Reactions to challenges and goodbyes reflects who we are.
Goodbye was derived between 1565 and 1575 from “godbwye” which is a contraction of the phrase ‘God be with you”. Though I knew leaving America for Tanzania a year ago would challenge myself, and be uncomfortable as I adapted, I recently thought about how this year looks now that I am leaving to return. As I leave behind the past year of my life and wonder how to process leaving, packing my life back into suitcases and electronic media. I think of how I’ve changed, the uncertainties, challenges, fears, rewards, and God’s faithfulness in each move. This was not a travel vacation but a place where personal and work friendships were formed, goals accomplished in helping others in my work, and having a better understanding of others and myself through the experience. I think about how people and places have become a part of me and part of me is left behind. Instead of sadness I have to look on the benefits of what creating this year of life has had on stretching myself and those I interacted with and that leaving does not devalue those relationships or the work done but is rich in who we become from the experience.
Winding down my time in Tanzania
The past two months have been the busiest months of my time here in Tanzania. The nursing conference in May was a lot of work, time, and reports afterwards for me. I then needed to recuperate and catch up on my master’s class. This class was not over until the end of July so I had to leave June 30th with all the grading done, grade book complete, final exam ready for someone else to give and grade the end of July.
Then I did a weekend superregionals peace corps event with regular volunteers in Moshi where I saw Mt. Kilimanjaro peak through at the YMCA (above picture).This was to share with regular peace corps volunteers about our specific program and how they might prepare their pre-college students for their future career paths and college majors and the need for them to work at teaching them English as that is what college will be taught in, plus some teach math and sciences in secondary schools in Tanzania.
Then we had our close of service meeting June 14, 15 in Dar es Salaam where we ended our time together
Then Trina came June 18th for two weeks. And then there was the packing of the house and saying goodbyes to many.
So I’ve tried to write some of this blog in pieces at various times but it has taken awhile to finally post this due to travels and internet connections.
Reaction to disappointment in my plans then later finding out there was another plan.
I haven’t said a lot to many but in May I finally had an answer to a request from Peace Corps to take my vacation time and go with my American Church to Kenya on their mission trip. It was a request submitted in January but due to changes in our Tanzanian Country Director in December there was a lot of waiting time due to the new director coming. During those 4 months it seemed it was not going to be a problem from my Tanzanian boss and security person since it was an organized trip not just tourism. Peace Corps presence in Kenya ended in 2014 with the terrorist attacks. Even the week before my final answer there was information and communication from the Peace Corps Kenyan country director that he saw no problem though he did say Peace Corps was working hard to get back into Kenya.
So it was a surprise to me as well as Kenya and Tanzania staff when the answer from Washington DC was no and really pretty disappointing to me. The reason was that Peace Corps has as a government organization been working to get volunteers back into Kenya. If all stays calm through the country’s presidential election in August then it may happen. If anything would occur with me as a volunteer while I was in Kenya even if something minor then it might jeopardize Peace Corps going back into Kenya. Though I understood that for the good of the work Peace Corps will do in Kenya my desires take second place it was very sad for me. This was something I have valued for over 10 years, invested in a child there and wanted to participate in the medical clinic they were doing for the first time plus I was so close in proximity to go. Having my work dictate my personal life and values was not something easy to accept and I was challenged in how I was to respond. So it has taken me awhile to “get over it” as something that for the good of the country of Kenya I had to be ok with not going. Though I could process the decision in my head it was not easy to process in my heart. I tried to rationalize it all and yet it was still a hurt with my disappointment for a number of reasons.
Reasons for my own plans not working out
Then a few days before I would have left for Kenya in early June, I had some insight to help me process the no. In the U.S. I’ve always loved and been good at developing new clinical sites for nursing classes but I pretty much thought that would not happen in Tanzania as I can barely remember streets and shops in Mwanza and names of towns and regions in Tanzania. So in the fall I heard faculty saying they would need more clinical sites than ever before for their community health nursing field work in the spring due to increased numbers of a little less than 100 students. So I began asking around at church, at an HSHS mission across the lake, and some regular volunteers in the area about possible clinical sites within 2 hours of Mwanza that could be used. At church several have work in small villages and also the church moved to the new building in a poverty area on a hill in Mwanza. Some of my inquiries received a not interested but the church I go to was interested.
So in early February I set up a meeting with UK pastor John and two Tanzanian faculty to discuss the possibilities. Normally they do rural villages not urban areas but I thought it might be a possibility of a new learning experience for students and benefit the students and the community around the new church building. After this meeting I heard nothing for 3 months from the faculty so thought the idea of an urban site did not fit the faculty’s view of what the course objectives were. Then about a week before I would have gone to Kenya the faculty asked for the pastor’s contact again and wanted to go meet with church leaders and see the area on the hill where the church is located. After this meeting, the faculty decided to use the site and work some with the church in this urban community. One of the activities students do is do a school health assessment in the primary schools in the villages. So down the road from the new church building is a primary school where the nursing students could do this assignment but had to get permission and do it before school let out for the summer holiday.
