Sunday, June 2, 2013

19/20 tanzanian months finished

Have you ever spent two years of your life thinking every single day about the color of your skin? Considering the implications, deciding what to wear depending on if you're going by car or on public transportation, actually feeling grateful when you're sitting on the bus squished between a crowd of people with much darker skin than you?

Yesterday, a lazy and warm Saturday, I rode the daladala to work. It was the day of our end of year concert and I had already been teaching for 4 hours that morning, but was gearing up for a full evening of our big children's concert. All around me on the bus, however, there was a relaxed sense of lethargy as people nodded off in the dim sunlight shining through the plastic windows. I had a quiet moment to reflect again on how it felt to be included in and separated by different barriers there. Some men were in the front talking and laughing about something they saw out the window. I couldn't understand what they were saying, and I thought about how I've spent so much time in the past two years not understanding anything people around me are talking about because of the language barrier. In some sense, I'm safe in the bubble of my mind thinking and working in English. They can't understand me, I can't understand them. On the daladala, my thoughts are a sanctuary. I then observed the presence of the two people's bodies who sat on either side of me. On the daladala, we are all sort of one unit- bouncing one way or the next without any space between our arms or legs. But I actually felt a blanket of security sitting there between the people who I didn't know. It's like a secret insight into a life so different than mine. From where I sat, the Tanzanian woman to my left blocked people outside of the daladala from seeing me, but I could peer through the tangle of arms and bodies to see those selling, arguing, laughing, greeting each other outside of the bus. I felt cloaked, hidden, safe, and grateful.

There have, after all, been numerous occasions when I have the window seat on the bus and have a lot of people on the street noticing me, calling out, doing the obnoxious flirtatious eyebrow movement at me. Once, last year, a guy actually reached in the window and place his whole hand on my face before I could move. First I was outraged, then I burst out laughing.

I have four more weeks here. Last year I wondered if by this point I would be counting down the weeks, feeling them fly past one by one. I certainly have felt that way for a couple of months. I feel very at peace with leaving Tanzania, though I have some fears as well. It's not now a fear of change, of independence, of distance from home (the anxieties I felt before coming to TZ). It's a fear of loosing passion for life. In the past two years I have experience immense joy, deep sadness, a renewed energy to create and teach, a drive to learn and discover, and every single day brought me another adventure. I fear that I will return to a mundane life where I forget why I do music, what a privilege it is, how blessed I am to have a university degree and the countless other opportunities I've been given. I fear that I will slowly forget that the American culture has endless flaws yet countless rewards. I fear that I will forget how happy we can be with a lot less. These things I do fear, yet deep in my heart, I know that I cannot separate these lessons me from who I am now. I humble myself in gratitude for the soul Tanzania has given me and, eyes looking forward, I know this spirit for life will go no matter where my feet take me.


  1. Bittersweet, your last Blog entry from Tanzania. You have impressed me and everyone with your insights and observations here and this one is no exception. Love all you have done. And, by the way, your life will never be "mundane," what with the inclusion of Bach, Mendelsohn, Porter, Franck, Glass, and the hundreds of other guests at your daily musical table. Love you...Daddio

  2. Remember leaving Duluth... then Vanderbilt... those feelings of melancholy and uncertainty? And look at you now. Fearless again as you dance forward. We're so proud of you Dani. You've done what I would never have the courage to do. You are my inspiration! Love you most, moma