I haven't talked about the trip on here in a while, but this post has been coming on for a few days. So many random things have reminded me of my trip recently, I've been considering doing another post, but wasn't sure how to frame it. I got to thinking about my senses, and the things I experienced with them. So I'm just going to ramble a bit. I'm going to list my five senses (even though we have more than that) and tell you what I miss about Tanzania as they relate to those senses.
Taste. At the end of the trip, I wasn't sure I would miss many tastes of Tanzania, but I do. I don't miss the piles of rice, necessarily, but I miss the fresh fruit. I miss the best watermelon I've ever tasted, and pineapple with every meal. I miss the warm sodas (and the little kids who would finish off whatever we left- silly, wasteful us.) I miss the surprise when chapatis were offered at meals. I miss the excitement and relief of tasting familiar food at our Westerner-friendly hotels at the end of the trip. The excitement of fresh mango and the weird, flaked bacon. I miss the bottled water- Kilimanjaro brand, the only water in Tanzania, it seemed. I can't find the motivation to stay hydrated now that I'm home, but I miss carrying around entire liters of Kilimanjaro water around everywhere we went. I miss Cadbury drinking chocolate, which I can find in the international food aisle in one of my grocery stores, but it's not the same without the little purple plastic spoon and the flaming hot milk and water served everywhere we went. I miss all the weird Fanta flavors, and the very ginger-y ginger ale that I kept in my room in case I felt sick in the middle of the night.
Smell. I miss smelling all the grass and dirt. I didn't smell a lot of pollution in Tanzania. I miss smelling everyone's coffee in the morning. I miss smelling the sunscreen (not so much the bug spray, though.) Some random scent the other day reminded me of my hotel room in Singida- the place we all kind of hated. And I missed it. I miss the way my bed there smelled. I spent almost a week there. I miss the way everything smelled after one of the sudden downpours of rain.
Sound. I miss the accents so much. I miss Swahili. I miss hearing happiness in just about everyone's voice. I miss hearing smiles when people talk- you know how you talk differently when you're smiling? That inflection is in so many Tanzanian voices. I miss hearing the rustle of my mosquito net, and the constant hum of the electric fans in all the hotel rooms. I miss hearing the Muslim call to prayer on the way to breakfast, even though we don't share the same beliefs. I miss hearing Pando's random questions about America on the bus, and Philbert and Raphael joking with each other. I miss the roar of the sudden rain on the metal church roofs, even though it meant I couldn't hear what the pastors were saying. I miss hearing the bugs and the wildlife outside my window. I miss the joyful worship, and the sounds of excitement and delight of the listeners- sounds that couldn't be contained because their joy was so great. I miss the prayers- the most moving and touching, powerful and sincere prayers I have heard in my life. I miss hearing the chatter of a huge group of kids swarming around, asking for stickers. I miss hearing my name pronounced with a Tanzanian accent. I miss being called Sister. I miss hearing Said's low, calm voice, and Elisha's hollering, and Bonifas' constant giggling. I miss the rumble of the buses and the joyful welcome music that greeted us each time we pulled up to the center. I miss hearing happy voices saying "goodbye" and "I love you" as we drove away.
Sight. I miss the sunrises. I miss looking up at the sky and not seeing airplanes and helicopters and tall buildings. I miss seeing butterflies everywhere- bright purple, black with electric green, startling orange. I miss seeing the rolling hills and gorgeous valleys. I miss all the green. Green green green everywhere. I miss the trees- sometimes I'd see a landscape that looked like a less populated area back home, but the trees were swapped. I miss the mountains, even the cloudy ones that all but disappeared (thanks, Kilimanjaro!) I miss the giant rock formations of Singida. I miss purple and orange skies. I miss seeing all the plants that I've only ever seen in pots in my dad's kitchen. I miss seeing shepherds- mostly children- along the sides of the roads, waving as we drove past (even though I really hope that they could go to school.) I miss seeing the occasional group of mud huts. I miss seeing Maasai on bicycles or walking down the road. I miss the giant marabou storks that hung out by the dining hall at the mountain lodge, like giant, terrifying lawn ornaments. I miss the smiles. I miss the beautiful skirts and wraps the women wore. I miss seeing kids, from babies to teenagers, covered with stickers (and sticker scraps.) I miss all the brown earth buildings, and the dirt roads. I miss seeing goats everywhere- followed by cows and donkeys. I miss the amateur portraits of black American stars being sold by the side of the road. I miss seeing babies wrapped up in long sleeves, jackets, fur pants, and blankets, being carried on their mamas' backs. I miss the colors and patterns of the textiles. I miss seeing my boys running around on the playground, being more than a picture I carry in my purse.
Touch. I miss the hugs. I miss holding hands with four or five kids at a time. I miss the special handshakes and the air kisses (left, right, left again.) I miss tiny hands grabbing at stickers, pictures, and coloring pages. I miss the plastic chairs and the wooden benches. I miss playing tic tac toe in the dirt. I even miss having to shake the fine red dirt out of my sandals every few steps. I miss the feeling of having a semi-hot shower after 48 hours of travel, and the feeling of crawling into bed- even one that's not my own- after an amazing day during the most incredible week of my life. I miss the familiar weight of my backpack, and the feeling of putting my trusty sandals on my feet each morning. I wore them almost every day for over a month after I got back- we'd been through a lot together. I miss the first moment I took Bonifas' hand, and grabbed Said and pulled him into a hug. I miss sitting on a broken trampoline with my boys, close enough that all six of our knees touched, dealing with the understanding that they are real and with me and life, at that moment, was perfect. I miss Bonifas' hands on my arm as he prayed for me, which was the gift he presented at the end of our time together. I miss Elisha's tiny hand grabbing mine, dragging me along to climb on this and jump over that and run around something else. I miss sitting on the swings and all of a sudden feeling someone pushing me, and realizing that the hands on my shoulders are Said, whom I have known for three years, whom I love as my own son.
I miss Tanzania so much. If presented with the opportunity, I would move there in a heartbeat. I would pack up my things and go. I would miss a lot of things and people here, but I felt at home there. I felt like I belonged. I know I don't look like it, but that's the way I felt. There is a hole in my heart the size and shape of Tanzania, and there are some moments of some days where it feels overwhelming, and my love for that country and those people, and my sadness at the realization that I will likely never go there again, overflows in my heart and streams down my face as tears. I hope and pray that I can go back. And I really want to go everywhere, and see all my Compassion children. And if I get the chance to go, I'm sure there will be weepy, overly dramatic posts about those countries, too. But for now, this is what I have to work with. If you ever get the chance to go and be with your sponsor child- particularly in Africa, and especially in Tanzania- please go. Don't let fear get in the way. Do whatever you can to make it happen. You'll fall in love. You'll come back changed. And you'll probably wind up writing weepy, overly dramatic blog posts, too.
For your viewing pleasure, Bonifas and Elisha playing the harmonicas I put in their backpacks. It was Elisha's idea. And yes, you can hear him saying "whassup" in there, too.