There were 1,800 children in this primary school (½ came in the morning and ½ in the afternoon due to the limited space). Some of the church staff had said they were aware some children in this community did not go to school at all as there were no family funds for the school fees and uniforms. The church also has done some after school programs they are helping with and the church had just found out that they will be the sponsoring organization for Compassion International for 200+ of these children in the near future.
I was able to get a day away from my Master’s class work to assist the students and Tanzania faculty in this school assessment project which included Height, Weight, Hearing and Vision screening, and a physical assessment of dental, skin, and general conditions. The faculty also met with the school staff and discussed health projects and education that might improve the health of these children.
Later as the students did a community and family assessment assignment they used the church building to do some family assessments in the community that has no dispensary (like a doctor’s office) near them so have a long walk down a very steep rocky hill to the regional hospital for any type of medical care. The students found many health and social problems which the church will now know about and possibly in the future assist with. And it brought awareness of the new church to some members of the community and the school whose students will benefit from Compassion international. The students also did a report that was shared with the Tanzanian church pastors that will give them some information now and in the future on the community and school children.
There were some bumps in the clinical experience that the Tanzania faculty had to deal with their first time in using an urban environment but they learned and hopefully can continue this with more students in the next few years.
So though this was not my original or known plan nor the size of my American church endeavor in Kenya, I was able to in a small way help initiate the start of a program that the university nursing program can have with the church I attended and the community they are reaching out to help. Did I know this in my time of disappointment as I had some serious talks with God? No. So one more lesson learned that often our plans are not the ones that need to happen because there is another plan that is more important. I know that I may be able to come again in the future with my American Church to Kenya. But helping start this partnership that can assist my Tanzanian church and the community they are serving means that for the next few years those children and families in need may have more resources available to them and future evaluation of the children they are to work with and measure changes over time. It meant a lot that I could in this small way give back to a church that gave to me during my time in Tanzania. If any are interested in sponsoring a child in this community with my Tanzania church as a Compassion International sponsor I can assure you they will be responsible in the use of these monies and the activities to help in the education of these children. Just let me know.
Emotions as I said goodbyes
In saying goodbye to people I found I had conflicting feelings. On one side I was so ready to just be home in my house and with my family and community. But on the other hand sad and trying to figure out how to process one year of my life knowing that it is not easy for either side to let go of relationships we had nurtured and valued over that short time. So many had welcomed me to a different country and we had shared in different ways the people of Tanzania and I the people of America. But now for me it was time to go home to my known place and people.
Investing in relationships
For me it was leaving those students and faculty but also those in the community from our taxi drivers, neighbors, host family, to those I met at church and our Tanzanian peace corps staff and the 17 volunteers. It was understanding the richness of how we learned about each other, our families, community, country, and cared during those few short months.
It is the people I’ve interacted with who made it sad to leave more than the experience, the land and the customs. Not that I have not had challenges but with relationships in one intense year people become a part of who we are and change us. So in saying goodbye it is again not just about me but about them. Those in Tanzania see us come yearly in our program and then we leave behind those we have interacted with. At least with technology and social media there are ways we connect even though 7,000 miles and an ocean apart.
So my graduate students and the other main class I taught were on campus the last week I was in town. Others were doing community health field work out in villages so were not around much to say goodbye. I knew that leaving and how I said goodbye was important for both sides. For them they wanted pictures and giving of gifts in showing respect for me and our time together. For me it was finding ways to tell them how much they had come to mean to me and I would be contactable via email/whatsapp.
My Master’s class
I was counting up those Tanzanian faculty I had worked with over the year and it was about 10 faculty. Three I taught with or in the same program and even if not in the same class I tried to assist with things they needed. I was busy with close of service and my daughters visit so the last few days were pretty hectic and then some faculty were at an out of town meeting. The faculty had done a goodbye party before Bekah left the end of May so that was a nice closing though Deb and I stayed to June 26th. Then Trina and I did the safari until the end of June so did not return to Mwanza.
Co-Volunteers and staff
Since July 10th, 2016 when we all arrived in Washington DC then Tanzania July 22nd we have shared stories, lives, challenges, laughter, meetings and successes. We all go our separate ways now with different states, countries, and jobs so it is hard to know how to say goodbye to a year invested with other volunteers.
Dr. Shar my companion in travels and adventure on Captain Kuku’s sail boat in SW Zanzibar on the Indian Ocean having our last short 2 day trip.
Other Community goodbyes
My host family
The Dad of my host family who had been in the car accident in late March with one broken leg surgery in Dodoma in April and who had been able to get to Dar then in April for the other leg surgery which could only be done in Dar finally had his second surgery in early June (remember in America he would had have both his surgeries the same day probably and been recovered within 6–8 weeks. In Tanzania even with his higher education, government retirement insurance, and his son the pharmacist and a niece who is a nurse supervisor at the countries only orthopedic specialty hospital he still had almost two months wait for his second legs’ surgery somewhat related to abnormal labs probably from the first leg surgery.
