A quiet Saturday afternoon currently consists of listening to multiple conversations in various rooms of the house all in different languages: Swahili, English, and Swedish. Very stimulating, just like much of life will be now that I am getting situated in the bustling city of Arusha in nothern Tanzania.
My journey here went generally very smoothly, leaving for the Denver Airport on Wednesday afternoon and pulling up to the Vision for Youth (V4Y) house Friday around 5pm. Three plane rides totaling in 18hrs of flight brought me from Colorado to Tanzania. And thankfully I shared the trip from Toronto on with Laura and Tarik!
As expected, the African life is a bit of a culture shock. We kicked off our submersion with a complicated roundabout through immigration and customs at the Kilimanjaro International Airport: a small airport used to tourist travel and not so much volunteer guests. But thankfully we convinced them we had the right visas and they let us through without any extra payment.
Though I could hardly struggle to stay awake for the several hour hot bumpy ride into Arusha with my director, Violet Ayoub, the views were of the unique and beautiful Tanzania I remember from 5 years ago: school children hitchhiking for rides home, small herds of goats and cows along the road, vibrantly dressed woman carring goods through the fields, and the bumpiest dustiest roads you can think of.
Right away I enjoyed getting to know my housemates who will be my friends, roommates and coworkers these next months. I share a room with our house keeper and cook, 16yr old Naomi, who is hardworking and bright and speaks limited English, Vanja is a 23yr old Swedish engineering student who is taking a gap year before grad school and will be here for two months, and Johnna who is an 18yr old Austria taking a gap year after high school and will be here through March. Violet the V4Y direct also lives here, and several guys who work and volunteer with V4Y as well. Simon is a 20yr old Tanzanian and apparently an accomplished poet! (as I will soon find out at his poetry reading this afternoon). And another Swedish volunteer will arrive tomorrow.
Already we have had lengthy conversations about religion, politics, women’s health, DivaCups, and books. It’s a good start! Last night in typical Tanzania style, Vanja and I were whisked off to a wedding with Violet and a bunch of her friends. We had an incredible evening of drinks and food, dancing and toasting at the fanciest and liveliest wedding I’ve ever been to. Today we’ve recovered by relaxing and reading in the comfortable heat of Sunday.
After getting some rest, Vanja, Johnna, and I accompanied Simon to his poetry jam in the beautiful Themi Living Gardens.A wonderfully unexpected community of artists, poets, and musicians who come together every couple weeks for a poetry and music in the woods of this garden. Everyone presented or preformed as they felt called, in English or Kiswahili and they included all skills and talents. A very welcoming and diverse group that I hope to get to know better over the next months. Probably present some poetry or story of my own!
I have not seen Laura and Tarik since we arrived at the airport. They were whisked off to their dental clinic to deliver all the supplies they heroicly got through customs, and they have been kept busy with the local dentist’s family ever since. Hopefully we will reconnect soon, I would love to see where the are living.
Tomorrow the week begins and I will actually find out what my responsibilities will be here at V4Y! I will keep you posted and more photos soon to come!