Big emotions surface when you are surrounded by the same seven people twenty-four hours per day for two months in a challenging, resource-poor environment.

On many occasions in the last five weeks, I’ve been momentarily gripped by various emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment… excitement, satisfaction and hope. I must admit that due to the challenges we’ve encountered, I’ve more frequently faced the former emotions than the latter.

I can’t help but feel the sense that I’ve closed-off inside. On the dala-dala (minibus) coming home from Maji Ya Chai the other day, I purposefully set about opening up this gated feeling I’ve created within my Arusha experience. This involved working to strip away so much anger, frustration, negativity that had begun to almost coat my internal organs somehow. I’m not sure how I let so much of it in. Without noticing. I didn’t have the power to remove all of the negativity, and much of it still lingers like a toxin inside me. But at least I have put a little lightness in there.

I contract often in the presence of my teammates, many of whom make me feel misunderstood and misinterpreted. Or I should say, I unfortunately allow them to make me feel this way on a regular basis. Then I am angry at myself later for it. My ‘good’ intentions are not fully comprehended or seen by them, despite my attempts to articulate. Sometimes, wanting to NOT act is interpreted as NOT caring or cynicism; whereas to me, my occasional desire to NOT act comes from a burning desire to tread carefully and positively towards our goals, rather than impulsively and reactively.

When I’m open and objective to an experience, the things I need for my own growth and development naturally present themselves. Pleasantly, it seems to coincide that when I am open, the experience is inevitably a positive one. My mom sent me this poem (in the previous entry), and it reminds me that just because I have not been terribly open thus far, for understandable reasons, it does not hamper me from being open today. Just to see what happens.

Sometimes self-contraction is protective and other times it is destructive. The test on this trip is finding the balance of openness and contraction that will allow me to openly experience and still critically evaluate. On a personal and related level, I find that opening my heart to my teammates makes me hurt a lot less than when I’m contracting it. Now it’s just time to seek out and maintain this internal state for the benefit of the coming weeks.

On Monday evening, we will head to a rural hospital, and it means no internet access. The week presents the opportunity for a unique learning experience and a snapshot of rural Tanzanian health care. Hope you are all well and I will be back online next Thursday or Friday.


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