Julia Bridgforth Design


Nzuri (Good)

I made it to Tanzania. Only 5 months after returning to the great American continent, I was back off to the Southern Hemisphere in hopes of.... honestly the only mental preparation that I set aside time for was a hope to not die. I was hurdling myself into a life that was going to be so different from the comfort I felt on Sewanee's 12,000 acre campus: my romping grounds for both constructive and reckless activities. 

I didn't pack much. A couple long skirts, a couple shirts, underwear, toiletries, my ukulele and my iPad seemed to take the bulk of the room, with a few hardback books and my chacos nussled in the gaps. The cause for panic in the days leading up to my departure included a list of: not having a VISA, not knowing where I was staying for my night in Dar Es Salaam, and generally having no clue what I was about to be doing in Dodoma, Tanzania. Of course, all worked out perfectly well, as things tend to do. By perfectly well, of course I got cheated out of some money and was completely incompetent at communicating in Swahili and therefore missed my 7 am flight out of DAR and had to spend eight hours in a flat backed metal chair without anything to eat before finally boarding what seemed more like a flying minivan than a plane. There was literally only one other person on my flight. 

Upon touchdown at what looked more like a concrete shack than the nations' capital airport,  I was greeted by the smiling face of Rv. Mganulwa Masima, who I instantly adored because of the "Protected by a Sewanee Angel" sticker on the back window of her white sadan. Although conversation did not flow due to language difficulties and my inevitable fatigue after international travel with no sleep, she gave me food, so I was incredibly happy. She dropped me off at my house and we arranged plans to go to the market the next day. 


My house is one of 6 houses all connected around a courtyard. It has a main room that doubles as the kitchen and living room, a bathroom and a bedroom. Basically, it's the most room I have ever had to occupy as one single being. The refrigerator door doesn't fully shut, the water only works half of the day, and in order to shower, I have to crouch like Shmeegle under a tap that drips more than flows, but I absolutely love the place. It's my own little oasis where I can read, write and play my ukulele. On the plane ride over, I reflected upon solitude. I was reading Stranger in the Woods, a true story of a man who lived without any human interaction, except the constant pilferage of food and a singular "hello" from a passing hiker, for 27 years. I love people and I try not to spend too much time alone because when I do, my thoughts seems to stray too far from normal. But it seems inevitable that I'll be spending a lot of time alone here, in my little house. We'll see how it goes. 


On Sunday, I woke up late and headed outside with my sketchbook to draw the courtyard. I met Fred, a Tanzanian who runs the compound and is an administrator at CAMS, a school owned by the Diocese of Cental Tangayika, which is the overarching figure of my internship. I also met Rachel, a bitter British lady who has since left, and Benjamin, the cute and sporty PE teacher at CAMS who is originally from Germany. One of his favorite lines is: "I'm German, I can open a beer with a sheet of paper." I've seen him do it. Mganulwa can to scoop me up and bring me to the market so I could buy some food to start cooking. It was a large expanse of stalls with rice, beans, fresh fruit and weird looking dried things that I had no interest in trying. Mganulwa took charge and translated everything for me. One thing I had already learned in 24 hours of being in Tanzania was that I needed to learn some Swahili. The market was a terrifying experience with everyone yelling at me from all angles with words I did not understand yet. But the fresh mango and vibrant colors were much worth it. 

I am one of about six consistent white people living in Dodoma it seems, and definitely the youngest. I get a lot of attention which is sometimes fun and other times annoying. Children will stop in their tracks with their mouth agape as though they've seen an alien while young ladies will pet my hair before even saying "Habari". At this point of the journey I didn't even know the proper responses. That's hilarious looking back. I've grown so much and I can't wait to share more. 


Julia Bridgforth