I arrived back in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania late Tuesday evening to begin year two of life in Tanzania as an English Literature teacher at Haven of Peace Academy. Aside from the the inevitable jet lag, depression, broken motorcycle, and setbacks that come with extreme culture and time shifts, I am starting to get excited about the year ahead. I have just a few more days to wait before the results from last year’s exams are released and I am able to see how students performed. I am enjoying being back in sunny, warm, tropical weather. I am glad to get to hang out with my puppy again. But, I also know now that this is my last year here in Tanzania. At least for awhile.
That knowledge has the potential to make this year, in the words of Charles Dickens, “the best of times and the worst of times.” The temptation I see already is to look ahead to the end of the year, to next year and life “at home.” While there is something to be said for planning ahead, this mindset can only be a hindrance to my life here. Because if I’m thinking about Indiana, the culture differences become far harsher. I’ve seen the consequences of this already, as I boarded the plane from Zurich to Dar and was seated beside an East African man. Throughout the flight, he left trash lying around the floor near his seat, something that is culturally acceptable here. To be honest, I wanted to punch him (so culture shock might be a little worse the second time around…). Driving into town the last few days has been a trying experience as well, as numerous close calls with other vehicles (something to be expected) left me clenching the side of the car with white knuckles and a pounding heart. These are things that are normal here, things that I experienced on a daily basis last year. Things that I will experience on a daily basis this year. So in short, I cannot live life here focused on what life is like “back home.” It is impossible and will make this year miserable.
The exciting part though, about knowing I have one year left, is that I can “leave it all on the field.” And that is my goal for this year. To embrace the perspective of Jim Elliot in being all in wherever I am. And for this year, I am in Tanzania, East Africa. I am placed in a unique position to work with students of varying cultures, religions, and family backgrounds. I have the opportunity to walk to the beach for the sunrise in the morning, and wade through the floods of rainy season. I have the chance to learn a language and culture that is not my own–and to grow because of that. And if that means racing white-knuckled through hair-raising traffic, then so be it. It might take me a bit to readjust to some of the terrors of life here, but as soon as I get my motorcycle back on the road, I’m willing to give it a try.
100%. All in. Nothing left.