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Surat dari Tanzania

Patrya Pratama 9 November 2010
Hi! seperti posting saya sebelumnya, saya telah mengatakan bahwa apa yang kita, Indonesia Mengajar corps, lakukan adalah sesuatu yang mengandung nilai universal. Ia adalah janji kemanusiaan, bukan hanya hutang kemerdekaan 1945. Dalam posting kali ini, saya ingin menunjukkan sebuah email  dari Monica Ek, seorang wanita Amerika berumur 23 tahun -seumur rata-rata Pengajar Muda-, mengenai petualangan hidupnya dalam dunia social service. Alasan saya men-share emailnya adalah karena kita bisa me-relate banyak hal dari perjalanan dan perkembangan pemikirannya. Dari mulai evolusi persepsinya mengenai konsep "memberi" yang ternyata tidak sederhana, tantangan geografis dan budaya yang dihadapi, antusiasmenya yang seperti konsisten walaupun diterpa banyak tantangan. Hal ini menarik karena menurut saya, seorang perempuan Amerika yang biasa dengan modernitas yang masuk ke negara miskin Afrika mungkin sedikit banyak mirip dengan lulusan mahasiswa perkotaan Indonesia yang memasuki desa-desa terpencil di Indonesia...hope you can relate the story my dear Pengajar Muda friends... "Hi Everyone (I took a lot of your emails from facebook), Living over in Tanzania, without any friends besides Drew (and of course Tanzanians but although I am trying, there is still a language barrier), I have realized that I miss my friends and if I don’t get better at keeping in touch, I will lose all of you. I am done with school for now and now is when everybody splits off different places, settling down and it seems like this is the time when friendships stick or not. I decided I want it to stick with you all. Sorry it has been so long. I am really bad at keeping up with everyone and I’ve been really busy. So although I don’t really like sending mass emails because they are impersonal, I’m also really bad at sending personal emails consistently.  But that will change. I am determined to do better. So here is an update for the last few months if you’re interested. So, I graduated, worked for a year in New Mexico and in Minnesota to save money to move to Africa to try out life as a humanitarian with my boyfriend, Drew. We both worked crappy jobs or anything we could get and I went through six jobs in the year. I was a busser, door to door liberal canvasser for the health care reform in emerging winter in Minneapolis (sucked!) and on the signing team at macy’s (taking down sales and putting them back up 2 days later) starting at 5 in the morning along with other jobs. Drew sold women’s shoes at Macys. He knows everything now. I still don’t have my driver’s license. I got hit by someone the first time I tried to drive alone and recoiled back into my fear. Some things never change. After saving money, we looked at our options of where to go. I hoped I could return to Morocco at some point but we really wanted to go sub-saharan (the real Africa). We decided on Tanzania because of Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, the Masai tribe and the romanticized island of Zanzibar going through a program because we couldn’t find any other options. We paid very minimal fees and directly paid the organizations we were staying with for accommodation and food. That felt good at least. We also realized most volunteers were paying 5 to 7 times as much as we were for the same experience through a supposedly ‘non-profit’ organization. At first, Drew and I lived at the orphanage I was working at while Drew volunteered at a hospital. There were only 13 kids at the orphanage while many others in the area had 70-100 and they were all spoiled, asking for everything they wanted then pouting when you wouldn’t give to them. They had 8 people taking care of them (older role models and caretakers) and each kid owned their own bike (a luxury here especially for kids) which all had popped tires that they were too lazy to pump up. The mama had used the orphanage to profit herself and did nothing more than sleep, order the kids around and go to church to keep up her reputation with the community. She seemed as if she didn’t even like kids but found an opportunity for easy profit: volunteers and their naivety, parent’s money and short duration of stay. I left after 3 weeks of not knowing what to do or help with. While I was there, I still pushed myself in to help with cooking, cleaning and washing clothes but had to stop if mama ever came home but ultimately felt of little use. Let’s just say I was disappointed and annoyed. I have never become so aware of colonialism and how incredibly destructive it was for these countries. Of course it was horrible when colonists were in power but they really messed up the progression, inferiority complex and division between ‘Africans’ and ‘mzungus’ (as they call here-white people or foreigners).  Tanzanians either hate you for being white and associating you with all the generations of mistreatment or you are their money-savior who will provide them with a life of luxury and lazy-ness. The expectations are frustrating. Often, Tanzanians do not take responsibility, do not work hard, and feel that good fortune and success is all based on luck (usually meeting you). This is one of those long-lasting effects of colonialism. Tanzania missed the whole center part of progression with jobs, education and technology, dependent on the Western world for the next step. This is why many parts of Tanzania even houses in cities have no running water but everyone has a cell phone.  