When asked to blog about all of the thins I have learned so far, I was a little intimidated. Over the past two weeks, I have learned a wide variety of things on a very steep learning curve. My perspectives on some things and my beliefs have been tested by the views of others I have encountered. Therefore, the following list is an abridged version of the things I find most insightful and entertaining. So, here are a few of the things I have learned so far, in almost chronological order:
- 18 hours of flying is a long time. Walking around the plane is a must.
- Tanzanians operate on a different time zone. If someone says they will have something done by Wednesday, Friday is a more likely time to expect it to be completed. Similarly, if you schedule a meeting at 8, arrival any time before 8:30 is on time. Hakkuna Matata!
- Mzungu(white person) will be a commonly heard phrase heard as you are walking down the street. It is not meant to be offensive, just to point out the obvious. It is best if one embraces the term.
- Adolescents are never perfect angels. No matter where in the world you are, they will not always listen or respect their teachers. Also, covert flirting seems to also occur in any class containing 16 year old students.
- Corporal punishment is not a myth. As someone who has never seen it and has learned other methods of discipline, it is very difficult to see and understand. Teachers here have come to rely on these types of punishment and see no other way to do things. Nonetheless, the system is effective and is ingrained in the school culture here, so, no matter how I feel, there is not much I can do.
- Don’t take a picture of a Maasai person without asking first and expect your wallet to be lighter after said picture.
- The Lion King is real. This includes all animals as well as Pride Rock.
- Tipping for almost any service is expected, be it serving a drink, waiting a table, or walking you back to you room in order to ensure you are not eaten by a lion. As a poor college kid, I was not expecting this, though I have no problem with the system itself.
- Maasai children line the road asking for food and money from the safari vehicles. These children have become dependent on these handouts, changing the Maasai culture from an ancient lifestyle to one dependent on modern culture.
- A direct quote from a teacher at my school: “The problem in Tanzania is not that we don’t have enough food. We have plenty of food we can share with all. What we don’t have is money.”
- Street vendors are pesky. They will not leave you alone unless you buy something or ignore them. The clever ones will start a conversation with you and walk with you around the entire city, then make you feel guilty enough to buy something from your new “rafiki”.
- Safari drivers are incredibly knowledgeable, funny guys who appreciate the witty banter of 20 something year old girls. Also, they enjoy teaching us new Swahili words that may or may not be appropriate for teachers to say. When we mispronounce said words, the car erupts in giggles.
- Safari vehicles are able to withstand almost anything. You may think you are going to die, or be stuck in the mud, but everything will be fine in one of these vehicles.
- When someone tells you that it is the rainy season, expect a few days of nearly endless rain.
- Sting-less bees exist and make delicious honey.
- Sleep is over-rated. (This is something I previously knew, but have learned here even more so.)
- From a commerce class I observed: All people need to live is food, shelter, and the company of others. Everything else is merely a luxury.
This compiles a basic summary of what I have learned. Many of the things I have learned are hard to put in words that truly display their depth. Over the next two weeks, I plan to take in even more of the culture so that I can return home a different individual. For now, I strive to keep my mind open to everything and try to view everything without my American perspective lens.