So far I’ve seen a zebra alongside the road like I would a deer in Minnesota, heard a goat crying in the morning the way I would a rooster, and enjoyed my first “bucket shower”.
For now, I’ll introduce you to why I’m here in the first place and look ahead to the posts to come from now until August.
After getting back from China in 2011, I had had my fill of life in that part of the world, so wanted to get back to my family and friends, clean tap water, and life as I knew it in Minnesota. But I also knew that I wasn’t done exploring new places. Being in China revealed so much about life there, life in America by comparison, and life in general. (In fact, I wrote a book about it. See to the right.) As soon as I got back, I began some casual brainstorming about where I’d head to next.
Old contacts and new ones made forthwith pointed me in the direction of East Africa. The icing on the cake was meeting Evaristo Sanga.
Evaristo moved to America from Tanzania in 1994 when he was sponsored by an American family to attend college. He earned his degree in computer science, currently works as a software engineer, and resides in Minneapolis with his wife and two boys. Not long after starting his career, he also started raising money for a school in his home village of Magulilwa, Tanzania.
I asked Evaristo how we could work together. Their school is always looking for support, and I wanted to see that part of the world.
“We need computers”, Evaristo told me.
I started an online fundraiser this last summer, and was able to raise a couple grand for laptops. In exchange, the school paid for a plane ticket. I’d be heading to rural Tanzania in late January 2014 and teaching for the spring term–installing the computers and teaching their 12-17 year old students how to use them.
There are many hurdles to this task–electricity, Internet, language, transportation, availability of goods–but I’m excited for the challenge and grateful for the chance to live and explore this part of the world. As I did in China, I’ll be sharing stories of interactions and encounters, people and wildlife, ways and insights, using word, picture, and–if the Internet cooperates–video.
After I teach through the end of May, the penciled-in plan is to spend the next weeks traveling around East Africa. Of the connections I already had in Kenya, an unexpected Ugandan relationship budded just days before I flew out.
About a week before I left Minnesota, I needed to sell my car. That morning, I brought it to the full service car wash. While I was paying, a black man with a eye patch walked passed and into the washing garage.
Intrigued by his pirate look, I asked the lady behind the desk, “Does he work here?”
“How did he lose the eye?”
“I’ve never asked. He’s from Uganda,” she offered.
Thankfully I was the only customer at the time, so I left my car to dry and struck up a conversation with the man. He pulled out an atlas to show me where he was from and where his sons currently live.
“Can I have their numbers?” I asked.
He gladly offered them to me saying, “This makes me so happy.”
I wasn’t exactly sure why. I think the idea of a Minnesotan guy connecting with his world was a thrill. I never got around to asking about the eye patch, but I hope to contact his sons in Uganda.
This serendipitous exchange reminded me how travel becomes amazing: making a connection with someone there and get involved with the real life of the area. It also served as an example of how everyday people you meet can have an impact.
Two day ago–and after two days of four flights, hours and hours of layovers, German airport security waking me up to make sure I was a passenger and not a vagrant, lugging around a 45 lb carry-on bag filled with computers, and landing in Dar es Salaam minus one checked-in bag–I arrived to Tanzania.
I am now writing this from a coffee shop in Iringa, the city nearest my village, Magulilwa.
I’ll do my best to produce weekly pieces updating the computer project, the ways of life here, and new events that unfold. If the first two days are any indication, there will much to write and read about.
I hope you can come along.