About a week before leaving Kitomondo, I sat on the concrete floor of my Tanzanian home.
A freshly popped bowl of popcorn sat in my lap, my water bottle to the right.
To the left of me, the backdoor was open.
Looking out, I saw MamaRay de-feathering a kuku (chicken), just moments earlier chased into the chicken coup, strangled and de-headed.
"Ashley, Ashley, karibu, karibu" she said.
I finished what I could of my popcorn, poured the rest back into the community bowl,
walked to the opening of the backdoor and watched.
For the next twenty minutes, I watched in absolute ignorance and wonderment as she cut, tore and broke each portion of the chicken.
"MamaRay, was that his heart?" I said.
"No, not yet." she replied.
It got a little too intense, so I stood up.
"Asante sana MamaRay, asante sana."
"Ashley, wait, the heart, the heart, almost." she replied.
I sat back down and watched for many moments longer.
The heart came, the eggs of the pregnant chicken were revealed, the intestines were stretched, the stomach got cut open and then the skin was pilled.
"They eat a lot of sand!" she said to me as she poured out the contents of the stomach.
Time to rinse the portions of the kuku off and then into a pan of hot water over a large charcoal fire.
I looked at MamaRay, smiled, giggled, said "asante sana!" and went into my bedroom.
For the first time in this existence, I was quite frankly mesmerized
by the reality of a chicken becoming someone's dinner.
Just an hour earlier, this chicken was a pet and now he is protein, a meal, multiple meals for this family.
It wasn't just the chicken keeping my deep attention.
It was the realization of my experience living in a local Tanzanian families home.
Living in a community so different, so incredible new from that of my own.
The kuku becoming dinner was just one moment.
Of one evening.
Of one day.
Of one week.
Of one month in Kitomondo on Mafia Island.
I have been so incredibly humbled and blessed to spend the past 59 days living and teaching on Mafia Island.
A dream in which I've had for as long as I can remember.
A dream in which quickly came.
And now, a dream being concluded.
My dream, this dream.
Teaching in Africa.
Being a part of the motherland.
Although my physical existence on Mafia Island is now no longer,
the love, hope, strength and inspiration in my heart is part of my being.
It is now me.
An addition to me.
This so called me.
So many moments I sit in amazement and reflection.
In wonderment and absolute confusion.
Complete satisfaction and emptiness.
Strength and an embarrassing weakness.
You're too positive.
You're an African woman in training.
You look tired.
Why don't you eat meat?
Do you miss your family?
How do I say this in English?
What do you do back at home?
You are my best friend.
You make me smile.
"Take me with you, take me to America."
Can you stay?
And on and on and on.
It is all a learning experience.
Learning of the self.
Of the world.
Of those in which share all these moments with you.
Back to the self.
Of the self.
With the self.
The past week on Mafia Island was spent living in Magamani, that which consists of fancy camping.
Mangrove, bamboo covered rooms, comfy boat beds and mosquito nets for protection.
There the ocean was just a hop away.
Food was on the table when I woke.
And the other members of the environment were all very welcoming and willing to share their
sea life research and experiments.
I sat in hammocks and read while birds mated above.
Monkeys jumped about in the trees.
And waves crashed just below a sandy set of stairs.
We had an exhausting yet tear dropping send off celebration with the Mafia Island teaching community.
Speeches from those running the program - the head of police, district commissioner and all those in-between.
I jumped with excitement as I turned around and saw MamaDixon.
A very close friend of mine, someone in which I shared complete reciprocation of caring for and being cared for while on the island.
It was a night of being awarded gifts of gratitude, speeches, chakula (food), drinking, dancing
and an abundance of laughter.
Many moments that night I stepped back and took a deep breath.
As yet again, I was is wonderment at the reality of this being my new community, my new family!
People in which I have shared a life long dream.
My last night on the island was far to surreal.
One in which no photos, no video, no explanation could really do justice.
A tree house on an African Island overlooking the Indian Ocean.
With birds whistling everywhere you walk.
Crabs roaming along the sand paths.
Gourmet food on the tables.
Freshly opened bottle of wine on the evening balcony.
Moments in which will not leave my heart.
Sadly, I had to say kwa heri (good bye).
But, just for now.
Tutonana Mafia Island, Tutonana Mafia Island.
We will see each other again soon.
I sit now in a cafe in Dar es Salaam.
People of all nationalities, all cultures roam about on the streets.
In just a matter of hours, I will be leaving the motherland on a ferry to an island within the Indian Ocean.
Going to Zanzibar and exploring that of this supposed culturally and esthetically diverse island.
For now, here you are.
For now, this is what exists.
As always, sending lots of love and positive blessings.
Below are just a couple photos of my last moments on Mafia Island.
MamaDixon, Milka, Gilia and BabyJennifer! These are the lovely women responsible for cooking me the most delicious meals on the island!
My Form I Students winning the island wide Genki English competition!
Saying kew heri (goodbye) to MamaRay and Raymond on our front porch!
Jambo from Tanzania:
Living & Teaching abroad in Mafia Island, Tanzania
In June of 2012.... a dream came true.
I was accepted into a WorldTeach program to teach English in Tanzania on Mafia Island. In late December of 2012, I embarked on a 3 month journey to the motherland! Enjoy this blog as it was designed to share my photographs and adventures while living and teaching
on Mafia Island, Tanzania.