Warm Pepsi and Good-byes

Friday, February 25, 2005
Warm Pepsi and Good-byes 02.25.05

FridayI woke up early and jumped out of bed. This was my last day at Kilamahewa and I couldn’t wait to get there! I had bags of candy to give all of the students and a fresh role of film in my camera. We were going to go out with a bang!
When I reached the school I asked Mr. Masawe to end class ten minutes early so that I could speak to the kids, give them candy and lead them in one more rendition of the Hokey-Pokey. The morning sped by and when it came time for recess, instead of the children all running out to play, many of them crowded around me for one last game of ‘tickle’. It is a simple game, really. I tickle each child until they laugh, taking turns with all of the kids in the middle of the tight circle that they form around me. Sooner or later, someone figures out that turn about is fair play and before I know it, twenty little hands are tickling me mercilessly! As I shriek with laughter, I have to end the game until I calm down a little bit. Then it starts all over again.
I was in the middle of counting to twenty in Swahili, (kumi na moja…..kumi na mbili…) when Mr. Masawe leaned out of the door to his home and motioned to me that it was time. As I stood in front of the children, Mr. Masawe came with all of his students to translate for me. “Tomorrow, I am going back to America…..”, I began, before bursting into tears. Seventy little confused faces looked up at me as I tried to pull myself together. I explained to them that I thought they were very, very smart and very, very special and that I loved them all very much. I told them that I would tell all of my friends in America about them and that I would never forget them. Realizing that this good-bye was more for me than them, I cut it short by bringing out the candy. They are squealed and jumped up and down as I handed it out. Mr. Masawe had them all stand up and led them in a chorus of ‘good-bye teacher’s and ‘we love you’s. It was more than I could stand.
With tears streaming down my face, I yelled, ‘Let’s Hokey-Pokey!!!!” and we all ran out into the yard and got into a big circle. I yelled out each line and Mr. Masawe translated it as we ‘shook it all about’. When we got to ‘put your whole body in’, the children ran into the middle of the circle and shook themselves with wild abandon, laughing like crazy. Then with one final good-bye, they scattered over the fields towards home. As I looked out at those small figures in blue uniforms I waved until my arm grew numb. When I could no longer see them in the distance, I sat down wearily on the bench. My time at Kilamahewa was over.
I felt wrung out and all I wanted to do was go collapse on my bunk, but there was still a full day ahead, so after a quick lunch with a few of the other volunteers, Christie, Sarah and I headed to Jesca’s house for the rest of the day. We did not know what was in store, but Mamma Digna and Jesca had been asking us to come over all week long, and knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing them again before I left, I was anxious to go.
We walked to Jescas house and upon arriving, found that all of the living room furniture had been moved out into a brick building that was to be their home in the future. They had begun building it some time ago and had run short on funds, so for the time being, it it four walls and a roof. It made the perfect place for a party!
In true Tanzania form, nothing went as planned, and what was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon at Jescas turned into a comedy of errors. Rumor reached the house that one of the Arusha volunteers was in the hospital so we all jumped in a taxi to go see if we could help. We thought it might be one of our friends from the waterfall hike so we hightailed it to the hospital. To make a long story short, it wasn’t one of our friends, but it was a very nice young woman from the Arusha program. She was doing all right and was glad to have the visitors. After a trip to our home base to get her some supplies and a trip back to the hospital to deliver them, we headed to Jesca’s once more.
When we arrived, we were surprised to see that a party had materialized! Approximately thirty of Jesca’s friends and families had come to say welcome to Christie, thank you to Sarah, and good-bye to me! A neighbor wandered around with a camera taking photos and Andrew, our cab driver, settled himself onto the couch to enjoy the festivities. Platters of food were bought out and we all set to a feast that included chicken, rice, plantains, fresh vegetables and fruit. To say that we were touched would be the greatest understatement in the world! We all ate and ate, and as we finished, a wooden box of bottles of soda were brought out. Warm Pepsi has never tasted so good. Knowing what a luxury it was and seeing the joy it brought to these people to share it with us really drove home all the lessons that I had learned about Tanzanian kindness, compassion and generosity.
As we sat and sipped our drinks, Jesca stood up and announced that they had a special surprise for us. She bought out a small round plate with a brown disc on it. Mamma Digna had baked a cake!!!! I know that it might not seem like much to us here in America, but here in Rau, this was huge! Tanzanians do not do desert. No cakes, pies, etc. I cannot imagine for the life of me how Mamma Digna even knew how to bake one! For these people, however, a cake was so symbolic of Americans, and it was something special that they wanted to do for us. Jescas cousin and I held the knife together and cut the cake amidst flash bulbs going off. She then took turns cutting bites and feeding them to each of us with pictures being taken of each one of us and our bite of cake. It was wonderful!
After the cake, Jesca stood up and gave a speech welcoming us all and thanking us. When she began to talk about me and how I was leaving, I just sat there and cried. She sang a good-bye song to me in Swahili and explained that it was about how much I had touched everyone’s life and how much they all loved me. I just sat there and sobbed as I reached up and grasped the wild flower charm that my friend Nicole had sent with me to Africa. She had told me to go and spread the seeds of wild flowers, and sitting on that couch in the middle of an African village, the moon rising up through the open walls, surrounded by people laughing and singing, I decided that this must of been what she meant.
Tears soon gave way to merriment as they turned up the music and we all started to dance. The mzungu tried to imitate the effortless hip swivels that Tanzanians seem to be born with and we all laughed ourselves hoarse. It was ten o’clock when Andrew gave us the high sign. It was time to go. As we all made our way around the room hugging and thanking everyone, I found myself crying again. Last but not least, Jesca and I stood by the taxi embracing. Who would have believed that this quiet young woman would have ended up touching my life so much? As I told her that I believed in her and that I wanted her to see all of her dreams come to fruition, we sobbed and sobbed. Christie, Sarah and I finally climbed into the taxi and headed slowly through the village one final time.
I climbed into my bunk feeling, at the same time, both a sense of heart break and completion. Heart break because I couldn’t bear the thought that all of these people that I have come to treasure might go on to lead lives that I am not a part of, and completion because I know that it is time to go home. The goals that I set for this trip are posted on the wall of the house, and are as follows:
1. To crack my world wide open
2. To make as many children as possible feel valued and loved
3. To help children understand how unique and special they are
4. To be an ambassador for the U.S. and C.C.S
5. To connect with people regardless of language or cultural barriers

Mission accomplished.

But as much as I wanted to touch the people that I met here, it was a small, small thing compared to what they have given me. Families took me into their homes, children hugged me with all of the love that they had to give, and a community made me one of their own. Africa has left my life richer than I ever imagined it could be, and that is what I plan on taking home with me.

“When all is said and done here at the ending of the day, I look out on this world and it still takes my breath away…”
“Robin’s Song” Small Potatoes

Anna aka Mud Butt

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