Monday, June 24, 2013

Signing out, Tanzania

Two years in Arusha Tanzania, and now it's all said and done. I told someone the other day, as they were preparing to embark on their own two year commitment: Two years seems so long at the start and so short at the finish. If I were to sum up my two years in one word, it would be "Adventure."

Leaving my home last week was, sad to say, one of the most memorable but upsetting moments I've had in Arusha. I must write about it, sad as it was. The Saturday after my family left, a Tanzanian friend of mine invited me to go to a "CHEDEMA meeting" being held near my house. CHEDEMA is a political party quickly growing in numbers, strength, and fervor in Tanzania. I thought this would be an interesting thing to see, so I agreed to stop by the meeting with my friend. What he was describing as a meeting, however, was a huge gathering of probably 2,000 people in the Soweto grounds about 2 minutes walk from my house. I was the only mzungu that I could see there, and I enjoyed getting to observe the many people who were all patiently listening to the man with the microphone up on scaffolding above the crowd. After 10 minutes I felt a little uncomfortable being in such a large gathering, even though we stood on the outskirts of the crowd, so I said bye and walked back home.

20 minutes after I arrived home, I was teaching a flute lesson and I heard some louder voices passing out on the street. My friend at the CHEDEMA rally called me and said, "Don't leave you're house. It's not safe. Someone threw a bomb." This was truly jarring, considering how peaceful of a place Arusha and Tanzania are known to be.

Later that week, Tuesday evening was my flight to come home to the states. I had my bags packed and had been running around doing last minute errands all day. Around 4pm I returned home and on my way, Millie (my roommate) who was still at work called to see if I had heard about rumors that another bomb had been thrown at another Soweto grounds political gathering. As my taxi brought me nearer to our home, I grew uneasy seeing so many people out on the streets just standing, talking, watching, and waiting. I hurried into my gate and house, locking my front door. 10 minutes later, I heard a terrifyingly close blast. Fearful, I called friends to see if they knew what was going on just outside my door. More blasts came from all around my neighborhood, sounding like fireworks. The air smelled strange and I saw my hands were shaking. Finally, I got some information that the blasts were tear gas bombs police were shooting off at crowds near the grounds, to prevent riots. I called Jimmy to see if he could take me to the airport immediately and he told me that it was too dangerous for him to come to me right now. I was beginning to feel trapped in my own home.

Thankfully, Jimmy did arrive after 20 minutes and began quickly loading his car. I did a quick scan of the house one last time, a sadly rushed farewell to my Arusha home, and hurried to Jimmy's car. Just as I got to the gate where his car was parked out on the street, a police car with a siren (unique because we never hear police or ambulance sirens in Arusha) drove by and everyone on the street went running every which way for no apparent reason. I retreated back into my compound in fear before Jimmy shot his head back through the gate and yelled, "Danielle, GET in the car!!" .... I ran out of the gate and into Jimmy's car, feeling scared and sad to have such a farewell. Jimmy whipped us through the roads past everyone and my heart rate slowed only when we got out of town.

Once at the airport, and especially once on the plane, I felt like everything in Arusha that afternoon had been a dream.

Now that I'm back home, of course I find that all I talk about is Arusha life, the amazing adventures I had there, the incredible friendships I made, the unforgettable lessons learned. In my mind, it doesn't feel like Arusha is going to stop being my home, and maybe in some ways it never will.

I'd like to feature a few (ok, there are lots) photos that capture the best times of my in Arusha:
Good times with Camerooon and Charlotte Brontesaurus
Surprising mom at the airport in Nairobi
Exploring Zanzibar
Flat tire on the way to the safari park
Zanzibar with dear friends
Swimming with dolphins
Hot air balloon over Lake Manyara
Teaching jazz to some wonderful students
Endless toasts on picnics
Students smiling, what could be better?
Getting allll those dresses made at Mama Suzy's
Incredible waterfall hike with dear friends
Remembering the beauty and the difficulties in the world
Recording with Umoja Ensemble
Seeing the joy in teaching Umoja Ensemble
Amazing coworkers
Jimmy's sweet kids
Crazy adventures with Fraser
Trying.... new.... drinks....
Lots of bus rides.. hahaha..
sweeeeettt fresh fruit!
Learning to make vegetable pilau
Our Ndoto Spectacle
Volunteering with MAWO
Dad's visit
Entertaining kids
Such wonderful friends
The moutains
The animals
Acapella singing and air drumming...
Safari on family visit
Writing songs to play for Umoja
Sweet Imara rescue doggy
Learning to balance ANYTHING on my head
Amazing friends
Mt. Meru
Hongera Obama!
Fancy dress
The Blue Zebras.... and balloons..
Fierce friends!
Amazing coworkers and dear friends
A wonderful housemate to have in tight quarters
dealing with the AMAZING Skype connections..
Blue Zebras jazz
Friends and my mom away from home
Sweet treats, sweet friends
Tanzania life.

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