…When you’re having fun!! Today I’m celebrating 6 months in Tanzania! It’s still hard to believe that I have been in Moshi for 6 months now!? It’s crazy..I feel like it has gone by so fast!!
My six month mark comes in typical Tanzanian fashion.. I am (once again) being forced to leave the country because my Visa.. again.. is expiring, and since my resident permit hasn’t been issued yet, I can’t stay longer than 3 months. Remember.. the trip to Kenya end of January?! Pole Pole (slow!).. that’s how it goes here.
However, things have kind of worked out in my favor because now I have an extra week at “home” (original home.. USA!), which I have no complaints about! My original date to go back to the states was April 9, but seeing as I’d have to take another trip outside of TZ by March 30.. I just moved my ticket up!! So, now the government of TZ is happy and I’m happy.. a win-win for all!
When I was first considering coming to TZ for an extended about of time, in my mind that meant around 6months to a year. Now, having been here for 6 months, I feel like my time here has gone by so fast, and I wouldn’t have been ready to leave. At work, especially, things are just now starting to come together with some of the ideas I’ve had, and we are just now actually able to implement them, and evaluate how they’re going. Again, its pole pole here, so it takes time and a lot of coordination to actually get things going sometimes. Also, just with the culture and language, I’m just now feeling like I can “get by” with some Swahili….. and, Joel doesn’t have to tell me what I can and can’t wear anymore (meaning.. what is culturally “appropriate”)!! Ha!
Six months sometimes seems like a long time, and it is in some ways (Ella is SO big now.. she will be a big 10month old when I see her!!), but in others it’s nothing. And as my dad always said, time seems to speed up with every new year… and he is SO right! But I guess it’s also a good thing that these last 6months have gone by so fast.. it means I’m enjoying myself, having fun and not wishing my time away!
Overall, these last 6months have been great.. better than I imagined in some ways, and harder in others. This experience has taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of doing on my own.. getting through a house break-in, traveling 14+hours on a bus to a new place, buying and driving a car here, and implementing new ideas at work! It has really been empowering to look back and say, wow, I was able to do that! I guess you can surprise yourself sometimes when you put yourself in totally new, sometimes uncomfortable situations.. I think we are all capable of so much more than we even realize sometimes!
My job here has definitely stretched me in new ways. Working within a completely different culture with limited resources has forced me to really think outside the box, and be creative and innovative with my ideas. It’s not like America, and things aren’t going to work the same way. I’ve definitely had to throw out the “well, in the USA, we do it like this” mentality. I’m not in the USA, I’m in Tanzania, so that means, some ideas just aren’t possible or realistic. I’ve had to really work with the nurses to get a better understanding of the culture, and they have really helped me figure out ways to best implement new ideas and projects. I’ve also had to change some of my expectations, which may sounds bad.. but, had I not, I would be dealing with frustration after frustration. Again, I had to change my frame of reference (how it was done at my hospital or nursing school) and have expectations that were realistic for this setting. So, if only 30 out of 100 nursing students show up for class, I can’t get frustrated, I just have to teach and give the students that showed up the best oncology lecture and not worry about the others who aren’t taking class seriously. However, sometimes this place will totally surprise you!! For example, I arranged an Oncology Skills Day for the inpatient ward nurses (those not working in Oncology), and 2 days before the training, I had very few nurses signed up (we were hoping for around 25), so on the day of the class, I didn’t know if anyone was actually going to show up… but, surprisingly we ended up having 20 nurses attend!! I was ecstatic and pleasantly surprised! Ha. Realistic expectations. That’s what it’s about!
Being here has also made me aware of some of my shortcomings.. haha.. Daring Greatly here.. vulnerability! I’ve always known that I tend to shy away from things that I know I’m not good at (case and point: 5th/6th grade: I played softball.. and basically, I sucked. And since then, I have never, and probably will never play softball again!) It’s probably a common thing, but for me, I don’t like to be vulnerable in that way… to possibly look stupid, or to fail miserably at something in front of people.. uh, no thanks!! But…this totally goes against Miss Brene Brown and her whole Daring Greatly (which I promised I’d do..) and the ‘Get in the Arena’ speech!! So, when I felt completely vulnerable trying to speak Swahili amongst all native Swahili speakers after coming back from Iringa, it was my initial reaction to just not do it, and save myself the embarrassment of saying things wrong, or sounding stupid. While I may not be completely free trying to speak with everyone, I am so much better and decided that if I was going to learn to speak the language, I need to just jump in and go for it. Again, pole pole!! Ha..
I could probably go on and on about things I’ve learned in the last 6 months, but I won’t bore you.. maybe I’ll save it for another post! I’ll just wrap it up by saying, I have really learned the value of patience.. it is necessary in so many situations here!! Haha! I have had to be very patient with myself… I’ve had to tell myself it’s ok if I’m not perfect…. not perfect at speaking Swahili, or fully understanding the culture, or perfectly implementing an idea at work. I have been lucky to have patience shown to me by so many others throughout my learning process… my coworkers, friends, and of course, Joel! Being patient with the pole pole process of things here has been a bit of a challenge… waiting for my nursing license and permits, getting approvals on things at work, “Africa time” vs. American time..(Joel and I have had to define what the word SOON means to each of us! Haha). These things can drive a person mad (me, at least!) and as much as I’d like to control how all quickly everything gets done, I’ve realized I can’t and I’ve had to just embrace the process. It’s kind of funny, because I’ve always felt like I’ve struggled with patience…. I guess God thought I needed to come all the way to Africa to learn patience! The Tanzanians have a lot of little sayings.. and one of them is “Haraka Haraka haina baraka”- No blessings in a hurry! No blessings without patience I guess!! I’m…..slowly….learning!!
Wow, this has turned into quite the post.. I will let a list and pictures sum up the rest of my last 6 months here… Enjoy 🙂
Over the course of the last 6 months:
I have had 27 different roommates, from 10 different countries
I’ve survived one house break-in
I’ve taken numerous trips around Tanzania and traveled to Kenya
Fed giraffes and got to pet baby elephants in Nairobi
Made my mom jealous, seeing the Out of Africa house
Spent 2 weeks showing my parents around Tanzania, on safari and in Zanzibar
Bought 1 car, and have managed to have ZERO run-ins with the police! Yay!
2 ,14hour bus rides to Iringa
3 weeks learning Swahili and exploring a new city
Turned another year older!
Celebrated Christmas in 90degree weather and ate goat with family!
Rang in 2018 with my love, and great friends
Experienced 2 weddings and 1 funeral
Watched as Joel bought, shipped, installed, and is now running a coffee roaster
Celebrated Joel’s Visa to the USA and his first visit to NYC!!
Taught several Oncology classes at KCMC Nursing School
Implemented an Oncology Skills Day and Education/Training for nurses
Participated in 3 different PrevACamps- cancer prevention campaigns where over 1000 Tanzanians have been screened for cancer
Gone on hundreds of real, live, face to face dates with my boyfriend!
Spent hours on FaceTime with family and friends in the USA
Sent hundreds of text messages and Marco Polo videos
Been blessed to meet and develop friendships with amazing people
I’ve eaten more mangoes and avocados than I can count
Dealt with (many) hours of no electricity at home
Seen beautiful ares of Moshi via numerous bike rides
Still get blown every time I see Kili out, in all her glory!
And I’m sure numerous things I’m forgetting…
But, overall, it’s been a wild, unexpected, joyous, challenging, yet fulfilling ride so far, and I can’t imagine what the next 6months will bring!!
Feeling grateful and blessed.. and happy to be here, living this amazing life!