On leaving Tanzania

A few weeks ago, Diane asked me to write a post about what I miss about home. At the time, it was a short list, but the longer I’ve been away, the longer it’s grown.

At the top, of course, are Diane and my two beautiful children, followed by my brother and sister and their spouses and my two nieces. I miss my neighbors and my friends, the ones on Facebook who may read this, and the ones who aren’t and probably won’t.

I miss my animals, who warm and complicate my days, and I miss my home, our land in Bogus Brook Township. I miss the trails around fields and through woods and along the river. I miss the landscape of America, the amber waves of grain and the purple mountains and the Great Lakes. I miss the Twin Cities, where I sometimes go to get away from it all on the bike trails or at the bars.

I miss my guitar, even though I don’t play it much. I miss my job, and the people I’ve met working for the Mille Lacs Band.

The list of things I don’t miss is much longer. I don’t miss the cars, or driving, or the urban and suburban and rural sprawl that makes it impossible to walk anywhere for so many people. I don’t miss the looniness of American politics, or the gun culture, or the blind eye we turn to the most important things. I don’t miss the selfishness of Americans, who prefer military spending to foreign aid.

I don’t miss the media, the sax and violins, the 24-hour news cycle, the talking heads, the celebrity worship, the fretting and frittering. I don’t miss Netflix, although I do miss sitting on the couch with Diane watching a European crime series. I don’t miss KFAN, which I listen to way too much while driving way too far, but I do miss KBEK. I don’t miss school, but I miss some of my classmates.

I don’t miss the busy-ness, or the noose-paper (Jim Larson’s contributions to my vocabulary). I don’t miss materialism, or billboards, or the made-up and exaggerated problems that obsess and debilitate us. I don’t miss the food, not one packaged or processed or promoted bite.

There are many things I will miss about Tanzania: the weather, of course, the cheap food and drinks, and the wonderful staff at my local hangout, Woodlands. I’ll miss the nyama choma, the kachumbali, and the fresh chips. I’ll miss running into the friends I’ve made all over town. I’ll miss the students and staff and International School Moshi. I’ll miss seeing goats everywhere, and hornbills. I’ll miss the call to prayer from the mosque, and the roosters. Mostly I’ll miss the warm and welcoming attitude of the Tanzanian people as a whole. I can honestly say I’ve never been anyplace where the vibe (for lack of a better word) is as positive as here. In spite of the poverty and the hard work, people are happy and pleasant almost all the time.

I have a few regrets about my time here. I didn’t climb Kilimanjaro, but if I had I would’ve missed out on the Usambara Mountains and the coast and Zanzibar. I didn’t ride in one of those three-wheel taxis that always remind me of my year in Thailand as a kid. I didn’t maintain my trajectory with Swahili after the third week, although I continued to learn and end up satisfied with what I accomplished. I didn’t reconnect with some of the people I met. I didn’t sing karaoke or jam with my musician friend. I should’ve walked in the rain to his concert that night.

In spite of all that, I can’t wait to come home. The good outweighs the bad, in quality if not quantity. Tomorrow I leave. I’m ready.


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