Kili Kate, The Late Update

Tanzania's flag
Africa » Tanzania » North » Mount Kilimanjaro
August 31st 2018
Published: August 31st 2018
Edit Blog Post

I honestly don't remember when I bathed last. I run my fingers through my hair and determine it's less than 7 days. Definitely more than 4. My bed's not really made.. I felt a little guilty when I crawled under the covers last night and poor Theodore was face down, all crumpled up. The hamsters are off the wheel.

Here's the thing.. other than Theodore's comfort.. I don't care. I don't care that the kids walked all over my floor mat in their shoes when we were baking cookies together. I don't care that there might be a new species of tree growing under my armpits. I don't care that I didn't count my macros today or that my run was 4.9 miles instead of 5. I don't care that my walls aren't perfectly primed and painted like my last house, or that I didn't save time to burn an extra 200 calories walking.

Maybe, to you, this freedom is normal. Let me re-f*cking phrase. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, THE BRAIN HAMSTERS ARE CHILLIN.

I have NEVER not cared. I care too much. I worry, lose sleep over deadlines, goals, and numbers, be it carbohydrate intake or dates for a grant project. In fact, I could give you more examples of how I've always cared too much, but thinking about caring makes me want to care, and frankly, f*ck that sh*t. I'd ask you to pardon my French, but I don't care.

This morning, I woke naturally before the sunrise. I opened my little blue door to my porch that clings to the edge of the mountain and watched the sun peek its way through the banana trees. The pink and orange flame crested over the purple hue of the peaks; the kind of quiet you only get in the ville wrapped itself like a blanket around me. I let my water boil while I breathed through my sun salutations, and I genuinely spoke my gratitude.

For what? I can't put it into words. I can't even take a picture of it-- of what it feels like when Peace Corps strips you bare to remind you that you never needed clothes to begin with. Of what it feels like to take the "other" out of people you meet because you share their language and understand their jokes. How, when you live here, you have this stupifying realization that all kids are the same. (They wiggle a little bit, straining, when they ask for a treat and aren't sure you'll say yes. They find out another kid got a treat, and run to you for verification, betrayed by your criminal act of generousity. They act out songs and movements they see in media, and they tell you to look! and watch!, constantly--often in rounds one after the other when they've literally drawn a line on a piece of paper. I can promise you, your kid who's learning Mandarin or sitting in a Montessori style classroom acts exactly like those kids you see on the cover of National Geographic that make you feel burdened by the saddness of their lives. Sure, there's some saddness-- but mostly there's giggling, joy, and a human desire for affection and sweets.)

The thing is, I can talk all day about One Love and humanity, but you just. cant. feel. it. until you yourself are isolated and integrating into a foreign community.

All that being said, I feel like I've found my place. A place where I took a good look inside myself and pulled out the parts that were ugly. I promised I would come to my new village with an open heart and an emphasis on my community rather than fulfilling complicated grant projects. Day one, all doors and windows open, neighbors marched in and out of my house, cleaning mouse poo off the floor and welcoming me to Kilimanjaro. Cooking with my windows open, I call to neighbors through the leaves of the papaya trees that brush my windowsill and promise fruit next month. I spend time with the other vijana (yes, the age group that caused me all the problems in Njombe), teasing them for not having any girls around, translating English rap songs they've been hearing on repeat, and even going on runs with them. Believe it or not, one of the young men saw me smell a rose and picked it for me a few minutes later. I go out in the evenings, helping my neighbor Maria prepare food for guests that are eating at her guesthouse on the mountain. She stuffs me with their leftovers, and I look forward to the rice and beans that I so vehemently avoided in my last village, scared to gain weight. Walking through the beautiful Pare Mountains, I hop over endless streams, greet villagers in their Kipare tribal language, and scold the rare teen that cat-calls me, using my improved Swahili.

