So I’m in Africa! The past week is a serious blur that someday I’ll be able to sort out, but let’s just say that I had a fabulous time staying with Gil and Amy Medina, their cute, spunky four-year-old, Grace, and their absolutely adorable two-year-old Josiah. I am forever indebted to this family, who fed me, gave me a comfortable place to stay, let me be a part of their family, and showed me the ropes of Africa this first week. They made the transition MUCH easier. The passage of time has been funny thing the past few days. Although I have been in the country for less than a week, I literally feel like I have been here several months because so much has happened.
Some of the things I’ve experienced this week are:
- Shopping at the open-air market. Apparently this market does not attract foreigners, because I did not see a single white person there besides the people I came with. It was fun to observe how bartering works in this country. (I’m not adept enough in the language or currency yet to try it for myself.) From what I can tell, the bargaining here is much more fun from what I’ve experienced in the Old City of Jerusalem or in Mexico. The shopkeepers here seemed genuinely glad for your business, and the bargaining seems more like a friendly game of bantering than anything else. Sometimes the shopkeepers really do state the actual price the first time, which can make bargaining tricky. I think I could get used to it.
- Culture. People are quite friendly, and often love to make conversation with a mzungu (white person), and greeting each other is of the utmost importance. (Usually done with the phrase “Habari,” to which you would respond “Nzeri.” Or “Mambo,” to which you would respond “Poa.”) Walking along the streets you hear random men making loud smooching noises, and you think, “How rude!” What that REALLY means is, “I’m the water guy. Come buy some!”
- Traffic. Driving on a three lane road and you think it’s a nice road recently put in to alleviate the horrendous traffic. What it REALLY is: THE CHICKEN LANE! Yup, if you’re feeling like you need some excitement, you dart quickly into this lane, which could conveniently be flowing in the direction you’re headed for awhile, but without a doubt will very suddenly be headed straight for a row of ONCOMING TRAFFIC! What a rush! The person who swerves first loses.
- Food. Most of the food items here seem to be quite inexpensive, especially fruits and vegetables. Other items, like cheese, is ridiculously priced, and some items can’t be found at all. Over all, however, I’m very impressed with the wide variety of grocery products that Tanzania produces itself. This really does seem to be a country that is growing and flourishing. The one main nonnegotiable they don’t have is coffeemate, but they make up for it by having GREAT coffee.
- Roads. Most of the roads here are not labeled at all. It’s going to take me forever to figure out how to navigate.
- Mosquitoes. Not as bad as I’d imagined, but I do have about 10 bites already on my legs and ankles despite applying bug spray. Amy tells me they like new blood. J
- Dar. Is a major port city complete with a booming commerce. Apparently it’s growing by 6,000 people a day. The infrastructure just can’t keep up with that kind of growth, so some of the major issues of living here include LA traffic x 10 and power outages.
- Most of the inconveniences and perplexing situations can be explained with a shrug and the phrase, “It’s Africa.”
I moved out into my room at the teacher’s compound today. The “compound” is basically a walled area enclosing several multi-storied houses, and a grounds and parking area. My house has four rooms, and my room is on the second floor, which also adjoins the living room area. I have a window that faces east, and if the trees sway in just the right direction, I can catch a glimpse of the Indian Ocean. The compound is right across the street from the school. The big windows are super important in this climate, considering the heat and humidity and the fact that the house is not air conditioned, so I have to leave my windows open all the time to catch enough breeze to cool things down a bit. When we (Amy Medina and myself) first checked out the room, we saw that the screen for one of the windows was not installed, and the room didn’t have a closet. Thankfully, the Medinas let me borrow a freestanding closet/shelf set from their guest room, and Gil was able to get the screen back on (long story here…but let’s just say it was NO easy task, thanks to African craftsmanship). They also let be borrow a blanket, and I was able to purchase a gorgeous hand-painted wall hanging and woven rug to brighten up the room and make it homey. The cool thing about this room is that it has a door that opens up onto a little balcony also facing the ocean, so I’m looking forward to being able to do my devotions outside in the morning. The best part about this house, however, is the roof. It’s flat, and has an incredible view of the ocean, complete with a hammock!
- HOPAC currently does not have a teacher for high school English, and desperately needs one ASAP.
- Focus and diligence in tackling entirely new curriculum in time for the beginning of the school year. I have a week to get ready, on top of doing orientation, and getting to know the people I’ll be spending the next year with. It’s going to be busy.
- Purposeful development of relationships with staff.
- Continued health. I’m currently battling with chronic fatigue (jet lag) and a very confused stomach.
- To have a growing heart for the unique needs of the students.
- Preparing the 6th grade Bible curriculum with excellence.
- Preparing middle school English curriculums with excellence.
- Developing a plan for classroom management.