Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Helafu Dar...

I’ve been on long bus rides in foreign countries before, but never by myself. But now that status has changed because I traveled solo from Arusha all the way to Dar—about an 8-hour trip. I got on the bus not really knowing where I was going, who was meeting me (if anyone) and what I would be doing upon arrival. It was all very exciting,. The bus ride itself was fine. The roads to Dar are thankfully very nice and we didn’t make too many stops along the way to pick up stray people. I managed to sleep a little, watched the pretty mountainous landscapes out my window, and listened to over 150 songs on my iPod. About half way, we stopped for lunch and a much-needed bathroom (the bus never really stops—except it did once, and if you had to pee you literally just had to go right outside the bus… I just didn’t drink much). When we arrived at the bus station it was about 5pm, and the pastor who I thought was supposed to meet me was nowhere to be seen. So, I took my bag and waited off to the side (but I didn’t really know what/ who to wait for). I was fending away taxi drivers when one man approached me and asked if someone was meeting me. I said yes, thinking he was just another taxi driver, but then he said (in English), “Oh, I thought maybe you were Rachel Warren.” Ends up that he was my new host dad! So I hopped in the car and headed out towards my new, temporary house.

In my mind I was imagining what the house was going to be like—here I was riding in a fairly nice car and my host dad was speaking perfect English. I was starting to think that my new house was going to be really nice… but I soon found otherwise. We turned off the main road down a bumpy dirt road, into banana plants and other trees (mango, avocado, papaya) and stopped outside of a modest, white, cement house. “We’ve arrived” my host dad announced. We walked inside, and I was shown my room—I’d be sharing it. Then I was shown the bathroom—western style toilet, but no running water: bucket showers. OK, I thought, this was not was I was imagining in the car ride here; not at all! I was very overwhelmed the first evening. I couldn’t really believe that I was going to be staying here for almost a year. I honestly felt like I would start crying any second (which, for me is a big deal because I don’t really cry).

But after being here for a few days, I am no longer feeling overwhelmed. Now, I am feeling much better because I know that I will be able to cope with whatever comes my way. I realized after that first initial evening that this experience is not about being comfortable and experiencing ‘normal.’ I am here to learn about other people and how they live. Yeah, it’s going to be challenging, but I know that as time goes on I will become more used to the way of life here. I am excited to be at that point because right now I still feel very out of place…

My host family is very nice and has made me feel welcomed. I am sharing a room with Rehema, who is about my age and is a doctor at a Catholic hospital. She is also speaks English and seems very excited to show me around and include me in her activities. Rebekah, who is 12, is their niece and helps out around the house. She doesn't speak much English but is learning in school. She's very cute and tries to speak English to me while I speak Swahili to her. They have another daughter (also named Rachel and is 23!) who is studying in California. I've taken her spot in the house--and actually the door to my room says "Rachel's room"!

Yesterday my host dad showed me the way to the church where I will be working from here on out. Today, I came by myself. Getting to and from the church is going to be an adventure in itself! First, I have to hop on the back of a pikipiki (motorcycle) to get to the main road. Then, I get to cram onto a dalala for more than an hour to get into town. The good news is that it will cost me less than $2 to get to/ from work!

Speaking of work… I am sitting in my office right now doing absolutely nothing. I did the same thing yesterday, too. I’m still completely clueless about what I’m actually supposed to be doing. I keep asking, but everyone is telling me to just sit and relax and use the internet. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out what they want me to do here! Supposedly, I am to work with two others that are a part of the economic development program here at the church. Currently there are a few projects already enacted, and several more in the making. They are projects dealing with HIV/AIDS, orphans, and income generation. That’s all I know so far…

I am trying to post some pictures from Arusha on my Facebook page, so hopefully that will work.

Oh, and there are lots of peacocks outside the office right now!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Address

Hello family and friends! I know you are all eager to send me thousands of pages of handwritten letters and many pounds of treats, so here is my mailing address for Dar:

Kanisa la Menonite Tanzania

Eastern Diocese

P.O. Box 5566

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hamna Shida

It's hard to believe that it was exactly one month ago that I left Seattle! I have been keeping busy with my Swahili classes during the day and then trying to retain all that I've learned in the evenings. But besides studying, I haven't been up to much else.

This past weekend however, I visited a farm right by Kilmanjaro, about two hours away from where I am staying. On the drive there we passed by hundreds of zebras! We stated at the farm the whole weekend, trying to gain a sense about what farming is like here in Tanzania since most of the MCC projects here have to do with the environment and agriculture. Farming here is a whole lot more complex than I'd ever imagined! To help out, we planted a whole bunch of seeds in their green house and washed dishes the whole weekend. There were a couple of other guests staying there that were about to climb Kilimanjaro, so I talked with them and their guide just in case :)

In about two weeks I will head down to Dar es Salaam to start my work with the church. I met with my "boss" the other week and he gave me a bit more information about what Ill be doing. Initially, it looks like I'll be helping with a reforestation project just outside the city. Then after that, I am going to be working in the office and helping to plan new projects and over see other projects that are already in place. It sounds like I will be helping with some income generation projects that are already set up, which I am really excited about. I told him that I will probably be of more help dealing with microfiance type projects rather than agricultural things, but whatever I end up doing sounds like it will be a great experience. I will be working in a team with two other recent graduates (I think one is from India and the other is from Tz) so it will be nice that I won't be completely solo in whatever I end up doing.

Internet continues to be the slowest thing imaginable, but hopefully once I'm in Dar I'll be able to blog more regularly and post some pictures!