Monday, June 29, 2009

What goes up...

So after a great first few days in Dar, I had my first bad day. And my, was it bad. But first, let's start with a re-cap of the weekend. The concert didn't happen so it ended up being really low key. Just lounging around reading, lots of talking at the beachfront pub next door, etc. The one major that thing happened this weekend was moving out of the hostel at Changanyikeni into my new house in Masaki. Masaki is an ex-pat area full of NGO workers and (at the moment) vacationers. I called a cab, threw my two bags in, and arrived 30 min later at my new place.

All of a sudden I was in a funk. The place didn't seem as great as it had a few days before, my friends didn't seem as close, and my loneliness seemed magnified. The first night I had a friend along so although I slept lightly I was mostly ok. The next night after she returned to the hostel my "funk" got worse. The room seemed dusty, grimy, and lonely. The house seemed empty, despite my 3 housemates. My housemates began to seem creepy instead of friendly and I despised the elitists ex-pats covering the town like a blanket of locusts.

Of course this made me wish I were at home and my eyes began brimming. For five seconds I let the negative thoughts flood in, let the doubt and fear and loneliness wash over me, then I shut it off. ( A technique adopted from the lead character "Jack" on ABC's LOST. lol) After five-seconds of an absolute break down (I'm talking body racking sobs, gasping, drooling, you name it) I pulled out a little note of encouragement written for me by a close friend, dried my eyes, and decided to reassess the situation. I've got food, clothing, and shelter. I'm in a great place, with wonderful weather, and friendly people. And most importantly, I'm going to be fine. I knew that it would be hard to convince myself that everything would be ok if I sat locked in my room crying all day, so I pulled open the shades, threw on a bright sundress, and called a few friends to hang out. Although the tears returned a few times throughout the day, getting out of the house definitely did the trick.

To add to the homesickness (or maybe b/c of the homesickness) I haven't been able to eat very much lately and I've been sleeping pretty lightly. It doesn't help that my stomach has been asking for McDonald's fries and Baja Fresh burritos. This morning I woke up feeling a lot better though.

On a happier note, today is MY FIRST DAY AT WORK. I'm actually at work right now. I've just been touring the buildings and reading background info on my project. I have, however, been informed that I will be leaving tomorrow for a three day trip to the field with two co-workers. lol. Thirty minutes on the job and I've been sent to the field already. lol. That should be an adventure since the area we're traveling to is very rural. wow. lol. I prob won't have access to the internet (much less a computer) while I'm out there so I'll tell you guys all about it when I get back.

Wish me luck in the field!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The key to life in Dar

Living in Dar is simple. The trick is to trust the city. Trust that when your driver says "nakuja" he will be there, becasue he will. And trust that when it suddenly starts raining while you are without an umbrella it will stop just as suddenly, because it's true. And trust that when you are hungry with no food or thirsty with no water, someone will appear on the street selling sustenance for dirt cheap prices, because it happens. Even for the most Type A control freak type of people this trust is not hard to cultivate, because the city and its people prove that they are trustworthy by coming through over and over again. I moved to Dar with no idea where I would stay. I trusted that something would come along, and in three days I happened to meet someone who knew someone who came through for me. No wonder it's impossible to be stressed in Dar. The system (or mayeb lack thereof) forces you to mellow out. You have no choice but to "go with the flow". As they say here "No hurry in Africa."

Yesterday I got an impromptu invitation to a pre-wedding bride send-off ceremony. (And by impromptu I mean that Sandra yelled up to the top floor of the hostel "Hey Krista, wanna go to a wedding thing? We're leaving in five minutes!" lol!) Of course I went, and I had a great time. Apparently only the groom's family is allowed to invite people to the wedding so the pre-wedding activities are dominated by the bride's family. In addition to the send-off there is also a "kitchen party"-- a female only get together where married women teach the bride to be everything she needs to know about how to run a successful household and how to "please her man".
The send-off is supposed to symbolize the bride's family officially handing her over to the groom and his family. The ceremony included traditional dramas, dances, etc. When it came time to give the bride her gifts, the guests danced up to the stage where she was sitting waving their packages above their heads. There were mops, cooking utensils, laundry hampers, dustpans, kangas, and kitenges. Everything you need to run a proper African household! lol. The best part for me was undoubtedly the food and music. We were supposed to go "clubbing" afterwards but it was getting late and a few of us had to get up early so we called it a night.

The Princeton kids have gone away to Zanzibar for the weekend, which is a little sad (especially since I'll be moving out of the hostel and starting my job while they're gone), but there's a lot on the weekend schedule nonetheless. Apparently Beenie Man is in town so I think a group of Carnegie Melon kids, Tanzanian friends, and I are going to the concert. There's also the rescheduled clubbing plus a birthday dinner for one of the Carnegie Melon kids (Lebanese food), and hopefully a trip to the beach. Not to mention moving my stuff over to my new house and unpacking. (On an unrelated note: I went to the store in search of clothes hangers only to discover that they cost nearly $7 per 5-pack!!!! No thank you. Dresser drawers it is!) So, even with the Princeton kids gone I won't be sitting alone in my room. With fun like this open to me, I never wanna start work. I want my days open to just bum around the city.

My next mission is to figure out if the internet connection is strong enough for me to upload pictures! Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Over the moon!

