June 24, 2006

Week 1 in Tanzania

So, by tomorrow I will have been in Tanzania a week. I'm so glad I'm doing this. I am taking in so much and filing away in my head so many things to think about when I'm done processing all of this at a later date.

I'm working on learning some Swahili; I'm not doing too badly so far. I'm much less shy and more confident when I have at least a vague knowledge of what's going on around me, so I'm trying to learn as much as possible. I think I'm learning far faster here than I would in a classroom setting; there's definitely something to be said about learning by being placed IN the setting. I think I may have learned more swahili in the first week here than I learned french in my first month of french classes in high school. Then again its all still very tentative, but I'm doing my best, and people seem to appreciate that I'm making an effort at all. I'm also discovering that, although most people at wes's school speak english, they don't tend to understand me if I just talk normally. I talk to fast and, well, American. So I've been trying to slow down my speech a little bit and put more emphasis on consonants and using less contractions like Wes has been doing, but it's pretty funny, because then I get into a habit of doing that and then I end up talking to Wes like that as well. It goes the other way too though; when I start getting into a conversation I forget and start talking normally again, and then I find whoever I'm talking to sort of pause and stare at me for a second. Oops.

I've had some extremely, extremely interesting conversations with people so far. I had one very long conversation with a teacher (and later on two teachers) at Wes's school about teaching and educational systems; the pros and cons of teaching, the difficulties, whether it is better to have a more or less specialized educational system, and even talked a little about being far away from home. It was very cool to hear some of this teacher's perspectives. The beginning and end of the conversation was highly interesting to me, though. We were in the teacher's lounge and Wes was leaving to go to the computer lab; the teacher asked Wes if I could be allowed to stay and talk with him for awhile. (In English, and I was there. This keeps happening, and is bizarre. Wes's response was "its not up to me, its up to her," of course.) Anyway, the conversation was wrapping up, and Wes came back, and we were about to leave, and the teacher thanked Wes for "allowing" me to stay and talk with him. He kind of laughed and said he had nothing to do with it; it was my choice, and the teacher said, "Yes, but had you commanded her to go to the computer lab with you, she would have gone, wouldnt she?" He was highly surprised to hear both of us say that no, Wes would never order me to do anything, and if he ever started, instead of me following his commands, we probably wouldnt be dating anymore. I think we confuse people a little as a couple. Anyway, it sparked another fifteen minutes or so talking about gender equality; it was a really good conversation.

Had another interesting conversation yesterday; a student came into the computer lab where Wes and I were and said he wanted to ask Wes some questions about America. (I ended up joining in the conversation as well.) His first question was why everyone is rich in America, and upon being told that no, everyone is not rich in america, there are poor people there too, he wanted to know why there were poor people and rich people and whether it was God's doing or what the difference between the people were. The conversation spanned from inequality to diversity to differences between cultures to a lot of other things; it was fascinating both to hear these questions and try and think of how I would respond to them.

Outside of things I am learning, I saw some monkeys today! That made me smile. Just on the roof of some building, and in a tree. How cool is that?

June 21, 2006

I'm in WHERE?

Leaving England was so strange. The last night Helen, Tom, and Gareth all slept in my room, hehe. Saying goodbye, driving away...it was weird. It's bizarre that there's a place I called home for the last five months, a specific group of people I hung out with for the last five months, and now I dont know when I'm going to see that place or if I'll ever be with that entire group of people again. (I'm most certainly going to see a few of them again, but whether I'll ever see them all at once again I'm not sure). The feeling was like leaving camp at the end of the summer times a thousand. I can't describe how much my flatmates did for me this past semester. They are truly amazing people and I hope you get to meet them someday if you haven't. You probably will; I don't plan on losing touch. :P

But feelings were mixed...once I finally got on the plane I started letting myself get excited. (I was trying not to let myself get excited before then; it would have been too difficult). I saw a beautiful sunset on the way, and even managed to get a few fifteen-minute intervals of sleep. It was hard towards the end of the flight, as when it got to about three hours away, three hours seemed sooo short comparitively speaking to how long we've been away from each other, but still kind of a long time to be really excited and have nothing happen.

But now...I'm in Tanzania. Seriously. That is INCREDIBLY weird to type. I'm HERE. And it only took a five and a half hour bus ride, six hours of waiting around in the airport, and a ten hour plane ride! Woohoo! (And then a two-three hour bus ride from dar to morogoro, then lunch in Morogoro, then another twenty minute car ride to Mzumbe...but that was with Wes so it's okay). Waiting in line for my visa was agonizing, as I knew Wes was right outside, but ooh it was so nice to see him again. It's amazing. And perfect. I missed him. Nine months is a LONG time. But now it feels kind of like we were never apart at all. It just feels so...normal.

So, Tanzania. Where do I start? I'm taking in sooo much so it's hard to process a little bit. Wes's site is gorgeous. We watched the sun set over the mountains the first night here; it's so cool to see mountains out the window of Wes's house. And then the stars were very pretty last night as well, although very strange; I've never been in the southern hemisphere before - it's weird not to recognize any of the constellations!

