In the middle of my village Kidete, there is a little "downtown" area that they call the junction. When I say downtown, I mean a few stores where you can buy your absolute basics and a few businesses, like our family friend who has a little storefront where she is a seamstress. This is the only relatively busy area of the village, but as a non-local, I stick to the main road and don't usually venture down the side alleys of the junction. However, on Wednesday night I had a different sort of experience that once again reminded me of exactly why I am here. I was laying in my bed, not feeling well, when all of a sudden I heard my host-brother James calling my name. I hopped out of bed to find him and he told me that we "were going". When I asked where James simply responded, "Anywhere." While I was certainly confused, I have learned to just go with the flow at this point so off we went. We walked around the village and he preceded to tell me that I needed to do something today because I had been sitting around too much. It started getting dark and as we were walking back through the junction, James abruptly told me to turn right down a little side road. Since I'm not familiar with the alleys, especially at night, I was immediately a bit uncomfortable, making my way through an unfamiliar area and being approached by people who wanted to make conversation with this very out-of-place mzungu. We kept walking and one very excited man came up to us; James offered him a very welcoming greeting. After they had talked for a few minutes, James asked me to please be patient because this was one of his clients (for context, James works in the social welfare sector of our village). I tried to give them as much privacy as possible while also staying close to James for my personal comfort level. They talked for about ten minutes and then we continued walking. James eventually looked at me and said, "You see Ellie, you are coming here to do research, which is great. But I want you to actually understand our village. To see our people. That is why I took you here tonight." My eyes immediately welled with tears as, once again, everything was put into perspective.
It would be really easy for me, even in this experience, to stay comfortable, to not push myself as much as I should. That night, James gave me the extra push that I sometimes need, making me stop and converse with everyone he knows so I can practice my Swahili (which on Wednesday night was at least fifteen people). People like James make me realize exactly where my place is here. It showed me that even during a tough week I can still learn, enjoy, and truly embrace my village. James did not just want me to see the picture-perfect views and the happy kids running around, but rather to actually understand where I am, who these people are, and the vast stories and challenges that come with them.
Earlier this week, I also conducted a needs assessment for the NGO that we are partnered with, Rural Development Organization. My assessment focused on education and access to education within the village setting. This basically consisted of some in-depth interviews and then a focus group. Having the opportunity to do a needs assessment and explore some of the different challenges that my village is facing allowed me to understand the community to an even greater extent. Once again, I was able to dive into who these people really are and what their daily lives consist of. I am excited to also start my internship work this week. I will be working with a local NGO in many different aspects of their programming. This week I will mainly be focusing on teaching English at the vocational school, and then next week I will be helping with a local water project and visiting HIV orphans.
I am not going to pretend that this week wasn't hard. Between feeling sick and visiting another Tanzanian health clinic, to tackling a large research project, to having a ridiculous amount of downtime on my hands (welcome to village life!), I definitely felt challenged. However, as I am now reflecting on my time in Kidete, so far, I cannot be anything but thankful. If this was as simple as a walk in the park, I would not be learning or growing. These challenges push me and only enhance my village stay. Helping me to grow in who I am as a global citizen, and more importantly, who I am as a person.