Coming to you from the village of Ludilo this week!! Boy so much has happened since we last chatted. I’m not even sure if I will get enough service to send this email, but if you are reading this, I am a wizard and found some HAHAHA. On Sunday morning we packed everything up in Iringa and made the three-hour (very bumpy dirt roads) ride to the region of Mufindi. This region is made up of a lot of different villages that are known for lumber, tea production, and agriculture. It truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Such an interesting contrast between houses that are in poverty to such beautiful scenic views. The best way I can describe it is, the villages are filled with rolling hills that look like a combination of Tuscany, Costa Rica, and Colorado all in one. I usually walk around seven miles a day, so I get to see a lot of the beautiful views!!
So, there are six people in my program and my two directors. My two directors are staying at the NGO house which is about a thirty-minute car ride away which is where we stay on the weekends. I am paired with Jewell, who is in the same village as me, and we are about a twenty-five-minute walk from each other. And the other four people in my program are in the surrounding villages. Our directors are really into the philosophy of “you’ve got to jump into swim”. So we drove up to my host families house, dropped me off, and said “good luck, see you Friday night”. I have never been more terrified to be alone in my entire life HAHAHA. But I guess there’s no good way to do it, we just had to rip the band aid off. If I am being honest, I am not exactly sure who all is in my family. There are constantly people coming in and out of my house, therefore I’m not exactly sure who all of the permeant remembers of my host family are haha. For starters, I have a mom and dad. They are incredibly nice. My dad works as a farmer and has not taken off the USA hat I gave him since he got it. My mom does all the house work and is such a bad ass. She is ten times stronger then I am haha. Next, I have a older sister that was here for two days, she lives in Iringa because she goes to school there, but was visiting. She has a two-year-old daughter, but my sister went back to Iringa but left her daughter here so who knows what’s up?? Next, I have a older brother that comes in and out. Sometimes he’s home during the day, sometimes he’s’ not. So I’m not exactly sure if he’s in school or what is going on there. Then I have three younger brothers and they are the sweetest boys. I am not exactly sure what age they are but ranging from 8-12 I would say. They loved the USA t-shirts I gave them, and they help me with my Swahili. The oldest of the three likes to sit down and read through my notebook of Swahili and English words in order to practice his English. One night he sat with me for a good two hours, and at the end of the night he said “Kesho again?”. Kesho means tomorrow and I about shed a tear right then and there! So that is a little low down on the family.
Gosh there is so much to say, this email is going to be incredibly scattered so I am sorry in advance for that HAHAHA. Being here this past week has definitely given me a lot of, “wow I am very far away from home” moments. It is so vastly different then home that I truly can’t capture it. I am trying to grapple with the understanding that for 95% of the people I am meeting here, this is it. This is their lives. This is all they know and will probably ever know. My view on the world is so large and the opportunities I have been given are incomparable to what people have here. It’s hard to understand how if God made all people and all things, why was I more deserving of the life I have been given then the people I am meeting? Everyone greets me with the greatest sign of respect in Swahili, even the elders in town, simply because I am a white American. They serve me my food first and are the quickest to carry any of my things and wouldn’t dare let me help with any of the house work. It is weird to carry that level of status in a place where I don’t feel like I am deserving of that or have earned it. It puts a whole different perspective on race and privilege and what that looks like here. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I get asked where I am from, and the first thing they say is “ohhhh TRUMP!!”….and I just really don’t have the Swahili knowledge to explain what is up in our country haha.
If you know me, you know I’m a talker. I don’t do silence well at all. So it kills me. It KILLS ME not to be able to fill the silence. My family speaks hardly any English so there are only so many things we can talk about. I cling to my dictionary like it is the holy grail here because I truly have no idea what is going on at any point in a conversation. I do my best to pick out key words and that seems to be working somewhat thus far haha. The first week being here was for the purpose of getting to know our families and the village we are living in. I have never, ever, in my entire life, had a week go slower than this past week. Every day, I had nothing to do but get up and just go about my day. Truly, can you think of the last time you spent a day, with truly nothing to do?!?! I barely have phone service, so I couldn’t even pretend to busy myself with emails or Facebook. Let’s just say, I learned that I don’t handle being “still” very well. Which is exactly one of the reasons why I came here in the first place (so thanks God for delivering). My day starts every day at 5:30am, when the chicken wakes up right outside my window. However, my host brothers taught me how to kill that chicken and we ate it for dinner Wednesday night. HAHA WHEN IN TANZANIA. But don’t worry we have plenty of other chickens to wake me up. Then I go outside and eat breakfast. Every morning they feed me five slices of bread, chi tea (very very sweet) and sometimes rice. One morning they fed me rice and the chicken heart from the night before, I legit just couldn’t do it, so I shoved the chicken heart in my backpack while they weren’t looking. Every meal they give me a serving size of about three 16-year-old boys. No matter how many times I say I am full they make me eat more!! And I eat a lot, and its still too much for me!! Here, if you are fat, it is a sign of wealth and that you are taken care of. So, it’s really quite sweet, but I truly have never been more full. For lunch and dinner, we usually eat Ugali and greens or rice and beans. Sometimes chicken or fish. The food isn’t bad, I miss salt haha. It is not a ton of variety, but we’re rolling with it. Could be worse!! Still showering in a bucket, its just cold water now, again not the end of the world HAHA! I am going to take a long WARM shower and order myself a steak when I get home so I’m not worried about it!!
