Friday, June 14, 2013

Inspiration Friday

Habari!

I could go on and on and on about how this blog is coming to an end, what I've learned, what I've experienced, who I've come into contact with, and who I've become...but I would be remiss to come to a finish. So instead, I will just keep my very last post (gasp!) short and sweet.




This statement is so, so, so true. 

There is not a more beautiful, moving, inspiring, educational, selfless, natural, hopeful, untamed, and true continent in this world that Africa; and you won't know just how amazing and life-changing it is until you experience it yourself. I've had the pleasure of living there twice, and I can't wait to live there once again (so if you know of an opportunity or job opening -- I'm in!). 

As my final words for this blog, I'll leave you with this: 

Inspire, and be inspired.
Explore the world; every nook and cranny.
Give back. Be selfishly selfless. 
And don't forget to create yourself  (and a better world) along the way.

Kwa heri
 (goodbye),
- MM

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thoughts on: Taking Things For Granted

Habari!

This is my last "real" post for T365 (with my goodbye posting later this evening at 10PM EST) and I can hardly believe it! I know I promised you at least one more "thoughts on" post -- so here's what I've got.

There are so many topics that I wish I could cover, but after much thought and deliberation, I think this one will be able to sum up most of my feelings, and be the culmination of all of the emotions I wish to impart with you (at least partially). And now that I'm back in the United States, I think this topic makes the most sense.

So here we go, with some final thoughts on taking things for granted.

---

When I was little, I used to take a lot time finishing my food. Dinner, which should have been thirty minutes, took over an hour. Part of it was because I was constantly talking and it took me a long time to chat and chew (mind you, this is still a problem I face today) and part of it was because I was a kid, and God only knows why children like to dawdle as they do. Anyways, I was a slow eater, and as science has proven, the slower you eat, the less you eat, because your stomach gets signals that you're full, and you no longer desire to intake more food. Either way, I would leave the table with resigned shoulders and a plate with food still left on it.

Now, remember that line "Eat all of your food! There are starving children in Africa (or China or really any 3rd world nation)".

Dang it! When I was young that never wanted me make me eat my food. I don't think it does today either. But the point was, my parents and grandparents and anyone older was trying to tell me in the most tangible way they could: Don't take things for granted.

Living the lifestyle we do in America or in the developed world, it's easy to take everything for granted. A number of my friends just assumed that I had electricity and running water in Africa...because why wouldn't I? It was hard to explain that having those things was not only not the norm, they were entirely (or almost entirely) unnecessary. 

In short, there are SO MANY things we take for granted, simply because it would be preposterous for us to think that living any other way would be effective, efficient, satisfying, or any other positive-sounding adjective. 

"Wait, you can't buy food every day of the week, or whenever you want?"
"Wait, your toilet doesn't flush?"

"Wait, you don't have a sink? Or a shower? Or a tub?"
"Wait, how do you charge your cellphone? Or laptop? Or turn on your lightswitch?"
"Wait, why do you go to bed essentially as soon as the light goes down?"
"Wait, why do you walk 8km to the nearest village before catching the taxi to the next town? Why don't you just get a car/taxi near your house?"

"Wait, why is there two frogs and a lizard INSIDE of your toilet?"

The astonished questions could go on and on. But it's not because they aren't normal circumstances, it's just that it's not 'typical' for us.

Us first-worlders expect electricity that always works and endless amounts of running water and to be able to run out and buy things the second you need them. You don't want creepy crawlies  if you can't call someone to exterminate them for you, and you don't want to have to walk or run or hike to get to the nearest vehicle that has some gas in it.

There's nothing wrong with these expectations, because everyone around you agrees that they should occur.

In Tanzania though, it would be absolutely INSANE if they were true for everyone, and if for some reason everyone woke up and all of a sudden their houses were filled with plugged-in appliances and cars congested the dirt road and we could call people to fix our problems, they'd have a conniption. Because over there, people have time (and lots of it!) and they don't mind walking. They eat the same meal almost every day for their whole lives -- there's no need to shop more than once or look for variety. They definitely don't need to wash their clothes faster or boil their water better or see past sundown. They live slowly and honestly and casually, and it suites them just fine.

That's not to say that they might not want some of these changes. And it doesn't mean that they don't deserve a little modernization  -- on their terms.

So when I say we "take things for granted" - I don't mean we should appreciate what we have, and pity those who don't have what we do.

I mean that we should remain vigilant and cognisant of those who differ from us - and just be aware that what we haven't isn't "typical".

'Typical' and 'normal' vary from region to region; continent to continent; person to person.
What's good for one, might not be good for another.
Or it might be.
Either way, it's okay.

I think that's the biggest take-away from living abroad. Any way you live, is okay.
There's no right or wrong.
It just is what it is.

It takes a special kind of person to truly internalize that, and accept that.

I hope we can all become, over the course of our lifetimes, that sort of accepting soul.

