Today marks my 23rd trip around the sun and I can honestly say I would have never guessed I would be spending it in East Africa and sharing this day with a little girl I met just a month and a half ago.
Since moving to my site almost a month ago now I have seen, participated, and been an observant bystander in many things. I have cooked my first meal in my home(it was not good), been offered help in hanging up a laundry line, and woken up to a lizard crawling just above me on the ceiling. I’ve shared laughs with people while an intoxicated woman told jokes, I’ve been saddened by a 19 year old boy telling me his dreams of being a pilot are over because he couldn’t finish school, and I’ve experienced extreme loneliness and feelings of separation.
Being a volunteer at a brand new site has already proven to be more challenging then expected; while everyone is questioning what I’m doing here and how I’m going to help, I’m questioning the same thing. Language has come to be a great factor in this period of confusion; as I begin by greeting people in Swahili it is then assumed that I know more then I do. This confusion then leads to going through the motions of explaining how “sasa ninajua Kiswahili kidogo lakini ninaishi hapa miaka miwili kwa hiyo nitajifunza pole pole, kidogo kidogo. Ninajaribu sana kuelewa lakini watu wanaposema haraka sielewi, kwa hiyo unaposema, sema polepole tafadhali”. This is usually met by some laughs but if the person is willing they repeat what was just said but much slower and in less words, which I appreciate tremendously.
While language had been hard I keep trying to remind myself of something another volunteer told me; when we were kids it took us a couple years to actually get a hold of the language we grew up hearing, a couple years to really conjugate semi literate sentences and have conversation with substance. In just these three short months I feel I can form sentences(they many not be very literate but a sentence nonetheless), I can get things necessary to survive, and have conversations enough to begin to form relationships. If am able to do that now only time will tell how much more I can grow.
Sitting in a meeting the other day I was surprised by the fact that I actually understood more of what was going on then I expected to understand. Later that same day I had a conversation with two women about something that I can’t remember now but I remember actually understanding what they were saying it was amazing. That day was a good day. Before I left America my family got me a dictionary with Swahili to English in the front and English to Swahili in the back. Needless to say this single item has been a god send in many instance and even a conversation starter in other. That good day I only used the dictionary for hard words and that was an accomplishment.
That good day gave me much hope, that if I could just get this language down I could really be impactful/impacted. There are people that are trying with me, trying so hard, and I want them to understand that I appreciate that. There are other people that I want to reach out to but my irrational fear of language is holding me back; I need to get over that. I feel promise and opportunity on the horizon; so much project potential and time for relationships, I just really gotta get that language!
*The pictures below include: move-in day, a gender conference I attended that current volunteers organized, some pictures of the area around my home, scenery from a recent trip to Mwanza(Cinco de Mwanza), some new friends, and my sorry attempts at cooking; hope you enjoy!
P. S. Like most other important events my birthday and current trip to Dodoma have fallen on the Thursday my blog goes up, so pictures from these 2 events will be on my next post! I am also working on purchasing a couple more things for my home and then I will be taking pictures/maybe posting a video of the finished project so people can see my humble abode, so be on the lookout for those as well!
-Peace Out & Cheers To My 23rd Year