From the foothills of Kilimanjaro – Rupal R. Shah

An UPDATE from Rupal of her story about her trip to Kilimanjaro. What a spirit??


Dear Family and Friends,

I know this e-mail is coming late but I have been quite busy–working at the hospital, adjusting to life here, and of course re-connecting with childhood relationships. Early last week, when I was finally ready to send this e-mail along with pictures, my computer stopped working. Unfortunately, the computer shop I took it to in Arusha didn't back up my data (documents, pictures, music etc) before formatting it! So over the past week and a half, I have been without a computer and have mourned the loss of all my data (including files related to my work here)! I am now working with a few other people to hopefully recover that data…I had written this e-mail early last week and fortunately found it saved in my e-mails so here it goes….Sorry to say there are no pictures for now…but hopefully by my next e-mail I'll have some pictures to share!
My initial thoughts about Tanzania: This place still feels like home, even after being away for fifteen years! Everything about Tanzania has been welcoming. Over the past few weeks I have concluded that the key thing that makes one feel like they belong to a country is not just the old connections they have or the familiarity with the local spots but also the fluency in language. I grew up speaking Swahili and once we moved to the US lost practice of speaking Swahili. Thankfully, I have a nice group of Tanzania friends in Boston that convenes on a regular basis. In addition to speaking with them, I also took an advanced Swahili class last semester at Boston University. After one month here, my conversational Swahili skills are back and I mostly speak Swahili at the hospital.
Meeting family and friends over the past month has been lovely. Within my first twenty four hours in Tanzania, my childhood friend and namesake, Rupal came to visit me. By our second meeting together, it was obvious that nothing had changed between us, except that we had gotten bigger. We laughed like we used to when we played with Barbie dolls, we talked to each other as if there was no gap of 15 years between us, and by now we speak to each other once a week about nothing really important! Apart from that I have been visiting my birth town, Moshi and Arusha during the weekends. At both places, I have relatives who take care of me like my parents do. I feel at home because I practically grew up in their homes. In Moshi, I sat on my relative's swing where a lovely picture of my mom and siblings was taken years ago. My sister and I also played hopscotch in their yard many times. The swing and the yard look a lot smaller now! In Arusha, I have a grandmother-like figure who helped my mom take care of my siblings and I. My grandmother has been most eager to spend time with me and it's been such a blessing to hear about our childhood from her! With so much love around, truly I feel blessed!
During the week, I stay in Kibong'oto which is a village forty five minutes away from Moshi. I stay on the hospital grounds where a few other nurses also stay. Along with a house to stay, each of us is given a piece of land to farm. My neighbors' grow maize, spinach, bananas, and beans. I, of course, grow nothing! My neighbors' also have a coop with many chickens, a sty for pigs, and a barn for their goats. These animals provide food and a means to remain sustainable as there aren't many restaurants around. In fact, one night my neighbors invited me for dinner at their home. They cooked a chicken and spinach from their farm. The other day when I was passing by, she shared her boiled maize with me. It's great to live in a place where there is so much fertile land…it's green everywhere around here! Again, what a blessing to see such natural beauty all the time.
Well, this is all for now! There's more to come and I promise this time Ill write sooner. Thanks to all of you for always supporting me and praying for me. I hope all of you are well and please do write to me and let me know what you've been up to lately.