Mpaka Baadaye,
- MM


BTW: My friend Alex wrote a similar article that you should read if you have a moment because it's simply amazing...but it's about a similar topic. You can click here for his post or follow the link here:
http://www.arolnick.com/?p=260

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Home Again

Habari!

Well, I'm back in the United States...and despite all of the major changes and a little bit of culture shock, it feels great to be home. 


 

It's amazing how it seems that everything is the same and everything is different simultaneously...the world is a strange, strange place.

There will be a couple more posts this week to wrap up my year abroad, but Tanzania365 will officially come to a close on June 14th (exactly 10 months after I arrived in Tanzania) with my absolute favourite Inspiration Friday post.

I can't believe that the time has come for this chapter of my life to close...it has been such an integral part of my growth into adulthood, as a blogger and a leader and a world-changer. I hope that you had just as much fun following my adventures as I did having them and that you were able to take something away from the words I spilled onto this page day after day for the past year and a half. 

Luckily for all of us, my time in Tanzania is far from over. As I mentioned before, I founded the scholarship fund "The Nyota Fund" and I will continue to be tied to Kagera Region for as long as I can fund it.




If you're interested in tracking the progress of the students I sponsor, The Nyota Fund, or what's what in Tanzania (especially their education section) - please like the Facebook page!






Mpaka Baadaye,
- MM


Friday, June 7, 2013

But It's Oh. So. Nice. To Wander Back.

Habari!

I'm spending the last day in Tanzania right here in Dar es Salaam repacking my bags to meet airport standards, meeting up with Sarah H from my program, and heading to the aiport to catch a flight (or 2)!!!!!!

As one of my favorite singers once said: 

It's very nice, to go traveling...




but it's oh-so-nice, to come home. 


AMERICA - SEE YOU TOMORROW!!!!



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Airports Are My Happy Place

Habari!

I found this Thought Catalog before the new year, and knew I had to save it for a more relevant time.

Since I'm flying back home to the United States tomorrow night, the time is now.

I might be muddling through all sorts of feelings at the moment (and probably due to the fact that I spent the last week grappling my way up and down the tallest mountain in Africa, I don't have time to write something poignant), but these words by Alex Brueckner truly take the cake. Enjoy!

---

Airports Are My Happy Place

DEC. 21, 2012 
As I write this, I am on the train to Narita International Airport, and it is all I can do to keep from vibrating out of my skin in excitement. In a few hours, I’ll board a plane bound for Washington, DC via Chicago. It will be the first time I’ve been home in almost a year and a half, and though my emotions are bordering on ecstasy because of the reunions that are just over the horizon, a good portion of my happiness comes from the fact that I’m in an airport at all.

See, airports are my happy place. I’m in love with them. I’m the woman who shows up at least three hours before her flight — international or domestic, it doesn’t matter — just to spend a bit of extra time in the terminal. I could spend the entire day there and wouldn’t get bored once. 

I love the anonymity I’m afforded in an airport. Aside from the security staff leafing through my passport and scanning my boarding pass, no one knows who I am. No one has any idea where I’m going and why. I could be anyone in an airport. I usually travel alone, so despite the fact that people surround me, I always feel a certain measure of privacy. I’m guilty of turning off my phone right after I’ve cleared security; I like being cut off and unreachable. An airport gives me freedom from dealing with everyday nuisances and annoyances that are otherwise always present.

For me, there’s hardly a better place to people watch. Peruse the crowds at an airport, especially if it’s international, and you’re guaranteed to see a huge range of races, nationalities, and social classes. I’d once spent an hour in Heathrow sitting between a Hasidic Jew and a sunny surfer who looked like he could have been Matthew McConaughey’s younger brother. Airports are melting pots.

And I think you can get a basic sense of a person’s character when they’re at an airport, too. Do they travel in comfort, wearing jeans and a t-shirt? Or are they all business, wearing heels or a suit? Are they quietly reading on a bank of chairs against the gate windows? Or are they typing away on a laptop, trying to get one last work email sent off before they board the plane? Sucking down a venti latte from Starbucks? Or snacking on a sandwich they made themselves and brought from home? (For the record, I’m the chick who alternately does yoga in quiet corners during layovers, guiltlessly chows down on an overpriced, huge burger, or catches up on reading comics on her iPad.)

I love the sounds in an airport. I like the sounds of baggage wheels clacking on the moving sidewalk, a boarding pass being torn off, and my passport being stamped. All of those are comforting reminders that I am either almost home or soon to be somewhere new and exciting. (And there’s rarely a screaming baby in an airport. You usually have to get on a plane to enjoy that.)

But the best part about airports lies in what they symbolize. Airports are places of bookends: new beginnings and long-awaited endings, arrivals and departures, hellos and goodbyes. We start in one city to end in another hundreds or thousand miles away. You enter from a desert and exit into a blizzard. In from winter, out into summer. In from familiarity, out into something completely foreign. Or vice versa.

An airport is a place of transit, and not just geographically. I wish there was some sort of time-lapse to show how people change between departures and arrivals. When I arrive back home from being away, I’m never the same person as when I left.

