It is hard to believe, but March 24th marked the halfway point in my internship with Western Heads East and APYN. That means that 64 of the 128 days that I will spend in this beautiful, enigmatic and chaotic city are behind me, and that I still have 64 more to go. Actually, as of today, April 10th, I have 48 more days to go- I am admittedly a little behind on blogging at the moment.
Ooooh, I'm just so reflective.
Today it is pouring rain in Mwanza. Fortunately for me, the only thing on my itinerary is drinking tea, analyzing questionnaire responses and writing this blog post. I just finished creating separate organizational profiles for each kitchen, which include: member demographics such as age, marital status, % of members who are the sole income earner in their household, % of members for whom this is their first job outside of the home; figures on income distribution and use among members; statements on programmatic impact; and so forth. Now I am compiling the information into one cohesive document for APYN. It is already 20 pages long but one of the main outcomes of my internship is to provide them with the preliminary results of my gender impact assessment, so it is important that I get this done before I leave. I also want to get everything that I can accomplished before I start conducting interviews with kitchen members, local leaders and APYN staff in the next two weeks.
I am still not sure exactly how said interviews are going to play out since most Tanzanians don't schedule things more than a day or two in advance, and I can't exactly just call up the members in order to arrange an interview... so basically I am going to show up at the kitchens as usual to help deliver the probiotic, and see who can sit and chat with me for ten or fifteen minutes. I realize this strategy might sound incredibly intrusive to an outsider, but it's totally just how things roll here. It has taken me a long time to "let go" of my own pre-conceived cultural notions of appropriate research methodology, and my personal inclination to over prepare every aspect of my life and work, and in doing so accept that things just don't happen the same way here as they do at home. People here plan one day at a time because that is all they have ever been able to do with certainty. And while I am still not fully comfortable leaving so many details of my project up in the air, it's the nature of the beast and I like to think it's forcing me to grow as a researcher and as a person.
And speaking of personal growth…. As most if not all of you already know, a year and a half ago I called off my engagement to a man whom I loved very much. Despite all of the anger, self-doubt and disillusionment that invariably comes with calling off a wedding, and, indeed, an entire life with someone, I felt like I was coping really well with everything that had happened. It is only now that I am thousands of miles away from home and from any possibility of romantic distraction that I realize how important it was for me to leave the world of dating for a few months, and get some much-needed perspective. Looking back, I can't believe some of the ridiculously inappropriate (i.e. young, or long distance, or likewise recently disengaged, etc.) individuals that I ushered into my romantic life last year. I now know that of them were ever going to be capable of satisfying my needs, because what I needed, was time. I basically set myself up for one inevitable dating disaster after another- it was exhausting. My mom said she feels sorry for pretty much all of the men I've gone out with since Shmoli. Poor guys, we never stood a chance! But from where I sit today, I so far past the mindset of "I can't wait to get back to Canada and meet someone new!". No, I am so content with being on my own, and also proud of how much I have accomplished now that I am spending my time working with an organization that I believe in and conducting research that I feel passionately about, instead of relying on someone else to fulfill me. Not that I have ever been the type to lose myself or neglect my own ambitions for the sake of finding or being in a relationship. But it has been quite a winding, soul-searching journey that i've been on since the last time I returned home from Tanzania in November 2012.
This trip to Tanzania has been equally as wonderful and yet so very different from my last. I feel blessed to have been afforded the opportunity for such extended retrospection, and in the context of working on a project that is so personally meaningful to me. But as much as I am relishing and thriving in my current Tanzanian lifestyle, I cannot wait to come home. I appreciate everything that I have going for me in life so much more now than ever before. I also feel more capable of distinguishing between things that are essential to my happiness (i.e. my family, my friends, Buster, my work and my health) and things that I could do without if need be (i.e. most of my material possessions, even my shoes- blasphemy, I know!). I can't wait to be back in Canada, spending time with the people that I love. I can picture us now, talking and laughing over wine, sharing some delicious meal composed of anything that isn’t salad or chapatti! It is the idea of these moments- sitting down to eat with family, catching up on a patio in the sun with friends, meeting my best friend Renee's baby for the very first time, or cuddling my adorable little angel, Buster- these moments that inspire me to push forward and stay productive when I am feeling particularly homesick. I am so ridiculously lucky to be surrounded by so much love, and I take that fact for granted far too often.
So for all of you who care about me enough to take time out of your day in order to read this blog (or even just to skim it, as I know I can digress with the best of them!), thank you. Your time, and your support and your thoughts mean more to me than you can know.
Tomorrow morning my roommates and I head off to the island of Zanzibar for the weekend! The girls are returning to Canada on April 20th so this is our final tourist-type adventure together, and my last vacation from work before I leave at the end of May. I think that my next blog post will feature all of the incredible places in Tanzania that I’ve been able to explore, and offer recommendations for anyone who is thinking about coming to check-out this amazing country for themselves!
Until then, kila la heri.