On Saturday I will be half through my time here. I can hardly believe time has passed so quickly. I feel like I’ve just arrived from Amsterdam yesterday, though at the same time, I feel like I’ve been here for much longer. I’ve gotten used to the lack of electricity at any given hour, toilets that may or may not work (or be more than a hole in the ground), a lack of paved roads and the general smells that accost you through out the day. It’s difficult to describe this place, pictures don’t give it justice.
The landscape is nothing like what we have at home; arid red earth, yet not like a desert. Tropical, with palm trees and vegetation, but it doesn’t look like the Caribbean, Mexico, or anywhere else I’ve ever been. It is, beautiful. Moshi itself though quite large for a town (150,000) actually feels more like a small town. There are no stop signs or traffic lights and only two or three of the streets actually have names. Off the main road there are several smaller off shoots all lined with a similar pattern of small shops (pharmacies, clothing, fabrics, food), it all looks the same, and at first was disorienting. Walking you are constantly bombarded with “Mzungu Mzungu” and “come buy this from my shop” which is annoying, but you get used to it. The CCS house is about an hours walk, or 10 minute drive outside Moshi. It is situated in a rural community. It’s an interesting area, small shack type houses are next to large compounds of the wealthy, as well as small farms. Everyone knows each other. It feels very safe, though would never venture out at night.
I spent my first afternoon by myself in town the other day. Took a taxi into Moshi and sat and read at a cafe for a while then wandered to the store to look for wheat bread and apples (very hard to get here). I didn’t bring a bag, so the street vendors generally left me alone (which was really nice), and although I felt a bit on edge being a girl by myself I never once felt unsafe. It was interesting to do something alone, generally everything is a group affair.
I felt my first real wave of homesickness yesterday, and I’m actually not %100 sure as to why… I miss a lot of things, or luxuries I suppose, from the US, but it never really bothered me. But yesterday I was just a bit sad, missing home, people. I think it partially had to do with the novelty of being here wearing off a bit. Work has gotten into a routine, and nothing that new really ever happens, and we have a lot of free time on our hands for the next three weeks. It’s almost as if up until this point I didn’t have time to think, or be sad, or anything, I was too busy. I also feel like I’ve figured out my next step in life (grad school-PhD, not medical school) which was a large part of me being here. I’m confident this is the right choice for me, and it is a huge weight off, so now I’m starting to want to come home, to continue “real life.” When thinking about living here, I am happy, but I realize there is no way I could ever live in a place like this for a long period of time and be happy. I see the people living here who seem perfectly content in their lives, and I can’t relate. I love Africa, and being here, but can never experience what it would be like for it to be “home,” I will always be an outsider looking in. I know that many of the things I have at home are luxuries that are not essential to life, yet I miss them. Small things, like being able to go to the store and find food I want, or not struggling to communicate, or worring if my skirt properly covers my knees. Others, I am eternally greatful for; medical care, non corrupt police, sanitation. I feel better today and we’re all going out to dinner before the watering hole (thursday night tradition), so getting out of the house should really help.
The new group also isn’t as good as the last. Most of them are in their late 20’s to 30’s with a few much older (71), but they are very cliqueish and catty towards each other, unlike our group there has been quite a bit of drama within the group. Which is strange to us considering they’re older…Most of them leave next weekend. It’s strange to have outlasted the majority of two groups (we have a new intake next weekend). From my group, I’m staying the longest and by the time I finish will have stayed longer than about 25 people.
The food situation has become dire, probably exaggerating… When we first got here, I loved all the local food, now I’ve had it so much, I can’t stand it (Even the word ugali makes me a bit nauseous). PB&J sandwhiches have become a dietary staple. The indian food is incredible, but it would be far too expensive to go out to dinner every night, too bad! I am, as most are, quite food homesick. We all have lengthly conversations about the food we’re going to eat once we get home, or even in the Amsterdam airport.
Despite the food, and feeling a bit homesick, I am overall quite content. Getting a bit ready to come home, but overall, I enjoy being here. Three more weeks of placement, then hiking kili, then to Dar to finish off the trip. The last four days I’ll be on my own, which is fine, and although I’ve never traveled alone in a foriegn country I’m actually quite looking forward to it, a good way to end up this experience. I am very greatful for the friendships I’ve made while here, the people are great and I know that even when we go home, we’ll stay in contact.
This week we have power rationing, so there are a few days we won’t have power at all. A bit of an inconvience, but not terrible. It’s funny, we’ll be sitting in the house and all of a sudden the power goes off, so we grab our flashlights and continue whatever we were doing until it either comes back, or the generator kicks in. Totally normal, while I was typing this, the internet failed a few times. You just have to wait…as with everything here, polepole. My patients has improved greatly as I’ve quickly realized western expecations of time are irrelevant here.
Thats all I can think of right now…
>You've painted such a good picture of what your environment is like, as well as what it's like for you to be there! Thanks, from those of us at home, for taking the time to do that! I know what you mean about food-homesickness-after 2 plus months of traveling around Europe (32 years ago!), we walked forever across Athens just to get to the Hilton to have a hamburger and milk shake! What a treasure trove of memories you're collecting-some day you'll wonder "how did I ever…?! But you did!!