Sunday, October 5, 2014

Return to Tanzania

Return to Tanzania
July 5 – July 16, 2014

I had always imagined what this day would be like, returning to Tanzania.  Now after nearly three years, it was going to happen.  I had tried to sleep on the long flight, but excitement and anticipation kept me awake.  What would they look like?  Would they recognize me?  Was I still an important part of their lives?  So many memories were racing through my mind.  I remembered the pain of leaving long ago, not knowing if I would ever see them again, not knowing what their lives would be like. My heart felt as if it were skipping beats as the plane finally landed, and Pat and I made our way through all the necessary queues to claim our bags.  Then, as I was waiting to grab my bag from the carousel, I looked out the open door at the people gathered to welcome their loved ones, and I saw them.  Rather, I saw their light, the light of happiness which seemed to surround them as they waved and whooped and called to me.  Somehow, in an instant, I had retrieved my luggage and had gone out the door and was in their arms again, showered with flowers, cards, and love.  Victoria, Aggie, her new baby Anticlea Ruth, Neema, Maria, Adolph, Brighton, Damian, Fidesta, and Yuda had all come to welcome me home.

 My entourage escorted us to our hotel, some riding in our taxi and the others coming by bus or budaji. Someone ran out for sodas and we sat in the lobby to catch up on old times, but after two days of traveling and very little sleep, my head began to spin.  My family left me then, assuring me that they would see me soon, and I reluctantly went upstairs.  But oh, how good it felt to finally take a shower and then stretch out flat on a bed!

I fell asleep quickly, but it is in the stillness of the night that awareness finds me, my thoughts so vivid and clear, maybe fueled by mefloquine (an antimalarial drug), but real nonetheless. Why had I traveled thousands of miles to this place?  Surely not to see the environment of Dar es Salaam, a dirty, smelly, over-crowded city. What compelled these people to take time from work or school and spend their precious money to come and greet me?  Who are we to one another?  The horn of the muezzin interrupts my musings.  This early morning call to prayer stirs something deep inside me, seemingly refocusing my eyes, sharpening my ears, and attuning me to what I had seen at the airport.  The light I had seen surrounding them had been the love of God.  We are drawn to one another, like moths to the light, because there is no way we can resist the power of this force.  God brought us all together, each one of us broken and beaten down by life, and He healed us with His agape love.

(Another small miracle that I cannot explain is that my proficiency in Swahili seems to have improved, even though I have not heard it or spoken it in nearly three years.  I had no problem understanding or being understood.  I even served as translator several times, although sometimes I found myself speaking Swahili to Pat and English to Victoria).  

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