This semester I have gotten to know some pretty awesome locals here in Iringa who have made this town feel like home, and have contributed in huge ways to how great this semester has been. Here are some asante’s (thank you’s) to some of my favorite locals!
Dear Agnes, the first Tanzanian I got to know, a seamstress, and my program director, Justin’s, housekeeper,
Thank you for being the first one to show me the incredible hospitality of Tanzanian women by taking us to the market, picking out fabric with us, buying us snacks, and protecting us from traffic along the way, and then making us homemade dresses and skirts. Thank you for caring for me when I got sick at the beginning of the semester; making me smoothies and yummy meals. Thank you for keeping it real with us always; for telling us your life story and also not failing to tell me that my dress measurements had gotten a little bigger when I wanted another dress made toward the end of the semester. Not to shame me, but a simple observation- body positivity! Thank you, especially, for letting us play with Justin’s puppy and for jumping on his trampoline with us, and for showing us how to use his zip line when he wasn’t home hehe- you are a hoot and a half, and a true gem.
Dear Danny Mdage, my history professor,
You are one of the quirkiest and funniest people I have ever met. Thank you for your humor, because of it, my classmates and I have grown so much closer through all the inside jokes we’ve been able to make in your class. Thank you for being obsessed with Josh, and always calling on him first so that the rest of us have more time to think. Thank you for being interested in our opinions, and for not moving on from a topic until every single one of us have shared ours. Thank you for reminding us every day that, “Life? It is too short! You need to relax and drink Kilimanjaro!” Thank you for giving us your ratings of all the local beers with Kilimanjaro coming in at #1, of course. And, for even scheming with us to surprise Josh for his 21st birthday and ditching class with us to get some Kilimanjaro’s, and celebrate! Thank you for cutting the required length of our final paper in half because, again, “Life? It is too short!” Thank you for sending us all random texts and funny gifs when we go on trips to check in on us. You are one of a kind and will not be forgotten.
Dear Gaspar, my public health professor,
Thank you for being one of my most favorite people. It’s common culture that some older, professional Tanzanian men can be somewhat condescending towards young women, but you are one of the most open, inclusive, respectful, and funniest men I have ever met. Thank you for welcoming all our questions, for caring enough about the content to take us to see firsthand what we learned about, and for letting us turn in our assignments late 😉 Because of what your class has consisted of, and your passion in presenting it, I am now considering going to grad school for public health! I have become a lot more excited about my future, and my mother’s anxiety level has decreased because of you, since before coming here I had completely written off grad school. You are an incredible professor and person, the real MVP
Dear basket lady,
I was warned about you. I was warned that I’d get to know you well this semester. I don’t know your real name, but I could recognize you and your eager “HALLOW! WELCOME!” from a mile away. Thank you for popping up at the most random places, and literally running and chasing us down to try to sell us baskets. Thank you for reminding us that “today is tomorrow,” when yesterday we’d said we’d buy a basket tomorrow. You tell it how it is and hold us accountable, and I really appreciate that. Thank you for being a constant in my experience. Thank you for your beautiful, handmade baskets, your persistence in all things, and for your gratitude when we actually buy them. I am so excited to give them to my family as gifts!
Dear James, Lucy, and the twins who work at Clocktower, the restaurant we go to almost everyday,
Thank you for being the people who have made us feel like locals in Iringa. Thank you for always having veggie curry ready for us, and for putting it back on the menu when we got back from the village because we’re really the only ones who order it. Thank you for occasionally giving us special discounts, for always greeting us with huge smiles, and for noting our improving Swahili. Thank you for knowing us and letting us know you. You are incredible people who run a great business, and it has been an honor to support it this semester!
Dear Gracie and Beatrice, the beauticians at Neema Salon, (who I unfortunately don’t have pictures of)
Thank you for kindness that truly permeates the air around you; that permeates the entire tiny salon. I can’t describe it well, but I feel so at peace being in the presence of you two when I’m getting a pedicure or a massage. (Both half the price they would be in the U.S.!) Thank you for giving me the best massage of my entire life, you both have magic fingers! Thank you for chatting with us and for always making us feel so welcomed and pampered, for truly feeling like big sisters to me. Thank you for how you make your salon feel like a home to not only us, but to every person who enters. You inspire me.
Dear William and Shukuru from Neema Craft and Café, my favorite deaf friends,
Okay, I’ll be honest, I saved the best for last. Where do I even start with you two?! Thank you for showing me that friendship knows no bounds! I normally walk into Neema a little bit stressed with homework and job hunting to do, but your huge smiles, high fives, and nonstop humor always, always lighten my mood. Thank you for knowing my order by heart by now, for cleaning up my smoothies when I spill them all over my table, and for never judging me when I order two hot chocolates in one day. Thank you for always pretending to steal my stuff, for tapping me on the shoulder and then pretending it wasn’t you, and for our small conversations written on receipts. Because of you, I want to relearn sign language! The world really needs more people like you two, people who never leave others without a smile.
Love, one of your favorite Mzungu’s,
Erin (a.k.a. Helen, Irene, Irin, Erini)