There are so many imported goods that are not needed or essential here that have created the gap between needs and wants without Tanzanians economically having a disposable income. People dream about speaker systems and big screen tvs saving up to buy it instead of money for food for their family for a year. In the beginning of colonialism, Tanzanians saw foreigners with things they never dreamed of while they struggled to provide food for their families. Many people became fascinated with wealth and luxury and mzungus as the way to get it. We are for them an opportunity for wealth which means there is a ‘mzungu price’ and a regular price for everything. Most mzungus come on vacation here so Tanzanians do not know that most people work for their money which supports the whole wealth luck correlation. Foreign companies still own and operate most of the market which means the money is not poured into the country.  Immigrants from India usually own most of the big and reliable shops. The government is corrupt and lessening one’s control over their own life and stealing money for themselves. Education systems, orphanages and hospitals are often in desperate need of help and receive little to nothing from the government which in turn stunts the country’s development. This opens the need and possibility for foreign aid which often does not empower the people but instead perpetuates the dependency. Wealthy Tanzanians do not help their own people because they know foreigners will do it. This is why Tanzanians became very fearful instead of relieved when they heard a new vaccine for HIV was being created. Scared? This was because they feared all the international aid would cease to come into the country and opportunities and their lives would cease to exist. Sorry, this is a lot I know. This has been 6 months of experience here. I still had and have the motivation to support and help but my perspective has changed. I now know how debilitating and counter-productive ‘giving’ is. It is true people need capital to start something, but the whole operation should not be funded. Often times, we felt extremely helpless and that us being here was only perpetuating the cycle and keeping Tanzania dependent on foreign money and less dependent on their own work. I have gone through a lot of internal struggles as well with what I am capable of, what I hoped to do in my life and what my purpose is. I have learned a lot and we have recharged ourselves and discussed, argued and finally figured out a constructive way (hopefully) to support hard-working, underprivileged and trustworthy individuals and organizations. Instead of financial support, we give our time, work, ideas in order to create self-empowering and self-sustaining businesses and organizations. We bring our knowledge of different perspectives from ideas and businesses virtually exhausted in America as new ideas for Tanzanian employment and income. We also want to provide tools for ideas to expand and provide opportunities for learning, even outside of school,  to those passionate Tanzanians without the resources to move further. Whoop whoop, now I got all the technical and systematic crap out of the way. So, honestly Tanzania is not what I thought it was going to be like. I naively expected more mud huts, rural life, no media (only live music) and harsh conditions. Instead, it is pretty easy living here and really comfortable. It is fun! It is very characteristic, women carry everything on their head, they wear brightly colored kangas, mixed with other clothes of all colors.   The other clothes are usually donated from the Western world sold at a massive market a little outside of town.  We have seen shirts that say “I’m big on the Pig” from piggly wiggly, “Trust me, I’m a virgin”, Kids are often barefoot playing with toys made of bucket lids and wire, smoothed out bottle caps and string, and cars made from old toiletpaper rolls. I can’t help but love the imagination that has to exist for kids playing. Living conditions are easy, we run out of electricity sometimes and there are bimonthly outages, we only have cold showers but the temperature outside is hot, we have no running water half of most days (bucket showers are normal), we have an eastern toilet (uncomfortable sometimes), we don’t eat meat often (expensive, no refrigerator and meat is usually sold still attached to the animal so we just skip it) but all of this is no big deal really after a week or so. The atmosphere between people is like a big family, kids come through our yard daily, most things are shared but people don’t trust each other with money. It is really personal between families but it is difficult to break through the shows Tanzanians give to foreigners (but definitely worth the effort). There is a lot of respect for elders with a mandatory respectful greeting for those older than you (Shikamo). We walk everywhere and most