Saturday, June 7, 2008

Reflections on DES

It's been an interesting first week here in Tanzania. As you know, we spent this first week here in Dar Es Salaam, the largest city in the country. Through our Swahili courses (Mambo!--- Hey!) and our tours of the surrounding area, we've begun to better understand this new world around us. We were warned of culture shock, but neither Megan nor I really expected to start learning so much so quickly. By simply immersing ourselves in the Tanzanian culture and community, our eyes have been opened to a world that we never knew existed.
I have found that the Tanzanian people are very friendly. Surprisingly, the entire time we've been here, I've yet to feel scared. There have been moments when I felt I should be more conscious of those around me and the choices I was making, but I've never felt as if I were in a dangerous area or situation. In general, the Tanzanian people (at least those in DES) appear to be equally interested in us as we are in then. We are some of the few white people in most the areas we've traveled too. Just as many of us have never seen so many Africans, I'm assuming many of the Tanzanians have never seen so many white Westerners.

I've been struck by the utter poverty in DES. Many of the roads are unpaved and have huge potholes. There is a dirty film of grime and filth that covers the entire city. Chickens and goats roam the streets freely. Many of the people work in markets or along the streets selling the same goods (videos, t-shirts, sunglasses, etc). Young kids roam the streets at all hours looking for entertainment. Despite all of this, it feels like the Tanzanian people are very happy. This may be a result of not knowing what their missing out, but I'd like to believe they are genuinely happy with the lives they lead. I'm looking forward to better understanding this issue and the role Western assistance plays in providing the Tanzanian people with more opportunities.

Overall, we had a wonderful week. We've made some incredible friends from all walks of life. We've enjoyed delicious meals cooked for us by a local Tanzania. We've spent time connecting with our new friends and the locals at a neighborhood bar. We've swam in the Indian Ocean and walked the streets of DES. No trip is without it's difficulties, though. We've been taken advantage of as Western women and been charged more money by the local GC (our volunteer group) representative. We've lost our box of donations that contained all of the books, toys, and children's clothes. We've also yet to receive the financial donations you all willingly gave. We've been homesick for our families in the States.
With both the up and downs, we're taking this trip in stride. Traveling to a third world country entails hardships, but is also coupled with the opportunity to learn and grow. As we head out to Arusha tomorrow (10 1/2 hour drive), we look forward to connecting with some amazing children and women. Oh, and the plethora of Western restaurants... mmmm pizza!


Melissa said...

hey there - our internet has been up and down - mostly down - all week (not so different from Tanzania in that way) so i've just now caught up on your blogging this week. wow!!! incredible. i'm sure the homesickness is taking you somewhat by surprise. it would me. but i pray that you settle in and find your temporary norm and routine and comforts there soon. i'm so glad you have megan there with you. i'm sending a HUGE hug over the net right now. are ya feeling the luv?! cville is HOT right now. so is charlie - he has a 104 fever today - the day before we leave for texas, of course. we have 9 holes in our ceiling from a kooky electrician who eventually (after two days of tearing up our house) got electricity and cable to the new cabinet yesterday. i of course went with the cheapest estimate and that's what i get. i know evan misses you as much as you miss him. we all will love seeing you when you get back. love you! melissa

Naser said...

Hello or can i say Jambo! . first of all thank you for the good lucks for my exam. at last i can say im done with it and i dont have to think about it anymore..well at least til the results show up in 5 weeks. it seems that you ladies are enjoying your time and learning much,,actually you ve got me interested in swahali soo ive been surfing the net reading about it and found out that 35% of the language has an arabic base...isnt that cool? ..i love the pic with the suglasses!..a "dubai" influenced pic...i assume thats the indian ocean...i hope it wasnt has warm as the arabian gulf....good luck on your trip to Arusha! say to megan for me! ciao!