From Tanzania: Boda-bodas, Mango love, and Swinging

Motorcycles.

Today… I jumped onto the back of a stranger’s motorcycle, and rode off down the winding road, my hair waving behind me like a flag in the wind…

Well, that’s not exactly how it happened (and yeah yeah I know, a bit cheesy:))—but I still felt like my first ride on a motorcycle was as adventurous, as mysterious, as exhilarating and as picturesque as that description. I can’t imagine riding a boda-boda on an American highway but I daresay that it was far more exciting to fly past the small shops and curious glances of Shirati natives as I traveled in style—pink UVA hat, purple backpack and all–down the dusty village roads.

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Mangoes (and other fruits).

We love our fruit markets! Watermelon, pineapple, mangosteen,
frogfruit, soursop, rambutan, sugarcane and so much more…yumm :)

One day, after leaving the hospital (again on boda-bodas), we headed to the local market. Our shopping trip brought us home with a huge bag full of sweet, sweet small mangoes (a variety which I have never had before coming to Tanzania.) When we arrived back at the lodge, we sat outside on the small veranda, sucking on our mangoes and chatting away as the sun set in the distance.

So much mango love <3

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Swinging.

One day at the lodge we decided to take a turn on the swings. As we slowly ambled through the grass, I suddenly felt the urge to break into a run and claim the first swing I saw—old childhood habit, I guess :) Swinging has always brought me a feeling of indescribable freedom and joy, no matter where in the world I am.

As the three of us swung we talked about all kinds of things, but mostly the conversation centered around the fact that our time in Tanzania is coming to an end, what we would be doing when we returned home, and then plans for school and beyond. After all, Tri will be graduating this coming May. Wow, it’s a scary thought—even for me who still has 3 years left. What is that period after graduation like??? As we were talking I realized just how much we students often feel in limbo. We 20-somethings and too-old-to-be-young-things and just plain-old-confused things. In a way, our trajectory is like that of a swing. We arch our feet and crane our necks as we gather the momentum to take us to the top of the arc. And then we come flying back with as much carefree momentum as the wind while our limbs sway without a care in the world. Right now, we’re in our arching and craning phase, but I know the swinging will come soon.

Those moments–the swinging ones– really are the golden moments, but that doesn’t mean that we forget all that it took us to get to the top of that arc so that we could come down easy.

When I think back on my time growing up, especially those sweet, sunny days I spent in Sri Lanka, I can’t help but feel that they too fall solidly in the “swing” category. Those were days when everything seemed possible and nothing seemed temporary. The ice cream man would be here tomorrow and the next day just as he was here today. No matter what gunfire or bomb blasts were being heard in some other land, the world as it was surrounding my childhood self would stay just as it was, day after day.

But of course, it doesn’t happen that way. One day you look around, and you’ve grown up.

As our crew of three glanced at our watches and prepared to leave the playground, we suddenly saw some local children come wandering in. This was their daily play place, and all of a sudden we were here, disrupting their every day constancy. We had suddenly become the factor of change. But they didn’t shy away from us or run away—instead they welcomed us to this place that they had known for years and had probably remain unchanged in that time. I realize that we shouldn’t be afraid to do the same thing that those small Shirati children did—to embrace and welcome the change that colors our constant, unshakable environment, because in the end, that’s what will make the tapestry worth looking at.

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And one last thing…

Kyra said something the other day that I really loved.

She said, “I want to stay in a place long enough that I know when the fruit is ripe.”

In the moment, maybe it didn’t seem like anything special, but her words really struck a chord with me. I realize that our traveling around so much here, while extremely enjoyable, is also not out of the ordinary. I’m always moving around these days—from Tanzania, to China, to Harvard Yard, and then back to Richmond. Nothing really feels constant, because, in all honesty, its not.

And for now, that’s ok.

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