Sunday, September 30, 2012

do it big

Just wanted you to know that I got in to Tanzania last night and I'm safe and sound and have a full day's work behind me already. I'm here, in Dar Es Salaam at a nice hotel (you wouldn't know I wasn't in the US if someone didn't tell you) with a coffee maker and a hair dryer and an internet connection. Everyone has been very nice so far - a handful of people from the company met us at the airport to get our visas and our stuff and bring us to the hotel, and one of the women offered to take us to the marketplace, which was unexpectedly sweet of her.

My hotel room is lovely (though I think I'll miss very hot showers and I may have already blown my hair dryer this morning) and none of the food has made me sick yet - I'll be in Dar Es Salaam for two weeks and then onto the mine site. We're having regional strategy sessions and workshops to begin the project, and I'm trying to take it all in, while also being totally fascinated with the cultural differences (we went to Mwuenge, a Tanzanian market, today... and I wanted EVERYTHING!), working with Swahili (Asante is thank you, but I keep wanting to default to Gracias), feeling a little jet lagged, and being blown away by the scenery. Literally, I had business meetings today while sitting in a cafe on the Indian Ocean. My partner in crime has a photo of hot air balloons rising above the Serengeti that he took himself. Insane. He speaks very highly of the mine site - it's got great food and a gym and we have a small stand-alone office building. I'll be excited to see it.

As an update, I not only left the country for the first time two days ago, but I did it after quitting my job before having a passport to be here and I'm now an advisor to a gold mine. No halfway here, my friends.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

the launch

I am unaccustomed to leaving.  Being left, I understand.  Escaping and returning is my bread and butter.  But leaving for a time, that has been a harder thing that I expected.  Later alligator and not-goodbye-but-until-we-meet-again and all of those cliches ignored, though they are true.

But I have no hesitation, just some butterflies. My entire "how to prep for Africa" to do list is nearly completed.  I would not claim to be prepared yet, but the to do list is finished.  I'm almost in shock - the adrenaline will carry me from here on out.

I'm thrilled about the opportunity and I know that the role others have played in my life to this point has helped to launch me.  And the significance of the impact has sent me clear across the world...

It is an interesting tug in my heart to be launched so far by people I love so much, people that will remain in my heart even half a world away, people who keep my dreams safe and who affirm my ability and who keep my soup hot while I'm adventuring... it's these people who have told me that I'm brave and that I'm strong and that I can.  I honor the belief they have in me by trying, by waving back as I go toward the challenge, and by running home with open arms when I've accomplished it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

do I look good in my hat? do I look ready?

The challenge of packing for a place that you've never been and a place that you can't be guaranteed will have any replacements available for the things you are likely to forget is not to be dismissed. Though an avid traveler, I've never left the country... and moving to Tanzania for weeks at a time cannot be considered simple traveling.

I had my passport expedited (yes, I'm probably the only person you know who accepted a job without knowing she could get there), I had seven shots and bought 150 malaria pills, and I'm working to assemble every medical, technological, and personal comfort that I can identify as normal in my daily life.

I'm also taking advice.  My survival skills have been discussed at length.  At this point, I'm intrigued to see what I can do with a leatherman and a roll of duct tape.  I'm planning to take up shooting lessons at Christmas, in case I do end tangling with a lion.  Not taking heels has been suggested (and obviously, immediately dismissed).  Tomorrow, I will spray all of my clothes with permethrin, an insecticide.

At this point, I am prepared to be unprepared.  It is likely I will get sick - not deathly ill, but the more benign and more annoying kind of irritant.  I will be shocked about how hot it is.  I have no idea what my apartment or my office will look like.  I have been promised daily showers and decent coffee.  I am bringing my little blue mug along for good measure.

It has been suggested that I bring a hat.  I look awful in most hats.  When it was first suggested, I noted it dutifully, as I have noted all other suggestions, and dismissed it in my head immediately (similar to the ban on heels).  When my brother brought it up as a must-have, I cringed and stated that I didn't look good in hats.  And he told me that I was going to want one anyway, even if it looks ridiculous.  I have since chosen a safari hat, which I'm sure is not doing as great a job as a real hat would do, but I've decided that it must be better than nothing...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

a dream deferred

I'm throwing off the bowlines, sailing from safe harbor to explore, dream, discover.  Indeed, it is that spirit of adventure that has sustained me over the past week when even I questioned my sanity, on hearing the words "Surprise! Africa!" exclaimed from my own lips.

But, I am not crazy... or simply no more than usual... a dream deferred will be soon realized.  (See, the poetry has already returned to my soul!)  I leave in two weeks!  I've gotten my passport expedited and lots of shots (seven of them - ugh), I told my firm and started shopping for a professional-mining hybrid of a wardrobe.  I'm in the middle of taking care of all the administrative tasks on my to do list.

For six months, I will be providing organizational consulting services at a gold mine in Tanzania, between Lake Victoria and the Serengeti.  Though a developing county, the mine site is very safe, complete with electricity and running water.  As safe as Africa gets, my father says.

Sure, nothing about this is safe.  Nothing about it is rational.  Except that sitting still is worse.  Sitting still is death.  I will chase down meaning and beauty and adventure and perspective!  I will hunt it down (maybe this is my lion) and I will be proud of every day, every step forward, every thing earned.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

so it begins...

I spent the first week of October 2011 in Key West - I had won the lottery!  As a gift for earning my MBA, an uncle had given me the trip.  I wasn't looking for it, and then... surprise!  I found myself on an island, in paradise, where I embraced a simpler way of life, getting coffee every morning from Island Joe's, watching sunrise and sunset, riding bicycles across the town, bread in the afternoon from Cole's Peace, and entertainment in the evening between Mallory Square and Hog's Breath.

Recently, I found my copy of True At First Light, the Hemingway that Nicole chose for me (over the one about his juggling two different woman and/or a threesome?)... thankfully, she encouraged Africa over another dysfunctional relationship.  No one knew then, no one had even thought, that I'd have a life in Africa one day.

Almost exactly a year ago, I got on a plane.  I spent a week in Key West.  This year, when I get on a plane, I'm heading to Tanzania.  I'm off to seek an adventure!  Pure Hemingway...