Fall is my favorite time of the year, and oh me oh my do I feel a twinge of homesickness thinking about opening day for skiing, anything and everything pumpkin flavored from Trader Joe’s, driving into the mountains to go leaf peeping for aspens, and the best holiday of all THANKSGIVING.
I do not support the sunshine story I was told as a child about Thanksgiving (check out this article for a discussion on how maybe we can better talk to kids about the Thanksgiving holiday) but, I love the Thanksgiving holiday my parents and extended family taught me about. Which values the importance quality time with family and friends and reflecting on what you are grateful for. Gratitude is such an important practice to be able to receive and give back joy in life. Although I will not be spending this Thanksgiving with my usual crowd, today I am most thankful for:
MY PEACE CORPS FAMILY
On days when I feel the cultural differences between the US and TZ are too much or I want to celebrate an awesome moment I had with a student or I just do not know what I should make with the chunky milk my neighbor gave me (by the way the answer is cheese) these are my people. The PCTZ community has a natural capacity to pass along knowledge and is an amazing network of support from one class of volunteers to the next that constantly amazes me. As much as I can try to share my PC experience with my friends and family, these people are living it with me. Could not do this without them.
FRIENDS LIKE THESE
The Tanzanian teachers I work with have been so helpful and welcoming but, many have families and do not live close to school like me. I am also one of the more ‘isolated’ volunteers in my region, being at least 4 hours on a good day of travel from any other volunteers. In a sense I am grateful to have been placed where I am. It is not convenient to visit other volunteers every weekend because it forced me to make the effort to find friends like these.
I had a school holiday the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which I spent on a picnic hike with my closest vill friends Ana and Suzy. After returning they helped me continue to refine on my ugali cooking skills, a Tanzanian staple food. It could not have been a more enjoyable day.
Ana is the doctor at my village health clinic and is always busy working hard to treat the many patients that visit each day. She balances her practice with looking after her younger 15 year sister who lives with her and caring for her baby named Gracious. Basically, she’s a superstar like so many of the Mamas I have met here. Suzy is her other younger sister that is about my age and living with with Ana also. Suzy and I spend weekend afternoons jumping rope, singing songs, talking about the differences between Tanzania and America, and how we do not need men in our lives to be happy.
MY HEAD OF SCHOOL
My friend Vern and I nicknamed my Mkuu (Head of School) Batman, partially because his voice is so deep that he sounds like Batman. Also, though because he has this quiet confidence about him and is always looking out for the best interest of students when many others are not. Because of the hierarchical nature of Tanzania, it is important to have good people in positions of power.
One of the first conversations I had with my Mkuu about our school and future opportunities for secondary projects, he shared ideas on how I might partner with other female teachers to better support the young women at my school. He has identified a need for educational programs on sexual reproductive health and menstrual hygiene. These are not subjects talked about often, especially between men and women. I am happy he talks so freely about real concerns he has identified for our students, instead of hiding present issues. Not every volunteer has an Mkuu like mine and I am extremely grateful to have one as supportive and student centered as mine!