Monday, July 4, 2016

Final Thoughts… by Brenna Amundson

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

As this trip comes to an end, there’s a lot of thoughts going through my head, along with everyone else’s I assume. A lot has happened these past 17 days. There’s been some downs, but along with that, an overbearing amount of ups. But it’s these ups and downs that make the trip what it is. McMorrow has said that each year is a different year for him, despite being in the same place and having similar action plans. For example, we were the first group of students to have to deal with bed bugs, and he has also had to deal with a lot of giggles during prayer *cough cough chaperones*. Thinking back to the quote that I started with, we will truly never be this way again. We have all gained a new perspective of life from this trip I believe, some more than others, but again, we were told from the beginning of this experience that we determine the quality of our trip. I know that I will miss the person who I am now at this time and place. No matter how hard I try to be that person back home in Minnesota, it just won’t be the same. But like I said, a lot of thoughts are buzzing around Hartebeest lodge on our final night in Tanzania. The people we met, the places we’ve been, and the lessons we learned are just some of the things we’ll remember when I think back to the summer where we went to Africa. 

For starters, we met many wonderful people throughout our time here who could not have made the trip possible without them. We have Baba Dickie, or as most of you know him, Mr. McMorrow. We technically didn’t meet him on this trip, but we have come to know him in a different way than we did before. This whole experience wouldn’t have even been available to us if he wouldn’t have had that dream to return to Tanzania after one visit. He has put in countless amount of hours in planning and communicating with people here and making it the trip that it was. Next, there’s all the staff at our lodge, with David and Aiden to name a few. These two have not left the lodge since we got here and have done everything to make our stay as awesome as it has been. Along with them, there’s all the ‘back of the house’ staff, and Victor who takes down the flags and keeps watch each night. Then there’s Juma, the man who lives here and has done all the planning for McMorrow that he couldn’t do. He’s a great guy to talk to, has a beautiful family, and is an awesome dancer… we learned this at cultural night. Another person who has made a major impact on this trip is Jesca. You learned about her in a previous blog, but until you meet her, you don’t really know how amazing she actually is. Mama Cindy described her as a modern day saint, and I can fully attest that this is a true statement. She is a strong and beautiful woman who has dreams and goals that will take her very far in life. Another person, or actually group of people, are all the citizens of Tanzania that we have come across. Some we got to know well, but many remained strangers. Regardless of our relationship with them, they always offered a warm “Jambo!”, a friendly smile, and in some cases, their phone number to be their friend. We also got to know one another who went on this trip a lot better, all the students and chaperones. Without the group that we were, there wouldn't have been the experience that there was. 
Along with meeting a lot of people, we went to a lot of places. Marangu Falls to start the trip and Manyara National Park & Ngorongoro Crater to end the trip gave us glimpses into God’s creation and how beautiful our world actually is. Ngorongoro took my breath away, and while seeing all the animals I had to remind myself that this was real life and not just a Disney ride. We also created a ton of memories at these places, playing in the freezing water of the falls and pointing out animals from our safari cars. We also got to see the village of Mikocheni. These people were living in situations that many of us couldn’t even imagine, yet they all came out to greet us and welcome us to their village. Seeing the way that people lived really made us all appreciate and feel blessed to have what we have. Visiting the women’s group was another one of our opportunities. With the mamas, we got to make coffee, wash sorghum, dig a “dam”, and have home visits. During these home visits, we went in pairs with a mama and she invited us into her house. These women live in houses with 2 to 3 rooms each, yet welcomed us in there and were proud to show us where the live and what they have. Their hard work and attitude they show each day really shows us how strong, powerful and proud these women are. For seven days of our time here, we got to visit some worksites as well. I was at the orphanage each day, but coming back and hearing the stories from those who went to Agano and Uru was really cool and interesting. My experience at the orphanage was one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. From day one there, I hung out with a boy named Johnson, who was not much older than age one. He is a little guy who loved to giggle and laugh, and give me fake pouts then grin. I never knew someone so small could leave such a big impact on my heart. He was just one kid I got to know, but many others have plenty of stories I’m sure they would love to tell if you asked. Tanzania has so many amazing places to visit, and someday I hope to return to them.

Throughout this trip, we also learned a lot of important lessons and messages. One of them, a commonly said Swahili phrase, was pole pole. It means slow down. In Tanzania, they like to let life happen as it goes, not rush through it. If mass was supposed to start at 8 am, but didn’t start until 8:30, well, pole pole. The bus was supposed to pick us up at the orphanage at 12, but didn’t get there until 12:45, well, pole pole. Take the time to just let things happen, don’t make them happen. Slow down and don’t get caught up in the everyday jumble of people, and meetings and technology. We also learned about ndotos, or in English, dreams. The whole purpose of this trip was to take us out of the ordinary and get us involved in something that’s extraordinary. Being in this situation allowed us to think about some dreams we have, and how we want to accomplish them in our life. McMorrow encouraged us to dream big, because “It’s those big dreams in life that make life interesting.” Another common phrase throughout the trip was, “Be present, keep two feet in Africa.” Although there was things going on at home, we tried to keep our mindset in Africa and just live here in the moment, because who knows when the next time we return here will be. Another phrase that we were taught here was “Always look up, never look down.” This means that we should always look below us and be grateful for what we have, and never look above and yearn for what we want or think we need. One final message is take action and do something. We came here on a mission for service, and just because the trip ends doesn’t mean that idea for service needs to end. As McMorrow says, “we live in a world of mess, so jump into it and act.” That doesn’t mean that we need to hop on a plane and fly halfway across the world again, because there’s plenty we can do back home without doing that. This trip has taught us a lot of things, both about what’s going on around us and about our personal self. Bringing these lessons and messages home is something many of us hope to do.

All in all, this trip has been an amazing and eye-opening experience. Right now it may not seem like it was a trip that has changed our life, but looking back on it I have a feeling that many of us will look at it that way. Years from now I hope we are able to go back and read the blog, go through our journals, and look through pictures and remember the time we had here. While I know many of us are excited to go home, it will be sad leaving behind a place that has created all these memories. So to everyone at home, we’re excited to see you and hug you, and please ask us about our time here because we have a lot to share. As I started with a quote, I feel like it’s only right to finish with one that I’ve been thinking about the past couple of days that can relate to this trip in many ways. Kwaheri Tanzania, it’s been good.

“But the most beautiful things in life are not just things. They’re people and places, memories and pictures. They’re feelings and moments, and smiles and laughter.”

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