I’ve been home for a little over two weeks as of now and the thoughts, emotions, questions, laughs, excitement, wholeness and gratitude just overwhelms all that makes up my being.
I often find myself feeling as if I just lived a dream.
As if I took one really long nap and then woke up in my bed.
Although, it feels like my time in Tanzania was a dream, it was a part of my existence that is joyously real.
On my flight from the States to Dar es Salaam, I watched a movie, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Near the conclusion of the movie, I vividly remember tearing up as I was filled with so much inspiration and excitement, love and openness about this journey I was physically in route to embark on.
One line in particular that caught me attention and forced my hand into writing for hours was,
“To chart a journey into the unknown, a map is required yet the most unknown of journey’s is what we call life.”
My journey had not just begun on the flight that afternoon, my journey began decades ago, centuries ago,
well lets face it, life times ago.
Okay, yes it did begin when I studied Africana Studies in college and began evermore so when I took a couple months to get all the components of my application together and even greater
when my WorldTeach application status turned from applied to accepted.
Once accepted, there was no hesitance, no question, no second-guessing, no reservations.
This is what I was doing; this is where my life’s journey was going to take me.
Immediately, I began brainstorming on ways to fundraise, ways to actually pay to make this happen.
30 days notice into my landlord, mom and dad – I’m moving back home.
An Ashley Strong Photography art show fundraiser at my yoga studio, let’s do it.
Personal letters to friends and families for donations, I love to write and make connections so here we go.
My dear boss at PBS, “I’m going to Africa.”
“Okay, what do you want to do with your job here?”
“Well, you see, I want to come back to it, I love my job.”
“Okay, take a sabbatical.”
Well, even better.
Before I knew it, everyday a new letter and check came in the mail.
An email was received, I had another donation through paypal or the WorldTeach website.
My community, this incredible community that exists around my existence humbled me.
The support, the willingness to give a little and in many cases A LOT towards another souls journey created a happiness that well, I just don’t have the words to explain.
And in this moment you are infinite.
I am infinite.
WE are infinite.
We are together.
We are a community.
We are a vision, the vision.
One never really knows how an experience is going to affect their life.
We can only image.
We can only wonder.
We can only predict.
We can only hope.
In reality, that which is meant to happen will happen.
All we can do is trust and listen.
Trust the universe.
Listen to the self.
Listen to that inner voice.
When applying for WorldTeach, I questioned my qualifications.
I was applying for a teaching program and guess what, I’m not a teacher.
Yes, I have volunteer experience where I’ve tutored youth.
But to stand in front of a classroom, to have my own class – that’s just silly.
You know, now that I think of it…
For a semester in college, I changed my major to elementary education because I thought
I wanted to be a second grade teacher.
After spending one week in an American second grade classroom,
I realized one, I didn’t want to teach at a traditional American school
and two, I didn’t want to be limited to teaching only at an elementary education level.
Despite my questioning, life continued on and I completed all necessary tasks to apply.
One task in particular included three essays, each containing multiple questions.
What is your motivation for wanting to be a WorldTeach volunteer?
And what contributions do you hope to bring to the community?
Well, here it goes, this was my response.
I am drawn to spreading knowledge, authenticity and compassion by working with communities of the world.
I want a deeper intercultural understanding of humanity, unity and working together
all the while teaching through my native English language.
I am a very reflective being always wanting and needing to give back to society, to humanity, to others.
I have a love for life, for humanity, for existence, for all people around me.
I am creative, positive, vibrant, full of life, patient, open to change and ready for new challenges.
I am intrigued by the power of humanity, energy, connections, influence and teaching.
I am extremely open with a willingness to teach, to learn, to accept, to give my heart and to share my passion.
Now were talking.
I hope you’re listening.
Because as they say in Tanzania, I’m being frank with you.
I put my heart out there.
I loved deeply.
I embraced the community, the life of that which existed on Mafia Island.
I put everything I had to my students at Kitomondo Secondary School.
Yes, there were challenges.
And absolutely yes, were there many aspects I could improve on.
I am human.
I make mistakes.
I second-guess my nature.
Most importantly, I live.
Oh, do I love so deeply.
Tears fill my eyes out of mere excitement.
Out of confusion.
Out of joy.
Out of love.
Out of feeling lost.
I have never felt so torn.
A piece of my heart, a large piece of my heart now lives in Tanzania, even more so on Mafia Island.
I keep finding myself laughing or giggling in the presence of just myself.
At these moments, I get extremely vivid images of my family, community,
teaching mates, pikipiki rides and so much more.
Ah, all I can do is smile.
I am so thankful.
Filled with so much gratitude!
When others ask about my experience, my trip, there is just too much to say.
What can I say?
What makes this Mafia Island, Tanzania community so incredibly unique?
I will attempt to shed some light on it, but these are only words.
You belong simply because you are human.
Open your home to others and they’ll open their hearts in return.
The energy and trust you put out into this world radiates to all those present
and comes back at an even greater force.
This world is unfathomably huge with you; yes you, being a small speckle amongst it all. With that comes an immense diversity in the functions of a community. Openness will see you through it all.
Live in the moment. Breathe in the fresh air.
Be okay in the presence of your own company.
Even more so, be okay in the presence of the company of all those around you
even when no words are being spoken.
Love as deeply as you’re being will release.
With love, this world, our world, our existence is a far more beautiful place.
Although you may feel exhausted at the task at hand, your presence alone is an inspiration.
In simple terms, it shows you care.
I exist in this world because you exist. Family does not have any boundaries, any barriers, any colors.
You are family because you are present in my existence.
All of the above are communal realities of my existence on Mafia Island!
I can simply say I am absolutely in love with life.
I have never felt so incredible, so beautiful, so free, so “me.”
I have discovered a new me, a grown me, an open me.
A me so full of love, light and gratitude.
A me, so humbled.
A me, thirsty for more teaching adventures around the world!
A HUGE thank you to each and everyone of you who contributed to my Tanzania teaching experience
in one way or another. I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for you and I am ever grateful for that alone.
I send the most sincere thanks from all of my existence.
Above, my 132 Form I students at Kitomondo Secondary School!
Above, my students and I hanging out after post program English testing.
Above, after wanting to touch and braid my hair all semester, my girls were finally able to braid my hair in pigtails!
Above, when doing a Friday activity with my students on "What makes you happy?" my student drew a picture of me and said,
Jambo from Tanzania:
Living & Teaching abroad in Mafia Island, Tanzania
In June of 2012.... a dream came true.
I was accepted into a WorldTeach program to teach English in Tanzania on Mafia Island. In late December of 2012, I embarked on a 3 month journey to the motherland! Enjoy this blog as it was designed to share my photographs and adventures while living and teaching
on Mafia Island, Tanzania.