Mambo! Me again,
So it's now January 2017 and it's been 3 months since returning back to the UK after an incredible 12 weeks living in Tanzania. A lot has happened since flying home, so let's start at the beginning;
First week home | Catching up
It took a long 4 hours to drive back to my home in Cheshire from Heathrow Airport, and the entire journey back felt surreal and strange. The weather was mild but obviously substantially colder than Africa, and I remember it being a cloudy day but still nice. Just seeing trees and motorways again took a while to get used to after walking on dirt roads and taking bajaji's with no road laws for 3 months. To be able to walk into a service station and order a macdonalds again seemed really strange - it was then that I realised how little we had whilst we were in Lindi and how we had adjusted to the everyday lifestyle of ugali, rice and uncooked spaghetti...
I remember running through the front door of my parents house and jumping on my mum when I saw her! Again at first it didn't really feel real being back in my kitchen and especially seeing my dog again! The whole family was there to greet me and we spent the whole afternoon talking about the 3 months I had, and how it compares to being home. I had kept everyone updated with blog posts and FaceTime calls whilst I was out there but it was so much better telling the stories in person.
That whole first week being home I spent every day catching up with friends and telling them all about my adventures - again being better saying it in person! To my surprise (and delight), everybody I had a catch up with that week had read every blog post that I had written and had so many questions to ask me about things I had blogged about - and some of them were in shock about some of the information and statistics I had written. It was so satisfying knowing that my friends and family were genuinely interested in what I was doing in Africa and many of them said it was an amazing thing that I did and that I should be proud, and I am. Having this reaction when I returned home made my experience even more worth while than it already was.
First week home | Thinking differently
Alongside the catch up's I had with friends, I got back into my normal life of wearing jeans, trainers and big jumpers and coats (forgot british winter is bloody cold) and wearing make up and jewellery. I also took the train into Manchester to meet up with a friend and do some shopping; and using public transport again was very very strange. Even though I had sat on 2 flights to get home, for some reason using trains again was surreal (even though I used to commute on them everyday). The comfort and speed was a different experience from overcrowded and sweaty daladala's, and the hustle and bustle of Manchester City Centre was again, so contrasting to the local beach bar hub of Lindi (big shout out to Santorini's Bar).
Whilst on the train, we pass the Etihad stadium - famous for football games - and the main thing that I could think about was how much the boys in Mkonge secondary school where I tought, would do absolutely anything to be in that stadium, or at least see it! Every time we introduced ourselves to the groups of kids at school, we would say our name and say where in England we are from, and every time I said "manchester" the boys would go crazy, of course associating it with Manchester United or Man City. Everything that happened that week I always thought to myself "this time last week I wouldn't have been doing this" or "it's so weird to be doing this" so it was clear that I still had African life very much on my mind.
I also desperately needed a haircut as the African sun had seemed to literally fry my hair and turn it ginger :)
A few months home | Getting back to normal
I enjoyed the first few weeks not doing anything - I knew I had the daunting thought of getting a graduate job sorted when I got home but I put this off for most of November I have to admit. I did start the emails and applications however and began getting a sinking feeling that I wasn't ready to settle into adult life and was really missing being in Lindi and being with the group of friends that I had spent every day for 12 weeks with. We all still spoke on the group chat that we had created so was nice to know we stayed in touch.
The group also met up again when we reunited in York for our RV weekend, and it was a great opportunity for us to all catch up with each other and see what we had been up to with our own separate lives (and very strange to see everyone wearing normal clothes again)! It was also a time to reflect on the actual impact we had made, how much we had learnt and what we had taken away from our experience in Tanzania, which again was so satisfying and rewarding to look back on.
A few months home | Christmas
Christmas made me really nostalgic. The run up to christmas, as we all know, it's all about festive food, festive drinks, alcohol and gifts - and an pretty expensive time of year. When we bought all of our christmas food in and buying ridiculous amounts of alcohol for christmas day and boxing day, my mum made a comment - "think how shocked Bibi and the house maids would be if they saw all this food". And it's true - Bibi (my host granny and the most wonderful woman in Lindi) went out of her way everyday to make sure we were fed with rice, beans and fish; which to us was the absolute basic food we could have, but it was a lot for them. To think that us brits binge on all this food at Christmas really made me think of Bibi and the girls in the house and how lucky we are to have the food that we have!
Just after New Years, it snowed in our area in Cheshire. The first thing I did was take a picture of the snow and I sent it to Rashad, my counterpart who I lived with in my time in Tanzania. We would have so many conversations about what it was like in England and he never believed how cold it could get and he had never seen snow before, so I knew I had to show him! Rashad and I carried on talking after we both returned to our homes and I'm so glad that we did. I also sent him pictures of my dog, George, because he was always asking questions about him too (and didn't know that we keep dogs as pets, and they're not just wild animals....)
2017 | 3 months home
It's been 3 long months since coming home and i'm back into my normal routine of early mornings, commuting into work (I got the graduate job - yey!) and wrapping up warm from the horrible British winter. But most days i'll get or send a message to some of the friends I met out there and still keep in regular touch with - it sounds very cliche but Africa was an experience where you really do make friends for life! I still send pictures of typical British things (and my dog) to Rashad through Facebook. He loves it.
One morning on my commute to work, I was scrolling through old photos on my phone and came across a photo of Mariam and I from when we worked together in school. Mariam was one of my closest friends when we were in Lindi, we would always tell each other stories from home, and she would make me laugh every day we were in school. She was a really great friend so finding this picture made me miss her, so I sent it over to her on a message! She replied straight away and for the whole day we exchanged messages back and forth and reminisced on Africa and had a catch up on what we're doing now. Mariam is at Uni in Dar Es Salaam and is really enjoying it, her family are doing well and she remembered I was looking for a job (only a small thing but it made me really happy that she remembered) and congratulated me when I told her I was now working! I was smiling the whole train journey to work because it was so nice to be connect with someone who's the other side of the world!
I still think about my experiences every day, and I returned home a more confident person and think about things in a different light than I did before I went. I have new travelling experiences, cultural experiences, and stories to tell. I still look through photos and remember how much a roller coaster journey it was for me (plenty of ups and downs, which you'll know if you've read my previous blog posts) and i'm grateful for everything that happened because it made my time unique and challenged me in ways that was good for me.
So thanks for reading my final blog post, and this is what i'm currently doing with my life! Thanks VSO ICS for the great times and memories.
Published by Hannah Boulton