Today, almost 3 weeks into my stay in Kibaha, I feel more at home than ever before. However, it definitely did not start off like that.
When I decided to come to Kibaha, it was somewhat of a calculated risk. I did not know anyone in Tanzania, I really did not know what to expect from WIPAHS and all I knew was that I had always wanted to go and volunteer abroad. I have been and lived in Africa for my whole life but every single part of Africa is different. It is quite interesting to think that regarding most of the world we use country names and city names, we ask if one has been to Paris or England but generally speak of Africa on a continent basis. Anyways, so this would be different for me, I figured, even though I knew Africa.
I also that I was not just going to Kibaha to simply volunteer for 2 weeks and take a plane back to my normal life. I knew that I wanted to learn as much about this as I could. I wanted to get involved with how this NGO was working and really learn this field and so I knew that this was nothing short term.
I knew that if I simply went back to Toronto, I would regret the fact that I had an opportunity to really do something I felt was significant and I was too much of a coward to go through with it .This was always something I felt passionate about : coming back to Africa and trying to do whatever I could. I knew that this was an opportunity for a massive growing experience and so I tried to push through the fear that was clenching my heart and jumped.
I landed in Dar es Salaam in the evening. I knew that I would this would be slightly daunting because landing in a city that you do not know and not knowing anyone there and it being night is not generally a recipe for excitement. I have traveled in Africa alone but generally to South Africa which might as well be Europe or Canada and Congo where I will always see a familiar face right behind the customs counter because of the small size of the airport. As I landed in Dar es Salaam, a little bit of fear overtook me and questions raced through my mind, was my yellow fever vaccination card still in my bag, what if I needed some documentation that I did not have? I had to fill out a blue form and I scrambled through my bag for a pen. Had I forgotten my pen? Where was my pen? I found the pen. I handed the customs officer my passport and blue card and I was through in 5 minutes and had even picked up my luggage in the span of 15 minutes. It may have been my fastest exit out of an airport. One of the main people who runs WIPAHS ( the organization I am volunteering at) was there to pick me up.
Kibaha was nothing like what I imagined it to be. It was much bigger for one. It spans over acres. I did not imagine theschool to be of such a large caliber and had no idea that it was a boarding school. The campus consists of an orphanage, a primary school for girls and boys, a secondary school for girls, one for boys , and a college curriculum. All schools are boarding school. Further, there are apartments for volunteers and staff. This place is basically like its own village. Everyone who works here lives here. They have their own farm where milk for the kids comes from and vegetables are grown. They even have their own construction company.
I was then showed my accommodation which was a spacious apartment. There were two single seated sofas in the sitting room and two mattresses in the room. Basic but sufficient. By the time I settled my clothes and bags in, I could hear the Adhaan of evening prayers on the loudspeaker. It was beautiful to hear it and felt reassured that I was going to be ok.
After dinner, I came back to my apartment. I sat on one of my couches. It was 10 pm and I was wide awake. I had slept at 1 am the night before and was used to sleeping at that sort of time. If I was back home I’d be on the internet or on my phone. I did not have a sim card yet and no internet.I truly wondered if I was going to make it through being here for more than two weeks. I was not used to being this alone nor this cut off from the world.
Luckily I did have 3 movies on my computer which I had from before and so decided to lay in bed and try and fall asleep to one of them. I walked to my room:the sound of the crickets and frogs croacking was the only thing I could hear and it only got louder as I entered my room. I debated whether to sleep in the sitting room where it wasn’t as loud but was an open space leading to the kitchen and the pantry or in the room which had a door that could be locked. I opted for the room. I felt more secure there.
After my movie, I closed my door and went to my bed.I must have lay in bed for 10 minutes then heard the door creak open. My heart was beating so fast but convinced myself it was the wind and got up and looked down my corridor to check for anything and then closed my door and locked it. I was scared, I admit that. I then tried to go to sleep but it was too hot so then switched on the fan but the noise it made was too distracting and loud and I figured if anyone WAS in the house I would not even hear them so decided to just try and sleep with the heat.
I lay in bed and pondered if this was everything I had wanted it to be. I hated to admit to myself that I may just not be strong enough for this.
I was woken up in the morning by what sounded like someone in my apartment. I lay in bed silently. I heard a scuffling but then it seemed to be above me. I looked up to my window and saw a shadow pass by. Before I knew it, there was a monkey staring down at me from the outside. I laughed and sighed in relief. I looked up past the monkey and saw that the sun had just risen above the horizon. I had just survived my first night in Kibaha.