Saturday, May 17, 2014

Kwaherini Wageni

It's hard to believe it's already May 17, that tomorrow we will be heading to Dar es Salaam, and that on Tuesday I will be back in the states. Now that I think about it, it's weird that four months seems like a whirlwind trip. It's been an incredible time, and I feel very blessed to have had a home to miss and this program to look forward to, and now to have a home to look forward to and this program to miss.
"What's this crazy mzungu doing?" -Eliza
As some of you know, part of the program was a field research component in Mufindi District with the Foxes NGO. The NGO has five sectors: education, health, orphans and vulnerable children, environmental, and community, and serves 16 villages in the area. The village that we lived and worked in was called Igoda Village, and it is also home to the Igoda Children's Village, a series of houses which accommodate ten children and one "house mama" per home. One of these houses is informally known as "the baby house" because it is home to eight precious little ones. My job with the NGO was as an "early childhood therapeutic assistant", which meant that I provided one-on-one care to Eliza, an eighteen-month-old little girl who suffered from malnutrition and failure-to-thrive as an infant and is now the fattest baby in the baby house but still in need of extra attention to meet some of her development objectives. Every day from 7:30 to 12 I was in the baby house playing and doing exercises with her (she is working on improving her leg strength) or some days I picked her up in the morning and took her back to the volunteer house where I was staying.
Some of her favorite things are playing peek-a-boo by pulling a hat over her face, practicing her standing, and singing. Some areas she's working to improve are moving independently, expressing emotion, and the aforementioned leg strength. This job wasn't really up my alley in terms of gaining experience that is applicable to my future career, and at first, to be honest, I found it boring. But seeing Eliza improve over the time I was there was incredible. One of my mini-goals for Eliza to accomplish while I was there was to clap her hands all by herself, because she likes to hold onto other people's hands and clap them together but won't clap independently--or, I should say, she didn't until the last day that I worked with her. It was great to be able to see that!

When I wasn't looking after Eliza, I was working on the quite hefty assignments from my University of Iringa professors or on my own research for Justin's Field Research course. My research was on self-efficacy and self-esteem in two villages, one which was served by the NGO and the other which wasn't. The data collection was intense, because even though the data was collected via survey, the surveys had to be administered orally because of concerns about the area's high illiteracy rate. Bw. Paulo was awesome during this phase, translating the questionnaire into Swahili and accompanying me on the interviews to help translate and avoid cultural misunderstandings. Libe, an employee of the NGO, also came with me on some of the interviews and was very helpful as well.
Research in rural areas is difficult for several reasons. Rural roads make it difficult to get around, and patchy or non-existent (mostly the latter in my case) internet and phone service makes literature reviews and communication difficult. At the same time, much of the Tanzanian population lives in rural areas (not to mention those living in rural areas worldwide) which makes research in these areas essential for making these populations statistically visible. And, geeky person that I am, I really enjoyed doing the research that I was interested in and having so much support from the NGO and from Justin and Paulo.

And now that I've pretty much told you about what I was doing over there, I'm just going to take a moment to talk, with the aid of pictures, about how gorgeous Mufindi is. I can talk about the rolling green hills with the mist rolling over them every morning, the glittering spider-webs (with about a thousand giant spiders on them), and the bright flowers. I can also talk about how we were there during the rainiest of rainy seasons and how the dress I wore on Easter still has the mud stain (despite washing) it acquired when I slipped in the sticky clay while walking to the festivities (but I won't.)

This will be my last post from this trip, but I look forward to telling you more when I get back. There's so much to say about the past few months that I will have to do my best not to annoy everyone. The best thing about it has been the people. I have loved getting to know my fellow students and professors, and spending time with my dadas here (even if they don't want to talk about the nature of the self). From our last "daladala" ride to our last trip to Hasty Tasty (an Iringa restaurant that lives up to it's name, especially the "tasty" part), I have started to realize how much I will miss being a part of this program. Before starting the program, my brother, mom, and I were talking about the importance of being invested in whatever you do without looking backwards or forwards too much--in essence, "being where you are." To express this we said "home is where your self is," and although I have often thought about home while I was here, I think that everyone did a good job of bringing their selves along on the journey and investing in the people they came into contact with. As we leave this program, it will not be a struggle to reconcile "being where we are" with bringing our memories with us. Like our memories of our homes, the memories we have made over the past few months have become a part of our selves. And so, my sisters, I am using the topic you have avoided all this time to finish my writings about this trip, but I hope you know what I mean.

1 comment:

  1. I am so jealous Julia that you got to spend amazing time with Eliza. She is such a darling!!!!! You go girl!!!!!
    Nakutakia mema!