Surprise: I’m Back in Dar…

As I sit with a cold coffee, watching some people I love on the beach with a kite, after a month of being back in Dar, I have finally decided it is time to update my blog. It is simply an appropriate time to talk about all the things that have happened in the 4 months I was home and then the last month of transitioning back to my Dar life.

So, long story short, I came back way sooner than I would ever have thought. Many of my friends and family said that my quick return was no surprise in any way and everyone anticipated I would be back sooner than later, but I can say with full honesty that it was entirely unexpected in my heart.

I left Dar on September 10th, 2013 and returned January 22nd, 2014. My time in Canada was interesting and lovely and hard and cold. I was desperately sad to be leaving Dar but so happy to see all the people I love in Canada. I came home to warm welcomes and love and within one week of being home I was working, living on my own in a new place and in school. I returned to my Canadian life and loved many aspects of it but I will be honest about how hard the transition was, in that it was really, really hard and I am so grateful to have the people in my life that I do because they picked me up when I felt like falling apart, or when I did fall apart. New friends were made and old friends made better.

I continued my busy life in Ottawa and everything began to fall into place as one would expect. The snow began to fall and classes continued and work continued. And one day while I perused the ISSO website on the Carleton website I saw The Global Edge program information. Now, I should say that I applied last year in the spring and was turned down because the placement I was pursuing was too development-y, which is totally fair, it was. Anyways, I was devastated when I didn’t get it because I thought it meant it wouldn’t be able to stay in Dar, which I was pursuing single-mindedly for a bevy of reasons.

Long story short, I started working in Dar with a magazine because I didn’t get the grant to stay, called Hot in Dar as a writer/editor/marketing executive/etc. with a fantastic team of people that opened my eyes to new experiences and was essentially a How-To conduct business guide as my first experience in Tanzania.  From there I met a very cool lady, Sarah Scott, and I distinctly remember thinking during one meeting “I want to work with this lady”, but I’ll come back to that. So I worked at Hot in Dar and made a life, and moved out of student housing into an incredible beach home with my R and her B and it was heaven. I couldn’t be more grateful.

So, as I looked at the Global Edge Grant in October 2013 site I saw for the first time that they were offering placements in the Winter Term 2014, which they have never done before. My heart skipped a beat and I had to instantly bring myself back to earth as I spiraled at the possibility I might receive one to work again in Tanzania.

During the fall of 2013, I had been heavily reflecting on what my next steps were: grad school, work, travel, and where would I do any of these? I landed on the notions that I want to do Africa, Health, Gender and Literature. These are my four words that guided my decisions and will continue to passionately guide my life.

I emailed Sarah Scott, said awesome lady, and proposed that I would love to work with her in any capacity to learn more about fundraising events; corporate events, etc. as I want to potentially apply these skills and experiences I would learn to future ambitions within a gender and health sphere. Sarah initially said she was interested but didn’t have anything coming up at the time that filled this. But the gods aligned and without warning I received the most amazing email saying WHEN CAN YOU COME! Sarah had gotten the news that she could be working [and now is] working as a consultant for Marie Stopes Tanzania. In a nutshell, we put together a proposal quickly for me and applied for the Global Edge Grant. Long story short, I got it and was in shock. I applied at the end of November, and heard back mid December that I would receive some funding to go abroad and learn from Sarah in an entrepreneurial capacity as she runs Archipelago Productions Ltd. Within a week I had booked a plane ticket and began Christmas holidays and within 3 months of being home, I was already set to come back to Dar.

So, since that point I have arrived from the freezing cold (it was -40 degrees when I left Toronto) and I arrived to blistering heat of Dar’s hot season. In so many ways it has been like I never left. My room was still my room, and all the things I had left behind for R to get rid of were still here, and life began quickly. Funnily, I had said to R, “If I am not back in January, do what you want with this stuff”, but I was back to do it myself.

*I should say, when I was leaving I thought I could possibly come back for January after I finished my undergrad. But upon arriving in Canada didn’t honestly think I could make it happen.

Okay, so all of that meandering conversational story-telling and pre-empt brings me to now. Currently I am interning with Sarah Scott at Archipelago Productions Ltd. with my own business card and all. I am the Creative Project Manager and it’s adult, and exciting and busy!

We hit the ground running and I started fast, with a steep and instant learning curve but really what other way is there to do anything? (said with a big smile)

I am now back in Dar and have already been to Zanzibar for work and play with a medley of amazing people in some of the most bizarre moments of life (A, J and R you know who you are and it was an unforgettable series of events), and going to Moshi on Wednesday for work (whoop-whoop). In simple terms: life is awesome and exciting. I’ve taken part in launching a campaign, worked on a fundraising gala, and so much more I can’t even begin to go into the crazy list. My time here will be full of my wildest dreams.

I love what I am doing, and I am excited about essentially everything. To be in Dar makes my heart smile. I left Canada cold, pale and a little “out of sorts” and since being here I have a bit of colour, laugh at lot at life’s oddities and ironies, and wear shorts at every opportunity! I love Tanzania and I love Dar, but don’t worry, I love Canada too. I was nervous before I came back about what exactly I was returning to as many people know I have had a sometimes-difficult time during my journey. I left in September on a simultaneous high-high and low-low and coming back I wondered what I was coming back to both literally and emotionally but it has worked out the way it was supposed to, as it always does. Tracking my blog from the beginning it is hilarious to see my own shifts and my openness occur. I started as an exchange student/researcher and have moved into using my degree and applying to grad schools and working on major campaigns with an incredible dream organization and dream employer-mentor surrounded by the loveliest of individuals.

