Today I had a somewhat startling revelation: I left DC two weeks ago. Time has certainly flown by! It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by already. I know part of the reason it feels like I haven’t been here as long is because I was in Dar for half a week and spent almost a full day traveling. So, my first day in the Dodoma office was the last day of my first week. I was thinking back onto how I felt after two weeks in Romania. It was quite a different experience. I think I had the feeling of, “It’s only been two weeks?!” Time moved so much more slowly it seemed.
To me, this contrast is interesting. In Romania, time seemed to move slowly, even though it was a somewhat faster pace of life and I had more to occupy my down time. Here in Tanzania, it is a little bit of a slower pace of life and I have less to do to occupy my downtime, and yet it seems to be racing by. I think one of the biggest factors in perception is the idea of control. While it was my first time in Romania, the trip came after two very recent trips to Europe. Even Romania is very different than my other European destinations and living someplace for an extended period of time has challenges not associated with leisurely travel, I felt some sense of control–not entirely, obviously, but I had recent positive experiences to boost my confidence. In contrast, this is my first time to Africa, period, and Africa is a vastly different continent. Everything looks so different, everything operates differently, etc. With such stark and vast differences, I don’t have that sense of control.
And, to top it off, I stick out like I have never stuck out before. It’s a very new feeling.
I think most white people take for granted what it means to be white in the US. Being white in an African nation is a completely different experience, and I think it is going to add new insight into my perceptions of race in the US. I have a few friends I enjoy talking to about issues concerning race, and I look forward to continuing these conversations with them when I return.