Tanzania: One month to go…
Jesuit Missions volunteer Ellie Clark is coming to the end of her six months teaching at St Ignatius school in Dodoma, Tanzania.
As I write this, I have just finished my first week of school after the Christmas break here at St Ignatius. It is the beginning of the academic year and for some of the younger children, it is their very first day of school altogether. I feel privileged to witness these new beginnings, both for the staff and the children. For all, the promise the New Year holds is tangible and the things that can (and will) be achieved have created an air of excitement that is captivating.
Celebrating the New Year away from home and in a culture very different from my own was a daunting prospect but, as with all things here, the celebrations turned out to be fascinating and beautiful in their own way. I had a lot of time to reflect and remember all of the wonderful things that I have encountered in this past year – especially in Tanzania. I have realised that no experience is a waste and each day presents fresh and exciting new ways to encounter God’s will; be that learning how to make chapatti with a Tanzanian mama, watching a local fundi (seamstress) create your new wardrobe or greeting a new friend in Kiswahili in the middle of Dodoma city centre.In each and every moment of every single day, I am blessed to witness the simplicity and beauty of life here and I am rewarded with a sense of peace and contentment that I am truly grateful for. Click To Tweet
There is something poetic about the start of the calendar year being married with the start of the academic year. Walking around school, I have seen many familiar faces who have welcomed me back with warm and open arms and as I am no longer ‘new’, I have been able to participate in the life of the school with ease. Something this has brought to my attention is the sense of familiarity St Ignatius now gives me; the staff have become friends and the children are now part of my everyday life. I have been gifted a window into the children’s lives and have felt privileged to have become a ‘member of staff’ that they have looked forward to seeing again.
However, with all of these blessings, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that my time here is coming to an end. As I ponder on this, I am struck by a sense of impending loss. Dodoma has become a home away from home, something that I didn’t think would be possible when I first arrived. All things have become normal and the tasks I once found challenging (like handwashing clothes or not having any hot water) have become parts of my life that I relish: Handwashing clothes now represents an opportunity to catch up and chat with my community and a lack of hot water has encouraged me to become far less wasteful. Now, I am concerned I will find it hard to re-adjust to the life I left behind in the UK. In addition to all of this, I will be leaving behind a community that has been a firm foundation for me to springboard from. We have been united by our desire to serve the children we encounter, and this sense of mission and purpose has given me the strength I’ve needed in times where I’ve felt anxious or overwhelmed. In reality, we have become each other’s second family.
So, as I complete my last month of service in this incredible country, I look forward to a New Year that will be strewn with all of the things I have learned throughout my time here. Now, I am stood on the precipice of a new life, safe in the knowledge that God gives and will always give me the ability to adapt and thrive, no matter how scary the situation might seem.