Honestly as I think back on my arrival in Tanzania, it’s a very distant memory. I landed in Arusha sometime around 1:30am the 27th of September. It’s been two years. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. Even in realizing just now that it’s been two years I’m not sure where time has gone. I realize I’m also not quite sure where home is anymore.
In these past two years I’ve felt joy deeper and sadness deeper still. I’ve looked into eyes and seen the look of hopelessness and desperation. I’ve seen smiles and heard laughs that shout joy and redemption. I’ve felt deeper and loved harder. I’ve come to know myself more than ever before. Here I am Kelly. I am who Kelly really is, without all the strings and pressures of American culture. I thought I was me before, but here, in Tanzania, I am me and I am free. And I am home.
In writing this I don’t want you to think I don’t miss you. Don’t think that I don’t think about you, because I do, often. I wish so deeply and dearly you could visit me here. You could taste life as I do. You could breathe in the dusty air and listen to the laughing and screaming children. You could see the colors and brightness all around. You would also see hurt. Pain deeper than you can fathom. Hunger, poverty and misuse of power. I wish you could walk in my shoes, even for one day.
I’ve kissed thousands of boo-boos. I’ve wiped a million tears and shed a fair share myself. I’ve watched as babies learn to crawl and then to take their first steps. I’ve held many wailing littles as I rubbed teething gel on their aching gums. I’ve laughed until I had to lay on the floor to catch my breath. I’ve embarrassed myself over and over with Swahili but I’m finally started to get it. I’ve held many many little tiny hands, and quite a few dear friends. I’ve experienced heartache and felt the reassurance of a kindred soul. I’ve had conversations about life and passion deeper and more care free than ever imagined. I’ve watched as father’s come week in and week out to spend time with their only child, a child they love desperately and are trying to do everything to eventually take them home. I’ve also seen the deep pain in their eyes as they look at their child who reminds them so much of their wife who didn’t survive the delivery. I’ve seen our entire staff mourn the loss of a child, taken far too soon. I’ve seen everyone rejoice and dance as a child previously abandoned gets to go home with a family. I’ve witnessed a mother who had been so sick with breast cancer she was unable to nurse or even care for her daughter, recover to a point to be able to visit and see her 4 month old daughter with tears of joy running down her face. I’ve looked down into the barely open eyes of 3 and 4 pound infants as I contemplated whatever could have caused a mother to leave them. I’ve had to ask a lot of hard questions. I’ve been asked a lot of hard questions.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve lived. I am still living. I’m home, but I still miss you. Every day as I wake up to the sun beating on my window and hear the children in the street and the rooster crowing and my puppy pushing around his plate for breakfast, I smile and know this is home.