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‘What are you looking forward to?’

As our day of departure draws closer (less than 3 weeks to go!) this question – ‘What are you most looking forward to?’ – is becoming more frequent. It’s perhaps the most difficult question I get asked. Quiz me about risk and we can have a discussion; query what an average day will look like and I have some idea; wonder what brought us to this point and I’ve got plenty to say; but ask me what I’m most looking forward to and I’m stumped.

Many people I speak to tell me how much they love Africa, having spent some time on safari or working in an orphanage there. They tell me about the amazing animals or the friendly people.

Perhaps we’ll have something of a honeymoon period when we get there as well. But it’s not a holiday. We won’t (God-willing) be coming home after 6 weeks or 6 months. We’ll be settling in for the long haul, impossible to separate the exciting from the difficult.

  • I enjoy learning languages, but I hate the awkwardness of not recognising a word I should or the embarrassment of saying the wrong thing.
  • I love meeting new people, but I don’t like that feeling a year in where you know lots of people but still feel really lonely.
  • I’m interested by new foods, but I gather that eating a staple is something one learns to appreciate rather than something one eagerly anticipates!
  • I’m convinced that student ministry in Tanzania is worthwhile, but it’ll be some time before we’re able to do it and even then I have significant questions about sustainability and possible impact.
  • I’m stimulated by indigenous theologies, but I’m told that those processes are often short-circuited by poverty or corruption or (sometimes) missionaries themselves – and I expect I’ll find that pretty frustrating.

And there are plenty of things that I expect to be hard. There’s nothing fun about being vigilant about what you eat and drink or mosquitos. I reckon that will wear me down pretty quickly.

Don’t get me wrong – I want to go to Tanzania. At this point, I can’t imagine anything else. (I have no plan for what I would do in February in Australia!) And I don’t see myself as some sort of heroine, throwing myself into the hardships of life there. (We’re so well taken care of by CMS!) I anticipate discovering things that I will enjoy. But I’m just saying, I find it hard to answer the question of what I’m looking forward to.

And I’ve felt a bit inadequate because of that. (Am I just being pessimistic? Surely there must be something to look forward to!)

So I was intrigued today to read a long term worker in Djibouti saying, “I am not in love with Africa.” Her reflection is about the Jesus she is encountering in Africa. I guess I hope that we will find similar richness in our experience.

Categories: Tanzania Written by Tamie

Tagged as:

Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

2 replies

  1. Thanks for the link, I’m glad you found that post. Maybe you will ‘fall in love with Africa,’ but maybe not! Your thoughts pre-departure seem realistic and realistic isn’t always what people want to hear. There are some things I love about our life here, but those kinds of blanket statements like loving an entire continent because someone goes on safari or holds a beautiful baby frustrate me. Blessings in your next three weeks,
    Rachel

  2. I really relate to what Rachel wrote. I think it can be a temptation to say ‘I’m in love with Africa’ or ‘Africa has stolen my heart’ based on limited or selective experiences. There is so much I’d love to blog about – but can’t – due to privacy issues. (A side note, do either of you guys know how to lock posts so that only people with access can view them?)

    Like Rachel, there are some things I love about living here, other things I absolutely hate.

    This may be incredibly un-PC to say, but I don’t think Africans (for arguments sake, lets say – Tanzanians) are incredibly friendly. They have to be, if they are your tourist guide or your driver but actually, I find the people we live and work amongst to be quite abrasive and aggressive. I’ve been told by a number of Tanzanians (including my husband) that the predominant tribe that resides here – are well known for their rudeness! I see contempt for human life, brutality, nastiness, cruelty – all on a daily basis (and usually within the context of just one, albeit, large hospital).

    This post reminds me of a lady I know who came to TZ to work at an pedeatric HIV clinic. She says, that prior to coming, she believed it would a ‘magical, spiritual, journey.’ Healthcare here is alot of things, but it definitely isn’t magical or spiritual. She is now suffering badly with depression & culture shock, 5 months after re-locating here.

    I think your expectations are realistic – a few things that might be something to look forward to in my experience:
    – the leisurely pace of life, it really is freeing to escape the rat race and all the pressures of a Western-centric life
    – Similarly, time. I love that we have so much time here, to ourselves, for people, not racing around trying to make a million appointments
    – house help, I life in a house-work free zone and I love it! I haven’t done housework since 2010
    – extra help with childcare (if you need) see point above, these two things are SO affordable and a luxury we’d never have in the West. (ok so point 1 & 2 and points 3 & 4 are pretty much the same thing, but 2 is better than none :D)

    Thanks for a thoughtful, honest post.

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