It’s been nearly a week since we left the white sands of Zanzibar to travel home; to Dubai, to the UK and to the US. Arriving at Heathrow with Charlie, Pip and Eve was a surreal moment (at least after the arrival of our bags quietened our fears that they’d been left at Nairobi airport). Yet after the initial excitement of being home had worn off – after several nights tucked up in our own beds, eating whatever food we so desired and showering to our heart’s content, I began to reminisce. After presents had been exchanged and tans began to fade, it seemed apt to reflect on the last ten weeks.
There are some things from Tanzania that will never leave us (and I’m not merely talking about the acrylic paint that is destined to leave its mark forever on the majority of our clothes.) Several valuable lessons were learnt there. On a small scale, I learnt the trials of hand washing clothes, and patience when Jimmy’s van had an endless stream of problems. I learnt to build, plant and paint, skills I’d never had an opportunity to obtain.
The final moment of clarity came, for me, on our last day in Dar Es Salaam. We were shopping for souvenirs at the local Masai market; as usual, I was paying little heed to my surroundings and accidentally submerged my foot in a thick puddle of mud. I whined to my heart’s content; my flip flop was barely visible, shrouded in thick greyish sludge, and it meant another cold bucket shower when we got home. Without warning and without being asked, a Masai woman came rushing towards me carrying a bucket of water and a cloth. She knelt down at my feet and began gently washing off the mud.
This small moment demonstrated the endless kindness and generosity of the Tanzanian people; one of the first Swahili words we learnt was ‘Karibu’, meaning ‘welcome’. We were welcomed everywhere: into schools, homes and orphanages: to Arusha, to Manyara, to Moshi and to Dar Es Salaam. I felt privileged and humbled to spend time in such vibrant communities.
It is challenging to maintain a positive mentality when you arrive back at the house, dishevelled and aching, to discover that the water pressure has failed, so showers are out of the question. It is difficult, when you are presented with your umpteenth plate of rice and beans, to dispel from your mind the images of decadent pizzas and elaborate chocolate desserts. Seeing pictures of crystal clear water and halcyon skies from friends on gap years, whilst we had spent a back-breaking day planting a vegetable garden for an orphanage, it was easy to lose sight of our goals. Yet we persevered, and a week lounging on Zanzibar’s finest beaches was the best of rewards.
Bella’s favoured t-shirt sported a memorable quote from Mahatma Ghandi which resonated with me: ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’. I think somewhere along the way, perhaps in the wild plains of the Serengeti or the crystal clear waters of Mbudya Island, perhaps in the classroom or on the building site, we all found ourselves on this trip.
Kwaheri, Tanzania. Until next time.