeling, the emotion, the happiness, the simpleness or the laid-back-no-problem-attitude of the Tanzanians well enough.
I did quite a lot in the four weeks I was there. In fact, I knocked 7 NEW things off my Life List! I know that’s a lot to be proud of. *African Safari* Volunteered abroad* Snorkeled in the Indian Ocean *made an impact on someone’s life* Visited Africa (only 3 continents left) * Saw the “Serengeti Migration” at Tarangerie* Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!* and Rode a camel (again)*
I will share my experiences the best I can through some posts but I feel very unsatisfied knowing that no words nor photos truly give justice to my experience. I hope I can hold onto those memories even if I cannot find the right descriptions to share just how special that country is and how much this trip has impacted and changed me.
This was not a vacation. Far from it. Everyday was exhausting and hard work, sometimes frustrating, but extremely rewarding. I was up at 545am and asleep by 10pm, usually earlier. The days were jam-packed. We’d teach in the morning and have educational sessions the home-base staff provided for us in the afternoons. I learned a boat-load in a short time.
I learned a lot about the Tanzanian culture, myself, about happiness, and what it means to be a community. I noticed drastic differences in the American and Tanzanian cultures. I realized the struggles that ESL teachers must go through. (Mad respect and kudos to Abby and Gina for teaching in South Korea for a full year! It isn’t easy!) I embraced the Hakuna Matata mantra and learned to live simply and appreciate the little things. I learned that I am at peace when I am traveling. I found a calmness in myself I hadn’t seen in years. I learned a new language. I learned no matter how bad things are, they are only as bad as you let them be. It is all about perspective. I learned that the best coffee in the world comes from Tanzania. I learned that having a positive mental attitude and just believing you can is enough to make anything possible – even climbing mountains. Literally. The kids showed me that a little smile, wave or hug can make someone’s day. I realized how unnatural our “all natural” meat is. I realized American children are overprotected and very co-dependent. We have laws and bans on everything and in the end, it is only hurting us. We don’t trust our neighbors or even own children. Kids as young as two walk to school on their own in Tanzania. I learned that while I may not be able to change the world in 3 weeks, I still can have an impact on a child’s life and make a difference. I learned to appreciate the American school system and structure (more on that later). Unexpectedly, while I was teaching the kids, they taught me too. I realized we take a lot for granted, that our priorities are definitely out of whack, and that we are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. I learned so much and I could go on. But for now, I’ll stop there.