My semester in Tanzania has been a whirlwind of amazing experiences, from our first safari in Lake Manyara National Park to our homestays with a local Iraqw family. But, throughout these amazing nine weeks, I have had to consistently struggle with my identity as a visitor living within another culture.
The view from a coffee shop in Rhotia
When meandering around the markets in nearby towns, it is not uncommon to hear mutterings of “wazungu,” the name often attributed to tourists in Swahili. And, from the outside, it would be easy for our crowd of American students to be mistaken for the common Tanzanian tourist that spends a week looking at wildlife and then jets back to their cushy life at home. While I would like to satisfy myself with the assurance that I’m different from those other wazungu, the fact remains that I will be flying back to the United States in December.
Recently, I realized, however, that my inevitable return to the United States doesn’t negate my time here. If I have learned anything while living abroad, it is of the generosity of the people here. I felt it in our first welcome to Moyo Hill Camp, and every day since when hearing our kitchen staff singing in the mornings or when school children run up to grab our hands on our way into town. If there is anything I would like to take away from Tanzania, it is this openness.
Students volunteering at a local tree nursery, Picture courtesy of Rachel Brownell
And, as much as Tanzania has given to me in the way of unbelievable experiences, lasting friendships, and new perspectives, I hope to return the favor in some small way. During our time in Rhotia, we have planted trees and painted walls at a local primary school, volunteered at a tree nursery, taught English lessons, and picked up trash around town. I hope to continue to give back to the community as directed research quickly approaches and I work with fellow students and staff to introduce conservation agriculture techniques to local farmers.
While I am a wazungu, and while my time in Tanzania is drawing swiftly to a close (for now), I can rest assured in all that I have learned while in this amazing country. So, here’s to another amazing six weeks full of open hearts, new perspectives, and lots of upendo (‘love’ in Swahili).
The sunset over the village of Rhotia, Photo courtesy of Jess Miller