At the time of writing this, I have been in Mwanza, Tanzania for nine whole days. Goodness has a lot and nothing happened. I am getting used to not understanding the people that walk by me. I am getting used to being stared at. I am getting used to being far from my wonderful family and support system. I am getting used to being a foreigner. It seems like I have been here forever, and hardly a day. Mwanza is not my final destination; I am taking a month’s stop here for some language lessons from the knowledgeable and terrifying Mama Salala, a robust German woman who has been here some thirty years.
I have a lesson for an hour a day and then I study and do the little work that I can still being away from my placement site. One of the things I have been forced to quickly adapt to in Mwanza is the transportation. When I must travel on my own there are three options: walking, piki piki, or dala dala. Dala dalas are vans that take you to various stops in the city. Fare is always Tsh 400 (Tanzanian Shillings) about 18 cents- that is also about what it costs for two bananas. Piki pikis are motorbikes, you sit behind the driver and it is like a cheaper taxi, they will take you as far as your Swahili will allow you to explain. I received many warnings against using them in the US, but here the motto is “check the tires, check the helmets.” However, walking is the mode of transport I have used most so far. I don’t have to pay for my legs.
As I am learning my way around Mwanza, I encounter many roads that do not seem to really be fit for driving or walking. However I must change my judgments there because I have seen some masterful feats of driving. I have also encountered some masterful feats of walking. Mwanza is a city that is expanding, and with that comes lots of roadwork. Fine, except there is just as much foot traffic as there is car traffic, and many a time I have come across some large pile of construction rubbish and thought, “now how will I get over this?” Well, each time I just have to take a minute and let my eyes adjust, and each time I find a worn footpath amidst the construction piles. Someone has always traveled through it before I have, and judging by how worn down the paths are, many have traveled before me.
As I endeavor to “start” my journey here in Tanzania I think I will do well to remember that while I sometimes feel singular in the things I do, there are always people who walk before me. Even if the path is obscure, I know that God is also walking beside me.