Hm, what else, the people. Everyone's been EXTREMELY nice so far. They all seem very happy to meet me and okay with the fact that I don't really speak Swahili. I'm working on learning, slowly, but so far most of my vocabulary is limited to Thank you, welcome, clean, (yeah they say clean in response to a lot of things here, its kinda funny), peacefully, you, and later, hehe. Luckily most people around here seem to speak English so it's all well and good. It's crazy to hear Wes speak swahili! I'm not used to hearing him talk and having absolutely no idea what he's saying. I'm really proud of him for it though. :P He's not going to brag about himself so I'll do it for him: so far I've seen him talk to people, interact, cook, be in the market, teach, work in the computer lab, and he's doing awesomely in every respect. *grin* I'm happy to have a boyfriend who's so adaptable and awesome at what he does, and everyone here seems to respect and like him. :)

Wes's neighbors have already had us over to dinner and are extremely nice, and one of the English teachers said that I could come in and observe her class. (Actually she was prepared to let me TEACH her class but I said I didnt think I was exactly ready for that. The conversation took a turn when she said "What book would you be interested in teaching?" "WHA? Hold up...") The headmaster seems thrilled that I'm here and even invited me to come eat lunch with all the teachers during the teachers meeting, and Wes's friends that I've met were amazingly friendly.

Although the friendliness is a little odd sometimes too. Everyone seems to know who I am on sight. It's a strange feeling. And kind of disconcerting at times. And meeting everyone can be a little intimidating. I got applauded when I walked into chai in the teacher's lounge! WEIRD. And then I sat in on a teacher's meeting, and the headmaster asked if I wanted to say a few words. Actually, he asked WES if I could say a few words, which was strange, the gender thing is a definite cultural difference that is very strange to me. Gender equality isnt quite there at the moment, as I've noticed in a few different situations, although mainly through observing others, not really through attitudes towards myself. Anyway, I said basically, hi, my name's Christina, thank you for welcoming me, I am happy to be here...and then promptly knocked over a plate. Oy. Smooth, Christina, really smooth.

The teacher's meeting was really interesting. I have tons of thoughts on it but I dont know if I'm going to write them all at the moment. Although the meeting was very long. I wasn't there for all of it, I left a few times. Already I think this trip is going to help me a lot as far as my educational viewpoints go. It's definitely a good experience to have and some good knowledge to pick up. If you want my thoughts on it, ask me.

Anyway. I have tons more I can write but I think I'll save it for a later date; I'm trying to do too much catch-up on this computer at the moment. But if you're wondering, I'm happy, in love, and doing great.

June 10, 2006

Ups and Downs

World Cup Match: England, 1; Paraguay, 0. :)

I'm leaving England in a week. I'm still trying to comprehend this. It's so strange. I've been here five months, and it's become so much my home. It's so bizarre to think that when I leave here in a week, I will never be back to this in the same way again. Sure I'll be back to England; I'm DEFINITELY coming back to England. But I won't be living in Waveney, and I don't even know if my friends are still going to be in university still. That's STRANGE. How am I going to do this?

This semester really has been amazing for me. I am so glad I did it. I'm a different person than I was at the beginning of the semester, which might be a bit weird when I get back at first, but I'm pretty sure I like the change. I feel so much more adult than I did before coming here, so much more confident, so much less afraid that I won't be able to deal with things thrown my way. So many things that used to scare me or overwhelm are just normal, everyday things now not worth a fuss. It's amazing. And my flatmates were/are phenomenal. I couldn't have asked for a better set of people to help me adjust to being in another country and away from my family. It's going to be so strange not to see them every day and live with them just down the hall and see them randomly in the kitchen.

Not to mention that this semester I actually got to remind myself what it was like to RELAX. Sure I worked hard on my papers but I have had a few weeks after my exams with just...nothing. And at first I thought that would be strange; I like to feel productive, I like to feel like I'm making a difference somewhere. And I'm sure if I was just sitting around here for, say, another month, with nothing to actually do, I would begin to go a little crazy. But these past couple of weeks? They've been really, really good for me. I remember what it's like to just HAVE free time again, just relax and not worry about what else I have to get done before such-and-such a date. I remember how to breathe.

On the flip side, I miss my friends at home that it's been far too long since I've seen, and it's incredibly weird knowing staff training is now going on without me at camp. When I initially planned my summer, logically, I was thinking okay, I was maybe a little burned out this past summer, and I don't think I can really be a counselor again this summer, and maybe it will be good for me to take a break. But now that it's actually happening without me? It's so strange. The first time in seven years (I've gone eight years but I skipped a year in between the first and the second) that I won't be going to camp. I'm going to try and swing a visit in between getting home and school starting again but that's not exactly the same. Just another weird thing in the time marching on-ness. Hopefully camp doesn't forget about me. :P I will be back!

But on still yet another flip side, I am so happy that I'm going to be seeing Wes in eight days. Eight days! It's so nice to be able to count in days instead of weeks, to know that NEXT SUNDAY I'll be stepping off a plane in Tanzania and remember what it's like to have a boyfriend I can actually SEE, in person. Not to mention hug, or kiss. Rarrr. I'm in a slight amount of shock that it's actually been almost nine months. Three quarters of a YEAR. WHAT? But, we actually did it. We made it three quarters of a year and are still going strong. That's got to say something.

As you can probably tell from this entry, my emotions are ridiculously up and down lately. That's understandable though I guess. But I wouldn't give anything I've done or am doing up, so it's worth it. :)