So, life on the mountain. It’s probably not surprising that things have changed massively over the last two years. When I read back my posts from January last year, its hard to believe that I am in fact the same person as he who arrived here so full of doubt and uncertainty. Life has indeed changed, for the better, forever. There is no way I can go back to the way things were in the UK before I came out here, I don’t think I’m even the same person as before, and all in all, I don’t think I’d want to go back even if I had to.
It’s very likely that my daily life here will change quite significantly again over the next few months, having been through a massive dilemma in my mind to do with people and work, and a general feeling that my time here is closing in. I don’t want to leave this village, or indeed the computer centre or even stop working the way I do, but I am feeling that I can do more, that I don’t need to go back to the UK every six months just to get money, and that in actual fact, I want to go home for a holiday, enjoy my homeland and not feel so utterly lost and hopeless when I’m there. It’s time for a big change, but ideally, what will that change be?
Ultimately, any kind of mad adventure has to have some sort of conclusion or ending credits. Life in a country like Tanzania is a journey in itself, littered with peril and strife just like life back home except for one thing: I’m not from here.
It takes a while at first, being a white man in a black country, to get over the race thing and just get on with it. The problem with that is that it’s not us, the wazungu outsiders who continue to have a problem, it’s some locals who think we’re just walking ATMs or limitless suppliers of school fees and randomly bought sodas and beers. Realistically, none of us that stay here are here for very long, and so it’s completely understandable that this kind of behaviour exists.
Amongst the wazungu crowd in Moshi and Arusha are a real medley of different types of save-the-world and save-themselves people from all walks of life who have come here for nearly every reason imaginable under the thin veil of helping or working voluntarily in development, healthcare, education or whatever. For a person like me, who could realistically fit into any of those categories above, having a life is at best difficult, and most of the time downright frustrating and heartbreaking. I meet new people all the time; I’m the mzungu Rasta in my particular area code, and although I know others exist, most of the peeps in Moshi know me purely because of my hair and the fact that after two years, I’m still here. Nearly everyone else you meet however, is in fact going home, and most of the time sooner than later. Its hard enough to make good friends who aren’t just there to rip you off, but when you meet a good friendthe cost of saying goodbye is almost more expensive than not knowing them in the first place. Just tonight I was on Skype with someone who I met here in Tanzania last year; a good friend; someone I miss dearly, who I will not see again for many months, if not years. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to you if you stay in your home town; this kind of thing is the price you pay for being free and part of the world at large. You become a cynic when faced with a continuing population turnover and the never-ending cycle of explaining you’re not a tourist and aren’t buying their painting or need a guide to go shopping in Moshi. A cynical mind leaves you blind to the very things you came to see. A cynical eye sees only a bleak future, and needs to be shut before it goes blind.
I have followed a friends blog for over two years, until about two months ago it stopped and suddenly no more posts… He met a girl. He stopped his million year trek across the planet on his bicycle and now lives in Chicago with his girlfriend. Hmm.. if only life were so simple? It’s almost become the story of my life, to be close, but no cigar. Having been engaged for two years I know what it’s like to be in love, despite my own love’s ultimate failure and I don’t think I’m cut out for it anymore. There was a time when I would have (and did, more than once) drop everything for that special someone, and push myself into doing something that wasn’t me to feel part of someone’s life; to make them feel like nobody else was important or that they were the only thing I ever thought about, and at that time it would have been true, but now I am incapable of controlling emotions like this, and have surprised myself with my supreme idiocy in recent weeks that proves my point entirely. Its like all-or-nothing pushed to the limits, and it’s crazy. No wonder she ran away. Alas, I think I’m destined to be career-bound for a few years more, before I finally give in, and sadly, that means being one of those people who has to explain what they did with the first 35 years of their life and why they aren’t Mrs Someone’s Husband or Mr Father of three children to their prospective date in years to come. The fact is, I’ve fought against such titles for a long time and have no intention fo suddenly becoming a dad, or moving to Russia or anywhere else to follow a gorgeous girl. I have followed my heart to Africa, and if it ain’t meant to be, then that’s that.
Despite all of this, and moving neatly back to work-related gossip: many opportunities have arisen from my time here, some of them no-hopers and some of them too big for me to tackle on my own, but in among them – I hope – is something that will keep me alive and well in Tanzania, and give me a base upon which to build my future here or elsewhere in the world. I need to stay in education, that’s my life now, and I feel passionately about the way money is spent and distributed in countries like this and how that affects the people on the ground. I started a new blog along with my brother Adrian which will aim to look at these issues in more detail and bring some transparency to the way I’ve done things, and also the way things are being done by others. You can read it over at http://helpingornot.wordpress.com and I do invite all of you to comment, contribute, and I’m especially interested to hear from other volunteers/foreign aid workers who have experiences good or bad they wish to share with the world. It’s a new site, and may well change as time goes on, so hit me up on email to submit an article or let me know what you think.
Back to the crisis at hand, and all is sailing ahead full steam for now with a steadier hand, hardened heart and renewed sense of “let’s just get the fuck on with it” that I hope will see me into the new year with a smile on my face. Some big decisions are ahead, decisions that could shape every facet of my future so I need to pay attention, stop thinking with my dick, and get myself back on the right page.
We can only hope eh?