I’m writing this at the Passionist Fathers’ Guesthouse in Dar es Salaam on the last morning of my tenure Tanzania. As promised, I did visit the Nala library one last time, and though it was not yet as complete as I had hoped it would be, you can see photos of the furniture in what is to become the reading room and some of the windows below. (You’ll notice that the windows are not all in place, as they should be by now, but I’m expecting more pictures from the Brians that will show ALL the windows.)
I came down to Dar on Sunday night with Brian O. and Pastor Noah. On Monday morning we met with Room to Read and picked up over 5,000 books for Carpenter’s Kids, a portion of which will go to the library in Nala. Everything went wonderfully with Room to Read, and we’re hoping that Carpenter’s Kids and Room to Read’s partnership will continue in Tanzania. After meeting Room to Read, Brian and Pastor Noah returned to Dodoma, leaving me in Dar for a couple days. While I was nervous three days alone in a new city, this time of peace and quiet has proven to be exactly what I need before returning to the States. I’m feeling well rested and invigorated, which is a great way to start anew in New York.
But, before signing off of this blog, I want to include a piece I originally wrote for the Carpenter’s Kids newsletter. Ultimately, I found it to be far too personal for that context. Here it is, in a more appropriate setting:
One year ago, I was working as a Financial Specialist at Fitzsimons Credit Union in Aurora, Colorado. It was a reasonably cushy customer service position at a desk pushing paperwork. I was earning respectable money for someone in his first year out of college, I had fantastic management, and I was where I thought I wanted to be. But, ultimately, I was never quite happy with that job. I kept telling myself that I’d get more comfortable next month and that I’d finally feel settled in, but it never happened.
So I made a decision. At the end of May 2012, I quit my job in Denver with no idea where life would take me next. Less than a month later I found myself behind the piano at the annual Summer Fair and Chicken Barbeque at St. John’s in Kingston, NY, an event that Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo was also attending. It was great to see Bishop Mhogolo again, whom I had first met in July 2006 when the St. John’s Youth Group and I visited Dodoma at the beginning of the Carpenter’s Kids Program. Our brief conversation touched on my desire to someday return to Tanzania and perhaps even offer my talents to Carpenter’s Kids. After a couple emails over a few pensive weeks, we determined that Carpenter’s Kids had a space for me in Dodoma, and four short months later, I found myself in the Delta terminal of JFK International Airport in New York, wondering, “Do you have any idea what you’re getting yourself into, Chris?”
And, no, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was scared. I felt like a fraud trying to pass off a façade of serenity about to be discovered as the nervous wreck I really was. I thought everyone else knew what was going on, and I didn’t. But in reality, I had no idea what I was getting myself into because Dodoma was better than any ideas I had. I know that I had specific worries and fears at that point, but after about a week in Dodoma, I couldn’t even recall what they were. That’s how inconsequential all my concerns were.
Before I arriving I had no conception for the degree of hospitality I would be greeted with in Tanzania. I don’t need to tell all of you what great people make up the entire Carpenter’s Kids team. In addition to their complete commitment to the success of the children, each person involved in Carpenter’s Kids is a really warm, wonderful soul; they all made me feel at home in Dodoma. There’s a good reason “karibu” (which means “you are welcome”) is one of the first words anyone learns in Swahili: you hear it a lot in Tanzania.
I’d like to think I’ve made a positive impact on the Carpenter’s Kids Program in my brief six months here, but what I know is that I’ve learned a tremendous amount and gained invaluable experience during my time here. I’ve learned that reliable internet connections are highly overrated, that salads are vastly underrated, that unlimited potable water straight from the tap is a luxury, that things don’t work unless you ask for help, and that patience is not just a virtue, but maybe the only virtue. Maybe most importantly, I’ve learned that one’s monetary net worth has very little to do with one’s happiness.
In 2006 I spent two weeks in Dodoma and left saying I would return. It took me six years, but I did come back. And, now I’m saying goodbye to Dodoma again, but again maybe it’s just goodbye for now. I just want to leave you by thanking everyone around the world who has facilitated my being here and made my adjustment to live in Tanzania so smooth. I couldn’t be where I am, doing what I’m doing right now, without the incredible support system I have. Asanteni sana kwa wote.