Friday, June 18, 2010


Familiarity is a very important concept for a volunteer.  It sometimes feels as if an overseas volunteer is abruptly placed at one of the most unnatural settings in the world.  They are separated from their normal lives, including: family, friends, casual acquaintances, etc., and are placed where they know no one, and no very little about local customs nor language.

But as time passes by most manage, and most get accustomed to their lives.  They make new relations.  Looking back, the key concept of this rather mystical process of escaping the unnatural setting is familiarity.  At first, nothing is familiar.  The people and the places are all novel and rather strange.  But as time passes, things begin to be more familiar.  The onion seller at the market, the fruit stand on the road, Dubai restaurant after Sunday church, teaching routine, the office tea, the neighbors; the list goes on.  Thus, in the process of the unfamiliar becoming familiar, a volunteer begins to feel the unnatural turn natural.  Familiarity is perhaps the most important concept for a volunteer.

Okay whatever, picture time.

The entire school staff minus three or four, plus three student government representatives.  This was taken during Kyungbok's farewell party, a rather interesting event indeed.  The above staff take care of 750 students.  Or more precisely, the above staff have a hard time taking care of 750 students

This is Dubai, the most popular restaurant among the Korean volunteers, and the weekly gathering place after church.  Quick service, friendly, cheap price, and decent quality makes this place the "Best Restaurant of Mtwara 2010."  It probably has retained the title since 1991, and will continue to do so until 2037, when Armageddon comes.

Inside Dubai.  I often talk about how it would be interesting to open a Dubai in Korea, or wherever.  The business will definitely tank, but the imagination of it thriving is a rather fun thought.

A highlight location for those touring Mtwara.  The Msemo / Southern Cross Hotel is the most luxurious place in Mtwara, offering meals that cost up to..... $10!! What a rip off!  The hotel and its restaurant does boast a remarkable beach view, along with high quality painting and sculpture shop.  It's also the only place to see Masai (a.k.a. cow thieves) in Mtwara.

My wonderful neighbor.  Oh my neighbors.  My neighborhood is rather dysfunctional.  All the fathers are poor fathers, most of them neglecting family duties, asking for divorces, going out without letting their families know, and in one extreme case, wife-beating!  Mr. Ninje is one of the milder cases, who has an angelic glow when he talks about how he buys meat for his three boys, or how they love to hear his stories (I've seen this in action, him sitting on a stool with the two older boys being absorbed in his stories, rather remarkable sight of father-sons relationship).  But to be honest, he's just another irresponsible Tanzanian father.  The mom is an angel too, being a wonderful neighbor.  And the boys are just so cute.  The first born, Lama, is pretty much a second mom.  He does all the chores, and even cooked for the family, including his dad, while his mom was away for a month.  The second, Ashlaf, is just like his dad, playful and cute.  And the last one, Daufiki, is the baby of the neighborhood.  Two months ago he could barely stand, but now he walks up to the stove and picks up the charcoal to eat it.  My favorite neighbors, but unfortunately, they'll be moving out soon, as their house will be occupied by the next Japanese volunteer.

1 comment:

anne said...

Indeed, about that familiarity stuff. I'm having trouble motivating myself now that I'm done in Beijing and starting to apply for jobs elsewhere. And you know why? its because I'm not looking fwd to going through that unfamiliarity feeling again +_+ Glad you made it to "familiar" in Tanzania