You are no longer a tourist, this is your home now

26 Sep

I am starting to feel less like a tourist and more like someone who belongs to the culture of Tanzania. Lately, our group has really been immersing ourselves in to the local lifestyle. We have gone to both a cultural Iraqw and Masaai boma, learned how to fight with sticks from one of our Masaai staff members, bartered more at the market places, volunteered at the orphanage and spent time with the teenagers at the secondary school. These aren’t experiences that a normal foreigner seeks out and I am so glad that these opportunities have been presented to me.

By spending time with the locals here, I have had the opportunity to compare the Masaai and Iraqw culture to that of the US. People aren’t materialistic here. They work hard for the essentials, make what they don’t have and are happy just to be alive. I was told by a friend who previously spent time here, “Nothing in the US will be good enough for you when you get back.” How could that be? We have everything in the US: cars, money, mansions, free schooling, hospitals. I’ve only been here for 3 weeks but I’m slowly starting to see that statement to be true. The US is too processed. There is little sense of togetherness. When was the last time you walked down the street and had a child run up to you for a hug? Or have been greeted by every person you passed? That doesn’t often happen in the US.  Many advert their eyes and turn away from those that need help most.

The best experience I’ve had so far was going to the local orphanage. About 30 children resided there, ranging in age from 1-9 years old. Their parents have all passed away from HIV/AIDS. Thankfully, the children of the orphanage are HIV free but over one million Tanzanians aren’t as lucky. Of those affected, 140.000 are children and only about 8% are receiving treatment. The children of that orphanage don’t know the reality they will grow up in but they do know that you’re there to play ball with them, or to push them on the swing. For our community service project, we bought paint and painted their rooms. It was  fun for us but something that really needed to be done for them. I also contributed by paying ~$25 for a painting that I could have bought for $3 in the market place. I asked how the money will be spent and they told me the money I donated would feed a lot of the children for over a month!

Another eye opener was the Diego Day Secondary School. This school is for those children who have families that can afford to send them past primary school. In a society where manpower comes from family members, not people you hire, it is a hard decision to put money towards a future goal that may cause you to struggle in the present.

Since I have been here, I have let go of what values I thought I had, opened my mind and heart to new experiences and really let myself be in Africa. I hope that other people have the chance to come to the awareness that I have. Become a member of the country you’re in, not just a tourist. It’s nice to know that I really do have a home away from home.

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One Response to “You are no longer a tourist, this is your home now”

  1. epotratz October 5, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    There is nothing like having watoto run up to you to hold your hand and give you a hug! Sounds like you are having a great time! Enjoy:)

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