My community- Aug 18, 2012
I arrived Thursday night and yesterday I stepped out to visit and see my city again. I spent most of the day walking around the market with Fraser, remembering the language, the smells, the etiquette of the culture here. One thing I immediately noticed was how much more indifferent I was to being sought out, stared at, and hassled because of the color of my skin. Perhaps the break from that this summer did more good than I expected. It was really only as I was walking back to my home in the afternoon, however, that I realized the community and neighbors that I have here. First, I walked past a small printing shop where I do my photocopying and printing when I need it for school. I wasn’t even thinking about the shop when I heard, “daniellllla” called out from the window. A big smile spread across my face as I headed into the shop to greet my friends there, surprised that they could recognize me and remember my name (I guess there aren’t too many white girls where I live though, haha).
I continued on to the duka (little shop) close to my house where a man named Daniel works. We were excited to meet the first time, discovering that our names were almost the same (I go by Daniella here usually though). He was so excited to see me, it made me laugh. He ran out of the shop and gave me a big hug—the typical hug here is a loose embrace of the shoulder and a hug to the left, a hug to the right. It’s similar to the way the French kiss on each cheek, only there’s no kissing here. Then he took my hand and held it as we talked—this is also a very common greeting and it took me a bit of time to get used to it with the men. Usually the men stand and hold hands with each other, like a very extended handshake without the shaking, for at least 30 seconds or a minute as they converse and ask each other how their families are, etc.
I felt very happy as I continued on down my street to my house. There outside my house gate, next to the road stands a little group of piki-piki drivers (motorcycle taxis). I wasn’t sure if my friend that I always saw last year was still there, but my glances toward the group of drivers were confirmed as I heard the words “mayai!” I couldn’t help but start to laugh. This goes back to a personal joke this man I have—a guy with whom I’ve never really had a significant conversation because of my knowledge of Swahili and because he’s usually surrounded by other men (I stay clear of large groups of men if I’m by myself, even if I’m close to my home.) But “mayai” goes back to a day last spring sometime when I kept hearing this strange old man shouting out “maaayyyaaaiiiiii, maaayaaaiii” in all different inflections of pitch, the words ringing throughout the neighborhood and buildings. I seriously thought the man was just deranged and wandering around shouting sounds. But then I listened really to the word he was saying “mayai” means “eggs”! He was going around selling fresh eggs and notifying the neighborhood that he was passing through. One morning I was standing at the corner of my street near the motorcycle group and I laughed out loud as the egg man came by again with his screeching echoing around us. This pikipiki driver laughed too and said, “mayai!”—thus, that became our way of saying hello each morning as I left to go to work. It was so nice to see him, to greet him again. Just another familiar face with a story I don’t yet know.
A new feeling- Aug 09, 2012
I was listening to some tunes tonight and thinking about Tanzania—and suddenly an oddly familiar pang of restlessness hit me, but in a new way. I realized, smiling to myself, that I am at last homesick for Arusha! How many times I sat in my Tanzanian home, thinking about the people and places I miss in the US, but now I realize that I’m ready to go back to Tanzania, ready to take on another year, ready to have another year of incredible memories and adventures. I’ve barely stopped going this summer: moving between Atlanta, Brazil, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Tennessee in less than 2 months. Uff. I’m ready to be back in Arusha, in my home, and be in one place for a little while.
There are little habits I see in myself now that have been born out of my life style in TZ. I wonder, when I do finally leave Arusha how long it will take for those quirks to fade away. Things like, being delighted to find bathrooms with soap and toilet paper, how I no longer ever keep my laptop plugged into the outlet (in case of electrical surges as are common in TZ), constantly being aware of the location of my flute (after having lost my previous one in TZ), not taking showers every day as I used to, wanting to play with and hold little children, and being perfectly content to be squished hot in a hot car or to not be a picky eater. I talk about Tanzania all the stinkin’ time with my friends, family, and new acquaintances. Everyone can tell you a hundred times that moving to Africa will open an entirely new world to you, but when you finally see how it has transformed you (in some ways, forever) it’s quite remarkable.