In this very instant as I write this, the sun is setting and R has just come to say “Hi” after kiting, and I can honestly say I am content looking out the window looking at what could be a postcard image. The Giraffe Hotel next door is playing a hilarious mix of music and now many kids twaddle in the waves as their parents tentatively look-on.

This experience of blogging is not easy for me. I have used it for many things, but mainly as an cathartic outlet, which I will continue to do. I am constantly wanting to say things and write them and I will make the effort to moving forward (which I promise every time I write). This post is not meant to be revolutionary, but merely serve as an update.

So there we go, after a month of being back in a place I am happy to call one of my homes, the information is out there and the story in its winding way has been told. I think from all of this what I can decipher is that I was supposed to come back. The “gods” aligned to make things possible and to continue my experience of learning that is life. Being back solidifies my love of Tanzania and doing what I am doing right now is pretty much paradise. 

So a little snippet of my life is below. A few photos of around where I am living. It is heaven and it was pointed out to me recently that I am living in an area of Dar that people pay hundreds of dollars to go on vacation to. Life is pretty sweet sometimes. Sorry if it sounds like bragging. I really am just that in love with where I am staying and it is the quirkiest house I will ever live in. It is an octagon. Seriously. 

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See You On the Other Side

As I write this, it’s been months since I updated this blog. A very long time.

Simply put, life got busy. I got busy living and wrote it all in my head, and not typed.

I have come to the conclusion that the helpful way to transition back into Canadian life is to write my memories. So that’s what I will do when I get home.

I have two days before I got home to Canada and I am essentially a wreck.

I would call myself a wreck and a mess. Both happily and sadly.

It is without question time to go home, and it is the right decision.

But that doesn’t make it easier or less of a transition.

I never thought I would be where I am with my life.

I came to Tanzania 12 months ago, and it was not an easy transition. In fact it probably couldn’t have been a less smooth journey to acceptance here. But now I love it. I love Dar and I love Tanzania. And my heart breaks a little to leave it. While knowing that it is the best decision and for my life and is a healthy choice to gain perspective. Dually I need to leave to recover from life here.

I also love my home in Canada and I really don’t know how to feel about any of this.

I came to UDSM for an exchange year, and it turned into a life. A real life not just an exchange life.

In the last few months, I extended my time and had a full life. I got a job with a magazine, I traveled, I loved, I lost, I danced, and I lived every minute of every day as much as I could.

Now I am going home, back to Canada for one credit of class at university, and I am stoked to be seeing people I haven’t seen in a year. I am elated that I will get to walk on Carleton campus again as a student, and an employee. I am excited for fall leaves, and Thanksgiving and the first signs of snow, and Halloween, and wearing boots and scarves purposefully, and celebrating Christmas and New Years and family days watching movies and moments of cups of tea and Kettleman’s and being able to pick up the phone when I wait at the bus stops and just call someone. I am so excited for all of these things.

I am also sad to be leaving the things I love here in Dar. The life I have here is great. I am pretty happy. And everyday just feels special. Every day there is so much that could and often does happen. There is an endless supply of possibilities. I have an abundance of memories that overwhelm me and currently thinking of them brings me to tears at the thought. Life here is everything I never imagined it would be when I arrived. I have a lot of people to thank for that and most of these people either know fully that they changed my life, or will never know. There are now things I have crossed off my life list. I have lived and I am scared going home that these feelings will stop. Every day in Tanzania feels like a gift not to be wasted, a little shinier than other days.

And so now, I am torn but it has been said to me, what did I expect? And honestly I have no idea. When I arrived I thought I would live here a year and then… I didn’t think about it. I really did not. I didn’t think about the end, as I never truly do. I am happy to live in the moments, worry minutely about the end but not have realistic expectations of what will happen. Lesson learned there.

The hardest part is that I want everyone at home to know how happy I am to see them and that my sadness is not a reflection of not loving my home and Canadian life. This is entirely separate from my Tanzanian life.

So now, along with going home I face the challenging decisions of what is next? I have a bajillion options for my future and this ties in with going back to Canada. What do I choose?

Laughably, I made a pact with a friend to just make it to Christmas. Just make it to Christmas and things will happen. So that’s what I keep repeating: Just make it to Christmas.

I lead a charmed life where things I don’t expect happen and opportunities fall into place when they are supposed to. I guess in a way the excitement and stress of not yet knowing is getting to me. I have no idea precisely what comes next, and for someone who has planned everything this is a tough one. I planned everything in my life up to going on exchange, coming home and then… that was the plan. I got nothing after that. I have lots of ideas, but no hard decisions yet.

I guess at the end of the day, things, chances and opportunities will reveal themselves to me and I to them. I have no idea what’s next. This is challenging and sad and happy.

With this post I want to thank everyone I met in Tanzania and my travels in Africa. I would never say it was easy, but it has all been worth every single second. I learned so much in the last year that I don’t feel I am even the same person returning, in a positive way.

So here it goes. The beginning of the transition. I will post as often as I feel like now and with photos more often as there is a better internet connection where I will be shortly!

Here goes nothing! See you all soon on the other side.  

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R and I cuddled up in our Masai blankets in Kondoa at 5am.

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Goodbye moments with J.

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Zanzibar love, L.

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Goodbye to Boda-bodas/ piki-pikis.

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And a final goodbye to the view out the windows, literally this is my backyard. 

Love to you all and Asante sana and Nashkuru for everything. X