“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ― Ghandi

Saturday, July 14, 2012

No goodbyes, just "until we meet again"

I started this entry on our last day of volunteering in Moshi, but only just now have been able to write the last sentence.

June 22, 2012, Friday

Our last week has been an upheaval of emotions. Both of us have been sick and we missed three days of teaching at KOC. We hated to not go to the orphanage and we missed seeing the children, but at the same time, knowing that we leave on safari on Sunday, we knew that we needed to take care of our health, get as much rest as possible, and avoid contact with sick kids! However, even being sick, we still needed to travel into Moshi each day, for lunch (it is not provided at the house since most volunteers are at their placements and not here for lunch) and also so that Rebecca could go to the medical clinic. One of those days, the dala dalas were not running because they were on strike. As far as I understand, there are no unions here like we have in the US, but still the drivers went on strike.  We heard no news afterwards as to whether they were successful in their attempt to negotiate fare increases, but today the cost of a dala dala ride was still 300 TSH. From what we understand, the government sets the fares that drivers can charge. With no dala dalas available, we took a taxi into town, which was fine since Rebecca was not feeling well anyway.

Anyway, back to the upheaval of emotions. It was with sadness, and regret, and some amount of guilt, that we stayed at the house for three days and did not see the children. Especially since we knew that our time here is so short, with only a matter of days remaining to this part of our journey. But in some ways, perhaps it made our final goodbyes to the children somewhat easier, as it was almost like we “eased” our way out of our time there.

As I write this, it is now Friday evening, and we have said our "goodbyes" to the children at Kilimanjaro Orphanage Center, and also to the children at the Salama Center that we met through Luka. When we arrived at KOC this morning (late because the dala dalas to Pasua never stopped at our usual waiting spot and we eventually resorted to a taxi), we encountered a classroom full of visitors who had presented the kids with tons of candy and balloons, and the kids were so preoccupied with them, the candy and the balloons that they took no notice of us at all. Usually when we arrive in the mornings, they jump up out of their chairs, stand, and scream in unison: “Good Morning Teacher!  How are you Teacher?” Today……..nothing. I felt such sadness in my heart that we could be “replaced” so easily. The rest of the morning sped by quickly, with a steady stream of guests arriving to tour the orphanage (this is a common practice, one I assume is designed to encourage financial support from “wealthy” mzungus). So we had almost no time to spend with the children that was not being interrupted by guests wanting to take pictures and draw numbers and letters with the kids. Eventually, we asked Lucy, the Director, to gather the children for a group photograph, and we began the tough job of saying goodbye to children who speak almost no English and who certainly have no comprehension that we are not coming back on Monday, or Tuesday, or for a very long time, if ever.

Will they miss us? Will they wonder why we do not return? Will they wonder if they did something that caused us to leave them, just as their parents left them? These questions, which have no answers, tug at my heart. Will the next round of volunteers to show up treat them with the same care, kindness, and love as we did? How will the new volunteers know what lessons we covered, or that Shabani can do addition and knows all of the numbers without counting them out, or that Maurena is much smarter than she appears, once you get beyond her shyness? How long will it take them to discover that Bisuni loves to stand at the head of the classroom and lead the whole class in a loud and clear voice while they sing “head shoulders knees and toes……” Or that Yassini is very, very smart and can do addition and multiplication without his makeshift abacus? How long will it take to realize that Elisha is a boy (with the short hair and gender-neutral clothes it can be hard to tell), or that Bright loves to be held on the swings while she hums a sweet song?

I knew it would be hard to leave, but I did not know that I would leave so much of my heart, so much of myself, with these children. I am studying social work back at home, and want to work with children. Is that what brought me here? These children, and the angels who care for them, have touched me in profound ways. The children have so little, but they taught me so much: generosity, acceptance, kindness, forgiveness, love, and how to smile even in the face of adversity. I will remember the children, and this time in Tanzania, always, and always with love and gratitude for the opportunity I was given to join them on this journey.

And so we did not say goodbye to our new friends in Tanzania; instead, we said, "Until we meet again".

"Don't be dismayed by good-byes.  A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.  And meeting again after moments or a lifetime is certain for those who are friends." ~ Richard Bach

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