Monday, August 12, 2013

Tanzania, East Africa: You can't drink the water, but you'll end up eating dirt

They say home is where the heart is. If that's true, my home is in Tanzania.

I may be a white girl from Missouri, but I believe somewhere in me are African roots. I'm more homesick for Tanzania than I ever was for America.

Tanzania stole my heart 10 years ago, and after returning from a second visit, it's apparent she's not giving it back. 

My love for this foreign country and my desire to live there makes no sense. Life in Africa is hard, and by all accounts my life in America is not. I have a good job. I have hot water. It's clean. And I'm never concerned that my electricity is suddenly going to go out.

Life is good. And yet my heart aches to return to a country where some simply struggle to survive. 

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

In Tanzania, if you're a foreigner, you're discouraged from even brushing your teeth with the water. And don't even think you're guaranteed a sit-down toilet. The bathrooms I became familiar with ranged from a quick pit stop in the bush on the side of the road to squatty potties with buckets, hoses and squeegees that perplexed me at first. (Actually, they still do.) On occasion there was the sit-down toilet that I greeted with as much enthusiasm as one might have a long-lost friend. But the reunion was always bittersweet because there was rarely any toilet paper. I've been camping enough to know how to make this work, so hamna shida! (Swahili for no worries.)

In America, our roads suffer the occasional pothole. In Tanzania, to say the roads are bumpy is an understatement. Potholes can be as large as your car, and as you travel along, it can feel like you're a ball in a ping-pong machine. In the dry season the roads are dusty. The grit gets in your mouth and you become accustomed to the occasional crunch of Tanzania's red, dry earth between your teeth.

Looking east, en route to Pahi from Dodoma.

One particular drive left me so heavily covered in dirt that a friend told me I looked as if I had applied the wrong color of makeup. It blanketed everything, including my hair, which felt thick and heavy like I had a week's worth of hairspray up there. That day I learned what I'd look like as a red head.

While I don't particularly enjoy eating dirt, and while I like my face and hair to be clean, I was in Tanzania and it felt like home -- not the home I've known, but the home that will be. And that made me happy despite the dirt, the heat, the crazy-looking bugs and large lizards -- even the lack of toilet paper could not diminish my love for this country.

Siku moja nitarudi na nitakaa -- natumaini. One day I will return and I will stay -- I hope.

In the video above I highlight some of the work me and a team from Evangel Church in Kansas City, Mo., did this past summer. We toured a facility in Dodoma, Tanzania where Wycliffe Bible translators work to translate the Bible in native African languages. We also traveled to the village of Pahi where we helped build the first Assemblies of God church in that area. 

The people in the video are extraordinary. I wish I could have told all of their stories. Perhaps that's another reason to go back. :)


Judd Lehmkuhl said...

White Girl from Missouri, you have made us Home sick aswell.

Homesick for Tanzania

lovely post, regards

Diane Nilan said...

Having spent 3 weeks in TZ in June, I had to laugh at your accurate descriptions of the challenges for us pampered Americans. You nailed it. Kudos!

Monica said...

Your video was beautiful! Well done, friend, well done!