Practicing Positive Thinking

By Rebecca Klane

Halfway through. Never before have I had such a mix of awe that it has already been six weeks and frustration that we will not experience the comforts of home for another six. Time has passed quickly but it still seems like there is such a long way to go. Though not logical, this juxtaposition between positive and negative mindsets matches up well with the mixture of amazing moments and times of extreme difficulty we have had recently.

These past few weeks we have been watching a series of TED talks about the huge effects of positive thinking, so I’ll start with the positive times we have had since the last blog.

We safely made it to Mufindi Children’s Village which houses and educates children from traumatic backgrounds in a more organized way than SNEC. Since this area has such a high level of HIV, the Children’s Village also provides medication in the on-site clinic.

While here, we have spent quality time with the children playing games and starting art projects. The age range from babies to late teenagers makes it easy to both get our fix of holding and taking care of very young children in the nursery as well as partaking in more involved activities with the older kids. But everyone seems to love duck duck goose no matter their age.

The opportunity for more cultural immersion arose in the unexpected two-day homestay which gave us a preview of the area. The scenery is breathtaking, as it has been in most of the places we have visited. Across the valley, we can see hills covered in green and scattered with different crops.

The most uplifting and exciting moment, at least in my eyes, did not take place while here, but on the drive over. Spotting a giraffe, zebra, and elephant from the bus was so unexpected that Maytal cried of happiness.

Highlighting the positive is beneficial in multiple ways, but it does not cancel out the few negative moments we have endured. However, I will do my best to change my usually cynical mindset to find a silver lining.

Many of us have gotten sick since the last blog post. Stomach problems, extreme colds, and what I hope is the last and only case of malaria in the group have forced a few of us to spend days in bed. Illness hasn’t stopped us from having good times with each other when everyone returns from the day. Lots of card games and some amusing team building activities have kept even the sick smiling.

One of the most unpleasant experiences was the bus from Morogoro, not including the animal sightings of course. Supposed to arrive at the station before 9:30, we boarded at 11:00. Not a surprise as timeliness doesn’t seem to be part of the culture here. So the bus was late.

The bigger issue was it also kept breaking down. It was fixed every time eventually, but one of those times many of us had not returned from a bathroom break. Excited that his bus was finally functioning properly, the driver sped away without us and only hit the brakes after a full minute of us sprinting back and waving our arms, and our peers on board objecting loudly. Stopping for us caused the engine to break down again.

Another hardship: one time we were offered only chips (french fries) for dinner.

It is hard to find a reasonable silver lining in these situations, but I am trying to apply what we learned about “synthetic happiness” to the bigger picture. Instead of thinking of the countless nuisances the next half of the trip will bring, the better way to look at it is with gratitude that we still have six weeks of the awesome moments left.