Hello my beautiful people,
How do I start to say I’m sorry? I have never abandoned my blog for this long before. I actually planned to write after I got back from Tanzania but I went through a tough time and I could not bring myself to write anything. I am good now. I am in a happy place – probably the happiest I have been in a long time. I am still stressed though because school is kicking my ass but I am great. I wrote something about my trip to Tanzania and I want to share that with you all. I wrote it at the Tanzanian Airport while waiting for my plane to return so everything is exactly as I wrote it. Please read and enjoy.
Atte Leskinen photography.
Oh…if Bi Kelly were alive to see me now.
Almost 11 years ago, a woman walked into my class. I had just started secondary school. It was my first year. This woman was thick, dark skinned and extremely beautiful. She embodied confidence. She came in and spoke in a strange accent. I started to wonder what part of Nigeria she came from and I settled on the Northern side. Boy, how wrong I was! She came from Kenya and she was going to be teaching us Kiswahili. I had never heard of this language before in my life although, to be fair I was just 9 years old. However, this woman was just so bright and bubbly that I was willing to buy whatever she was selling. I never thought that I would ever have to make use of Swahili in my life….
Years later, I decided to go on a trip to Tanzania by myself. Well, I needed a sponsor and after writing a proposal to my mum, she thought it would be a good idea. I was going to do a media and journalism internship. I was excited. To be honest, a part of me thought the trip was not going to happen. About two years ago, I wanted to go to Peru to do some volunteer work. However, after paying for the ticket, my mum changed her mind on me going. I was 18 at the time. It was understandable. I was going to be taking about 3 planes just to get there and with all the craziness going on in the world at the time, my mum felt uncomfortable but she did tell me that she would consider it again at a different time. So, you can understand why I thought this trip might not happen. Even with all her support, I can be a very careless person (something I am trying to change) and I thought that I might do something wrong that would not make the trip happen. However, when everything seemed to be going good – volunteering paid for, flight paid for, visa done – I started to get really nervous as the day was approaching. I started to wonder if I could actually do it. I started asking myself what I was thinking trying to do it. All my friends were supportive. Some of them were like, ‘Dolly you are weird. I do not know anyone else that would do this’. By the way, I take weirdness as a compliment. I am proud of my weirdness. At least I’m not boring. Anyway, I was nervous from the moment I left my house till I landed in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
My lovely students
We got to the volunteer house and it was something I had never seen before. The volunteers and interns were living in rooms made of bamboos. It is important to note that these rooms were built by volunteers. The Madale volunteer house, where I stayed was practicing being Eco-friendly. So, it meant we used dry toilets. This meant that the toilets were not flushed. In the bathroom, holes were made in wood and toilet seats were put on them. There were two – one for peeing and one for pooping. In the one used for peeing, you could not put toilet paper in it. When you peed, you use the tissue and put it in the pooping toilet. Since there was no flushing, it meant that everyone in a room would pee in there. The pee would eventually be flown through a pipe to help with the plants. The pooping one was more interesting. When you poop, you use your tissues and then you put sawdust in it. Eventually, this would be dry enough to be used as fertiliser for the plants. Whenever I used the toilets, I tried not to look down. Lol. I never sat on the toilet seats. I did the squatting style. Lol. Anyway, for showers, we fetched water from the tank outside because Madale did not have runny water and then we would take our showers with the cold water bringing me back to my secondary school days.
Anyway, for the first couple of nights, it was surreal for me. I could not believe that I actually made it there. After the orientation I wanted to know what I was going to do immediately. Unfortunately, organisation was a bit messed up. One of the volunteers told me that it was always better if you had something in mind that you wanted to do. I had no clue what I wanted to do. I mean, I had just gotten there. I was going to be there for two weeks and I wanted to make it count. I am not the most creative person. I thrive better on structure. So, when I was not sure of what I was going to be doing coupled with the fact that I was feeling a bit homesick and I felt like I was the weird one out of everyone, I broke down. I spoke to my boyfriend and I was a mess. I was just crying to him on the phone and telling him that I had no idea what I was doing here. I wanted to come home. He tried to comfort me. He told me I had just gotten there and I should remember how excited I was. He told me I would get a hang of it soon and he said that when it was over, I would be the one telling him how awesome it was.
The Volunteer House
After that day, things got better. Someone gave me the idea of filming interviews with volunteers. Another told me about the organisations blog and how I could write on it and I thought, ‘You know what? That is right up my alley.’ I was going to focus on filming but someone was already doing something like that. So, I decided to record the interviews and transcribe it on the blog. I also joined forces with some of the other interns to go out with them and film and take pictures to also put on the blog. I also signed up to teach English on Wednesday and Friday evenings to some of the children and I started to feel like I was doing something. I started to teach the toddlers but as cute as they are, it was exhausting and a lot of work. So, when I taught Level 3 English to some of the older kids. I felt something click in me. I felt like I was doing something meaningful. When they call me ‘Teacher Dolly’, the smile on my face and in my heart is something that cannot be replicated.
I started to feel like I was on a journey of self discovery. I felt myself change in a good way. I realised how much I actually started to love myself – which is something that has felt unachievable for the longest time. I knew that I never wanted to be anyone else. This is Dolly. This is Dolapo. This is me. Who else can be like me? It is just one of me in the entire world and I am special and unique. The other volunteers, interns and I went to Mbudya Island during my first weekend there and it was so beautiful. I wanted to swim but I couldn’t for two reasons:
1. I didn’t have a bathing suit and
2. Even if I did have one, I would have been a little ashamed to show my body because I have added some weight in the last year
But….for the first time, even though I felt a bit insecure about my body, it wasn’t because I was wishing to be someone else. I loved who I am. I was just upset at myself for not being healthier but it was something I am determined to work on. However, I love who I am now.
On Friday, while I was on the way to the National museum to take some pictures and enjoy the sights, I realised that I had focused so much on coming home, that I didn’t realise that I had absolutely come to love this place. I had met people who smiled when they saw me. I felt like I had mattered in this place. I discovered a bit about myself. I had done this on my own despite all my self-doubt. I even learned to take better pictures because I had taken a photography class with Atte, one of the volunteers. I even learned a little bit more Swahili because I had forgotten a lot about what Bi Kelly had taught me. Being here has been a chapter in my life that I would always cherish
Sitting here in the Dar Es Salaam Airport getting ready to take off. Tanzania, you have been good to me. Bi Kelly would be proud of me.
Thank you guys so much for being patient with me. I will try making a video of my trip and share more photos on another post. Love you guys so much.!