My boss, Sarah, left Dar es Salaam for London this morning to visit friends and family on her way back to San Francisco. After a good, albeit hectic, couple of weeks during her visit it feels a bit like retuning to the previously scheduled programming. Except, I am now alone at Kalenga House (photo.. owned by Muhimbili University and way too much house for one), save Miriam, who actually lives in a small house in the garden behind the house. We cross paths a lot, in the morning as she is cleaning, each of us respectively cooking (or me foraging) in the kitchen, Miriam watching quite entertaining Swahili soap operas in the lounge.
The fact that Sarah is stopping in London on the way back to SF is significant, as it is one way that she achieves some balance by staying in touch with people in her life in her home country. Balance is a state of consciousness that most of us become aware of at some point or another, particularly work-life balance, and particularly when it is not balanced.
Mostly, when I am in Dar I have considered it primarily a work experience. There has been a good deal of fun sprinkled in, but that fun has mostly been with fellow UCSFers and the occasional medical residents from the US who come and go, and thus is rather transient. Realizing that I have spent over 5 months in Dar in the past year is a touch sobering, and highlights the need for deeper engagement with community.
While back in San Francisco over the holidays, I had tea at Samovar with one of my old life coaching clients. As we were talking I described how my primary resolution for this year is to achieve a balance between work and personal life, to which he responded... "sounds familiar." I laughed and wondered aloud how many times the topic has crossed my lips in coaching sessions.
After my fall trip to Tanzania, I continued my 7 weeks in San Francisco as if I were still in Tanzania, which is to say, having blurred boundaries between work and personal life. After hearing a stream of people say "I know you're so busy, but..." or something to that effect, it became clear that I was not fully engaged with my personal life. I allowed work to invade evenings and weekends and spent precious little time engaging community (by my own standards). There were notable, and wonderful, exceptions. That said, it felt as if time was particularly short. I started getting protective of, and a tad insular in, my free time.
At first, I thought about the transition from Dar es Salaam to San Francisco. After being essentially dedicated to work in Tanzania, I came home to San Francisco with the expectation that I would have an active personal life. It was challenging to shift gears. Subsequently, with further thought about spending so much of my time in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is also becoming more 'home-like' in which I have a personal life as well. So, creating balance includes both places.
The computer makes blurring boundaries even easier. E-mail is just a click or two away. Skype makes it possible to have a 9:00pm meeting in San Francisco with people in Dar who are at work the next morning at 8:00am (although like most meetings in Tanzania they rarely start on time and when they do have a significant discourse at the beginning about how everyone is doing - lovely when you're together, a bit less so when the clock is creeping toward and past bed time after a long day), or for people to attend a meeting held at 8:30am at UCSF while it is 7:30pm for me in Dar... or later. It is perfect for blurrage.
So, there are a few thoughts to myself about creating balance:
- It is really unusual for a true need to work on weekends and evenings when I am in San Francisco (and more often than not in Dar) beyond the periodic inter-continental, opposite side of the clock Skype calls. The killer is getting sucked up into e-mail and writing that really does not have to be done because it is there. So don't go there.
- Back. Away. From. The. Computer. Particularly a challenge in Tanzania as the computer feels so much like a lifeline back home.
- Make regular evening and weekend plans with friends who are not also colleagues (who I am also fortunate to enjoy!). Dinner is lovely. And I know people in Dar who are so incredibly plugged into all that is happening and are very welcoming (I think most ex-pats go through this and get the issue).
- Exercise. Hike. Run. Walk. Get outside. Often. I call it GOOTH ('get out of the house'... there are moments it includes an "F" between the "T" and "H").
- Ahhh.. remember how daily yoga feels? Wouldn't it be nice to do it even in Dar?
It actually is good to be living 'on my own' here in Dar as it prompts me to seek activities with non-work people. And the ex-pat community here is pretty reliable in coming up with all sorts of things to do. There IS life in Dar!