And the emotions at an airport… you’ve got the whole range. You want to see human emotion at its most sentimental and raw? Watch families reunite at Arrivals. Watch them separate before security outside of Departures. Emotions converge on each other; the pain of goodbyes and last moments are mixed with anticipation and excitement. The heyday of an arrival is tempered by the comforting feeling that you are finally home again. I’ve gotten the stereotypical, romantic “I love you” when boarding a plane. The knowledge that soon there will be thousands of miles between you and your loved ones makes those moments all the more significant. Airports can cut you deep. But the fantastic thing about them is that as much as they are host to those moments, they’re also the places to flee from them. As soon as you step into an airport, a whole new chapter begins. TC Mark



You can find the link to the actual article here or at http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/airports-are-my-happy-place/

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Poem: I Am An African

Habari!



I'm not a huge poem person, and I'll be the first to admit it. But by ways unknown to me, I came across this poem by Wayne Visser, and I was sold. 



It is no secret to my friends that I always claim to be "African", not because I actually am (I mean, I'm still holding strong onto my Singapore roots all the while holding a US passport) but because I love it so much, I wish it were mine. I think that's why I love this poem so much; ;Visser allows anyone and everyone to lay claim to a beautiful place simply because you care.

And now that I'm so close to leaving, a little proclamation of my love won't hurt anyone. 



Enjoy!

Mpaka Baadaye,
- Mwalimu M

---

I Am An African
By Wayne Visser
(Courtesy of Sheena's Travel Blog)



I am an African

Not because I was born there

But because my heart beats with Africa’s

I am an African

Because my mind is engaged by Africa

I am an African

Not because I live on its soil

But because my soul is at home in Africa….

When Africa weeps for her children

My cheeks are stained with tears

When Africa honors her elders

My head is bowed in respect

When Africa mourns for her victims

My hands are joined in prayer

When Africa celebrates her triumphs

My feet are alive with dancing.

I am an African

For her blue skies take my breath away

And my hope for the future is bright

I am an African

For her people greet me as family

And teach me the meaning of community

I am an African

For her wildness quenches my spirit

And brings me closer to the source of life

When the music of Africa beats n the wind

My blood pulses to its rhythm

And I become the essence of sound

When the colours of Africa dazzle in the sun

My senses drink in its rainbow

And I become the palette of nature

When the stories of Africa echo around the fire

My feet walk in its pathways

And I become the footprints of history

I am an African

Because she is the cradle of our birth

And nurtures an ancient wisdom

I am an African

Because she lives in the world’s shadow

And bursts with a radiant luminosity

I am an African

Because she is the land of tomorrow

And I recognize her gifts as sacred.

---

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thoughts on: Volunteering For Only One Year

Habari!

I'm back with another "Thoughts On" post -- and there's a few more brewing, so don't you worry! I think the rest of them will come once I'm back in the United States, but they'll all be about my time here in Tanzania.

Today, I want to try and tackle the length of time I spent in Tanzania. 

Ten months seems like a really, really long time. Simultaneously, it also seems like a drop in a bucket. It's a tangibly intangible amount of time...but the real question is, it is enough?

---

As I started to tell people that I was leaving Tanzania to my home, and yes, I was leaving for good, they began to ask why.

"Madam, stay! Please renew your contract! Beg your government to let you live here. We will give you land! And a husband! And help you farm!"

They were adamant that things could work out. They were also unphased by the fact that I kind of wanted to go...I wasn't all that sad about leaving. I knew my time and contract were up...and I wasn't really wanting to renew or extend my time in TZ. I had other things I wanted to do (like grad school) and other people I wanted to spend my time with (like my family). 

"Madam, stay! You can do more. You can teach for longer and help more people learn English. It would be much better if you stayed."

I can't deny that -- if I stayed another 6 months I could help my students prepare right up until their Form 2 National Examinations and have taught my new Form 1s for an entire school year. Every extra class, they'd learn a little bit more. Every extra month, another unit would be completed. By leaving, I was no longer aiding them in this way.

In one year, you can see small differences, but not always measurable ones. There's no evidence that I've prepared my Form 2s to pass the National Exams...at least not yet. There's no way to tell that I've helped students become more or less proficient in English than they would have without having me as a teacher, nor can I take full credit when most of the teaching staff with me also taught in English. In some ways, it's hard to say that I really did make a difference.

And to what extent can I define "difference"?

Did it matter that I made real connections with my kids; perhaps the first they've experienced n the classroom? Did it matter that I made people laugh every day? Did it matter that I taught my students about Halloween and America and the college system in the US, or how to write an 'unless' sentence? Or that I showed my teachers that you can control a classroom with just a look, instead of a stick?

I think all of those things count.

I think being here was a difference. Allowing myself to change, making people smile, acclimating to the culture and norms was a difference.

The world is always changing.
We're always changing.

And if it's for the better?
Well, that's a difference of the best kind.

And that, is what I think about that.

Mpaka Baadaye,
- MM