Parker in Africa - December 1, 2006
Dear friends and family,
The school had a going away 'function' for me the other day, so I thought it appropriate to say goodbye as well. This will be my last email to you all from Africa. I leave Tanzania in a little over a week, and I will be in Denver on Dec. 11.
So many things to say! I'm a bit overwhelmed by writing this letter as it means I have to organize my final thoughts and statements in a way. So please, bear with me as I ramble. . .
I’m ready to come home. I'm excited and looking forward so much to seeing your faces and catching up. It has been a whole year, and for a 20 year l'd that's a long time. A lot can happen on the other side over the course of a year. Never before have I thought of coming home as an adventure, but I believe this time it will be yet another challenge for me to face. I don't think it will be that difficult though. Maybe a little overwhelming, but with family and friends around, things will be fine. I'll do a lot of discovering of myself thought when I get back. As I'm here, I'm not able to correctly judge how much and in what ways I have changed, but I will see it when contrasted with my life at home and the setting of America. I will also need to determine how the changes in my life and the things I have learned will affect me life for years to come.
I know when I get home people will ask me, "say, how was Africa, how was your experience?" And conforming to American cordiality I will be tempted to say, "It was nice" or even, "It was incredible." But I hope you can understand me when I say that that response would be incredibly trite and cheapen not only the time I spent here, but also Tanzania. It would be better for me to respond - " It was wonderful, it was horrible. I loved it, I hated it. I was bored, I did so many amazing things. I was lonely, I met so many great people and made so many friends. I saw beautiful things, I saw horrible things. The people were great, the people were difficult. I learned so many new things, I have up my education for year. The food was good, the food got boring. I want to go back, I don't want to live there again. It made me feel beautiful and alive, it made me feel drab and confined. I went so many great places, I was stranded." Basically it was life. What I desperately do not want, is that for my time here to reduce to being an "experience." I don't want it to be ‘that one year in Africa,' but rather a part and continuation of my life. My greatest fear is that I'll lose touch with the people I met here and my "Great African Experience" will be a beautiful memory I can recall when I need inspiration. I want to take the things I have learned here and the people I have met here and carry them along in my life. Right now, this place - Kilimanjaro - is a part of my heart and should, and I don't want it to wither away to letters I wrote so long ago, as I come home to life I left behind. I don't want to "leave this life behind" but carry it with me as I see and learn new things at home.
I feel like I should have one good statement about Tanzania - a definitive statement to shout out when I get back to you all - but I just don't have one. Some of you have told me I should write a book some day, and it definitely crossed my mind, but I don't think I should do that. No, what I did this year was not extraordinary. What I did this year is just what millions of people see and do every day of heir life - I just happen to come from the western world. What I can do, and what I think is now my responsibility to do, is to bridge the large gap of understanding between Western an African cultures. Pleas, ask me as many questions as you'd like to ask when you see me. But remember, I might know a lot about Africa not, but I'm no expert. I can't necessarily tell you what Africa is like, but I can tell you what Kilimanjaro and Tanzania is like through the eyes of an American girl who stayed there for a year. One thing I have learned is that it is dangerous to make statements about a place or a people. Things are never as they appear. Fortunately, I have been given the chance to see the truth of at least a certain lifestyle in Africa, and I hope I can share it with you.
At the moment I don't feel like I've changed that much. I've learned a lot, I talk kind of funny, and I might be a little socially inept, but I'm mostly the same Parker that you saw a year ago. I've learned to be kinder, more patient, and respectful, and I hope I can keep that up in a new setting. I don't want to every other statement of mine to be "When I was in Africa" either. I know I will miss Tanzania and Agape as soon as I get home, but I don't want it to consume me. I know I won't be able to start again where I left off when I left home, but I Don't want to start all over again, and I know you all will help me with that.
I've definitely poured all my heart and soul into this school as I can, and I think they recognize that. At the send off they had for me, they showed me that they certainly appreciated what I did, and honestly, that's all I need I cried as I tried to address them - I'm such a baby, and I was so embarrassed, but I'm sure hey just thought I was a silly, emotional American girl. I will really miss my students, and it will be strange for me to not be able to walk up from my house to be greeted "good morning madam." I will enjoy having more freedom, but I will miss laughing with the sisters while cooking by lamplight when the electricity goes out But, it's time to say goodbyes and move on - I will be back one day.
I know more about the world now, what life means to me, what could be considered accomplishment for my life, and what my limits are. I might have had to give up some of what I considered to by myself to learn these things, but it was probably worth it, and now I can live more confidently and completely. I don't think I"ll ever do this again-go somewhere unknown, alone, with no money, for a whole year, and I'm not going to recommend it to anyone. No everyone can do what I did, and no everyone should, but I can be a diplomat of sorts. I guess I've found my place now. I can come home with more confidence because I guess I have accomplished my goals here, as vague as they might be. I have seen what Tanzania life is - at least this region with my biases. I have seen life in the village, in the town, in the city, the poor, the rich, and the middle class, the whites, the blacks-I've seen how they live. . . and I know the Chaggas. I've also been a part of a community here, which was very important to me. I have not made any great contributions to the school or the country. I actually haven't done anything ‘great'. But maybe I can later. Now I know the language enough and I know the culture - maybe once I get a good idea - well, I've got them I just don't' know how to do the little things - I have the resources and connections to do those things now.
Thank you all so very much for reading my emails. I've been surprised by how many people have actually read them, and I really appreciate it. I think my letters have been spread far and people I have never met have emailed me to tell me they enjoyed reading them. Thank you so much for your support! I'll have lots to tell when I get home! With that, I should say goodbye, kwa heri, from Africa. The next time I talk to you it will be face to face. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving(I actually forgot about it) and I can't wait to see you all — I've actually been reaming about it.
Lynch Rocket Lab