I know what Iris is going to say when her and Samira come home from their meeting at SAUT. She’ll ask us what Nuri and I got for lunch, and then she’ll say “chipsi mayai, again?!” It may or may not be what we’ve gotten for lunch the past three days (or maybe more…I can’t remember).

We’re settling into routines and getting things done with our projects. I’ve learned to tell Maimuna to let me know if there is anything that I can do, it makes her happy and makes me feel useful. I’ve looked at proposals, written things for events, and am working towards getting things solidified for the event. Slowly but surely. I’ve written a proposal for the interviews that Maimuna wants me to do, have compiled questions, and am currently working out who should be conducting said interviews.

In other words, things are going really well.

I didn’t do much this weekend other than burn through a novel and text the other girls asking when they want to go out and grab some food. We’ve all settled into our own things, have figured out who needs space and who doesn’t and when, and have found that we all get along pretty well. These girls, the other interns, are really special girls. I’m happy to be spending my summer with them. They’re all caring, supportive, and fun. Iris makes us all laugh on a regular basis. We know we can talk to Nuri about anything. We’ve started calling Samira “mom” sometimes. It’s been really neat getting to know them.

I’m settling into a routine. Time is flying by, and I’m starting to have a lot of mixed feelings about that.

I want to go home. I’m missing big things that are happening in my brothers’ lives. I’m missing long conversations with my parents. I’m missing deep talks with good friends. I’m missing in-person obsessions over course registration and summer jobs. I’m missing watching the kids of my friends grow. I’m going to be missing visits with extended family, something that doesn’t happen enough as it is. A whole summer is happening back at home, and I’m not a part of it at all. I miss that, and after three months I’ll be happy to return and become part of everything again.

I no longer feel that three months won’t be enough time for us. Even if we stuck around for longer, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see the results that we’d want, whatever those expected results were. We’ll do our best in three months, learn from it all, love and care as much as possible, and it will be good. We’ll experience things and learn how to make it in a different context.

I read a novel this weekend that I would’ve normally read back home. The other girls and I have regular movie nights. We’ve decided on the foods that we like and don’t like, and have figured out where to get cheap food and where to splurge on good food. My diet is by no means balanced (chipsi mayai is just an omelette with fries in it) but I’m eating good food and have managed to only get a little sick once (knock on wood…I haven’t been feeling great today). I’ve assumed a new normal in Mwanza, Tanzania, and it’s really not that different from life back home.

Even as I count how many days until I’ll be landing in Pearson Airport, imagining myself seeing my parents again and asking them to stop to pick up some long-missed food (right now the first food item that I’ll want when I get back is a toss-up between a cinnamon bun and a whole bag of baby carrots), I know I’ll miss Mwanza. I know I’ll miss its beauty, its people, its pride, its liveliness, and more specifically everyone that I’ve had the chance to meet here. Mwanza is such a special place, and while there are differences and ups and downs, I am so happy to be here. I’m happy to have gotten to know the other interns, I’m so blessed to have so many people supporting us and willing to give us all a helping hand, and I’m happy to have the chance to grow and learn in this space.

I have times when I’m stressed out. I have times when I don’t want to leave my room, or times when I’m sick of seeing the inside of my room. I have times when I don’t know how I can be of help. I have times when I’m really hard on myself, and (more recently) times when I realize that I can’t be so hard on myself.

I have learned so much about myself it’s ridiculous. I have learned that I don’t like to have to depend on people, but that it’s okay to depend on people. Sometimes you have no choice. I’ve learned that I can’t hold myself to impossible standards or I’ll always lose. I’m still working on a lot of things, but half the battle is realizing and learning. This sounds so fluffy and kind of silly (i.e. Andrea came to Africa and found herself), but it’s true. You take yourself out of your regular routine and familiar context, and this stuff happens. You learn from how you cope, adjust, and work. This isn’t a new concept, but I suppose it’s new to me. I knew I’d come back “changed” (whatever that means), but I had no idea what Mwanza would do to me.

I’m working hard, allowing myself down time and fun time, being social but knowing when I need space, and am finally seeing some progress. Not in the time that I want, and not the progress that I envisioned. But whatever I envisioned was incompatible with reality anyways.

Fruit for dinner tonight, and maybe I’ll have some chapatti. As good as chipsi mayai is, it kind of hangs out in your stomach for a while.

One thought on “Chipsi

  1. Amara

    Its interesting to hear the how much you have learned, in this instance about yourself. In my own way learning about myself is what I have been trying this summer as well. Its on a much smaller scale but I feel like it gives me some kind of connection with you.

    In a lot of ways I feel much the same, I feel like I am not getting done everything I envisioned and yet realizing that of course things don’t ever pan out the way you imagined. I don’t think I have really learned much about myself, one of my goals, however I have learned so many other things.

    Basically my overall take is that when you get back I feel like we need to have some long life chats.


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