Friday, February 11, 2011

Looking back...

Admittedly, I took absolutely way too many pictures while in Tanzania.  For the sake of those of you who have asked to see pictures from my trip I am working on cutting them down from over 1800 to 400 shots.  Yes, I know 400 is still a lot, but I am not sure I can cut them down further than that.  It is taking more time than I had expected to upload the pictures, but once I am done, I will share the weblink so that you can all view them.

I just took the second of four post-trip anti-malaria pills.  It is hard to believe I have been home for almost 12 days already.  As promised, I have a few stories to share that I refrained from telling while I was in Tanzania.  I just pulled out my journal to "relive" my first days in Africa.  I remember writing one journal entry in particular.  It was almost 8:45pm on Wednesday, January 5th and I was sitting in the living room in the dark, writing by the light of a lantern.  I had been in Tanzania for 3 1/2 days.  The house was quiet.  Some of the volunteers were already in bed and others were in town with Ally and Fatouma watching a soccer match. 

Earlier that day Ally, Elizabeth, Sarika and I had gone to Arusha to visit Ally's orphanage and school.  Here is an excerpt from that night's journal entry:
"After the school, we went back into the city to get some lunch.  We ate at a mzungu restaurant and I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The atmostphere was quiet and relaxing - much like a resort.  We ate wood-fired pizza and it was incredible.  It was one of those meals that - while simple - I will always remember.
That may be because that lunch was the calm before the storm.  After lunch we began to walk back to the bus station, but were stopped by police barricades at the end of the road.  Not knowing exactly what was happening, we got into a taxi with a driver who offered to take us to the bus station.  As we turned the first corner we heard gunshots and dozens of people were running down the street, screaming and crying, headed right toward us.  Within moments we were surrounded by what I would guess to be at least 100 people.
For a moment we froze.  Then I rolled up my window and Sarika, Elizabeth and I ducked down into the back seat.  I guess all I thought was "No bullets can hit me here" and "Wow.  I can't believe this is happening."  Ally and the taxi driver argued a bit and when the crowd cleared a bit we drove in reverse down the street away from the gunshots.  We sat at the next intersection for a while and waited for the chaos to subside.  To be honest, I felt like I was in a movie - or at least had some idea how Anthony Bourdain felt when he was filming a show in Iran! 
Anyway, we are now home safe and to be honest, I am glad I experienced what I did in Arusha today.  As a result, I see more clearly the growing pains Tanzania is experiencing in its early stages of democracy."

Many of you have asked what my next plans are.  I am applying for several different fellowship and internship opportunities both here in the States and back in Tanzania.  After witnessing the riots in Arusha that first week in January, my goals for the future are much clearer.  My trip provided me with an incredible amount of insight into the political culture of Tanzania.  The democracy there, as it stands, is not at all as established as it is portrayed in the news. A handful of people were killed and several injured during the riots I was caught in.  The ruling party (the CCM) had the police carry out beatings on an official of the opposition party (Chedema) in Arusha.  In response many of the citizens who support the opposition party led demonstrations at the police station.  I will spare you all of the details, but I was inspired and motivated by the passion of the people who seek change and true democratic rule in Tanzania.  There is a lot of work to be done in the future.

One of the fellowships I applied for is with the DOD, and, if I am fortunate enough to receive it, I will be back in Tanzania as soon as September.  You will hear more as soon as I do!