“We delight in the beauty of a butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou
I’m in transition again. My chapter here in beautiful Tanzania is coming to a close and, as of August this year, I’m starting a new chapter in Hanoi, Vietnam.
It feels like only yesterday I accepted my teaching job and took my mad leap of faith into this unknown corner of the world that very quickly became like home to me. The past 4 years have been one of the most beautiful chapters of my life so far and, as I come to the last few weeks of my time here, I am practising gratefulness and noting down just how much Tanzania has taught me and given me.
In the past four years I have forged some incredible friendships. There is an honesty and realness that comes with friendships that are made in adulthood, especially those made once out of the orchestrated friendships of school and university. You are friends with people not because of proximity or shared experiences: if anything your friendships become more inexplicable! And yet, the friendships I have built here in Tanzania are some of the most genuine. Some friendships were built on the firm foundation of alcohol, sarcasm and shenanigans. Some were built on adventures in tiny planes to remote beaches. Some were built on long conversations by a fire under the stars. Some were built on music and laughter. Some were built on shoulders to cry on and advice given. Some friendships became so much more than friendship. Some friendships became love. Some friendships even came out of my writing here on this blog. The ex-pat world is a transient one where goodbyes are said on a regular basis. You get used to people coming and going, knowing that one day it will be your turn too. But you also forge friendships that are deeper and last longer than the goodbyes. I am certain of my friendships and I know that even though this goodbye will be sad, it is not forever, for these friends are certain and sure and will endure.
Tanzania has fuelled my adventurous nature and wanderlust 100 times over and, both in Tanzania and flying to neighbouring countries, I have truly lived life fully while on this continent. Experiences like camping on the edge of the Great Rift Valley with hyenas laughter echoing through the night, flying to the remote Mahale Mountains National Park to stand a foot away from chimpanzees living in the wild, watching the sunrise on the lions and elephants of the Serengeti, seeing rare black rhinos in the mist of the Ngorogoro Crater, snorkelling in the beautiful coral reefs off the coast of Tanga, wandering the streets of Stonetown during the spectacular Sauti za Busara music festival, dancing under the stars and welcoming in the new year at Kilifi, chasing the sunset on the back of a scooter in Zanzibar, standing in the middle of the ancient Deadvlei in the Namib Desert, feeling the mist from the incredible Victoria Falls… As Mary Oliver said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This. Exactly this.
My heart has been so full here in this land of the flame-trees. While I know my new adventure in Hanoi will bring just as many wonderful new experiences, there is a bittersweet quality to this farewell. Change is as necessary as it is difficult and I know that this goodbye is so difficult because I am lucky enough to have something that I don’t want to lose. Yet what makes it okay is that it is not lost. Nothing so precious is ever lost.
This new beginning in Vietnam signifies another precious chapter of my life, with more friendships to find and more experiences and adventures to have.
I am leaving a special part of my heart here in Tanzania. Keep it safe for me.