The great escape

Phew! Feels like I escaped Arusha with a million hands clinging to my ankles, begging me to stay and help some more. I want to help as much as I possibly can, but there’s only so much I can do. It’s really overwhelming. I’m glad that Danio is not asking for help but just accepting what I give him, and even tolerating my tantrum over my embarrassing luxury problem as if it were a real problem. But then, Tanzanians don’t complain or express any sort of negative emotions. Waow. It makes me nauseous to think that the money I spent on shipping is two month’s salary of his dream job. Two month’s salary of a middle-class income in TZ. and I complained about having to go to the ATM twice to get it.

I came hoping to get perspective, but if anything I suspect this trip made me want to retreat deeper into my American Princess lifestyle. Poverty scares the living shit out of me. Danio and I ate at a nice Ethiopian restaurant, and they had a fireplace. When I mentioned I have one too, D asked me if I cook in it, and when I told him I didn’t, he replied “You know, if you were cooking, working over a charcoal stove every day and taking care of the kids and all, your color would change, maybe you’d turn black too…” Wow. I told him there’s no way I could live like that, the village life is not for me. If I moved back here, I’d have some huge house with a full staff to do all that stuff. I’d be too busy making money to cook all day and take care of kids. Yes, everyone here seems to be handling it quite well, but I have never known what it’s like to be poor, and the thought of being poor in a country as poverty-stricken as TZ scares me much more than the idea of being poor in the US. Yes, poor people, at least in TZ, seem to have richer social lives, the TZ people are so incredibly friendly and charming. But do wealth and compassion have to be inversely proportional? I know I want to help people, even when I do have money, but I don’t like being around people so much, especially when I feel like some kind of celebrity, being pulled in every direction by so many people who see me primarily as a potential source of income.

It’s a relief to be away from all that desperation. In Arusha, much of it is contrived, as their vendors, streetchildren (many of whom are runaway drug addicts) and flycatchers are known for being exceptionally aggressive. And with the wealth of food readily available there, I know those people aren’t actually starving, as evinced by the rarity of emaciation. Everyone keeps cows, goats and chickens, plus banana, corn and avocado practically grow wild, right in the middle of town. The big problem is school fees, I read that something like only 5% of the TZ population goes to secondary (Jr. high and high) school, and that even those who do, face tremendous difficulty finding work. On a lighter note, here’s one of my favorite memories; when the monkey snuck around behid me and snatched the mango piece right out of my hand. Whitney has great timing with her camera!