Musings: now that the countdown has begun

In four weeks today, I’ll have landed in Toronto’s Pearson Airport and will be sitting at home. Preferably with my mom making me food and stuff; I’ve resolved to guilt her into making me a cake for when I arrive home, she doesn’t know this yet. Sitting here on the porch of Lydia’s house, surrounded by beautiful greenery, hills and rocks characteristic to beautiful Mwanza, and a lovely breeze to counteract the heat of the midday, it’s hard to believe that I’ll be saying goodbye to this place so soon. I’ve come to call this place my second home. However, I will be happy to go back to Canada.

It should be noted, first, that Lydia is a wonderful woman who is now executing the rest of the MikonoYetu interviews for me. She is a dream to work with, incredibly kind and caring, and has welcomed us into her home that she shares with her sister with open arms. This was especially helpful after I discovered that the interview space I was promised at the hostel was occupied yesterday (an hour before the scheduled interviews of the day). Rafiki Africa, which functions as a home and shop for Lydia’s sister’s wares, is beautiful and peaceful, the quiet only interrupted by the odd piki piki (motorcycle) driving by, birds in the distance, and children’s laughter. Suffice it to say that I really love it here, and have no problem sitting outside waiting for each interview to be finished.

As per usual, when I was supposed to get the remaining three interviews completed today, that didn’t happen. My morning interviewee is sick (Maimuna finally called her after we waited for an hour and a half), and the woman Maimuna found as our tenth interviewee isn’t available this weekend. One more interview down, two more to go still.

All the waiting gave Steph and I some time to chat, though. Steph is the newly-arrived and long-awaited WHE intern that will be here until the beginning of October. We talked about ethics and our roles here and language and countless other things, but we both articulated something that both makes me feel better and a little sad.

We don’t belong here.

We discussed the language barrier, and how tiring it’s been that no matter how hard we try locals will persistently laugh at us or make fun of our foreignness. I said that even though I love Mwanza and am so happy to have been here, I am looking forward to not having certain attributes assigned to me as soon as people look at me. My white skin seems to invite people to think of me as a wealthy, ignorant foreigner that can do things for them. Not that this is a uniform response, but I’ve had this happen enough that I’m mentally exhausted, if I’m honest with myself. I realize and acknowledge my privilege, but crave interaction that isn’t automatically riddled with assumptions.

As I write this, I feel even more privileged. I’m tired of having more than the people around me by virtue of being from a different place. It makes me sound silly and shallow. It makes me feel silly and shallow. But regardless, these feelings hold strong. I’m still excited to be here, and would never say no to coming back. I love the people and will enjoy the next three weeks in Mwanza (the last week in Tanzania will be spent in Zanzibar on a real vacation). But I’m drained, and I think that’s still valid.

That being said, I wouldn’t trade the last two months or this next month for the world.

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