Warning: Long blog post. Feel free to skip.
With just a few days left here in Kitete, I figured it was a good time to reflect on my many adventures of the past nine weeks. I will save a more profound reflection for once I have returned to the States. For now, I have compiled a list of the top ten moments from my time here in Africa. I have given it an alliterative title in honor of Steve Alagna, or #10 as he is more commonly known.
10. Stepping off the plane – Miley thinks there is something special about hopping of the plane at LAX, well she should try JRO. There was something absolutely thrilling about stepping onto the runway at Kilimanjaro Airport and thinking, “Wow, I am in Africa!”
9. Elephant sighting – One of my afternoon runs got a lot more exciting when I noticed a gigantic male elephant just 50 yards in front of me. He had wandered out of the forest to torment the local farmers by eating their wheat. They were doing their best to scare him away.
8. Dislocating my shoulder – Perhaps the scariest moment of the trip was when my shoulder popped out while playing volleyball. I cannot accurately describe the relief I felt as it popped back into place. It would have been at least an hour to the nearest clinic.
7. Slaughtering chickens – Nothing gets the testosterone flowing quite like going all Liam Neeson on four innocent roosters. Hopefully PETA won’t attack me when I get back.
6. Dolphins and monkeys – While in Zanzibar, I had the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in the Indian Ocean and pet wild monkeys in the same day. I felt like I was Steve Irwin or something. I even managed to avoid getting rabies from the monkeys!
5. July 4th – Few things could make you love America more than spending Independence Day outside of the country. We were determined to do our patriotic duty despite our distance from the homeland. We managed to have a good old fashion BBQ with our African brothers.
4. Daladalas – You haven’t really traveled until you have crammed 25 to 30 people in a minivan. These vehicles are a safety nightmare; I think most of them have been pieced together with parts from a chop shop. After fighting your way through the crowd to just to get on, you better be willing the forfeit any concept of personal space.
3. The World Cup – I have to admit that I have never been a soccer/football fan, but around here you don’t have a choice. After watching just a few matches with all of these enthusiastic fans, I found myself completely caught up in the action. Nothing was more agonizing than watching Ghana lose with a Ghanaian native in the room.
2. Swahili mass – While these Sunday morning experiences were often a test in patience, in retrospect they were pretty amazing. Despite masses that ranged from two hours to four and a half hours, the people here were always completely engaged. While I never understood a word of what was said, there was no doubt that the people here possessed a deep faith.
1. Time with students – While it may be kind of predictable or cliché, the time I spent with the students here was easily the most rewarding. Whether it was time spent playing cards, playing volleyball, going for runs, washing clothes, or even in class, these kids were enthusiastic. They showed me that despite their tough situations they can enjoy the blessings they have.
Tanzanian Fun Fact: The first Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere is absolutely worshiped here. His picture can be found in practically every building in Tanzania, and they like to refer to him as “father and teacher”. In fact, there is a movement within the Tanzanian Church trying to get him canonized.
On a completely unrelated note, I am now a billionaire. When the priests returned from South Africa they brought back some of the defunct Zimbabwean currency. I am the proud owner of a $50 billion bill.