I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
I’m in DC, hoping to meet with some NGOs during my 10 hour layover. In my bag are books for some kids that live near my cousin glitter pens for their friends’ wedding and some high-end tea. I have spent the past several months going to intermational development parties and agressively networking my way to anyone who knows anyone working in Arusha, the city where I’m headed. Also in my bag is a data recovery kit. It consists of a USB port which plugs into a hard drive of either a laptop or desktop so that data can be recovered from a crashed machine. I have that and only two pairs of shorts.
I don’t know why I have such an urge to be useful when I get there. I definitely DON’T have some sense that Arusha needs to be fixed, or that my white ass could be even remotely useful in the 18 days that I’m there. I think I’m just fantasizing about connecting with people.
When I talk to people who have been to Tanzania they urgently tell me about lions and giraffes, about safaris through ancient impact craters and hikes up Kilimanjaro, none of which feels like the thing that brought me on this trip.
I’m heading to the place where humans evolved, where people have been living (not without violent interruption) for our entire history. There’s got to be some wisdom in that, or at least some perspective in getting away from my SF bubble.
The trouble is, that wisdom and perspective seems easy to miss. I’m airdropping into a tourist hub, which means it could presumably be easy for me to walk away with my most powerful memories being of lions and giraffes and not of the friendships that I had forged, the things I had learned about myself or the connections I made with subtler aspects of the ecology.
If I want those connections then I need to steer clear of the tourist hotspots. I need to be prepared to wander towards opportunity at a monent’s notice. I need to find reasons for people to talk to me, and that means making myself useful. So I’ve got my books, San Francisco contacts and my data recovert kit. Here goes.