The people here are exceptional. All Tanzanians are so welcoming and kind, but the Wapare tribe is known for their friendliness and kind souls. When a single teen from another village shouted "meow" as he passed by me the other day, I told him off and thought nothing of it, joking with the mamas about my attempt to yell in Swahili. The next day, the head of the primary school, the head of the agriculture committee, the head of the carpentry school, AND a group of mamas approached me separately to ask me what had happened and assure me that it would be swiftly resolved. I was shocked that anyone even knew this ONE cat call had happened, let alone CARED! I don't even know how anyone found out.. it was such a non-issue in comparision to my experiences in my former site. (Not to say that there weren't extremely caring people in Njombe-- they kept me alive!) Still, I'm amazed at how I already feel integrated into this community. They are my family.

Getting here was stressful. Leaving one site is never pleasant. Aside from closing grant projects and travel logistics, you face all of the people you love and cry with them as you explain that you don't have a choice but to leave.

When I walked to Jericho and Christina's house to say goodbye, I caught Jericho off guard, cutting grass for his cows that have provided me endless liters of fresh milk. He was in a deep squat with his machete, as we often are in the village, and looked up to see me crying. He stood and turned around, hiding his own tears before finally readying himself to tell me how I'd never be forotten.

Upendo, who's saved my ass a number of times, and religiously came to English class, came to my door wiping tears from her eyes. I have never seen a Tanzanian woman cry. These women are fierce and rarely show emotion. I knew her saddness was authentic and therefore extremely humbling.

Saying goodbye to Lawrence, Benson, and the rest of my dedicated project committee was equally difficult. On my last day, I had moved all of my things outside, waiting for the Peace Corps car to come when they told me it would be the following morning before they arrived. What an emotional roller coaster!! I had to remake my bed, scrounge up some remaining food, and sleep anxiously, saying goodbye again the next morning. It was two full days of travel to arrive in the far north-easten corner of the country, but as the land-cruiser bumped its way up the mountain, the peacefulness has already begun to emcompass me.

The good news is that all of the grants were closed! over 2500 trees will still be planted in Nyumbanitu village, OFSP continue to grow, and the chickens seem to be doing well. Leaving those chickens just DAYS before their first eggs was disappointing. I gifted them to a villager, Godfrey, who has been dedicated to our projects but missed out on the chicken grant. As a "thank you," he brought me a huge bag of avocados that are ripening in rounds here in Kilimanjaro.

Since arriving to my new site, we've already begun preparation for two projects. My intention is to avoid a major grant by combining micro-grants and utilizing other available resources. The pre-existing mama's group already has a Village Community Bank from which they draw and return loans to eachother. Our hope is to begin producing small scale crafts that will contribute to the sustainability of the ViCoBa and link them to markets for income generation. The rest of the village is 100% on board to plant OFSP, which makes my heart sing! We will start the first round of planting in August and hopefully continue to solar drying before I leave next year. I'm thanking the Universe for an opportunity to share this project again, making my preparation easier and the journey more efficient!

In other news, I head to Europe at the end of this week for a 16 day sabbatical with My Love! Barcelona and Marseille are calling to me with their nutella croissants, liters of wine, and romantic, seaside kisses. I know we are going to overindulge the hamsters and reignite a love that's transcended oceans.

There's so much more that I could update you on, like the guy who was boiling a full cows head on the roadside last week, its eyes still open and staring at me... or the groups of tourists that pay to spend a night in a remote village and hike the mountains of my new home (it is SO weird seeing people that look like me, wandering around while I do laundry from a bucket on my porch).

I didn't pay for this experience, for these tree-fresh bananas, or this sunrise over the mountains. Nope, I just live here. I live somewhere that fruit falls from the sky and people help each other. Where calories and clean sheets don't measure worth, and where an open heart is the only door to success. I live in paradise where time slows down. And therefore, the hamsters and me? We just don't care.

More after Europe.

With Love,

Kili Kate and mountain hamsters


Tot: 0.215s; Tpl: 0.013s; cc: 10; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0991s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb