It was bittersweet to leave Africa. I already miss the people and the environment there. The thought of leaving was especially difficult after spending time with Mama Muga, a nearby friend who welcomed us to her home. Her family said goodbye to us with a night of dinner and dancing, and the whole atmosphere was energetic and friendly. We went back to learn how to make chai and listen to different African music types. I felt like we were part of their family.
I spent my last day at the AIDS Control Project helping in any way I could. The people there have so eagerly helped me so much with my documentary, and I wanted to give back to them. I ended up giving the secretary there a whole computer lesson. She was having difficulties with opening PDF files and asked for help.
I sat with her for at least an hour teaching her different things. I taught her the options of right-clicking, how to click and drag, how to have multiple windows, how to delete files, how to save items onto the desktop, how to move things to and from My Documents, how to use Powerpoint and how to insert Excel charts into Word documents. She said I would save her a lot of time, especially with the Excel charts shortcut. Previously she would type data into Word, minimize the window to get to the computer calculator, do calculations and return to Word to type in answers.
I also taught her how to created folders. I noticed in her documents that she had never created a folder before, so her computer was filled with years worth of files, hundreds of files. I wondered how she was able to find anything in there. I explained how she could use the new folders to organize things. I hope I helped to make her work easier and more productive.
She explained her issue with PDFs, telling me how it was an ongoing problem. People would send emails with PDF attachments, and an error would appear. She would ask them to resend the file, and there would still be an error. It turns out she was trying to open them in Word. The solution was as simple as showing her how to open the files in Adobe Reader instead. I said, “it’s easy!” but she explained that it’s not so easy when you don’t know.
I really thought about this response. It made me realize how lucky we have it as Americans, growing up with this type of technology and being able to take computer classes. I tried to imagine how confusing it would be for someone who doesn’t have the resources for learning in front of them and is trying to tackle the complex realm of technology.
But, beyond that, I realized how lucky Americans are overall. This has become a defining concept for me, one I have taken back from this trip. Now that I’m back, my main goal is to appreciate what I have. I appreciate the opportunities I have in America more than ever. It has really hit me how those opportunities aren’t available everywhere. Things like education and employment are readily available for us if we look for them. If you’re born into a poor family, you can work toward a better life. There are so many potentials. This is much less likely in Africa. If your family is poor here, your potential is limited to working on the family farm, and you have pressing matters of survival to deal with. I feel like I’ve taken these opportunities and resources for granted because I never realized how valuable they are. In this way especially, Africa has really opened my eyes and my mind.
When I came to Tanzania, I had no intention of learning about myself or about America. I wanted to focus on learning about the culture here. But, while I learned so much about the community and activities here, I unexpectedly ended up reflecting and learning about America too. I feel like I will return a more compassionate and appreciative person, and in that way I will try to channel the wonderful people I’ve met here.
Now that I’m back, I’ll be working on finishing up my documentary, “It Takes a Village,” which will focus on the ACP project to send orphans to school. I hope it brings attention to the great work this organization is doing.