roads are dirt so during the rainy season life virtually stops, kids don’t go to school and some people don’t go to work. If you go out, you get stuck sliding all over in the mud ending with an inch thick layer of heavy grime on the bottom of your shoes or bike. It’s funny. In the beginning, not knowing the customs, I forced three crying kindergarteners through the slippery mud to school, confusing their crying and wanting to go home with taking advantage of the new volunteer. I couldn’t believe life could stop when the long rainy season goes for three months. In my mind, they had to be tougher than that. Haha. Daladalas are the equivalent to a bus system around town. They leave only when they are full and people are crammed in vans sitting, standing with any combination of goods to sell, live chickens and construction materials. Everyone manoeuvres to fit every inch of space, kids are pulled onto laps of people they don’t know, people sitting hold bags and things for those that are standing and everything usually happens with no talking. The exchanges are common and natural. We even brought two big bags and a fibreglass shower basin on the daladala, where people manoeuvred it through to where I was sitting and didn’t complain for their obstructed view or the weight. Riding in a daladala is always an experience. Sometimes the operator doesn’t have change and has to stop at a shop along the way to get it for you, often people are hanging out the side of the van because it is too crammed to shut the door, and it is hot and squished so the stench of sweat and exhaust lingers. It really is awesome Itell you, an adventure! So after I moved to a new orphanage, I found my place. I love Mama Faraji (mama of the orphanage) and her generosity, progressive thinking, fun-loving personality, innovative effort in helping others (not only the 78 orphans she supports solely) and her strong morals and vision for society. She has become our mother here and we always speak to her for guidance and to help us work around something. She is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. We have also become acquainted with so many wonderful, funny, compassionate and hard working individuals here. Peter, our roommate and volunteer coordinator of our organization is hilarious, easy-going and fun. He is like our little brother. There is also the young couple who own and operate the House of Learning (a free school for street children and orphans), and a secondary school, QT center and free vocational trainings for widows. They financially support it themselves. We have been very fortunate to have met with these people and to work with them to complete combined goals. It is exciting! There are also wonderful kids who are smart, funny, energetic and motivated. So there’s the update, I think I hit most things except that Drew and I, along with some other people’s help have started an NGO here in Moshi, Tanzania. It has been a lot of work, a lot of interactions, meetings and ideas but we are excited and proud of what we are doing. We just finished the website a few days ago and if you want to look at it, we would love it. Please give me feedback. We’ve never done this before. We have never made a website. And although Drew and I have carefully and extensively discussed, argued and brainstormed the whole thing, it still mostly comes from our perspective so we would love the input. The website is Nafasi means opportunity in Kiswahili. I know it’s a little corny but we really wanted a word that went with our organization and could be an acronym. So the acronym is National Association For African Sustainability and Improvement. Phew. We are starting the sports league next Wednesday with the Tuleeni orphanage, and eventually between other orphanages. I am teaching acting classes at House of Learning next Thursday. We have both been teaching off and on at the House of Learning. I am the in-country coordinator for US and UK donors to build a new and sustainable orphanage for Tuleeni, which is a lot of work (finding the land-which we bought, finding an estimate, plan, builders, expenses, access to schools, church, hospitals, etc). I have been busy. Drew and I have also made a plan for the upstairs unfinished classrooms of HOL and spent a week breaking down walls with a sledgehammer! I was so excited to know how to do it. We are coming up with ways to implement a day care at the HOL for some income for the organization and employment for widows. Drew is working on a laboratory and building all the chairs and desks so the school does not have to rent them any longer. He is also helping Mr. Price, a wealthy Tanzanian with the audio/visual parts of his new movie theatre (the first one in Moshi). We have a lot of projects and extremely boggled minds. Drew also just had minor surgery on his foot for a bad infection. AHHHHH. So much. Now, I want to know everything about everyone! I have bored you with my life and my aspirations and now I really honestly crave updates.  if anyone is in the area or in need of an adventure or change, I would love it if you came here and visited or volunteered. So that’s all for now. Miss you! Monica"

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