It’s been a while now since I’ve been back from Africa (about 5 months) so I have had some time to reflect and process my experiences - and the love that came about :)
SLOW DOWN --> For the first few weeks I was in Tanzania one of the greatest challenges was adjusting to the pace of life. It is much slower than the fast-paced American society where my day is jam packed without room for error (which I had grown to like) But this new pace was almost like living life in slow motion. Now this may sound silly, how could a slow paced day be challenging? It seems almost like a vacation, but my engine had been running on full speed for the past 4 years of college that I had forgotten what it was like to slow down and enjoy the ride. Instead of endless to do lists and time-oriented tasks, my days were filled with empty to do lists and love-oriented tasks.
Throughout the days I often lost track of time, but I feel that it went beyond that - as if I were lost in time itself. Slowing life down seemed to eliminate any superficiality that often drowns a face-paced society. Challenges were no longer skimmed at the surface and barriers were no longer conquered via short cuts, there are no short cuts.
As I emerged from this drowning state, I felt as if I could breathe deeper than I ever had before, it was life at its purest - completely exposed. This slow-paced environment leaves you with nothing but the core of life to embrace. The purity of this core is what I have been craving. Life was standing in front of my face the whole time, saying HOLD ON, let me show you something. Sometimes we feel we are too busy to stop, sometimes we just don’t want to stop because it may disrupt the momentum we have in our lives, but the amount of life that lies beyond my green planner is simply unbelievable. There is beauty that remains hidden in the minutes of our lives, it is up to us to choose to be aware of it or to let it pass with time. I encourage you to slow down, embrace that beauty, lose yourself in time, and maybe you will find yourself.
One of the most prominent characteristics among the locals was the emphasis on human relationships. Happiness was not based on money, or careers, or materialistic success, rather it came in the form of relationships and interactions. I realized that this truly is a fundamental aspect of life, mere human appreciation, yet it often falls short on the list of priorities here at home. The locals often engaged in conversations without hesitation, even though I enjoyed the chat I was unsure of what the other person’s motives were when the topics began to get more personal. Why did they want to know so many details? Why do they care if I just met them?
During a conversation I had with my group there was this idea that in short-term circumstances, people are only interested in bringing you into their lives when they get something out of it. I like to believe in the good of people so I didn’t feel aligned with this idea, but I soon realized that it is actually true! However, my initial idea of what people get out of it was completely wrong. The value lies in the interaction itself and in the relationship of that moment. Simply participating in a conversation and sharing parts of my life with others was a gift in itself. I know my friends and family care about these types of things, but I surely didn’t realize that other people (strangers) would find value in this - to my surprise, they did. It was genuine, it was real, and the barrier between my heart and this authenticity was myself. Being immersed in a community where all that some people had were each other reminded me that we ARE in this world together.
As I thought about the value of relationships in our lives, I couldn't help but ask myself, when was the last time I listened to a friend with my heart and not my ears? When was the last time I spontaneously stopped to talk to someone for 5 or 10 minutes? Passing hellos and rushed goodbyes were too often a part of my daily life...This plays into taking things in life for granted, including people and time. I am reminded to appreciate those in my life, and to shift my energy from school/work to the incredible people that fill my days - in this lies a true realignment saturated with REAL value. It intrigues me that these people in East Africa, who are considered to have next to nothing, really have more of what matters in life than many of us will experience. From a materialistic point of view, people may consider them to be poor and unhappy, but happiness goes beyond what our eyes can see and into a world where value lies in us - the truth is, many of these people are rich, with love - a true fortune of value.
But this is no longer a dream, this is my reality, and this is our worldY