As the title has probably already informed you, I am over the moon today! So many great things have happened to me in just a few hours. Most of you know I prefer things in "story format" so I'll start from the beginning. Yesterday I set up a meeting with my boss, so I woke up this morning and prepared for that. I was so nervous that I forgot the eat breakfast! (Actual it's 4:30 p.m. here and I still haven't eaten.) Anyway I took a cab into the "city center" since I'm kind of on the outskirts. We got there with no problems, but since I don't like to be late I had built in a lot of "cushion time". I left at 9:30 for an 11 o'clock meeting because I didn't know how long it would take to get there and Dar traffic is usually a nightmare since there are little to no traffic regulations. Anyway, I got there extremely early so I was falling all over myself trying to apologize because I arrived at a time when my boss was supposed to have another meeting. But since her 10 o'clock meeting was late she agreed to see me right then. She called in the head of finance and HR to handle my questions. (Most were housing and finance related.) After the meeting The HR head and I went to handle to housing question. I was looking for something safe, close to my job, and CHEAP! By chance I met another young itnern working there and she suggested a few places for me to try. Listen when I say I hit the JACK POT! I'm renting a room in a house with three Irish guys (my bedroom door locks), but here's the kicker: air conditioned, furnished, utilities included, maid, guard, internet, satelite tv, access to a kitchen and living room, private bath, next door to an amzaing pub, and A VIEW OF THE INDIAN OCEAN! All for an amazing price. I put a down payment on the room and got the key right away! I'm soooooo excited. I can barely believe my luck! I'm moving out of the hostel into my house on Saturday! I'm really going to miss hanging out with the students in the hostel, but living closer to downtown gives me such a different perspective of the city! Much more hustle and bustle and a lot of ex-pats. There's even an Apple Store down there!
The intern at my job was so helpful. She's a really sweet Swedish girl who's working on her masters at FSU. She's super friendly and she introduced me to some of her friends. When I move in on Sat. she's going to show me around and help me get familiar with the area. My first ex-pat friend!
I must have been Mother Theresa in a past life to deserve all of this! I'm not usually religious, but I'm feeling super blessed. I can't belive this is my life!

I start my job on Monday so look out for updates!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

...grab a Snickers

So... after nineteen hours on a plane including stops in Rome and Addis Ababa I've finally reached Dar. The flight was uneventful and I somehow lucked out and got entire rows to myself so I could stretch out and sleep (almost comfortably). I'm glad to say there were minimal tears in the airport and just a few moments of choking up (but not acutally letting tears fall) on the plane.
I got in yesterday around 1p.m. dar time (7 hours ahead of EST) and after a little confusion managed to check in to the hostel where I'll be staying until I can find a more permanent residence. I'm staying right upstairs from some Princeton kids and some students from other schools who are in Dar for the summer. I spent last night getting to know them before heading to bed. Unfortunately, a combination of jet lag and anxiety didn't let me get to sleep before 1 a.m. I woke up somewhere around 4:30 a.m., even though I had taken a sleep aid earlier to prevent that exact thing from happening!
I will admit the first night was pretty rough in terms of anxiety and homesickness but today is much, much better. I sat in on a Swahili class in the morning before heading to the mall to buy a phone (e-mail if you want the number!) and an iron (packing/ handwashing do not mix well with the wrinkle-free clothing necessary for a professional appearance). Then I had lunch with the Princeton kids and now I'm at the mall (no joke) in an internet cafe. I'll probably round out the day by teaching English at Mwenge market tonight.
Walking aroung the city has reminded me of how much I love it here and why I wanted to do this in the first place. The weather is beautiful and the people are just as friendly as I remember. I've arranged a meeting with my boss tomorrow to discuss things like housing and stipend distribution. Since the meeting is pretty early in the morning I might head to the orphanage after that to visit the kids I worked with last year.
I'm thinking about you guys, and looking at your pictures, and just generally feeling like I left my heart in the states but I think once I start my job and get settled in things will be great. Although I'm in Dar it still has yet to sink in. I'm still trying to grasp the fact that I'll be here for A YEAR. I've already taken my first cold shower of many to come, ridden in a dala dala (google image it), and gotten reacclimated to the gekkos creeping across the walls in the night but somehow this still doesn't feel real. Since I'm not going anywhere for a while I guess I better grab a Snickers.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

5 days from Dar!

So... I'm almost ready to ship out. I've gotten my visa, vaccinations, prescriptions, etc., and I've (sorta) started packing. My plane leaves on Monday morning and I'll be there on Tuesday sometime around 1 pm TZ time (7 hours ahead of the U.S.). The flight is somewhere between 19-24 hours. I still don't have a TZ residence so I'm going to stay in a hostel for the first few days and do some house hunting from there.
I've been running around for the last few days buying everything I could possibly need. I've got first aid kits, flashlights, booklights, dvds, hand sanitizer, computer games...the list goes on. I'm pretty sure I've got it all, but for some reason I can't shake the feeling that I'm forgetting something. Something really important. Something one of a kind. Something I won't be able to get in Dar. Something I'll miss terribly. It's probably just nervous anxiety caused by the stress of having to condense your entire life into two suitcases.
Now that my travel documents are in order and packing is started there's nothing left to do but soak up my last few days in America and say my goodbyes.