I’ve come to loathe photographs (and not just when they are really bad ones of me like the one in the entry below). No, I don't like them because I know they won’t capture the grandeur of a scene, or in any way conjure for the viewer the sense of wonder, or shock, or awe or whatever emotion flooded me when I rushed to take it. The details are lost.
I hope to never, but know I will -- save for these few ramblings -- forget the feel of the red clay inches deep on my shoes and the daily regime of wiping said shoes on the grate provided. I wish I wouldn’t lose the thought but soon enough won’t be able to recall the name of the woman who cleaned the concrete floors throughout the day as we tried in vain not to track the mud. We’ve had a running battle of etiquette with her. Shel tsk-tsking our removal of shoes at the office door because we were taught not to bring the mess inside and then dutifully and against our wishes retrieving those shoes, cleaning them thoroughly and returning them to our naked feet. Our dual “polle sanas” (“I’m very sorry”) drowning out the other.
Other details sure to be lost are the sight of the other women who clean our homes sweeping the dirt on the “lawn” out front, bent backed and with straw, handle-less brooms in hand. Or the rim of brown that’s left in the pot when we boil the water for eating and drinking.
I’ll have photographs of elephants and lions but I’ll never be able to recreate the smell of the African male sans deodorant in his immaculate slacks and ironed cotton shirt. Nor will the sound of two introverted speakers become more animated by the syllable ever be shared.
Meryl Streep’s voice rang through my head the first weeks I was here. She may have had a farm but I’ve had a compound. Two houses, three bedrooms each, two bathrooms – one Western toilet and one not -- a den and a small kitchen. I’ve cooked more in the weeks here than I did all of last year.
My housemates are half my age and in some cases have twice my experience. I marvel at their adventuresome spirits and their willingness to take a crowded bus halfway across the city knowing only the words to “Does this go to the hospital?” Or their cleverness in picking up the vowel-ladened language with such ease.
“I’m already missing you,” the country director calls out each day the office manager begins the lock up for the night.
I’m feeling that now I guess.
I’m already missing the sounds of the crows cawing each morning, the tiny, silly bird that bangs at least ten times on my window as the sun comes up. I’m trying to listen really listen as a result. Today I heard flies buzzing in mass along the path I walk toward work. They were investing in yet another pile of dung.
The corn growing across the street. The cows that are penned in about 20 feet from my office window. The blue sky serving as a background to the Tanzanian flag flapping above the nearby government building. The faces of the kids as they call out “Hello” and then ask for pens. The school uniforms using various shades of blue and either orange or brown. Kongas. Lots and lots of kongas. Women walking along the streets dressed in bright patterns with sacks of rice on their heads or buckets or whatever is in need of transport that day. The heat on my neck as I walk the one paved street in the town, followed by more of those children.
The list continues but like that inadequate, imaginary photo that won’t convey what I want, neither do these words.
Yep, I’m already missing Tanzania.
But I’ve been missing home just as much. And in less than two weeks, I’m heading that way. Until then, there are more photos and word pictures to compile.
For those of you waiting for me, remember the old slide shows folks used to make you endure in years gone by? Remember? Ok, then prepare to be really bored! Because I've got photos to share and stories to tell.