Your Culture is our Culture

A Tanzanian Experience

Background

As someone who has never been out of the country, spending three weeks in the Arusha region of Tanzania may seem extreme. However that is exactly how I spent the last weeks of July. The trip was with the group called Pure Thirst which is based out of Duquesne’s campus. Pure Thirst focuses on educating and advocating communities on water quality in Pittsburgh and abroad. In our time there we stayed in the city of Arusha, and the village of Okakola near Mt. Meru. Although I didn’t know these areas existed months before trip the amount of experience and culture I gained in my time there is impossible to forget.

1.) Getting Out of Comfort Zone

One of the most important as well as difficult lessons one can learn in life is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Traveling is one of the best ways to accomplish this. While going to Tanzania I was absorbed into a culture that was much different from my own. The differences ranged from the obvious like language and diet to other customs like bartering for everything you want to purchase. Learning on the fly like this helps you get out of your bubble, because any preconceived notion of what life is like will be quickly dismissed if it is untrue. These lessons are not something that can be taught in a classroom or by reading online. Poverty is another culture shock that will stick with me. In Pittsburgh I have seen some but not to the level of Tanzania. Its common place for people to askfor money. When you see the conditions for yourself it will give you new understanding of why they be begging. Compared to the residents of Arusha any American is quite privileged in the amount resources and materials that they have access to.

2.) Time to Heal

Another aspect of the trip I loved was that I was off the grid. Social media is a great tool but overuse can cause one to miss out on the real world. I seen this first hand as I was forced to interact with the people around more than I would had I had access to the technology. Being an introverted person, traveling and spending three weeks with 3 other people that I didn’t know very well wasn’t the most thrilling thought for me. However, I learned that although people may have major differences, this does not prevent them from forming a bond. Aside from this is the simplicity of lifein Tanzania was also refreshing to experience. Day to day life does not involve the unneeded layer of stress that is present in Western societies. Taking time for yourself and living in the moment helped me make the most of my time there, and is something I will continue at home.

3.) Traveling Kills Ignorance

Before the trip I had many friends and family asking questions about the trip with a dubious tone in their voice. They would ask as many versions of “ Is it safe” as one can think of. However, the country of Tanzania is one of the most welcoming places I have ever visited. The locals are not shy to welcome you and start a conversation wherever and whenever. One realization I made was that no matter where in the world you travel the locals are just as interested in learning about you, as you are them. Any opportunity a Tanzanian had to ask about life in America was taken with much excitement.

An example of this was with the host family we stayed with. During the stay my roommate (who I know call my brother) Losioki took the opportunity to ask the American take on schooling, families, relationships, work, and if I owned any livestock. The curiosity of these people has lead me to make many strong relationships that I hope to maintain. More importantly this eliminated any false picture I had in my mind due to the concern my friends and family expressed before the trip.

Overall I don’t have any complaints on my visit to Tanzania. Before I took the opportunity to travel to Tanzania I never understand the “travel bug” that some claimed to get struck with. Now I have a goal to see as much of the world as possible. Needless to say, the travel bug is real, and can help anybody overcome fear, and be one of the most rewarding experiences one can have.


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