Familiar language in unfamiliar settings: by Ornella Baganizi

September 11, 2019 10:48 am Published by

Ornella is a Princeton In Africa Fellow who will be spending the next year working and living at the Kitongo campus on various projects within the many programs at Mainsprings. Here she tells us about her first couple weeks living at Mainsprings… her third trip to Tanzania, but her first in the Mwanza region. 

This is my third time in Tanzania, so coming to Mwanza I did not feel any more anxiety than one would when starting a new position. The two previous times I came to Tanzania I was in Arusha, where I learned how to speak Swahili. I figured this is a country and language I am familiar with, nothing to be anxious about. However, as I stepped off the plane in Mwanza and entered the airport it became very apparent to me, this is not Arusha.

I must admit, I cannot recall my drive to the Mainsprings campus in Kitongo because frankly I slept the whole ride. By the time I opened my eyes, I was in an unfamiliar setting, slightly disoriented and slightly embarrassed because I know I must have slept with my mouth wide open.

The first thing I experienced at Mainsprings was the girls’ “prayer time,” which happens every evening. I arrived late and as I tried to enter the room inconspicuously I was greeted by something I could not have anticipated. The girls were all standing proud, smiles wide singing a beautiful melody; their voices harmoniously reciting a song of worship all the while clapping their hands while others stomped their feet, each to their own beat, yet all in tune to the song. I do not believe there is any order to the beat that accompanies the worship songs; it is all about what you feel. If the song calls you to hit the table with your hands alternating right once, left twice, then you simply listen. The result is an organic melody.

Once I found my seat and looked around the room, I noticed on the wall posters that had written on them, “Welcome to JBFC Omella. We are happy to have you!!! Feel at home.” I chuckled, that is not how you spell my name, but I was also very touched by the gesture of love they extended to me, a stranger. Throughout the next few days that is a phrase that I heard repeatedly, “feel at home.”

I spent the following days learning about the various programs Mainsprings offers; the health clinic, permaculture, the girls house, the school, the sports, Papa’s, and that is only but a few! Though I am still learning about them, one thing I’ve understood is Mainsprings is not a singular thing. It has been impressive to witness a model of sustainability being applied in real life. Although the different programs can stand independently, they work together towards the mission of Mainsprings, utilizing a holistic approach to help alleviate extreme rural poverty. The permaculture garden serves as an educational tool and to nourish both the environment around campus as well as all the students, staff members, and guests. Produce from the garden is used at the Papa’s kitchen, which host a number of guests whose contribution is used to invest in the people of Mainsprings– the girls, the students, the staff and ultimately the community as a whole.

I am not as certain as I was prior to my trip. Although the language may still be familiar, nothing else is. One thing I am certain of, however, is that this experience will be transformative and this unfamiliar setting will have much to teach me.

After being here a little over a week I’ve realized I was right; this is not Arusha. This is the beginning of something else; a new place to call home.  

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This post was written by Mainsprings