Familiar Feelings in the Unfamiliar

It wasn’t clear what exactly I was expecting to feel after landing in Tanzania, thirteen days ago, but as we sped along the dirt road, I gazed out the window into the unknown and found myself feeling comfort and certainty of a connection to this place.

I woke up with a new mama and three sisters, a host family eager to invite me into their lives and kitchen (word is, best in the neighborhood)! Technically, I’m living with one family but quickly learned that everyone I meet becomes an immediate part of this inner circle, a source of constant support, unity and friendship, which makes for an incredibly strong community. This level of civic engagement courses through daily life in Arusha, building infrastructure and effective systems that I imagine, can only be seen by experiencing the relationships firsthand. Members of the community are trusted and held accountable, debts are paid, food is provided, tools are lent, knowledge is shared, education and healthcare covered, and a solid understanding of the importance for well being of all. The incentive? Survival.

The most exciting way to travel through Arusha and commute to work everyday is by boda boda. Just hop on the back of almost any motorbike in town and hold on tight, not too tight because you’ll injury yourself if you don’t loosen up while on the rougher dirt roads, and enjoy the views of life happening all around you. Walking can also be extremely pleasant and at the same time overwhelming because you are greeted and acknowledged every step of the way. The eye contact and conversation are refreshing, energizing.

The boda bodas may be fast but the pace of life in Tanzania is much slower than what I am used to. I have come to appreciate reducing my walking speed, staying for tea and sharing stories before getting down to business, becoming less dependent on power (electricity is not available 24hrs a day) and my regular need to check in. I have tapped into a new awareness of what surrounds me and my own participation in it all.

I have spent my weekdays at Glorious, where I will be working, with the founders and most inspiring, loving couple, Alice and Julius. It is truly a dream to be able to work with this community centered organization and to be part of their future and family. Did I mention the 200 children attending the primary school who I get to spend my free time with? Well, they are ebullient small beings with a thirst for knowledge and experience who approach you with open arms and hearts, demanding your companionship throughout their school time adventures.

The wealth in communities in Arusha, Tanzania is unlike any I have experienced before, yet it feels instinctual, familiar, an opportunity to explore what is foreign with a confidence that we are all in this together.