The Jesuit Volunteers house in Moshi, Tanzania shall now be referred to as the estate. A porch wraps around half our home overlooking a gigantic backyard complete with mango trees. We have a guard named Exaudi who watches the property during the dark hours with his newly purchased bow and arrow. I feel paralyzed when I simply wave to this Maasai man each morning and so look forward to using Swahili to hear his story. Each afternoon heavy rain pours down with no warning, clears within ten minutes, and, if possible, the town shines even more green afterwards.
Four Jesuit Volunteers, Paul, Talia, Mary Beth and I, live inside the home while the walls are scaled by countless geckos and rainbow beasts (unbelievably colored thick lizards). Far more exciting, or frightening, are the storks. Moving to Africa, I was often asked about the lions and zebras. Never were the human sized storks brought up. On my way to work I pass by a field of burning trash stalked by these large pelicans on stilts. I have to remind myself I’m simply in another country, not a sci fi movie.
Luckily within my first few days here, I was able to visit my future work place, Mary Goretti Secondary School - a boarding school for nearly 1,000 young women from across East Africa. At first I was hesitant about the idea of teaching, let alone teaching at a school for the relatively wealthy. Then, Paul and I received a history lesson. At the end of the presentation our new friend spoke about the current state of Tanzania including gender inequality and violence. He then highlighted the fact that Mary Goretti is a profound and leading example of the changing face of this nation. Here, young women are given preference and expected to become the future leaders. In a nation in which independence is still a fresh reality, this overt movement towards female empowerment is beautifully responsive. I am feeling so invigorated and thankful that my placement is already fueling my passion. I’ve also learned of an organization which uses dance to promote HIV prevention amongst women. I’m eager to spend time learning about their work and the many other unknown gems that are within Moshi.
Our first night in Moshi, Paul and I attended a wedding with our new community mates. A Tanzania wedding on our first day! To kick the party off, a decorated goat was danced up to the happy couple who then served cubes of it to loved ones. Waiting for our group to be called, I sat in anticipation for my vegetarianism to be victoriously concluded; however, my herbivore stomach was spared that evening. After eating, different collections of people slowly and joyfully danced their group gift up to the couple which was usually a very, very large greeting card. Since the groom was one of my future co-workers, I was able to meet many a new friend and colleague. It is a wonderful feeling to fly to the other side of the planet and be greeted with such warmth. Paul and I were continuously told “you are welcome” – not in response to thanks, but quite literally that we are welcome here.
the history lesson.
Beautiful moment of awe number one. When learning about the history of East Africa, our co-worker discussed the belief that humanity’s origin lies in Tanzania. So, when people come to Tanzania, we are seen as coming home rather than visiting. Karibu sista – welcome home sister. This is not only a neat idea, but it pervades the Tanzanian perspective on humanity. A global people, an international sense of unity, is not aimed for; instead, it is an inherent belief.
What has only been a few days feels like weeks. We have already experienced so much, it is hard to believe I still have one year, 11 months, and 3 weeks of learning ahead of me. In the coming weeks, Paul and I will be fortunate to receive Swahili lessons (which is good because I said “hola” to a woman the other day!). Before we start work in January, we will go on a retreat with the four other JVs who live on the coast, we’ll spend Christmas with them in Dar, and then we’ll spend time living with families outside of Moshi! As I continue to honeymoon with my new love, the country of Tanzania, it will be interesting to consider the simple living tenant of this program. Our house is divine, the diet a dream, and the lack of American stimulation so refreshing. When the much larger reality that surrounds me begins to settle in my mind, this euphoric feeling will surely subside. For now, I’m basking in the joy of living in Moshi.