Some lessons I have learned in Tanzania (aka what I’ve mostly learned in the village of Kidete)…
Hello everyone! My name is Delina (Dee) Auciello and I am one of the five girls from the United States who studied abroad in Tanzania this fall semester of 2016. I have done so many incredible things and learned so many incredible lessons here in Tanzania. Everyday brought a new challenges, but also new things to make me smile and laugh about. This is one of the last blog posts on my actual study abroad blog that I wanted to share! (You should check it out: https://deelightfulworldtravels.wordpress.com)
I wanted to share with everyone a few of these many lessons that I have learned in Tanzania, but mainly in my one month homestay in the rural village of Kidete in the Mufindi District of the Iringa Region in Tanzania. SO without further ado, here we go!!!
You Have to Laugh at Yourself… If there is anything I have learned in Tanzania it is that you have to laugh at yourself. I have made so many mistakes here, so many slip ups, that if I did not learn this along the way it would have been easy to shut this place out. This country is so different, in some of the most amazing ways, but you have to be able to just accept that you are going to make mistakes and laugh about them. From the very first day in Dar when we bought coconuts outside the window of our rafiki roller- I mispronounced the end of the word “kunywa” which means “to drink.” I was trying to the tell the man outside the window “I’m drinking a coconut WOO!” I was so excited and so ready to start speaking Swahili. Little did I know until after I had said “Ninakunwa nazi” instead of “Kunywa.” I told the man that I was pooping coconuts(except like the curse word of poop HAHA). In the village especially this is so very important — my mama here laughs at me all of the time because I think I am doing things right, but I’m really not. We eat everything with our right hand here and its really hard sometimes to eat Ugali or fish with your hands— my mama legit has to open my fish and take the bones out for me every. single. time. we eat fish— she sits next to me and helps me eat— she doesn’t even do this for my four year old host brother!! Of course whenever she is doing this she has tears in her eyes from laughing at me. She has helped me to learn to laugh at myself too, and I think that this has my time in the village to be such a growing experience. If you can’t laugh at yourself then it is going to be hard to really immerse yourself in the culture. I have learned that it is not easy to fully live within another culture— I am going to make mistakes, and that is okay. Just yesterday the girls and I along with RDO, Justin and Paulo planned a big event at the NGO for World AIDS Day. To give back to the community the girls in the program and I had to present preliminary results of our research COMPLETELY IN SWAHILI. Yes, you heard me right. I was so stressed out and nervous, it took me three hours to write a 6 minute speech. I got up there and my hand would not stop shaking (and I usually like public speaking so this was weird for me). After I finished I thought it went really well! JOKES ON YOU DEE. After I had finished Justin told me that I pronounced ONE LETTER incorrectly in the word “kikundi” which means focus group. I had said “kikundu.” So instead of saying “I had focus group discussions” I accidentally said “I had BUTTCRACK discussions.” YEP. IN FRONT OF 100 TANZANIANS. At first I was a bit upset but then I thought to myself, this is hilarious. Only I would say something like that in Swahili. The village has taught me that if you can’t laugh at yourself along your journey it becomes really easy to be down on yourself and disheartened— just giggle at life and get back in there. You are doing fine.
You have to be open… Oh man, life. You have to be open. Expectations- they dictate our experiences completely. Of course, expectations are a good thing to have a lot of the time, but when you are entering a completely new environment, like the village or when you are traveling and entering different cultures you have to learn to have none. I am flashing back to high school right now, when I would talk about my mission trips to my friends and family. I would always say “I enter into these experiences with no expectations!!” However, on this trip I learned that sometimes this was not always true for me. For the entirety of the semester leading up to the village I had been thinking about it every single day. I was nervous, I was scared and I had so many expectations. What if my family did not like me? What if I am just not made out for this kind of immersion? … These thoughts loomed in my mind on a daily basis.
