June 25, 2007
So we are home. Not only have I already eaten the beloved velveeta and hot dogs, but I also just slept in a bed with no bug net and no constantly growing valley in the center of the mattress, I am about to take a shower with hot, dirt-free water that flows strongly from a shower head mounted on the wall, and later on today, after visiting most of my family, I will cook myself a steak and corn (notice…no rice or mystery crunchies there). Although I am excited to be home for many different reasons, I am definitely feeling sad to be finished with our trip and mostly to be away from the group. We spent a long time planning and creating expectations; some of which were interrupted or changed, but we adapted better and better with each “surprise,” not to be confused with a “disaster.”
I went on this trip expecting to learn a lot. Mostly my expectations were in learning about a culture very different from my own and then in learning about myself. I did learn about the culture of the people we lived with in Tanzania; however, I learned that a lot of their culture parallels our own yet is still obviously very different. I am not sure if I took full advantage of the opportunity for cultural exchange, but I was most certainly overwhelmed, if not with the seemingly “slow motion” rate of flow in every day life in Pommern, then definitely by the language barrier and shocked and yelling faces staring as mzungus walked by. Even still, I learned, probably mostly about myself. Before this trip, I was hardly nervous about jumping into a community of people with limited communication and very different ways of life. I was mostly nervous about traveling with a huge group and constantly being with almost twenty other people for more than three weeks. Let me just say, it was not easy, for any of us. Now, however, I can say that I would go any where with most of the people in our group and do pretty much anything for them as we came a long way together, learning with each step and “surprise.” I’ve learned that I can put up with things, but once I get hungry or hot, watch out because you will probably hear about it. After a snack to revive blood sugar levels, it is important to realize that I may have over reacted and make amends with the person who was on the receiving end of my flare-up. I have learned that if I am having a rough day, I can always find someone who is having a worse day, and putting my problems aside to help them feel better is more effective than moping. I have learned that patience is indeed a very important aspect of working in a group of peers, also in a culturally new and diverse experience, and in life in general. I have learned what sort of communication within the group is effective and what is definitely not. I have learned that, although eating rice and potato eggs everyday for three weeks is not the most appealing thing, it can be done (thank you, immodium and pepto).
So, with all of the “surprises” we faced along the way and with all of the “short” speeches we endured, I may have taken more out of this trip that I anticipated and in a very different way. When I look back on this trip and wear my Maasai earrings and my $7 custom made skirt, I will remember the fun I had with my friends acquiring these souvenirs and the way we overcame the differences and new experiences we faced as a group and as individuals. We will forever have reminders of this trip, the things we learned, and the friendships we made, and hopefully, as Rob says, they will last a lifetime because I just know the next time I lose my luggage, am within half an hour of the destination and find out my room has been double booked, question a doctor’s treatment of a baby boy who clearly has meningitis, or wait two hours for a half of a cheeseburger, I am going to be looking around for the people on this trip to do it with me again. Of course, the next time I sing “Build Me Up Buttercup,” sit at a waterfall for hours even though I am not allowed to touch the water for fear of parasites, or haggle with (aka yell at) street vendors, I will be looking for the group too. Whether they are really there or not, I know I will handle things with more ease just in memory of what we went through together, because in the end we are all stronger, and we have all learned.
So, thanks to our leaders and my fellow team members for bringing yourselves on this trip. You may have made a difference to people in Pommern, but I think it is safe to say that you have somehow made a difference in each and every member of our team. I am forever grateful for out time spent together, the memories we made, and the friendships we created.
Asante sana wote. Nina kupenda.