January 8th, 2015
The jolt of the plane’s wheels connecting with the pavement of Dar es Salaam woke me, and with a smile plastered to my face, I soaked in the horizon and the moment. I passed by some Ebola warning signs for West Africa, flashed my yellow fever vaccine card to immigration, paid for my tourist visa with a one hundred dollar bill younger than 2005 (as required), collected my checked bag-which to my surprise made it there after two layovers, rescanned my luggage through customs ‘ not so hi-tech x-ray machines, and walked out the open double doors into the warmth. As the humidity sank in, I remembered: I’m finally back in East Africa.
I suddenly felt thirsty for both water and adventure; but adventure would have to wait. A friendly taxi driver named Edson explained how Africans don’t have money to travel unless there is an important occasion. I grinned as he drove me through the bumpy dirt roads cluttered with motorcycle taxis and people dressed in colorful fabrics and I instantly felt at home as I enjoyed the first real conversation I had in two days.
I arrived to a motel room with a large canopy bed, which I eagerly sprawled out on. I snuggled in with my sleep mask, 3 alarms set for good measure, and mosquito net tightly tucked in around me. With daylight still to burn, I slept 10 hours.
January 9th, 2015
I was greeted in Mwanza by my loyal luggage once again, and a thick warm breeze. After running around errand bound for several hours with two of the international staff members in a whirlwind introduction to Mwanza, we headed to Kitongo village. An hour later we reached The Janada L. Batchelor Foundation for Children’s campus-further referred to as JBFC.
I was surprised to find most of the girls in the girls’ home had gone away for the holiday to visit relatives, and the CEO and other staff members are traveling as well. So my introductions were short and sweet before jet lag creeped in.
January 10th, 2015
The campus is large but divided arbitrarily between residents of Kitongo village and JBFC. The land, I imagine I will be exploring in much more detail in the days to come, is filled with pigs, a spunky group of donkeys, rabbits, chicken, and 3 friendly dogs (Heineken, Kony and Maggie).
We have nomadic Maasai guards who watch over everything and protect us from a baby hippo who has apparently become fond of one of the pigs, the hyenas that roam around at night, and wandering drunk fisherman. My room is small and the only furniture to speak of is my bed, but my mosquito net is my best friend. I have also been warned to avoid black mambas and other deadly night creatures.
The primary and secondary schools are empty and quiet with the girls gone, but impressive in appearance none-the-less with cement floors, doors, and desks. The solar panels provide electricity and filtered water to the modern toilets and showers. And if I wait until evening, one of the local house matrons will light a fire in the brick water heating contraption outside the bathroom and I can even get a hot shower. Despite the lack of high speed internet, and other western amenities, I feel as though this place is rich in culture and love. And if that isn’t enough, there is always Papas-the campus’ farm-to-table restaurant that emanates a resort vibe and produces equally high quality meals. Finally, there is a spot on top of the hill, near the water tower with panoramic views of Lake Victoria, where I predict I will frequent for views of countless sunrises and sunsets.
It is clear that I have a lot to learn, including Swahili, and that many lifestyle adjustments will be necessary; but I get the sense that embracing all that this community has to offer, will be the most rewarding thing I have ever known.
January 15th, 2015
My first week has been a fast-paced, and at times slow introduction into Tanzania and my new job at JBFC. I am trying my best to learn Swahili, meet all 45 girls in the refuge, bond with the 4 other international staff members, learn about farming and permaculture, figure out what food I can eat, and settle into my new role as an administrative assistant. I am thoroughly enjoying the journey, but it can be a little hectic with mornings sneakily transitioning into evening, as the days blend together.