Photo taken the first week I came to Dodoma with Peace and Grace Muhagachi, taken by Leah Burkholder
Now that I am back in Dodoma with our new visitors, Katie, Will, and Erin, Leah and I are realizing how far we've really come from our first days in Dodoma. Here are a few of the things that have changed for me:
1. I have developed an African stomach. When I first arrived in Dodoma, I ate like an American girl: small portions at meals and frequent snacking. Now realizing how often we have to think about feeding our visitors, I'm realizing that I never eat between meals anymore, and comparing my portions of meals, I eat huge plates of food. (Of course this is why I don't snack, because my stomach is always full of delicious rice and beans.) My stomach and appetite have adapted to accomodate the giant dinners and infrequent lunches and complete lack of snack food. That doesn't mean I'm not grateful for the Chex Mix and Gardettos and peanut M&Ms everyone sent me, it just means that they're lasting me much, much longer than they would have 10 months ago.
2. I can tolerate much more heat. While our guests blow on their tea before they drink it, Leah and I swig it down, and my fingers and hands are much more capable of handling the hot metal pots and lids we use for cooking. I almost never feel hot from the sun, although that has meant that I feel cold much faster than I used to. In fact, right now is like our winter in Dodoma, and the visitors are going around in their t-shirts perfectly comfortable while I shiver in my sweater.
3. I go off-roading in strappy sandals. After my TOMS shoes finally bit the dust, my first impulse was to order another pair, but then I decided that "when in Rome..." and bought a pair of black flat dress sandals to wear for everyday shoes. I hadn't really considered the conditions I walk in those sandals until Sunday when I led Erin into crossing a drainage ditch by jumping down into it and scrambling up the other side, and when she jumped in she broke a bone in her foot on a stray rock.
4. My Swahili is better than I've been giving myself credit for. Now, it is definitely true that my Swahili needs immense work, but, hearing the guests valiantly stumble over pronunciations and try to remember the few phrases we've required them to learn, I remember how much I struggled initially. Now I remember to thank God when Swahili flows off of my tongue, or when I understand something without translating it in my head.
5. On some level I get Tanzanians. First I should say that I was reprimanded only yesterday for an inadvertant lapse in respectful behavior toward an older man we work with, but for the most part, I find myself anticipating what will be expected of me, both socially and professionally. I am understanding non-verbal behavior and unspoken requests much more readily, and I see my relationships deepening as a result.
6. My hearing just might be permanently damaged. I've always marveled at Tanzanians ability to hear quiet conversations in crowded rooms, especially considering that music is blared at maximum volume for every event. As I was writing this, a flat-bed truck drove by with the back full of speakers blasting music, and it didn't even interrupt my conversation with Leah, where 10 months ago we probably would have been covering our ears to block the noise.
7. I love rice and beans. After a few weeks of traveling in which I treated myself to Chinese food, pizza, salads, coffee, and other luxuries, I can't tell you how happy I am to be back at home eating rice and beans. I've lost about 50 pounds in the rice and beans (and walking) lifestyle, but that's seriously just an unanticipated additional benefit. Eating such simple meals of rice, beans, and fresh local produce has made me feel so much more healthy and energetic, and I don't even enjoy eating frequent meals of Western (or Eastern) food without having a few days of good ol' rice and beans mixed in.
The time here has been flying by, and apparently I am keeping up. It astonished me to realize that in 6 weeks I will have been here for the whole of my first year. I cannot believe where the time has gone.
Thank you for following my adventures on this blog for the past 10-1/2 months. I'm blessed to have such a committed "fan base" back in the States watching my progression from needy, picky American girl to confident, capable pseudo-African. Photo of me preparing to preach at an evangelism event a few months ago, taken by Rachel Warren