Summarizing seven weeks of Completed Training:
Integration, Busy, Moving, Learning, Insecurities, Patience, It’s really a small world
It has been 20 weeks since the decision to change from a stable secure life, home of 23 years, friends, family, church, community, and paying job. I have now been gone from this for seven weeks. First to Washington DC and then to two locations in Tanzania for training and as of Sunday at my site which I’ll talk about next week. I understand why it takes a lot of time and work to prepare for a new long term cultural experience as there is a lot to know and adapt to if one wants to be successful. Change brings out in oneself fears, insecurities and vulnerability with taking a risk. But it also brings excitement, challenges, insights, and growth.
Friday we had our swearing in to our Peace Corps Service meaning we took an oath to serve the U.S. as Peace Corps volunteers. It is the last requirement of our pre service training before going to your assigned site. So our counterparts (a faculty we are matched to in helping us navigate in the college/university we will serve) came on Tuesday and they had sessions alone and with us on how to best work in Tanzania in health care. Then we made a plan for the first month to get the best orientation possible so we are ready to start school in October. Words they used for us to follow were: Innovative, Diligence Commitment, Fairness and Flexibility. I’ll try and remember these.
Beginning of Integration
Though just the beginning, we have joined into the Tanzanian community. We have had multiple activities and sessions for how to do this both in the regular as well as our work community. This also included beginning language training, the home stay and just going to the market in town. There will be much more to come of this but we have a start. At our swearing in we sang the American National Anthem and the Tanzanian National Anthem along with our Tanzanian Counterparts. Theirs has an interesting!
Mungu ibariki Afrika (God bless Africa)
Wabariki Viongozi wake (Bless her leaders)
Hekima umoja na Amani (Wisdom unity and peace)
Hizi ni ngao zetu (These are our shield)
Africa na watu wake (Africa and her people)
Ibariki, Africda (Bless Africa)
Ibariki, Africda (Bless Africa)
Tubariki Watoo wa Africa (Bless children of Afrika)
Mungu ibariki Tanzania (God Bless Africa)
Dumisha Uhuru na Umojoa (Sustain independence and unity)
Wake kwa waume na watoto (Women, men and children)
Mungu ibariki (Bless Africa)
Tanzania na watu wake (Tanzania and her people)
Ibariki Tanzania (Bless Africa)
Ibariki Tanzania (Bless Africa)
Training has most weeks been 6 days a week 830–5 and sometimes 8 PM with programing organized by Global Seed Health and the Peace Corps in Tanzania. Having organized a few things, I appreciate all the planning, work and organization that has gone into this. Keeping 17 of us on a schedule with transportation to multiple places with the translators along was not an easy task. We had many knowledgeable speakers as well as those who gave us their Tanzanian perspective. We experienced new places both urban, and rural areas both in health care and general community living. You can read books about a place but experiencing it is very different. You don’t really know what you need to know over time but often just focus on today. But you have to trust they do know what is important to know for a year. I hope I can use all that was given me to adapt to my new home, community, and work to be successful.
By the time I finally arrived at my new home I will have lived in 7 locations in 7 weeks mostly out of 1 suitcase and an overnight case. I left one suitcase at Peace Corps Headquarters in Dar to pick up on our way to our site. Seven weeks ago I was thinking why I have all this stuff to pack from my house. As I packed up this past weekend to move to my new home I was thinking how did I collect more stuff that I can’t fit into one suitcase and overnight case when the only thing I have purchased is a dumb phone, vouchers for the phone, a dongle for the internet, and some snack foods. But added are the books for language training and filters for the water. Though I suggested we put our water buckets on our heads and walk on the plane we agreed to leave the water buckets for filtering water behind so we did not look like refugees on the plane. I think about the other 18 homes in 5 states I’ve lived (college, those in my adult life, and the part time location in Indiana for two years and Champaign during the week for 2 years). I think about what home means and how moving changes you. It makes you appreciate what you had, makes you more resilient, open to others, and changes how you interact in welcoming someone new to your community.
Beka and I will were the last to arrive at our site. Others in my Tanzania group have seen over the last 7 weeks their cities, apartments, universities and hospital sites. I have had to tell myself to be patient and I will see my new city, home and workplace and settle in soon. The reason was we had training in two of the more urban towns in the south and middle section of the country where other volunteers work. We rode the bus with others back to Dar es Saalem then flew Sunday the 28th with Henry our GHSP director to Mwanza as that was the cheapest method. Will talk about my site more next week but our house/apmt are not yet ready so we are staying at the Catholic Diocese where the Bishops stay when they are here but they rent them out as well. So a pretty nice introduction though we did not have electricity the afternoon and evening we got here. It finally came back on the next morning at 9 AM. Good to have solar lights and headlamps. We sat on the balcony and watched the sun set over Lake Victoria so that was a nice ending to our first day.
Just making the decision to come for the year was difficult enough — will I make it at my age, how difficult will it be, can I do what is needed with my experience? Then in Washington DC I read the 60 volunteers bios and met and listened to some amazing Doctors, nurses, midwives from many prestigious educational institutions. This made me feel a little inadequate. I wondered how I can measure up with my experience and knowledge. I have to believe that there will be a purpose for me and I will find something of value to contribute. From many conversations over 7 weeks I do think at some moment we all felt somewhat insecure about living and working here.
I am humbled by the talents and giving spirit of the Peace Corps staff and my co-volunteers in the other 4 countries as well as my group in Tanzania. Included in the Tanzania group are physicians just out of residency, to a retired family practitioner in his early 70s, and an experienced pediatric surgeon both who left their wives in the states for a year. The nurses are midwives, nurse practitioners, those with Masters in Public Health, critical care, DNP and PhD degrees. Some have multiple degrees and experience with international health endeavors including starting a not for profit in Ghana, and managing a grant from the Gates Foundation.
Most left their family, sold cars, rented homes, rid themselves of “stuff” and don’t know what they will do next July. But for a time they will live simply, gain experience, knowledge and give of themselves to others internationally.
The world is not so big and we share similar hopes and dreams
Africa seemed far away but at times I’ve realized that the world is small that we live in and it is interesting how that looks. There is the Blueberry and Purdue Bag story I shared last week. Then two of the physicians in my group who just finished their residency in Seattle were in their residency with a high school friend of my children and who went to Purdue with Aaron. Then I found out that Beka’s (who will work the same site as myself) mom was from Springfield and her uncle is CEO of Memorial Medical Center and I worked as a new graduate with him in my first nursing position in the 70s. Another U.S nurse who stayed two years in Tanzania was just leaving and she was originally from Effingham and worked in a hospital in Charleston IL which was in my area of my state job. I often wake up and hear the birds singing and think “Am I really in Africa” but then I think our world is really a small place and we all share many of the same hopes and dreams.
More to come next week about my new home Mwanza!!!!! So excited to be here!!!!!