It has been a whirlwind week. The feelings of arrival and new beginnings are definitely wearing off and the repetitive routine is getting bothersome.
The truth is, I one-hundred percent miss my parents. I miss being able to drive home on a weekend and have my favorite meals cooked by mom because she just loves me that much. I miss going to see movies with my dad, and most of all I miss my dogs (Tanzanians are terrified of dogs so there are not many here, and we haven’t seen ANY stray dogs).
I honestly have not been experiencing Wofford FOMO (fear of missing out). I think that because I have mentally prepared myself for graduation and everything that will come next (big yikes btw). I’ve almost conditioned myself to know that I won’t have those experiences next year anyway. I do, however, ironically enough, miss how busy I was on campus–with all the meetings I attended for organizations, my numerous jobs, and the kids I nanny. Detoxifying my life from some chaos and stress has been nice but there are just some days where I miss all the things I learned to love doing over the past three years. The truth is, I miss my routine and my people, for sure.
The cultural differences, as I mentioned in the last blog, were somewhat easy to adapt to. I’ve taken every day with stride and always remind myself I am in a different country with different people, and a different culture. Some of my peers, however, recently dealt with a teacher who not only had cultural differences, but also personal differences. Some students were uncomfortable with how he was discussing or teaching certain topics and voiced their concerns. Our program director and coordinator both listened to the issues, supported students, and next week their class will have a new professor. It was extremely comforting to know how much our program coordinator and director respected us as not just students, but also as people, rather than excusing the behavior and attitudes of the professor. At first, I did think that the professor was simply a product of his culture, but it turns out that was not the case as some ideas he had were not culturally shared. It was a learning experience for all, but it also strengthened my respect for our program directors who helped the students and the rest of the group through the trying time.
Aside from handling emotions and comfortability, adapting to Tanzania is going surprisingly well. Our group has really formed a solid friendship in the four weeks we’ve been. One of the students suggested that the nine of us sit down together and have a “wellness check.” It was a time and space where we discussed personal feelings, worries, and grievances that may have formed over the first few weeks. It was a very adult conversation and everyone participated with respect and honesty.
The four weeks have not only been trying for us as individuals but also as a group. We are sharing experiences, but we are also understanding and internalizing them differently. Everyone has been supportive of anyone who has a tough time or day, and it feels like we’ve known each other longer than a month.
Knowing that I am not alone in this experience is extremely comforting. Everyone definitely has a go-to person on the trip, but we can also all socialize and converse with each other at any time. During dinner, we often put our phones in the middle and just ask each other questions. Sometimes these questions are regarding favorite movies, embarrassing experiences, or special memories. We especially learn a lot from each other during our dinner questionnaires and maybe learn some things about ourselves as well. As everyone listens to the person speaking, the notion of eye-contact and interest brings peace, and the collective silence followed by loud laughter makes me feel whole.
Even though we have times of trouble, thank you Tanzania, for tying the nine of us together through what I know will always be, an unbreakable bond.