I’ve been in country one week and I can’t tell if it went fast or slow. Part of me feels like I’ve been here forever, and another part of me feels like I just arrived. The long trip over here was slightly traumatic, and I found myself crying while FaceTiming home from the airport in Istanbul. But after taking a Xanax and catching up on some sleep, I was ready for anything. Even after breathing in that East African air, obtaining my visa, and arriving in Mwanza, none of it seemed real to me yet. But people say nothing brings back memories like a familiar smell, and that’s the truth. Driving down the road to JBFC, the smell of burning garbage filled my nostrils and a smile formed on my face that didn’t let up for hours.
I have spent my first few days learning about how the campus works and what permaculture is, getting to know the girls in the refuge, and trying to make friends with my international coworkers. So far, so good. However, my job as Volunteer Coordinator is still a little unknown to me, as the first student group arrives tomorrow. I am both nervous and excited for the craziness to begin and for my job to really start. I’m also happy to report that Swahili is returning to me as the days go on, and I was even able to remember some of the Kimaa I learned and can greet the Maasai guards here in their own language.
I can’t help but compare most of the experiences I have had so far with my previous ones from my last time in Tanzania. I thought I was well prepared, but this is actually much different. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m here, or at least not the Tanzania that I know. My home now sits on the shores of Lake Victoria, with a nice breeze passing through. Sometimes it feels more like I am on a vacation rather than working in a developing country. My life here is much more luxurious than it was last time, as I have my own room with a bed, electricity, running water, plumbing, and western style food available. I even have most of my laundry done for me. But in terms of food, I’m finding it a little more difficult than I expected to be a vegetarian here, because the international staff cooks a lot of meat. I have decided to eat fish for the time being, and even so, I am anticipating eating a lot of rice and beans with the girls for dinner.
Last night my housemate and I were sitting in the living room when a bat appeared flying over our heads in circles. After ducking down and hiding under cushions while screaming and laughing, it landed and we called for help. So all in all, it’s been an exciting fist week away from home.