Two years since I stepped off the plane at Kilimanjaro airport with a rush of adrenalin as my feet first made contact with the Tanzanian soil that was to be my home for the next seven months. Yes I originally came for seven months and yes I am still here!
I had done it. I had arrived. I had, quite frankly and with that priceless resource hindsight, been manic in my endeavour to get here. When I look back at that time I can see the depth of my desperation and oftentimes now, I feel a sense of panic rise in me as I realise that my mind has shut out a considerable chunk of that time, there is a lot I simply do not remember about the year preceding my arrival here. I think that is our inherent life’s defence mechanism.
I came to turn a page in my life and start a new chapter. I came with an image in my mind of a Scottish volunteer I had met in Zambia in 2006 and her ramshackle school out in the sticks that she passionately loved. I came hoping to help under privileged kids in some way. I came because I was not strong enough to continue life alone back “home” where I was and always will be, the second player in a great duo. I came to finish my first novel and develop as a writer. I came to write the story of my life on a fresh, new, blank page. That page had a draft heading of What Next – Who Am I?
September 12th 2013 I arrived under the shadow of the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro and today, September 12th 2015 I sit in my home in Shanty Town, Moshi, with the awesome sight of the mountain, that is truly a “she”, just outside my door and I reflect upon those two years as I endeavour to plan and conceive of a way that I can remain in what has become my home.
I ask myself, what have I learnt in these two years? The answer leaps from my fingertips with no conscious thought. I have learnt to respect and value the things that are truly important in life, people. I want to go back on that sentence and scratch out the word “things” but no, because perhaps more importantly, I have learnt to value “things” less. I have come to a country racked by poverty and learnt about generosity. Think about that a little.
I ask myself, what have I achieved? Hmm … this time I must reflect before I answer. I have found peace within myself. I have discovered the person that I can be for the next chapter of my life and am at peace with that person. For me this is an achievement. I have moved forward with my novel and am close to the point of no return when I start to face the challenge of the world of publishing, I have had other words published and grown to accept and have confidence in my statement to others, I am a writer.
Now I ask myself, what still needs to be done? Hmm … now the list gets tricky. SO MUCH. That sums it up, personally, professionally and yes still emotionally, the answer is SO MUCH. I cannot leave with SO MUCH left to be done.
This two year anniversary is a critical juncture for me I have always accepted that I have a maximum two year deadline as a totally self-funded volunteer. My decision is made. I want to remain in the voluntary/NGO sector here in Moshi if I possibly can. There is SO MUCH left to do and yes a lot of it revolves around Good Hope Support Organisation. My future income stream must be planned to come from my writing and in the meantime I am seeking a position here that will provide me with accommodation and living costs.
Today as I thumb back over the pages of my life for the past two years I find that first page, the one with the draft heading, What Next – Who Am I? It has now been replaced, It now reads
LIFE: PART TWO – Chapter One Discovery.
So my friends after a long and emotional trip back to my wonderful family in Norway, a prolonged absence from these pages and a lot of soul searching, I am here to tell you that the pages of my life will continue to be penned within this beautiful, tranquil (this year’s elections may fly in the face of this one) land alongside it’s wonderful, generous people. I will see 2016 under the shadow of the great mother of this land, Mount Kilimanjaro. I don’t as yet know how but I know within my heart that the all-seeing gods, universe, forces or stars that write the book of life will move the pieces in this direction and make it happen.
I promise to return to my regular slot of weekly posts and the next few weeks will see a bitter sweet reflection on my last two years experiences and the lesson I have learnt EG: How to calm a frightened chicken on a bus compared to: A secondary school with no books and few teachers. As we say Karibu (welcome) Tanzania.
For those that have read this far and are perhaps new friends, I repost here my first ever Tanzania blog post. For those that have met me here, read on it is a hoot to remember.
ORIGINALLY POSTED AS LUNCH WITH THE LOCALS 12/09/2013
Jambo my friends,
It is 4pm in Tanzania and I have ventured out on the streets on my own to seek out this internet cafe as recommended by one of my dorm mates.
Yes I’m here.
Having left Heathrow just twenty five hours ago with a lump in my throat and butterflies in my stomach, I know that many of you want to know that I made it safe and sound.
Now more than ever I am sure that the new chapter of my life that I have started to write will be a good one.
The flight was uneventful and not crowded so I really cannot complain. Yes, I did get fed and extremely well albeit breakfast at 4am was a little bizzarre! Nairobi was chaotic as the recent fire there really did wipe everything out and we were ferried through temporary terminals that closely resembled tents. The trip across to Kilimanjaro was short, bumpy and full of muscular young lads discussing their forthcoming climb. Plenty to distract a girl there.
Obtaining an entry visa to Tanzania, now that was a rigmaroll. I do believe the Tanzanians may just outsmart the Spanish for the love of beaurocracy and paperwork. This is an entry visa not my work permit which I still have to obtain. However I am now hand, finger and thumb printed and $50 lighter, but I do have an entry visa allowing me to stay in the country until next year.
The Amani Volunteer Co Ordinator, Salma, was there waiting and she is a delight, tall, striking and wonderfully friendly with a laugh to compete with my good friend Anita’s. I know we will get along.
Uneventful 45 minute drive to the hostel. Well that is if you ignore the frequent double overtaking of busses overtaking lorries overtaking … you can picture it. Impressions of the country? Dry and dusty and not as hot as expected. Towns we travelled through were no more than a collection of shacks, oh but Salma did point out the western style supermarket. Mercadonna or Tesco’s it is not!
Hostel Hoff is a maze of rooms each sleeping upwards of six volunteers at one time. My room sleeps six but I am sharing with just two until the weekend. My fellow volunteers are a mixed bunch of girls from Denmark, Germany and Australia. All are young, bright, happy and enjoying their work experience to the full. They all readily and without malice acknowledge me as the “Older One”!
Having arrived at 11am, Salma left me to shower and settle in promising to return at one o’clock to take me to lunch. Ineed to point out that there are certain of my friends that wonder whether Gill will get real or proper food on her adventure. Rest assured if today’s lunch in a totally Tanzanian non western restaurant is to be the guideline then I am in severe danger of returning as fat as a ***.
Salma threw me straight into the culture. An amazing tin shack type structure where I was greeted warmly by all despite my inability to muster even a basic Jambo. Lunch was a whole fish, fried or bar b qu’d to perfection accompanied by a bowl of bananas cooked in a sauce to die for and some sort of green shredded vegetable. The whole meal, which was torn apart and eaten with my right hand only, was wonderful. To top it off the lady chef produced a thick pancake like bread for the “new volunteer”. Tearing that into bite size chunks one handed was a challenge that I rose to messily as my trousers will prove!
I now face an evening at the hostel, with more food and a chance to get to know the others better.
Tomorrow i am taken on a tour of the town and then off to amani to meet the kids and my fellow carers in advance of an 8.30am Monday start.
I have to log off now but will ensure I keep you all posted but until then, rest assure I am safe, happy and over fed.