Last Typed Essay In Tanzania
Trip Start Jan 09, 2011
12Trip End Dec 04, 2011
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Sorry I haven't updated in a while. It's been busy, but I'll admit I've been procrastinating. I'm gonna post this essay I recently wrote for my Kiswahili culture class as an entry below. It's a good read if you wanna see how I've adapted and what I'm experienced since I've been here. Anyway, feel like it may be worth it. No Pressure.
Living in Tanzania the past four months has opened my eyes to how different the world can be outside the United States. I didn't expect Tanzania to be so open. I am amazed at how clear a cultural influence can be recognized here. It may be because I’m from the United States and I can identify it easier, but I believe the likelihood of it all being out in the open holds more weight. In the past four months I have both, consciously and subconsciously studied Tanzania, and I feel like the triple heritage idea has a strong presence in this country, or at least Dar es Salaam. My personal experiences in and out of the classroom have shown me how Tanzanian culture has been influenced by the West, the East, and the past. I believe a triple heritage exists, and I believe it can both promote and cause harmony for people and foreigners alike.
When I arrived in Tanzania in January I was completely overwhelmed by it all. I may have thought I was ready for the experience here, but having never left the states, I envisioned something a little different. The United States sits in an isolated area, and it’s easy to live day to day without seeing any real presence of other cultural influences on the masses. By this I mean that we don’t have to learn to learn the second language of an international superpower, we don’t need to watch to news, and we don’t need to know any other president besides our own. Coming to Tanzania from my comfortable shell of the West Coast, I’ll admit I wasn’t ready for the cultural shift.
Arriving in Tanzania was more than eye-opening. The first couple weeks, seeing English everywhere and seeing American celebrities painted on the sign of the "best fades" barber shop threw me off. I thought “why do I feel like I’m still in America?”. It confused me to be in a country unlike my own, and still see my countries presence. USAID signs were the next things that caught my eye. Followed by the poverty and the DVD stands with all American movies and shows. I had no clue that “Gossip Girl” transcended continents.
I guess I expected Tanzania to be a country like my own; centered on itself and its own media. I felt confused watching my peers and students walking around in all American Tee-shirts and shoes. The stores like “Crunk Wear” made me feel a little uncomfortable. I felt like people here had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Blasting “Soulja boy” down a busy street where I live makes a statement; in Tanzania the same scenarios have different, lighthearted results. Hearing Swahili music and learning the culture was comforting, but I always looked for the western influence in everything. After some time my western state of mind loosened, and I became more aware of other influences besides my own.
Learning the Arab, and growing Far Eastern presence I began to notice more of the traveled objects from Asia. Islam, Congas, Bajaj’s, Merrybrown. I started to feel like I’ve traveled. Cheap busses bought from Asia, and about thirteen hundred motorcycles imported from China slapped me into realizations about an economy that shares another thing in common with the US, cheap imports. But unlike the US, Tanzania has a far different array of material goods. While Asian presence doesn’t travel too far beyond the food I eat in America, here it has become a part of the people. I was stunned and amazed on how the people on the coast have accepted Arabic culture and even in some cases claimed to be Arabic before African.
It looked like the outside cultural influences were attractive to the people of Tanzania, almost like they wanted to be anything but African. I felt conflicted, guilty, and ashamed for being so proud of the American influences I first viewed as a comfort when I arrived here. I felt like people were ashamed of African Heritage, having being bashed, colonized, and exploited (my own opinion) for so long. It was like every cultural influence besides the Tanzanian was desirable. I thought I understood why and could sympathize, but now I know I have a lot more to learn before I can claim to truly understand the elements of the triple heritage. I just knew that every Tanzanian I met was almost always polite, and that cultural aspect alone made me enjoy the people.
It took time but I realized how beautifully courageous and united people can be here. They watch football games happening thousands of kilometers away, and probably cheer louder than the people in the stadium. Behind the cafeteria at one in the morning the projector screen becomes a memorizing artwork, capturing the attention of its audience and causing the ensuing uproar that be heard in my dorm with the windows closed. People here become true friends with each other, and it can take nearly no effort at all. I didn’t have to buy my buddy Polycarp an x-box or an ITunes gift card to become good friends; I just need a couple free weekends. Time here cannot be spent in better company.
It might be tough to see it at first glance, but the African culture has the strongest and most beautiful presence above all others. These people can sing. They have soul. They can unite and out cheer and celebrate anyone else. The African culture teaches respect for elders, and the beauty of friendship and family. I’ve learned more from people here than I could have ever imagined. If there ever comes a day when Tanzanian good’s and music are exported to the United States, and Swahili becomes the language of commerce, maybe everyone will freak out but me. I’d rather have Tanzania than any other.
I'll write another entry soon(really though)