Farewell Tanzania

First off, I have to say sorry for the lack of new pictures…my phone had an unfortunate meeting with a large swimming pool

As I wrap up my time here in Moshi there are a mixture of feelings that rise to the surface.  I feel a sense of sadness, a bit of anxiety, worry, and a lot of optimism toward the future.  I can’t help thinking though that there is an emptiness that is present as well.  I don’t know how to describe it fully but a feeling that there should be some emotion there inside of me that I cannot quite place.  Perhaps it comes from the feeling of unfinished business, that there is so much more that can and has to be done; more to experience, more people to see, things to do.  Maybe its relief, knowing that for now I don’t have to fight a corrupted system for a few weeks, that I can just let it be and turn off my social worker brain.  In reality I tend to think the feeling is that of solace, meaning that I did what I could do, which was not much, tried to make a difference in a few lives, and I am happy with that.  I did not change the structure of NGO’s, I did not thwart corruption and break down a broken system, and that is ok.  In the end if I helped one person that is more than ok, it is outstanding.

My last post may have seemed bleak and frustrating but I think it is important to be real about the feelings that come with working abroad, especially in a field such as social work.  It would not be right to sugar coat the truth of the matter and say “everything is fine”, the reality is that every now and again the weight of everything crashes down on you and you are left huddled and withdrawn, wondering “what’s the point”.  But then something happens during that breaking point, a new perspective shines through, a glimmer of hope comes alive, as long as there is still that spark of hope all will be well.  I have learned to talk a lot to others about what I am feeling; it helps me to process what I am dealing with and how I can see the positive within all the darkness.

It also helps to see the hope and commitment of those working around me.  I have seen people like my co-workers and expats give everything they have to assist a family or an individual to eat or have safe housing or get medical treatment.  This is what makes all the hardship worthwhile.  This is why I do what I do and why I chose to be a social worker.  It is referred to as compassion satisfaction and it is the driving force behind what many of us do.  It’s the goodness of heart, love, and caring for the most vulnerable that bolsters and steadies the frayed nerves.  More than once I have had my faith in humanity dashed and stomped on only to have it restored by watching my co-worker interact with one of our children.

I have received so much from meeting new people from around the world and hearing their take on life and social and political issues as well as seeing the amazing work they are doing.  More than a few times I have met someone from a completely different culture and they have restored my faith in humanity.  Sometimes the world looks bleak and I have found myself feeling very alone and isolated, then a stranger I happen to meet in a random place will strike up a conversation or vice versa and I find my heart begin to warm again.  I am not suggesting that this cannot happen back in the States but I feel, for me, it tends to happen more when traveling.  Perhaps it is because I am more open to possibility when I am traveling; maybe this is a goal I need to work on back home, being more open to the extraordinary wrapped in the everyday.

I would like to thank everyone for taking time out of their busy days to read this blog.  I really appreciate the support.  Please help support study abroad programs in our universities, they have made such an impact on my life and have truly given me a perspective on life and the world that I would not be otherwise afforded.  Thanks again! Take care and have fun!11159319_1088892601137387_1809846762_o

2 thoughts on “Farewell Tanzania

  1. Laura A Lewis, PhD, LCSW

    You’ve captured the essence of our struggles as social workers, Travis…the complicated feelings we manage.

    You stepped yet again into the unknown, taking risks where others would choose caution, and you extended a helping hand to individuals and groups.

    I suspect you’ll reflect on your learning for some time; I’m sure that your learning will be exponentially greater because of the challenges you’ve faced.

    You’ve represented the School and the profession well. Thank you!!

    Laura Lewis

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    1. pashelly

      I second Laura’s accolade:
      “You’ve represented the School and the profession well. Thank you!!”

      Throughout this placement, Travis, you have engaged with many ethical and professional issues. You gained a basic competency in Swahili, worked directly with children and families, learned about human service delivery (and barriers to access) and explored the physical terrain of Tanzania. All the while, you were learning, with a good degree of cultural humility, from every person you met.

      These blog posts have been edifying for me to read. I hope you will keep on providing us (social work professionals and all the other citizens of the world) with your reflections as you go forth from Tanzania – to who knows where in the future?

      With appreciation,
      Pat Shelly

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