The night I arrived in Tanzania, my project coordinator taught me one of the most important phrases that I would need throughout my time here, and alternatively, one of the hardest things for me to get used to.
Pole, pole (which translates to slowly, slowly in English) is the most beautiful, and so far, the most difficult thing to acclimate to. Everything here is pole, pole. Westerners often refer to it as running on “Africa time” and I truly underestimated it before I arrived.
The dala dala (the main form of public transport here in Arusha) stops constantly to pick up more people into an already claustrophobic van. A drive that would take 10 minutes in the United States, quickly becomes a 30-40 minute endeavor and honestly, I’m still trying to get used to it. Meals can take 2-3 hours and it seems like people even walk slower here. There have already been multiple occasions on which I was supposed to be picked up or meet someone in town and they do not arrive until 30 minutes to an hour after we had planned.
But Tanzanians don’t move slowly because they don’t value your time, it is actually quite the opposite. One of the reasons people are always moving slowly is because of the importance of community. People here love one another in a way that I have never seen before. At first, I was a little freaked out by the number of times strangers just came up to me to say hello and ask me how I was doing, but I have since realized that the vast majority of these people don’t have any ulterior motives, they just care about everyone. People will drop everything to go help a friend or even a stranger, and honestly, it is the most beautiful thing. For example. today, I was having some problems with my cell phone service and the man who helped set up my phone came and met me for no charge just to make sure things were working again. This man who barely knows me was willing to take time out of the one day a week that he does not work in order to make sure that I was okay.
The second reason I think Tanzania thrives on being pole, pole is because of the lack of a need to be busy that seems to run rampant in the States. Back home, it seems as though being busy is something to be admired, but here, people take their time in everything that they do and honestly, they’re happier for it. They stop to say hello to one another, take time in activities that we rush through, and give themselves space to breathe. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I do not know how to be still with myself at all, but I think that will greatly change after my time here. Tanzania is already teaching me that it is okay to give yourself space to be still, and I am already feeling calmer and more at peace for it.
I have been in Tanzania for just a few short days and I feel as though I have already learned more than I could have ever hoped for. On Friday, I had my orientation for my teaching project and I could not be more excited. I will be teaching a group of 8-12 children aged 2-6 in foundational English. I was able to observe in the classroom that I will be working in and the kids are filled with a joy so contagious that you cannot do anything but smile when you are around them. This place has already changed my life. I can only hope and pray that my time here goes by just like everything else in Tanzania...pole, pole.
Song of the Week: Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd