What follows is a collection of moments, glimpses into my life since returning from my summer holiday in the U.S. a month ago. Some are funny, some are serious, some from school, and some from play. This is #life.
He walked into the room, said hi, and sat down across from me. He was average height, dark complexioned – maybe of Arab or Indiana background, had a tattoo on each arm, and dressed casually, yet with a nice flair. First impressions are everything, right? The facts that he was from Canada, was new in Tanzania, and was doing research on business and retail in Tanzania were the only things I knew about him before agreeing to meet for a drink. We chatted about university, skiing and snowboarding, the differences between American and Tanzanian culture, and the impossibility of getting consistent internet service. It was a pleasant conversation, giving no hint of the inked battle taking place on the table. His left arm had a large tattoo in Arabic, translating roughly to “only Allah is god” while my left wrist displayed my core beliefs: “Love God; Love People.” I laughed silently at the irony of it all before continuing to explain what it was that had brought me to Tanzania.
“Alright! Today we are going to start reading and acting out act one of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Within moments, the entire class was doubled over laughing in the embarrassment of reading lines like, “Kiss me, George!” and the irony of playing roles of the opposite sex. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a comedy, and like many comedies, offers a blazing critique of its contemporary culture masked in laughter. Amid the fun of acting out the play, students experienced the “thought bomb” of humor being a prime vehicle for communicating truth and the realization of the extremes that people will go to in avoiding reality.
Floating on the outskirts of the Dar Yacht Club is an abandoned yacht, the “African Rhythm.” The myths surrounding its history are as numerous as the people who refuse to go anywhere near it, but being up for an adventure, a group of five girls decided to swim out to the yacht for some snacks and free diving. We loaded up a surfboard with a drybag packed full of snacks, cameras, and drinks, then pulled on our fins and snorkels for the swim. On the way, people in much larger and nicer yachts invited us to join them, but we paddled on to our destination. Upon arriving, we found that though in disrepair, the “African Rhythm” was a perfect place to hang out, and allowed us to eat, rest, and then dive down underneath to see batfish and other marine life swimming in the shadow of the yacht.
School. Day one.
With a new principal and a new school year, I laid out my clothes the night before with the aim of being professional. Admittedly, I often opt for comfort over professionalism, but was determined to start the year strong. I pulled out my black skinny dress pants from Gap, a v-neck top, and beaded sandals. When I arrived at school, I was confident and ready to start the year strong. About half-way through the day, while making copies in the admin building, I was called into the principal’s office.
“You need to not wear tights to school.”
I was stunned. “Uh, but these aren’t tights,” I started to protest and then gathered my thoughts. “Okay. I won’t wear them again.”
So much for confidence.
I was so excited. We were going diving, and heading out on a deep dive, which, being further from the coast, meant that the visibility and marine life would be better. I had my brand-new GoPro and dive mask, and was ready to give it a try and get some sick photos and videos of the dive. As we dropped into the water and I reached up to turn my camera on, I realized with a sinking feeling that I hadn’t turned the sound back on, meaning that I couldn’t tell, without looking at the camera, whether it was powered on, or even what mode it was in. And because the camera attaches directly to my dive mask, to put the camera in a place I could see it would mean removing my mask, thus removing my chance of seeing anything at all. Oops. Camera fail #1. I continued to attempt to operate the camera blindly (or perhaps “mutely” would be the better term) in hopes that I would get at least a bit of video or a few photos. At the end of the dive, after climbing back into the boat, I checked my camera to at least see how much footage I had gotten…only to see that the battery was dead. Camera fail #2.
The next week, on the yacht swim and free dive, I again had high hopes of getting some cool footage. I had a fresh battery and was ready to go (I still hadn’t turned the sound on, but that was manageable because we were just free diving, and therefore going up and down). I made repeated dives under the yacht, took pictures of batfish and a giant white jellyfish, then took the time to actually check the camera. FULL. What? I make a habit of clearing my card every time I use it. There was no way I could have possibly filled a card in just twenty minutes. So when I returned home that evening, I investigated the matter to realize that because my normal photo-editing and organization software didn’t like the card format, I had merely been deleting the pictures on the computer without emptying the “trash,” thus not truly removing the past images from the card. Camera fail #3.
Maybe next time will be better?
“I’m concerned about your involvement in the church. You seem withdrawn. Let’s meet for coffee and talk about it.”
So we did. Once again, my willingness to invest and be involved in church was questioned. Its happened before, in churches in Indiana, and now in Tanzania. Its not that I don’t want to be involved, I try. Usually, at least.
As we chatted, it became evident that it was not my involvement in question so much as it was the ways I was and wasn’t involved. Lately, I’ve been setting up and running the sound system during services, and have made it a point to attend on a regular basis. But after church, when everyone hangs around, drinks coffee, and “fellowships,” I prefer to just sit on the steps and watch.
Its the same every time.
I hate mingling.
And all churches do it.
This expectation of talking to people and wandering through a large group, just to insert yourself into a smaller group and make small talk.
I used to try and be extroverted.
Now I know its not worth it.
And so I am “uninvolved.”
But its not just churches. Its graduation open houses. Its school faculty parties. Its large groups of people in social settings. Put me in front of a group of 300 people for a lesson or message of some kind, I’m fine. Put me in a small group of 5-10 people, I’m fine. Put me in a crowd where I’m not expected to mingle, I’m fine. Put me in that “mingling” environment, and I’d rather just find a hole to hide in.
We had a wonderful time drinking coffee together, and in explaining this, I once again learned more about myself. Funny how self-realization sometimes comes most when trying to explain something to someone else, and all of a sudden the pieces just come together in your mind and so many things all begin to make sense.
I almost killed a person.
It wasn’t my fault.
I always drive on high-alert here.
There is no place for ADHD when driving in Dar.
Especially at night.
But, as I’m driving along, squinting to see the blackness of the road against the glaring high-beams of oncoming traffic, a man standing on the side of the road with his bicycle looked directly at me then proceeded to run out in front of me.
I clenched my front brake as hard as I could with my right hand, and stomped down on the rear brake. My tires were skidding and the rear of the bike threatened to slide sideways. The man hesitated just for a moment squarely in front of me, then weaved between lanes and disappeared into the blackness.
The thought sickened me. Two seconds slower on my brakes, two mph faster, anything…I would have hit and seriously injured him…and possibly killed him.
No wonder my stomach is a mess and my shoulders and neck are always tight…
Hey, so I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my life over the last month! It was fun for me to write… and maybe I’ll add more in the coming months!