lessons in patience

When I was in Guatemala, I had to actively work on being patient. I had to tell myself to slow down, to breathe deeply, and let life happen at this slower pace. It leaves more room for appreciating the small things, more room for taking it all in, and more room for forming memories. It is an understanding that life is not as easy, and that there is so much to be done. Here in Tanzania, I am once again being flooded with these lessons.

On Saturday, I witnessed a training of over 20 community leaders on the program I will be helping to implement this summer. The training was completely in Swahili, the local language that I have yet to learn, so I certainly didn’t contribute much. I am working towards learning Swahili, but that is another story. The meeting was supposed to go from 8:15am to noon, and finally started at 9:30am. It still ended at noon, as a consideration to the participant’s time. Community leaders from the local government, the local churches, and the local mosques all slowly trickled in, and were greeted enthusiastically each time. I was impressed how many people showed up at all, considering 9am on a Saturday is not usually a popular work time. Mr. Mabula explained the program, which is designed to simultaneously help widows, orphans, and single mothers while teaching about and hopefully eliminating stigma of substance abuse, domestic violence, and HIV. My favorite part of the meeting was how it was opened with a Christian prayer, and closed with a Muslim prayer. It is both interesting and encouraging to see two dominate religions co-exist peacefully and with mutual respect. I was told the meeting was very successful, with all the community leaders vowing to support the program. If we had started on time, we would not have had an audience, let alone a successful meeting. Patience guaranteed the training’s success.

The biggest lesson in patience has been the traffic, which is as much a part of the culture as the chapatti bread (Tanzania’s gift to the world) or drinking chai. That’s what happens when you have a city of over 6 million people and a handful of highways. Buses weave in and out of the roads, preparing to abruptly stop for more passengers. Cars cut each other off. The tuk tuks and motorcycles roam between lanes, on the sidewalks, and anywhere else they can find space. People organize their work schedules, their outings with friends, and their meetings around the traffic. If you’re a local, you simply refer to it as “the jam”. This is the second post I’ve talked about the traffic in, so you know it is a big deal. I’m constantly impressed by the mass daily movement of people, and the impact that this movement has on everyone’s life.

Waiting here is normal. It’s not a bad thing (we certainly wait a lot in the States as well), it’s just how work happens. The meeting starts when everyone shows up. The lecture ends when the professor is done talking. Everything is more organic, and less structured. There is room for tangents, and comments, and questions about families before work begins. There’s not the same sense of urgency that we have in the States, which for me will lead to lower levels of stress and anxiety. I’m cultivating my patience once again, and am ready for it to continue to grow.

 

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