During the day I usually go walk and meet Jewell (another girl in my program-BLESS HER) she is a lifeline here. We walk around and had to make a map of the village for our assignment this week. We felt so accomplished because we actually tracked down the village leader and invited him to have chi with us! He came over and we were able to introduce ourselves, explain what we were doing here, and ask him some questions about the village. This is a very rural area so there are not a lot of foreigners here at all. Everyone knows everyone and we have caused quite a stir in the village which makes sense haha. So we made sure to meet with him and just explain what we are here for. He was very appreciative and very welcoming. It was one of our prouder moments, we felt very accomplished haha! We do a lot of just walking around the village, the hills are endless so we are definitely working off all the food we are eating all day haha. One of the only places we can find service is at the church on the top of the hill by the school. So every day we would truck our way over there and hang out on the church steps. The kids are so funny and curious about who we are. They usually just giggle and run away but we got to talk to a few of them. It was there at the church, on Thursday, that we ran into one of the teachers. He invited us to tour the school and come teach on Friday. We of course jumped on the opportunity, but funny enough, they wanted us to teach math not English. I about fell over laughing because I can barely do math in English let alone Swahili!! But, as always, we try to say yes to everything so we agreed and made our way back to the school Friday! We were welcomed by 500+ students and had such a blast. We laughed a lot and I relearned how to divide fractions haha!! They are all so smart and were incredibly kind. They have 67 orphans at that school that come to school with basically nothing but the clothes on their backs. Those clothes are usually dirty and ripped, but luckily there are no school fees so they can still come to school, but they just don’t have a uniform like the rest of the kids. It was hard to see. Even the kids that did have uniforms, a lot of them were ripped and dirty as well. Jewell and I have to complete a community project by the end of our four weeks here, so stay tuned about what we are going to do about that because we both walked away feeling like something must be done for those 67 kids.
Every night for dinner, I spend about three hours outside in our “kitchen” with my host mom cooking. I think I will have permanent smoke in my lungs hahaha after these four weeks. If I thought having to boil water and make pasta for myself back at home was me being lazy, it is nothing in comparison to here!! Dinner takes it least three hours to cook because it is all cooked over a wood fire. It seems just as we are done making lunch we have to start making dinner.
Every Friday afternoon I will get picked up at 5:00 and am taken to the NGO house to spend the weekend there. It offers a nice break to spend with our directors and other group members. So Friday, I got picked up and made my way to the NGO house. It was so nice just to laugh with other people that spoke English. We played 197 rounds of apples to apples this weekend hahahahahaha. We had an incredible time touring the NGO we are staying with. It is called Rural Development Organization and it has grown immensely since it opened in 2012. They partner with a group of Austrian farmers and various other organizations and have built quite a great organization. We met one of the Austrian volunteers, and he was able to show us the water pumps they have built the past two years. He is a farmer, and legit just taught himself all the engineering behind water pumps and filtration and gosh I wish I had the brain to be able to explain what he told us. But the technology is just so wild and amazing, there is some really neat things happening here. People were nothing by welcoming to us and were so happy to have us there.
Today we made our way back to our homestays. My host dad was wearing his USA shirt and hat that I gave him, it was a great thing to come back to! Tomorrow I start my research. Who thought I could handle conducting and leading my own research project??? Not sure???? I have no idea what I am doing???? But that is kind of the whole theme of this semester and I’ve made it so far so hopefully I can just keep that luck up haha. I met with my research assistant over the weekend, and he is great. We will hopefully be conducting 30 surveys, 15 interviews, and two focus groups the next two weeks. We are really trying to do random samplings of people so a lot of walking in order to find people that are home and catching them before or after they have farmed for the day since it is now becoming the rainy season here. How this research is going to go, I really am not sure. But hey that’s part of it haha! I’m excited to be doing something so challenging and outside of my comfort zone and look forward to bringing it back to Hope, hopefully as my capstone project for my political science degree.
Tomorrow marks five weeks left in my time here which is crazy, but I think since I am so close to the end it almost makes it a little harder if that makes sense? I’m trying to focus on just taking each day as it comes and feeling everything that comes with each day, but it’s a lot sometimes. I downloaded a whole season of friends on my phone because that just seemed like the right thing to do to get me through the next week hahaha. I am so excited to start my research tomorrow and am looking forward to stepping into this week! I must go soon because our three-hour dinner cooking fiasco is going to begin soon haha. The stars are incredible here because there is hardly any light pollution. Seeing the stars at night makes me feel a little closer to home, because I know that all of my friends and family at home will see the same stars in just a few short hours after I go to bed tonight. Alright got to go- PEACE OUT!