Tanzania and beyond

by Through Inspiration

Okay, so it has become apparent that I am not the best blogger. It’s hard to find the time and energy to sit down and attempt to summarize life here! I’m just living it, moment by moment and trying to internally process it all! The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. I haven’t been entirely present. We had a significant loss in my family back home in MA, and I found myself spending lots of time on the phone and allowing myself to be alone, and be sad. It caused me to be very distracted, left questioning the significance of this semester and my goals here. Honestly, I was left totally unmotivated. That being said, I broke free from the captivation of my own head and set off to Tanzania. We had a fantastic time. This was definitely one of the best weeks of the trip and best experiences of my life. We were constantly busy which helped to keep me focused and happy.

Where to begin? We arrived in Arusha, Tanzania on March 25th just in time for lunch! We were greeted by Charlotte and Pete O’neal, chairman of the Kansas City Black Panther Party back in the late 1960s. He fled with his wife Charlotte to Tanzania after being accused of carrying a gun across state lines. They have been living here in exile ever since, around 40+ years. I felt like I was in the presence of great wisdom, and I was right. Pete and Charlotte proved to be gentle, creative and giving souls- full of life experience and good intuition. They began the United African Alliance Community Center, which focuses on helping the residents of the community by providing free art, music, film, language and computer classes. I felt happy and at home here. I could sense my motivation and passion seeping back into my body and uplifting my spirit-it felt great! We had a fabulous stay.

The next day we set off to visit the UN Tribunal for the Rwandan genocide. We were promised to sit in on one of the trials and were greatly disappointed to find out that the witness on the stand that day was private, and we were denied entrance. Instead, we got to watch a documentary and visit some of the empty courtrooms. This wasn’t completely satisfactory but interesting nonetheless.

On March 26th we made our journey to the Tanzania Maasai land to spend three days living in a Maasai village. The program had set us up with tents just outside of one of the main bomas (living compounds). It was here under the open African sky where I could really breathe again. We did many things while in the village. They gave us an herbal medicine tour in the surrounding areas and we helped gather firewood, herbs, bark and plants. We delivered these to some of the mamas who made traditional tea. The sight of these people is breathtaking. They have dark, dark skin and wear striking red fabrics. They practice body modification as part of their cultural tradition and have brands on their faces and arms, stretched earlobes and are decorated with brilliant beading. I am hesitant to try and capture their appearance, and ways of life in one blog post. They are greatly inspiring, spiritual and humble beings, I was awed by them.
Instead of writing a novel about my time here I will list activities:

Beading with the mamas
Bonfire under the dark dessert sky
Goat sacrifice and preparation
Branding ceremony
Traditional song and dance beneath the half moon and sparkling stars (one of my most favorite moments)
Goat herding

The rest of the week included visiting the Ngoro Ngoro Crater for a captivating safari! We saw every animal imaginable. It was entirely expansive and real. We visited one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes in East Africa, and hiked 9,000 feet of Mount Kilimanjaro. The hike was challenging and the forest was magical. All of the scenery in Tanzania was magical; the rolling hills, dry deserts, tropical forests and gentle people. I will definitely try to visit Tanzania again; I wish I was still there now.

I am back in Nairobi. The rains have arrived! Who knew the skies would open up with such intensity? I hear the rain pound my tin roof, making my sleep all the more peaceful. Tomorrow I go to the center for Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya and begin my independent project. I look forward to personally speaking with each of you, writing seems to be an impossible task at this time…