Habari zenu, friends and family! The day leading up to our departure to Tabora was a roller coaster of emotions to say the least. As the ride moved slowly towards the top we were both excited and anxious, but simultaneously terrified. As with all good roller coasters on the way up you can’t help but think “there is surely no way I am going to survive this, what have I gotten myself into.” Our drive was just about 30 minutes away from Korogwe and we passed through rolling green hills of sisal plantations and a couple of villages before finally reaching Tabora. As our car pulled up in front of our new home away from home, and tons of little faces yelled and cheered words we could not understand, we knew our only option was to take a leap of faith and trust that ride will hold and throw our hands up in the air and enjoy the ride.
As we explored our new neighborhood and met project partners, neighbors, and everyone in between it became clear that we had moved into a very small, but incredibly welcoming community. They took us into their homes and their farms and introduced us to their friends and their children. We spent our first night eating potatoes even Eliza’s Irish grandmother would be jealous of under a blanket stars we had never been able to see before.
As with any new home it took some time to get oriented and set up. We moved into a new house this year, one that old project coordinators had probably walked by, but did not live in. This meant that we had to spend a lot of time sifting through bags and buckets of supplies that have accumulated over the year and try to set up our living spaces to make our house feel more like a home. We got creative with scraps of cardboard, rope and a few nails and designed a pantry area in our kitchen/living room space.
In our bedrooms we constructed shelves for our clothes out of old water jugs and we added splashes of color to the walls by hanging pictures and tapestries.
Fortunately, when we needed a break from the cleaning and spider killing, people from our community were more than welcoming. We expected our introduction to the community to be gradual, but the day after we moved in we were brought into preparations for a wedding party! After spending the day watching and trying to help the women cook enough rice for an entire village, we were still nervous about attending the party. In the states we would never have dreamed of going to someone’s wedding party, when we had never even seen, let alone met the couple! In Tabora, everyone could not have been more receptive to our presence. The wedding party, or sharehe as it is called in Swahili, was an opportunity to bring together the entire community to celebrate the happiness and future life this couple will have together.
We quickly found out that this sense of community support is not only in times of cheerfulness but also in times of despair. Just three days after our arrival in Tabora, we attended our first funeral. Under similar circumstances, we had yet to meet the man who passed away so it felt awkward to go to his funeral. We are so accustomed to funerals as a private event where loved ones could say goodbye. In Tabora, the entire community comes out to support the family in their time of loss. Under the midday heat and in colors galore, women clustered together, some dancing and singing, some just sitting, while men grouped together under the mango tree. It wasn’t until the funeral was ending did we learn the man who passed was the father in-law of one of our project partners.
We imagined that our first few days in Tabora would consist of slowly getting to know everyone, and maybe it was just luck or serendipitous timing but we had no other option than to jump right into things. It was overwhelming but now we can’t imagine our first few days going any other way. We had no other choice than to immerse ourselves into these situations that were potentially awkward and embarrassing, only to realize that we could handle it. When we push ourselves just outside our comfort zone that is when we learn. We learn the most about ourselves and about our new community.
We are learning that as human beings, we can do a lot more than we think. We just need to find the opportunities for ourselves to do great things. This is what we hope to do here with our project partners and our neighbors. They have already created opportunities for us to learn about ourselves, without even trying or meaning to do so. Sometimes simply being in someone else’s life is enough to push the bounds of what they think they can do. We believe in our partners and our neighbors based on the simple belief that ALL humans are capable of doing great things. All people can not only impact, but also transform their society and their lives if they believe they can. People do not need our charity. The women we are working with are intelligent, creative, driven, and hard working. With the right opportunities, they will change their own worlds.