Don't get the impression from the title of this post that this is going to be some kind of meaningful, philosophical discussion, because it isn't. It probably will end up being something more like the opposite of meaningful. So meaningless, I guess. Anyway...
I am not as fragile as I thought
I came to Tanzania fully expecting some digestive upset at least from the sudden change of diet, if not from the more prevalent food contamination issues that my (assumed) delicate intestines would be unable to handle. Maybe digestive problems aren't something I should mention on a public blog, but I've decided that since I am reporting the utter lack of digestive issues, it's okay. That's right folks. My body has taken the food here in stride. The food is good. My taste buds and stomach seem to agree. Nothing to protest. Except for that first time I was served chicken guts. That was weird. But I ate it. And I ate when it was served to me again.
I am more fragile than I thought
I have frequently told people that I don't burn that easily, but that is not the case being this close to the equator. My skin just feels so sensitive to the sun. It's just not used to being so close to it. For the first week or so, feeling my skin burn and the strong sensation of pinpricks all over my body as I broke into a sweat just standing around...I felt like I would melt. My body was getting so battered by the weather, or at least it felt that way. It made me feel very delicate, like I needed to walk around with a parasol to shade my sensitive skin. But then I got used to the sensation and my skin seemed to adjust somewhat. So I was feeling great until last week, when I started to fall apart in the heat. Last Wednesday, as I was assisting in training a group on making a compost pile, I started to get really light-headed. Thinking I was dehydrated or hypoglycemic, I drank some water and ate a granola bar and waited for it to pass...which it eventually did, but not until long after the compost demonstration was done. Not liking to appear weak or delicate, I determined the next morning that I would drink plenty of water and eat a big breakfast, and brought plenty of water and cookies with me just in case. I was feeling very well for a while, helped move bricks for the keyhole, slathered mud, and was fully exposed to the sun...but then it hit me again. I drank my entire 32oz water bottle, ate all my cookies, and again waited for that all to slowly take effect. I'm still not sure what the problem was...low blood pressure, low blood sugar, my body finally protesting to the heat...I just hope my body is done with whatever it was. Just don't tell me it was malaria.
With the help of a little dust, my feet bear a surprising resemblance to hobbit feet
Maybe this is because I have big feet. And I should clarify that it is actually with the help of a lot of dust. Enough dust to make up for the lack of hair on my feet. The point is, by the end of the day, my feet are very dry and very dusty.
When in doubt, just ignore it when people talk to you
This sounds heartless, but let me explain. Frequently as I walk down the street here, people will call out to me. Usually it is something friendly, like one of the various Swahili greetings, or, my favorite, "Morning" when it is mid-afternoon (it makes me feel better about my poor Swahili when I hear the wrong English greeting). When greeted, I always respond with a (hopefully) appropriate Swahili greeting. Often I will even initiate the greetings, at least in my neighborhood. But typically I have found if someone, at least on the main road or in the downtown area, tries to engage me further in conversation, it is because they want me to get in their taxi, or get on the back of their motorcycle, or take me on a safari, or take me back to their shop. So I have found it easier to just give a friendly greeting and keep walking. Maybe it still sounds a little heartless. Maybe it would be better to stop and talk to them but refuse when they ask me to buy something. Actually, my tactic reminds me of my dad's approach to telemarketers: just hang up. "What? I'm doing them a favor because now they're not wasting time on someone who isn't going to buy anything." So maybe I am heartless, but at least I'm not wasting their time. I like to talk to people in my neighborhood. I can generally expect that they are just being friendly and welcoming.
One month in Tanzania is not enough time to learn to adequately deal with certain inconveniences
Case in point: the water at my home stay has been off since Thursday, maybe Wednesday, but I wasn't keeping track when it started. In my first three weeks here it wasn't uncommon to find the water not working. This usually resolved within a day. But this has been going on for a while now, with the occasional hour when we find the faucets miraculously work. I am so obviously American and not accustomed to these inconveniences because I was wholly unprepared for this. I literally planned to do my laundry so that I was wearing my last clean pair of underwear when I washed the rest of them. So the water not working was a big problem, as I was not relishing the idea of recycling dirty undies. I was able to procure enough water to at least wash and poorly rinse my delicates. The rest would have to wait, accumulating more dust and sweat as the weekend went on. Fortunately the water was working Sunday evening, and I immediately took advantage by washing the rest of my clothes. I was hoping that would be it. The water had returned. The toilet could now be reliably flushed after use. But later that night the water disappeared again. It has not made a reappearance yet.