Colin Wallace, Giving of Self Reflection
Fragments of life rushed past me as I sat in the back of the bus that took us to and from work each day. The first day I began teaching English in a small primary school in Tanzania, I felt overwhelmed and insecure by the sheer unfamiliarity of my surroundings: the language, the people, the culture—everything was foreign. I stopped and asked myself what I was doing in a country halfway around the world where I couldn’t speak their language and I did not know a soul, and the only answer I could muster up was that I was pursuing my passion of service. However, I found by the end of my trip that my time spent amongst the Tanzanian culture created a lasting mental oasis for me that I am still able to draw from, sip out of its refreshing waters, and lose myself from reality.
The speed at which Americans move each day was modeled well upon my arrival in the JFK airport on my return home. It was when I was surrounded by this familiar buzz of stress in everyday life that I instantly began to reflect back on my life-changing experience in Tanzania to feel a sense of peace and perspective. This intense culture shock made me realize how valuable my experience in Tanzania was, and the ability I had to get lost in the moments I have collected in my memory.
I get lost in memories of the children I worked with at Himo and Korona primary schools, remembering their elation at the start of each day and the juxtaposition with their extreme lack of resources to pursue a future. I expected much sadness and grief when I went to Tanzania; rather, I saw a joy that was foreign to me. Back home in America, I had never seen such gratitude taken in such small things. The children I taught were each given a new pencil on the last week of teaching, and the delight they took in receiving such a simple tool was an image that will forever be impressed in my mind. We would pass houses each day comparable to the average American shed, filled with families laughing with each other and truly soaking in the joys of life.
When I reflect back to the people of Tanzania and their culture that started out so completely foreign to me, I am at peace. I am thankful for each moment and try my best to follow their lead in finding joy in little things. When I think back to Africa, I become lost; the stress in everyday life disappears and I feel an inexplicable sense of peace and joy for the blessings I have been given.