There is a saying that goes, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” As I boarded my plane late last night, this was the phrase I repeated over and over again. Despite my efforts to stay positive, I did shed a few tears as the plane took off toward Amsterdam, away from my new home.
Saying goodbye is a weird thing, especially when you don’t know when the next hello will be in the future. When my host sister asked me when I will be back, it truly broke my heart that I didn’t know the answer. But there’s a positive way to look at every thing in life, especially the idea of goodbye.
Let’s revisit my opening quote: Don’t cry because it’s over. Well that whole no crying idea went to hell the moment I started bringing my suitcases down the stairs towards the taxi. I had been so focused on not crying for the entire week leading up to that moment, that the sadness hit me like a wrecking ball (see what I did there).
My final week had consisted of goodbyes. I said goodbye to my friends who I had traveled to Zanzibar and spent most of my free time with. I said goodbye to my host family; the people who had created a home away from home. I said goodbye to my supervisor, Georgina, and the staff of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. I said goodbye to the city of Arusha, a place that was finally becoming familiar, a place that I call home.
Now like the average human being, I do not like saying goodbye, or kwa heri in Swahili. Back to my quote, don’t cry because it’s over. Well I did cry, but I think that it’s okay that I did.
In six short weeks, I fell in love with a whole new country, culture, and way of life. I made friends with people who I know will be apart of my life in some way shape or form even though we are no longer in Africa. I made memories that will last me a lifetime. I have stories that I will tell my children. I have changed for the better (at least I think so, you can judge that).
In six short weeks I made such incredible friendships that now as I am somewhere in the air over Europe, I am crying because I don’t know when I will see them again…. And it think that is a pretty cool thing.
Yes I came to Africa for an adventure. Yes I came to not only learn about the people here but also about myself. But no, I did not expect that my short time here would be so impacting on my life (and currently my emotions). Today, I am filled with a mix of happiness and sadness. I feel like I am the luckiest girl in the world. I have family and friends all over the world now, and I am so incredibly grateful for it all.
So why am I grateful?? Let me count the ways… (In an organized manner of course.)
What I’ll miss about Africa:
1. Chips mayai and pili pili sauce. Putting French fries (I mean chips) in an omlet is pure genius. Dear America, you’re missing out.
2. My host sister. Everyday I would go home and ask Vanessa, “How was school today?” And everyday without fail her answer was, “AWESOME!” I don’t think I’ve ever met a happier child. From playing cards, teaching her to braid my hair, or playing soccer, I will defiantly miss having a little sister.
3. Walking. This may seem silly, since I can walk in America too, but in Africa, Jenn and I would walk everywhere. We walked about an hour to work every single day. One time we even walked to our friend Phil’s house, which took us over two hours to do (not exaggerating)!
4. Corn! Here in Arusha, a popular thing to eat is grilled corn with pili pili sauce on it. Jenn and I would usually get some from the same woman on our way home from work everyday
5. Viavia! Whether it’s the 2$ beers or Jenn’s dance moves, I’m definitely going to miss going to the club on Thursday nights!
6. Random children on the street. In Arusha, all I would have to say to a child was Mambo! And they would burst out in laughter. They love Wazungu! I’m going to miss walking through a school yard and hearing them all say to me, “I’m fine” in unison, as if it was rehearsed. For having so little, the children in Africa are happier and more appreciative than many people that live far luckier lives.
7. Chipate! This is a flat tortilla like bread that is a popular food in Arusha. I’m addicted! The good news is that when we were in Moshi, the chef taught us how to make it ourselves so party at Ginny’s, I’ll bring the chipate!
8. The babies! Working in the maternity ward for two weeks was not enough for me! Every time I saw a baby take it’s first few breaths I was overcome with an indescribable feeling that I will certainly miss.
9. My supervisor. I don’t think that I have talked about my new role model, Georgina. While volunteering in Arusha, Georgina has been overseeing me and Jenn. Georgina is a phenomenal woman. She grew up in Tanzania and got her degree in something similar to social work. She is smart and talented and just wants to help her community. But she doesn’t want to just temporarily help others, she tries to set people up for long term success. After only knowing her as my neighbor and supervisor for a few weeks, I can honestly say that she is one of my role models, and I strive to help others like she has done.
10. Saying Shikamo. In Swahili, Shikamo is a way to greet elders and show them a sign of respect. When Jenn and I would pass elders we would always say Shikamo, and every time, a smile would spill across their face. I think that it is important to respect elders and their culture, especially when you are a visitor somewhere.
11. Zanzibar. White beaches, clear water. Need I say more?
12. My family’s maid. I think that Meriam, the maid in my house, may be one of my favorite people on this planet. Meriam didn’t speak much English, but it was always fun to try and talk to her in Swahili.
13. My malaria pills. They give me some crazy dreams, and I think that’s great.
14. Daladala rides. There’s something special about cramming 27 people into a white van. The best was always when people would talk to us during the ride. On my last dala ride I think I may have been the comedic relief for the people who were trying to talk to me in Swahili.
15. Fanta Passion. It’s delicious and I don’t think it’s in America.
16. My friends. I have met some incredible people in my shirt few weeks. Ready for some shutouts??? We’ve got Julia, the 16 I mean 17 year old German who is wise beyond her years. Johnny, the poly sci major who knows more about world politics than anyone I have ever met and will bring social justice to those who really need it. McKenna, my crazy friend who is climbing mt Kilimanjaro with her father and who will one day be her own version of Meredith Grey. Beth, my favorite English friend who won’t take no for an answer (especially on a plane back from Zanzibar)! Philipo, the future rap star, with one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen in a logical person. And last but not least, my travel buddy, Jennifer. From the jungles fever for her, to her terrible terrible Friday the thirteenth here, I don’t think I could have done this trip without my friend from home. When it comes down to it, it has been the people that I have met during this trip that have made it so memorable. But what’s great is I will have those people mentioned, and many more for the rest of my life.
Now although I am so sad that this incredible adventure must come to a close, I will not sink into a depression upon arriving in the states. Why? Well let me tell you!
Things I am excited for in America:
1. Ice cubes
2. Being able to drink tap water without fearing for my life.
3. Western toilets… Squatting is not fun.
4. Cheese… It’s a foreign concept in Africa.
5. My puppy!
6. My family and friends!
7. Driving…. On the correct side of the road.
8. Being surrounded by people who wear deodorant.
9. Cellular data.
10. Hot showers.
11. Being allowed out at night.
12. Not standing out in the crowd.
13. New Jersey. Yes the whole damn state.
14. Just being an American in America. I feel my experience will give me a newfound appreciation for my home country. Yes Gina, I love America!
So that’s all folks. I am about to get on my last flight home (I’ve traveled for 15 hours already). I will walk in my door with both tears of sadness and happiness when I finally make it to Lumberton. I hope you have all enjoyed my rambling and bad grammar.
Until the next adventure… Kwa heri!