Waiting for Arusha
“Haki ya Mungu!” in Swahili translates roughly to “For the Love of God!” or “God’s truth!” God, whatever you think of Him, must wryly enjoy the suffering of people trapped in the eternal present.
In four days I’ll be moving to Arusha, Tanzania. In preparation I have moved back in the pupal warmth of my childhood home. My habits have regressed to adolescence: Piled dishes and unwashed clothes, late nights playing video games, late-A.M. sleep-ins. Last night, I ate a whole prism of Toblerone.
Try as I may, it seems impossible to prepare for my new life in Tanzania. I conceived of preparation as digesting a certain amount of literature, imagery, and engaging in casual discursive reflection with friends and family. I thought preparation would be like the flight itself - a gradual ascent with no clear distinction between take off and flight.
Instead, information feels inadequate, and images and stories of Africa often say more about the lens than the subject matter. Wedged between idealised images of the contiguous beauty of the Serengeti on one hand, and distended bellies and wretched children on the other, the real Tanzania is elusive. The CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia hardly help either, their numbers and stories fascinating but hardly evocative.
If you want to know Tanzania, you must visit her personally.
Unable to prepare, my return home has been a regression to an adolescent identity. Trapped between an older identity as a cosmopolitan, half-depressed and morally incoherent professional — and an emergent, new identity surrounded by white noise — I find myself lying supine in front of the gas heater, staring at the ceiling, benignly waiting for time to pass. It is the identity of adolescents: That painful, slow, dependent wait for the unlimited possibilities of adulthood.
Staring at the ceiling, I frustratedly declare “Haki ya Mungu!” It’s the only Swahili phrase I know.