Now that we have concluded our time in the village of Masaera, I am not sure how to go about commenting on our journey and our adventures. So many things have occurred and so many thoughts have flown through my head that I will not be able to relate them all. How about this, then: I’ll start at the beginning, jump to key moments of intrigue, excitement, and inspiration, and then conclude with the ending.
The Beginning: When I stepped off the plane, the first thing I noticed was the smell of Tanzania. The first thought that entered my head was that I could not describe it. The Tanzanian air is a complex scent involving earth, vitality, humidity, and something that can be insufficiently described as a charred smell – like the diffused smoke from a fire or the fumes of a volcano. This heady, acrid scent perplexed and consumed me as I watched the dark landscape of the Tanzanian night roll by on our drive to the village.
The Middle: I have learned several things throughout the trip in addition to the shared laughter and joking. I’ve discovered that many people, even adults, love to play games and learn new ones. I brought along an Ultimate Frisbee, my sport of choice, and had a wonderful time showing Tanzanians as well as EWB members how to throw and how to play. That being said, I now more fully understand the allure of what the rest of the world calls football and we call soccer. Instead of mere boring kicking, the game is a fast-paced, feat-inspiring, feet-inspiring (a poor pun, I know, but feel free to laugh), exciting effort involving passing using multiple extremities. It makes me want to gain skills and join the rest of the world in the energized frenzy.
Our nursing advisor on the trip, Amy Cory, remarked that you can tell that the kids in the village are happy, and that is what she looks for in a community. The children are extremely happy and eager and curious; more often than not, we’d have a few tagalongs following us wherever we were with excited grins on their faces as they tried to figure out what the crazy people from the USA were doing. A few times, I would be walking up the village road and feel a small hand grasp mine. When I turned to look, I’d see a sweet, laughing face beam up at me and couldn’t help but smile or laugh back. I discovered that in addition to being eager, the kids are smart. I learned how to count in Swahili from Irene, a girl who is 11 years old and takes care of her 9 month-old sister. We went over the numbers orally, and then she wrote them down with the Swahili names next to them so I could figure out how to pronounce them. Irene is not alone in her knowledge: the children learn English in school, so most of them, even the really young kids, know more English than I know Swahili.
Even with a difference in language, cultures, and lifestyle, I was able to relate to the villagers with the common themes of laughter and excitement. Another element that we shared was religion. Most of the village is Catholic, and so we went to the village Mass on Sunday. Being one of the three Catholics on our EWB team, I immediately felt at home when I entered the Church and saw the holy water bowls. While I didn’t understand anything that was said since it was in Swahili, I could follow the Mass and the cadences of the responses. I was especially excited when I recognized where we were in the Nicene Creed when I heard “Maria,” (“Mary”) and could say it in English alongside the Swahili.
The Ending: When I said my final goodbyes to the people in Masaera, I realized that I had made several friends in the village even with the language and cultural differences. I am sorry to leave when I am just beginning to develop relationships. Even though the trip was short, it was a good one: I discovered similar beliefs half a world away, revitalized my amazement at the intellects of kids, realized the attraction to soccer, and breathed in the air of another continent.
All in all, I loved this trip.