First Impressions: JBFC’s New Volunteer CoordinatorFebruary 8, 2017 6:06 pm
We have officially been living in Tanzania for the last month and what an experience it has been. JBFC has certainly exceeded our expectations at every single turn!
We arrived on a Wednesday in mid-January and were greeted by all of the girls the moment we set foot on campus. Despite being late, they surrounded our car and bombarded us with hugs, handshakes, and 48 names I had no chance of remembering. We definitely felt welcome!
I think we both had been careful to not have unrealistic expectations for our first days in our new home, knowing that it would come with both joys and difficulties. We have both been totally blown away and find ourselves reflecting on how thankful we are on so many levels. I think people back home often wonder what you give up to move across the globe, but we just keep thinking about everything we have gained already.
The karibu-culture (“Karibu” is Swahili for “warm welcome”) continued as we were introduced to the staff later that week at an all-staff Holiday party. There were over 70 new faces, and we found ourselves having to prove we were up to being part of the team during staff competitions. While I pulled my weight during the potato sack race, I pulled everyone’s weight as the anchor in tug of war. There was a lot of cheering, and we had a lot of fun!
The thing that stands out most, though, is of course the girls at Bibi Mimi’s. As often as we can, we spend time with them, whether it’s during prayer, meals, or just a Saturday morning. We still don’t know all 48 names, but we now know the majority and have felt really blessed as they’ve opened up their lives to us and welcomed us into their home. Certainly there’s a lot of teasing that happens (it goes both ways!), but it’s been a real pleasure. Only a month in and we can’t imagine leaving!
If you’ve read the JBFC blog before, you know that prayer time often stands out to volunteers and other visitors to the campus and I am no exception. Every night that we’re able, we head down to the girls’ dining hall at 6 p.m. for prayer. It involves a combination of singing, offering thanks, and making announcements, but it’s the singing – mostly in Swahili, but with a little English sprinkled in – that fills the small cement building with the tin roof.
The people we have had the joy of starting to get to know have definitely been the highlight this month. From that first staff party to our first night at prayer I’ve made it my goal to learn them one by one. I think one of the simplest ways to show your genuine interest in people is just to know their name and make a point of using it. When you’re the new kids on the block everyone seems to know your name and it just kills me every time I mess up a name or mistake one of the girls for another. Everyone has been so gracious but the more comfortable they get, which is the goal after all, the more comfortable they are throwing in a few fake names just to throw you off… It’s been a challenge but so exciting to sit in prayer taking everything in and look around realizing that with each passing week I know a few new names, and – of course – a few more stories to go along with them.
Our new house is on top of the hill and we’ve spent each weekend slowly making it into a home. My
favorite spot in all of Tanzania is sitting on the front porch overlooking the lake with a cold drink after a long day! There’s usually a cool breeze and the view is beautiful. The three dogs that roam JBFC often join us to enjoy the shade and watch as people and lizards meander by on the road below.
It’s not all great though: the bugs! Oh, how we were unprepared for the bugs. Attracted to light, lake flies will often fill a room in less than an hour if the light is left on at night. We’ve quickly gotten into the habit of pretending like it’s a power outage at home every evening and using candles instead of the overheads. It doesn’t attract the bugs and makes our home all the more cozy!
The bugs have been fun getting to know, but honestly I’ll take it as long as none of the eight-legged variety ever feels comfortable enough to touch me. Small inconveniences are an easy price to pay when you have happy kids around you 24/7, a soft breeze with a beautiful view, a beautiful language and culture to slowly learn about, and so very much more.
Most of this month, we have spent getting oriented to JBFC. This includes formal presentations on the history of JBFC, the policies, and permaculture, as well as less formal days shadowing various departments. We have spent time in the dining hall (where I embarrassingly cut my finger), working on the farm (digging holes, picking beans, and watering plants), and observing classrooms. My favorite so far has been helping with the “Individual Education Plan” program where volunteers are matched with students struggling with their English-skills. My pairs and I have been reading different novels and I’ve had to describe, act, and sound out the meanings of many difficult words.
We have been doing such a variety of things in hopes of learning a little bit about all the different parts of JBFC that play their part in keeping it in motion. Sometimes I feel a little like the blue-collar worker in our relationship (Jeff is as effective on a computer as I am on the farm or dining hall). So, I’ve really enjoyed the times we get to jump in with both feet and get dirty. Those times could be hoeing on the farm, helping with the reading program, playing games with the pre-schoolers, or more recently creating an inventory and organizing the supplies at the clinic. Everyone is so welcoming in the different departments that it makes it easy to feel like a part of this team.
Each new day has brought new joys to our lives and we are excited to continue to grow as a part of the JBFC team. Mainly though, we’re just glad it’s not snowing!
This post was written by Mainsprings