Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Africa (Blog ?): Week 3 & Last 3 days
Africa (Blog ?): Week 3, Plus Last 3 Days
I ended my last pre-Kili blog at the end of week 2, after an interesting ride home from Marangu on the Daladala. Shortly thereafter, the next part of my story takes off:
As previously mentioned, most of the other volunteers we in Zanzibar, leaving me, Jamie, Jessica, and Logan. Logan, being more of a person who keep to himself, left us shortly after dinner.
Ironically, the 3 of us left were probably the most like-minded, with similar dispositions. I found that Jessica has much older boyfriend who was divorced and had 3 kids…sound familiar? Anyway, I will save you most of the conversation and turn to an “umbrella” program Jessica and some past CCS volunteers would like to start in Tanzania.
Jessica’s goal is to create an agency that would connect many of the local non-profits and become a resource center for not only them but for people who would like to volunteer in the area. It would be a way to share information and best utilize donation, data, and volunteers. In addition, it would also dually serve as a volunteer program for local street kids, based on the idea of empowering youth through their own abilities and helping the community at the same time. This is just a very brief summary, but Jessica’s determination and commitment was contagious. Instantly (and after asking quite a few questions to be sure) I knew I wanted to help and be part of the mission. Perhaps there could be a partnership with a compassion program back home?
It was in this talk that I had my déjà vu moment. Now, I’m not sure what déjà vu means to everyone… I believe it is mainly described as the feeling that something has happened before. For me, it is a little bit more than that. When I have a déjà vu moment, I flashback to something that seems like an old dream to me. I felt like I had dreamt that moment, sitting at the table underneath the large pavilion in Tanzania and talking with Jessica and Jamie. However, it might just be more than a dream. Maybe I had planned, or charted that event myself… For me, that déjà vu moment meant I was on track.
Sunday was low-key day. After a 9 mile run, I got all my lesson plans together for the week and had more interesting conversations with Jessica and Jamie. I learned much about the education system in America, Canada (Jamie is Canadian), and France (where Jessica’s bf is from). In the afternoon, the 3 of us stopped at a small shop down the street, and I had the local beverage: Fanta. (I was able to drink half of it, before the extra sugar in the drink became too much).
Tuesday proved to be the day that brought me closest to tears. We visited an orphanage, which really was much more of a large family. They welcomed us in their house with song and thanked God for their blessings. I was overcome with the amount of love in the room. The father had a light in him that could not be put out. His wife and many children were nothing short of beautiful.
It was the next day I learned how little I knew…
My CCS group went on a day trip to Arusha and first was on our list was a trip to ICTR, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Call me ignorant (I did), but I had no idea what this was. Then I started to hear things like genocide, women and children, 90’s, and United Nations. Apparently, there was a mass genocide in Rwanda in 1994, and I had absolutely no idea. How could I have not learned about this in school? As it turns out, the trails are still going on, but should be ending this June. The trails have turned out to be a turning point for the United Nations, declaring that no matter how powerful someone’s position may be, they can be tried and punished for wrong doing. Furthermore, I learned that a music artist, comparable to Michael Jackson, had been tried and found guilty for lyrics that promoted violence and killing.
Just being in Africa opened my eyes to another world, but this really helped that sink in even more. I never claimed to know a lot, but now I know how little I really do know. It’s not something to be ashamed about, but a good realization of the “box” I lived in and motivation to keep exploring and seeking information.
Friday was the last day of my volunteer placement at Step Up Center. I can’t say I was exactly sad. While I very much appreciated the experience, I was so glad it was over. I loved the kids. It was great to learn what a school in Tanzania was like. But, I never felt especially useful or beneficial to the kid’s, or had any clear idea as to what was expected of me. Still, I did what I could and was happy to break up the monotony of the day for some of the kids. I also now assuredly knew that I did not miss my calling as a teacher, but working with kids in a program setting would be perfect. The class sang a goodbye song to me, and a little girl Margaret gave me her blessing my kissing me on the forehead.
That afternoon, I found a trekking company, booked and paid for my trip up Kili, and got my gear ready to go for the next morning…
(Kilimanjaro Climb, blogs already posted)
After summiting Kilimanjaro, I thought my adventure would be over. I even wrote all the way to very last line of my journal. However, this proved to be untrue, I still had a little bit more left to do.
As mentioned in my last Kili blog, I was then posed with my the problem of finding a place to stay for the reminder of my time. With some searching and the help of Steve who had much better internet access than I did, I found what seemed to be a nice, cheap hotel. The fact that it was about half as much as the other hotels only scared me a little.