When I was in Dar in June for our 2 day close of service meeting, I made contact and was able to meet up with him at the orthopedic outpatient Dr. visit with his son and niece near our conference location. So I saw some of the differences in outpatient follow up surgical visits while he had x-rays, Dr. Visit, wound care needs. We visited in between these appointment for the morning and I was able to visit with him and his son and meet other family members helping him recover. It showed me how much he was valued by so many members of his family who he has been the head of and how they gave back to him when he had his own needs. The niece whose father was deceased was Gaetano’s older brother and his son had taken off work to care for him. He again has looked out for so many over his lifetime and in return others gave up work time to help him recover. Though he contracted Malaria while in the hospital and was treated for a wound infection which his son the pharmacist had treated, He told me as we talked about my completed work that he saw now how important the work of our program with Doctors and nurses working to make healthcare better in Tanzania was to him. He was still having to use crutches and no weight bearing on one leg until later July though he is able to do exercises which his niece the nurse is supervising. Then I got a whatsapp message from his son that on July 10th that he was able to fly home from Dar to Dodoma after 15 weeks. I was so thankful for him and his family that he is recovering and that I had the opportunity to know them.
Then there are the taxi drivers we have used in Mwanza and even Dar that have been our friends and have safely taken care of us over the past year. Emmanuel I say is our head “uber” driver for Mwanza. He took Trina, myself and another regular volunteer to the Sukuma tribe museum the last week I was in Mwanza and then to a Bulabo Dance festival competition. Though I did not see the snake dancers I did see the snakes in their house. Emmanuel is Sukuma so think it was enjoyable for him to take a few hours off and see the activities while we enjoyed seeing it as well. It is hard to explain a year of history of knowing these individuals as friends in Mwanza.
My last Sunday in Tanzania I visited both the English and Swahili church services. This was the last English service as John and Dawn are returning to the UK in July and the church they began on the hill will continue to serve the people on the hill of Mwanza. Several of the English speaking people have and are going to leave for Sweden, UK and America. Some will remain and transition to other churches. The Tanzanian church on the hill is growing as it transitioned in March to the new building on the hill. I am thankful for meeting these believers who strengthened my faith and were the support I needed outside of work during my time in Mwanza. So saying goodbye to John and Dawn and the Tanzanian pastors and some of the young men I met was sad as they meant a lot to me. Hopefully I will keep contact as they move to sponsorship of some of the children on the hill.
Tanzanian, Swahili church family on the hill on John and Dawn’s last Sunday in Mwanza
Though I will not miss the constant noise of a big city, electric and water outages it was still my home for a year. So saying goodbye to my neighbors in the compound was part of leaving. The adults are used to people coming and going but it’s hard to say goodbye to a 3 year old who had been my friend all year. I hope she and her sisters and parents will remember the American who grew and shared a garden attempt and played games and drawing in English.
Saying goodbye to a land and places
Saying goodbye to people is obvious but I think it is important to say goodbye to places too. Though not as emotional, it is the memories of places I worked, visited and was at home with that I also had to say goodbye to. Trina came to visit my last 2 weeks and we traveled to different areas and saw different things reminding me of places I had grown to love over the past year in Tanzania.
Zanzibar a Beautiful Island
Trina and I seeing endangered tortoises on prison island off of Zanzibar
Then we went to an animal rescue organization
Saying goodbye to the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets of Tanzania
Trina and I went on Safari to the Serengeti, then the Ngorongor crater and Lake Manyara in Northeastern Tanzania. Though I’ve been to so many beautiful places in the U.S. there is something about the open land where animals roam and seeing these animals outside of a zoo. I saw the Serengeti in December but it was different in the dry season seeing it again in June.
The Big Five
This time the season was dry season not rainy so there was more dust but we were able to see more of the great migration of animals in the Serengeti
So these sites are many of the things I want to remember of my year as I say goodbye.
I’m now posting this from my home in America as I arrived back about 48 hours ago as I’ve been traveling for two weeks to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany (to see Tina our foreign exchange student 16 years ago and her family) then Paris. So I am glad to be home though still adjusting. I’ll probably do one last blog post in a week about cultural adaptation then its back to my American life.
As I was starting to unpack my suitcases 1–2 were full of Tanzanian gifts and items I had made, and pictures I want to frame to remember my year. Though the blogs were to let those of you in America know and experience some of what I went through, I hope to print my blogs over the past year and put them into a book as well to remind me of those people and places I invested in for a year of my life. It is hard to know how to capture the challenges, accomplishments, rewards of the year, what I learned and how I grew. In my heart will be the memories that will remain even those I cannot put all into words or pictures. Karibu Tena (Welcome back) to America and to Tanzania!