African expectations and surprises

Tanzani has surprised me in many ways, yet in many ways it’s just what I expected.  There are large tropical trees, beautiful flowers, kind people, and animals walking on the street.  The language of Kiswahili is ever surrounding us and the food is constantly filling our stomachs.  My first day in the city there were many people who followed us into town asking us to buy their products whether they be paintings, bracelets, or sculptures.  We kindly refused, but they would not give in.  Some took a patient approach where they would ask how we were and provide us with some useful Kiswahili phrases, then would go on to ask us to buy their stuff.  Others went straight in with their sales pitches giving prices and showing off their products.  It was overwhelming to be constantly talked to and it was really hard to remember names, prices, and Kiswahili they taught us.  I ended up buying three art pieces, two congas, and a soccer jersey.  All were bought after lots of bartering and for a much lower price than originally asked.

At school I experienced similarities and differences as well.  The students are much more polite than in America.  They stand each time the teacher enters the room to greet them and will not sit down until we greet them back and ask them to be seated.  Their courses are taught in English, yet most students do not know that much English so I found it to be very important to be patient and repetitive when teaching them.  Students had many questions to ask regarding America including my favorite bands, music, my age, and if I was married or not.  All I answered honestly and most were very amazed at how young I was and that I was not married yet.  Apparently in Tanzania it is expected that people are married around the age of eighteen, so for a twenty year old to be single blew their mind.  I talked to one of the students in particular and she mentioned that she wanted to get a job and home before she got married and I was so proud to hear that because most students do not have that sort of independent thinking, particularly girls.

In the orphanage I was so amazed at what the children had been through.  The babies were both found abandoned in a trash bag on the side of the road and many of the others had similar pasts.  All the children were eager to be held and had huge smiles on their faces regardless of their situation.  They loved the stickers and balls we brought for them and played constantly with them.  The older children were more hesitant to be near us and hung back observing during most of the visit.  One child, Eliah, was especially touching to me.  He hung onto me for the majority of the visit and was one of the happiest kids I have ever met.  Laughter constantly echoed away from him as I gave him a piggy-back ride, spun him in circles, and swung with him.  He definitely tug at my heart strings and I cannot wait to go back and visit him again.

The country as a whole is a lot safer and cleaner than I expected.  People go at their own slow pace, minding their own business, and do not seem eager to steal from us.  The country is very friendly, welcoming us everywhere we go and providing us with whatever we need including clearing the table at Cafe Mambo and giving us tea and bread with butter at school.  The area is pretty well kept and while people are living in poverty, most people have decent clothing and a place to live.  The buildings them self are a little more run down than America, but I would not say are nearly as bad as I expected.  Instead, they are just small and built of less materials.

Tomorrow we go on safari and I look forward to it very much not only because it will be memorable, but for another amazing African experience I will treasure forever.

-Colleen

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~ by condracolleen13 on May 3, 2012.

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