After getting my hair braided at a salon by the CCS house (I was only planning on getting part of my hair braided, but there was a bit of a communication difference), I took a taxi to the Babylon Lodge in Marangu. It ended up being very nice and perfect for what I needed. My room was actually more of a blue cave, though very clean. I even had a little patio outside, and the hotel restaurant was a 20 second walk away.
That first evening I walked into the main part of town and bought a bunch of the popular miniature bananas from a woman on the street. I felt like Frances from Under the Tuscan Sun, Africa version.
The next days I re-did the hike I had done a few weeks back with my friend Jamie, which had been very pole-pole. This time, by hiking and running (still on very sore quads), I was able to do it much faster…though I had forgotten how big of a hill it really was! The rest of the day I spent walking around, revisiting one of the waterfalls, and talking to some of the staff (my favorite was a young man, working hard so he could finish his education and move to New Mexico to be with his brother) and a woman from California currently working with a non-profit agriculture group, who had spent much of the last year in East Africa. To celebrate my last evening, I also made sure to order Banana Wine J I really wish they had it back in the States!
The next morning, after a short but beautiful run down a winding road of rolling hills, breakfast at the hotel, and another walk around town for more bananas, I headed back to the CCS house for lunch and to see the other volunteers for the last time.
It was without any trace of sadness or hesitancy that I left Tanzania. I think this surprised some of the others. Most people leave with many mixed feelings. Of course, it was a little bitter-sweet. I was leaving a place that had taught me so much and gave me many wonderful memories. But I had done what I came to do. I volunteered, I learned about a new culture, I threw myself out into the unknown, I made strangers into friends, I explored, I conquered Kilimanjaro, I even stayed at a hotel by myself and bought bananas off the street! In just a few short weeks, I had grown. I became more confident in myself. I’d be going hope with a refreshed enthusiasm for all that I had a waiting me, and a trust in my ability to succeed, whatever my path may be.
Simply, I was ready to go home.
Now, there are many sayings about “home” and I think each of them holds a truth for an individual person. The quote that holds true to me is “home is where the heart is”. My heart was with my loved ones back home, and I missed them. Especially Steve…I may or may not be saying that because I know he will read this and complain if he doesn’t see his name.
As I left the CCS house it started to rain. I took this as a good sign.
The was about a 40 minute drive to the airport and I was chatting with another volunteer who was going to Zanzibar for the weekend. There were animals lurking on the roadside, and my drive was driving a bit too fast, as usual. I was taking in the view for the last time, when there was a large THUD from the front of the van. My driver hit a donkey. I’m still very upset from this event. Without even looking up the possible meanings of this event, I know this was a bad sign.
Why do I know this? Because I had a 12 HOUR LAYOVER, WHILE SITTING ABOURT THE PLANE. No, I am not exaggerating. It really was 12 hours. 8 ½ Naples, and 3 ½ Rome. I heard they were beautiful places with very good coffee and ice cream, but I will never know unless I go back, but right now, I don’t have very good memories of them or a yearning to go back.
After missing my connecting flight that was supposed to get me back to Cleveland at 1:50 pm, we arrived at the Washington Dulles airport around 8:00 pm and I was passed around by about 8 different people which lead to a small breakdown and crying to Steve on the phone. I knew it would be okay and I’d get home in the morning, but with less than 3 hrs of sleep and stuck in a small vessel of people for over a day, I just couldn’t help it. After a few minutes and some time to get over it, I went back down the stairs to the Ethiopian Airlines office. There was more waiting, then a certificate for free food and accommodation provided at a nearby hotel. I would at least get 4 hrs of sleep that night.
Cheerfully (and a bit sickly), I walked through the airport and through security the next morning. I think a few people were taken aback by that. Before 9:00 o’clock my flight was on its way, and in less than an hour I was in Cleveland. I dashed out of the airplane, with a few strange looks my way I’m sure, and with a walking speed just short of running, I wound my way through the airport and past the last round of security. Right where I knew he’d be, Steve was waiting for me.
I will stop there before it gets too mushy. Yes, one of my bags was lost somewhere, but I didn’t care. I was too happy. I spent the remainder of the day catching up with Steve, then going to my mom’s house for a small Superbowl party, where I did my best not to fall asleep in my food. I could not have come up with a better day.
Next….time to start the next Adventure J