Route Week – Frustrating to Fun

I am just over two weeks until leaving Ngara, and it’s becoming a bittersweet experience. On one hand, I’ve had more frustrations in the past three months-legitimate ones-than I’ve had in my entire life. On the other hand, I’ve learned an awful lot (about nonprofit work, about myself) in this short time.

Believe me, it has been short. I am only beginning to get some footing in my community, with the staff, with my Kiswahili (still polepole – “slow”), and with the artisans. It feels like no time has passed at all!

This week was, I am fairly certain, my last Route Week. I’ve mentioned it before, but Route Week is when we travel to villages around the Ngara district to deliver artisan payments, collect products, and give out orders for new shipments.
Up until this week Route has always been something I’ve viewed as exhausting and awkward:

  • Cramming 5 people into a small car to bump and weave along rocky Tanzanian roads–not fun.
  • Awkwardly standing around, trying to communicate while photographing someone who is clearly uncomfortable–even less fun.

This time was different.

  • 1 – We finally got our hardtop fixed while we were in Mwanza. The rides were more spacious and seemed like less of a bad idea as far as the possibility of a breakdown went.
  • 2 – The artisans have met me at least twice now. It really makes all the difference. Once they recognized me, they were much more relaxed and even outgoing around me.
  • 3 – I can kind of communicate with them. This also makes a difference!
  • 4 – Most of the artisans I needed to photograph for the profiles I am putting together were there. It has been quite the struggle to get images in the past, and this has lifted a great weight from my shoulders.

Of course getting photographed is not something that happens for the ladies everyday, so it’s still tough to get them to relax.

I usually try to speak a teensy bit of Swahili (I can only greet, inquire as to how someone is, ask how much something costs, list off numbers, and say goodbye. What a boring conversation!) to them and be super Tanzanian friendly–holding someone’s hand as you talk to them or walk with them is common. I also have a staff member, usually Pastor Aaron or Mama Mpinzile, come with me and talk to the woman to make her laugh or at least loosen up. A big smile while posing for an image is not as common here as it is in the U.S.

My goodness! The images were so nice!
These ladies are truly beautiful, and I am so appreciative of their letting me photograph them.

Here are a few shots:

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