Arthur and I are not the only ones simultaneously re-entering Tanzania and adjusting to a new place in it. Elliot is too, and I suspect it’s even bigger for him because the ratios of his life are more dramatic. When we returned to Australia last year, he’s lived 85% of his life in Tanzania, but now after our home assignment, the most recent 20% of his life has been in Australia.
His world has shifted yet again, and not back to familiar Dodoma. Here he is in his own words:
- Seriously, “We can’t stay in this house, we have to move again.” Said 2 and then 4 weeks after moving into the new permanent house because moving is more familiar to him than stability.
- ‘Mama, can we skype with Pop?’, except it was 1am in Australia. And a follow up, ‘Is Mardie with Pop or will she be with us?’
- Thoughtfully, ‘You were really right Mama, there aren’t any playgrounds in Tanzania!’
- Joyfully, ‘This is a fun place! I want this to be my school!’ After visiting a $5000 per year expat pre-school (kind of by accident), where they have a ball pit, blocks, ride-ons, a swimming pool, and a jungle gym.
- Distraught in the back of the car, ‘Mama, these children need our help! Why are you driving off?’ Because he’s now old enough to recognise that the children coming up to the window are beggars, and I won’t give them anything.
- Tearfully, ‘Well, I’m sorry, I can’t ride my bike because I’m too small.’ I couldn’t work this one out, because he loved his balance bike in Australia, and we’d specially let him choose a bike here, and removed the pedals so it would work for him. Further inquiry seemed to indicate he was feeling worried about riding on his sore (infected) foot, and intimidated about the two flights of stairs separating our apartment from the carpark / courtyard below.
- Pointing to an advertisement with a white girl on it, ‘Look, it’s Olive!’, or when the child has curly hair, ‘Mama, here’s Elke’ (friends from Australia). Similarly, any Catholic nun he sees is ‘mwalimu’, because his teacher in Dodoma was a Catholic nun.
- “Hurray, chapatis!” which he stopped asking for in Australia after a while, and now that they’re back in his life, have been joined by requests for some other foods which he showed no interest in while we were in Australia, like boiled eggs and tomatoes.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.