Tanzania, in retrospect: Part I
June 26th, the day before we left for Tanzania.
For the previous two weeks, I had been finishing last-minute tasks as the management intern for TDS. Working with our Tanzanian partner UMABU to confirm the hostel accommodations, travel arrangements, and the schedule changes had proved to be an exhausting, yet rewarding, exercise in inter-organizational relations across borders.
I stayed awake until 1AM the day of our departure, emailing last minute scheduling changes and documents and putting my hair into small twists for the month ahead. I was bone tired and fell into a restless sleep. I awoke at 6AM feeling as though I had never slept. It took me another two hours to finish twisting the last of my hair and I purposely made the twists tighter than usual so that they would last the entire month without needing to be redone.
Once I finished my hair, my thoughts turned to packing. I had already decided to take just one large suitcase and my backpack. My previous travel had always been for long stretches of time (at least 8 months) and I was used to my two large suitcases, backpack, and carry-on. Tanzania was different though; one month meant I needed to pack far fewer clothing and other miscellaneous items. However, as I started to pack, I realized that I’d need more room. Even though I intended to give away roughly 70% of my clothing, I wanted to leave room for any gifts and cloth I meant to purchase. With thoughts of colorful (cheap) kanga material firmly in mind, I dug out my carry-on. This proved to be a wise decision later on.
I packed in a hurry, splitting my belonging between the three bags. A last minute search for two missing SD cards and my cheap European cell phone put me behind schedule. Further setting me back was the unexpected failure of my tablet. It was meant to be my electronic companion overseas—an inexpensive substitute for the expensive MacBook I couldn’t afford to lose or replace. In its place, I took my mother’s tablet and the transferring of files for school and work, as well as large media files literally took hours to complete.
I rushed out the door and carried my bags to the car one by one. Afternoon rush hour was just beginning in Chicago and I was late leaving home. I jumped in the van, set up the GPS to guide me to O’Hare and drove away. I stopped at the stop sign and it hit me. I didn’t have my passport! I put the car in reverse back to my front door and jumped out. I rushed into the house and ran straight to my mother’s room, grabbed my passport and Yellow Card from her filing cabinet. Out the house I ran, jumped into the car, buckled my seatbelt, and took off. Traffic was lighter than expected and we reached O’Hare in less than 90 minutes. Preparing to leave had completely robbed me of my anxiety of the long travel days ahead. That anxiety returned as I found my seat on our first flight to Amsterdam.