My plan for 2014 has changed. When I arrived in January, I was to stay in Tanzania for a whole year. Midway through I made the decision to reduce my contract to six months.
No big story. Nothing monumental. I simply decided a year was a little too long, and for me, six months would be a better length of time.
But there are definitely pros and cons to life here in rural Africa.
Among the things I will miss most:
- The students at school are the best. They are probably the sweetest, smartest, most respectful kids I have ever come across. They made my job easy and I really can’t wait to see what’s in store for their future. I’ll miss them so much!
- I’ve met such interesting, kind people and have found it fascinating to learn about their culture – a culture so dramatically different from my own.
- The country is beautiful and I’ve seen some really amazing things. There were many times I had to do a reality check and wrap my head around where I was.
I do not regret my decision to come here; I’ve had an amazing time.
On the flip side, some aspects have been challenging. The three biggest:
- I have very little independence here. There are few things I can do or places I can go without relying on other people. There are many limitations. For someone like me, that’s a big deal.
- I was prepared to move to a very rural town, I just underestimated how isolating it would be. The expat community consists of me and one other volunteer. And as a female, it is harder to make local friends. Women tend to stay home with their family and male-female friendships are uncommon. I have met some wonderful people, but not many I can spend quality time with.
- I appreciate cultural differences and find them fascinating, but there are some aspects that start to becoming wearing after a long period of time. Issues involving female equality probably tops the list.
Living here, I’ve learned I am capable of adapting to any situation, if I have to. But in this case, I don’t have to and it’s time to move on. By exiting now I am leaving with a happy and positive experience; staying longer may have tarnished that.
So what next?
I’m headed to Asia! Why Asia? Because I absolutely loved the area when I was there before and it’s very budget friendly for long-term travel. I have a loose itinerary starting with a week in Hong Kong. I’ve never been and since I really enjoyed Tokyo, I’m hoping for some stiff competition between the two cities. I’ll then spend the rest of July in Thailand -a country I’ve been to and is one of my favorites. I couldn’t imagine being in Asia and not spending time there. Then it’s off to all new destinations: Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and then whichever city I decide to fly home from. Some options are brewing.
I have a target date of November to return to the U.S., but it’s loose.
What will I do?
You don’t get many opportunities in life for a career break and I’m going to take advantage of it while I can. I have the time and because I saved a lot last year, I also have the money. I am so excited!
I’ve planned very little, but here’s what I know for sure:
- I want to eat. After six months in Tanzania, I am ready for Asian food!
- I want to write more for this blog. (I still have more to say about Tanzania.)
- I want to get back into a fitness routine.
- I want to learn to scuba dive.
- I want to relax on beaches.
- I want to make a plan for 2015.
Other than that, the next few months are open for whatever comes. It’s a nice feeling!
Next time you hear from me I’ll be out of Africa and on to Asia. It may be a culture shock!