Sitting on the doorstep of my friend’s two room house, I watch the evening roll in. The air cooled and a slight breeze took away the earlier oppressive heat. The stars came out and twinkled as small puffy clouds were just barely visible in the night sky. A beautiful African night.
When I first asked my friend if I could stay with his family for a few days his wife asked if I was willing to live “the African way.” I honestly did not know what that meant but agreed. I’m always up for an adventure it seems, never quite knowing what I’m getting myself into.
Four nights I spent with this beautiful family. While the heat of the day was hard, sitting and watching real life was beautiful. I wish I knew Swahili to have been able to speak with the neighbors and kids, but sometimes a smile and play is all you need. Communication was entirely through sign languages, which was challenging as Tanzanian Sign Language is very different. Thankfully the wife knew some Kenyan Sign so we managed.
Life was simple. Wake up and start the day with the kids preparing for school. Daily chores happened as we waited for the kids to return. Sitting and watching the neighbors talk in the small dirt courtyard while preparing lunch on a round charcoal stove. The kids retuned and quickly ran to play in the shade of the nearby tree. By early evening I couldn’t stand the stickiness anymore and took a bucket shower to cool off. Night came as the wife, daughter and I crawled into the shared bed while the boy took a mattress on the floor. Sleeping was difficult as the heat settled in the room and the 4 year old somehow always managed to end up laying horizontal in the bed, trying to add her body heat to mine. So life continued.
The last day there we were sitting in a mat in the shade between the houses. I saw a girl peak around the corner then quickly disappear when I looked up. Next, came a girl trying to pull someone to say hi. It probably took five minutes before she came into view. A”Hello” from me and a response helped me deduce she knew English and her friends wanted her to practice. So we had a short conversation and her shyness disappeared. Quickly the girls came over and asked if they could play with my hair. 🙂 It’s an interesting experience to sit on a mat in Dar es Salaam and probably be the first foreigner these girls have interacted with and watch them be fascinated with how different my hair is.
It was a privilege to step into my friends’ life and live with them. Not many people have the opportunity to set aside culture and language and live with and along side of people. No, it’s not easy but taking time to slow down and appreciate the diversity of life is needed.