I arrived in Tanzania four weeks ago, after a day and a half of travel. Today begins my last week in Africa before I head to London, then Chicago, and eventually find myself back in Nashville. Time here has definitely flown by, but I feel like Iâ€™ve been out of the States much, much longer. Itâ€™s bizarre to think about. I face a fair amount of uncertainty with no guaranteed income, no real schedule to follow, and no routine to return to. There will need to be some balance of making a living and continuing on with this project as it will be far from finished just because there are no more photos to take.
Thus far, there hasnâ€™t been that moment when it all clicked (or that moment where I came totally undone, which is probably more surprising!) and I could see it all coming together.Â Sure, I have a crap-ton of photos from my time with the NGOâ€™s and out on my own. I have humbling, hilarious, and heart-breaking stories to share as well. And gifts and souvenirs? Yeah, way too many of those this time around!
But the question of what Iâ€™ll do with the photos still remains. Originally, I had some ideas in mind and still plan to implement those as I can. I knew that I didnâ€™t want to be too strict and let things happen more organically. I wanted to allow the stories and pictures to develop rather than be forced. So much of it really is just about volunteering my time (and talents) to these NGOâ€™s. There are the selfish reasons as well, like the opportunity to take a 6-week â€œvacationâ€ to a beautiful country! 🙂
Iâ€™m still hanging on to most of the images from my time with the NGOâ€™s. As I sort through and edit them, ideas are taking shape. In most cases, I wish I had taken about twice as many, but I think I can make what I have work!
Honestly, so very much of this trip was internal. Having done photo work with non-profits back home, Iâ€™ve reaped the benefits of volunteering and experienced the results of my work being used. I know that heart-tugging moments come when you find yourself humbled by the world around you and connected to a life so different than what you know to be the norm. And nothing feels more right then when youâ€™re able to experience that and use your gifts in the process.
This trip hasnâ€™t been some incredibly life-changing experience (I would argue the first trip to Africa was that), hasnâ€™t birthed anything I would call a Pulitzer, and definitely hasnâ€™t revealed much more of my future than was already known. And I donâ€™t think any of my photographs have saved a life! However, the people Iâ€™ve met and been able to share with (mostly Americans, but a few English-speaking Tanzanians), the village children whose days are made by a quick wave and a smile (and some poorly attempted Swahili), and the simple encouragement offered to the individuals who work tirelessly to keep these NGOâ€™s afloat have hopefully made a difference. If I can continue that through images then Iâ€™ll call it all a success!
Thanks for coming along with me, friends. This thing ainâ€™t over yet!
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Here’s a view of Mwanza — likely not what you think of when you think of Africa, eh?