Monday, July 16, 2012

What are you doing here?

Sharati is a town—or a village, really—in the Mara region. It does not have electricity sometimes, but that’s okay. It does not have running water, either, but that’s okay, too. It does not have taxies, so we ride bodaboda—motorcycles—instead.

It is a peaceful town, with peaceful people. We are staying at the Community Center, a small hotel run by the Menonite Church. The rooms are small, but incredibly clean, and furnished in a style that reminds us very much of home. There is a quilt on the bed, a bureau with a half-length mirror, and wallpaper in the bathroom. While the faucets on the sink and shower appear to be just for show, we are provided with 2 buckets of water—one for the shower and the other for flushing the toilet—and a heating coil.

There is a special market on Mondays, where khangas are TZS 5000 each, and you can get a sandwich bag full of roasted meat for TZS 1000.

Dr. Z, lives in Sharati. He is from Tanzania, and he completed his bachelors, MD, and residency from Dartmouth, Howard, and Stanford, respectively. He manages to maintain a fully stocked hospital despite the lack of reliable electricity and running water. His library is full of books with subjects ranging from surgery, to children’s rhymes, all in English. His children went to Tufts and continue living in America, yet Dr. Z…lives in Sharati.

When we entered the dining room the first morning of our stay at the Menonite community center, we were the only other people in there besides a dark-haired woman and her clearly mixed children. She was speaking some language that we sounded very much—but not enough—like German. After a few minutes of speculation, our Supervisor from the APHFTA office in Mwanza just out right asked her. It turned out she and her Swiss-German speaking children were from Switzerland, and her husband was Tanzanian. They had just built a house in Sharati and she was awaiting his return from a safari into Mwanza for furniture for their new home.

At the special Monday Market, we saw a big group of the worst kind of wazungu—and by this I mean the tall, blond-haired, fair-skinned type that screams foreigner. It runs out that they are from America and are working with one of the clinics we will be visiting tomorrow.

I always wonder what brings a person to a place. I don’t know exactly what it means to belong, but I know what it looks like when you don’t. perhaps I think of myself and my team as an exception. We have a reason to be here. But other people? Hardly. Some of the places we’ve visited, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to come to for a random holiday. Sometimes I see frantic tourists in front of the John Harvard statue and I wonder the same thing. It’s not that these places are not beautiful or relaxing or historical, but sometimes there’s just not really too much there. But that’s okay, I guess.

The world is a very small place and it will only continue to get smaller. Perhaps I take these places for granted—Harvard Yard included. Perhaps one day I may see and not wonder: How in the world did you end up here?

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