This made me feel sick inside. These expectations. I was scaring myself before I had even gone and given this simple lifestyle a chance. I remember laying in my bed on the very first night in my homestay and telling myself “I am here. And this is SO different than I expected.”
That was when I realized I had SO many expectations for the village, and this is what was scaring me. That first night I decided and told myself that this needed to stop— if I was going to jump straight into this experience I needed to let all of those things go and just be open. The village experience for me, opened my eyes up to so many beautiful and challenging situations, people, customs and traditions, and foods. But I tried everything. Every time my mama said she was going to do something I said I was going to do it too (which I kind of feel bad about because I definitely slowed her down)— but I was open and this was important. You have to let go of your expectations if you want to welcome new lessons into your life. This was one of the most beautiful things I learned in Kidete.
Something short: Patience- Have patience. It is hard sometimes being in a completely different culture — you have to have patience in so many situations. Take deep breaths and take it all in. This is so important. The saying I heard the most on this trip was “KARIBU TANZANIA” mainly from Paulo and Justin. Things happen unexpectedly ALL OF THE TIME in Tanzania. We have had power outages for 10 hours the day before our big Research Proposals were due (and of course all of our laptops were dead or had low battery). We did not have any water for the two days before we left for the village, aka impossible to do laundry and ALL of my clothes were so so dirty. It has rained (and I mean POURED) during the day I planned my community giving back (a mural- which does not work well in the rain). Things go unexpectedly all of time, in Tanzania and in life. You have to learn to roll with the punches, have patience and just enjoy the moment you are in.
You have to have faith that it will get done…. Another thing that I learned in Tanzania is that no matter what everything gets done. One of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Iringa, Lauren, came to talk to the girls and I told about her experiences a few months ago. She told us that her catchphrase about Tanzania is “Somehow.” Somehow everything works out, somehow everything gets done. It’ll get done somehow. This is a lesson that I have learned in Tanzania that I think reflects back into life as well. I stress a little more than the average person about school work, about getting everything I need to get done completed— about pretty much everything. Tanzania has taught me that SOMEHOW it will all get done— just keep the faith. In the village, when people did not show up to my focus group discussions on time I was so nervous— but I had to learn to accept that nothing starts on time in Tanzania— my focus groups would always a little late (by a little I mean like 30-45 minutes late). Yet, somehow everyone showed up — somehow all of my focus groups went really great. SOMEHOW - there is no need to stress about everything on your plate. There were days in the village when I had to survey 9 people, write applications for positions at my university back home or for internships, on top of homework and analyzing my research— somehow it all got down. Have faith and keep pushing forward, it'll all get done somehow.
Pole pole pole pole…. Slowly, slowly, slowly. slowly. In Tanz I hiked Kilimanjaro and “pole pole” was the saying on the mountain— you have to go slowly slowly because “haraka haraka hyena baraka” Hurry hurry brings no blessings. This is not only true on Mount Kilimanjaro (you don’t want to get Altitude sickness and have to stop your adventure) but throughout Tanzania as a whole and life. Not to sound cliche but it really is about the journey rather than the destination. On Kili, I spent 5 days trekking to the Roof of Africa — getting to the top was incredible but because of altitude you can only stay up there for 5-10 minutes— the journey on the way up was where I made my friends and where I learned so much about myself— the end was a plus, a great accomplishment, but it was the journey that meant the most, being able to go all that way. In Tanzania everyone goes slowly, walking or not— they don’t rush here. Which is a big change for me coming from New York and a culture where being busy is oftentimes glorified. People here are busy, but they go slow— if they see a friend on the road they always stop (aka why nothing starts on time here in Tanz), but they really care about community and networks and relationships here. Everyone in the village knows everyone and their mother (and their mothers mothers mother haha literally) and it is because they take the time to stop and ask more then just how are you. They ask- how is your home, how is your family, how are you right now, how is your work— and they truly care about your responses and listen. An average Tanzanian conversation on the street starts with 10 different greetings. I have found that in the village going slowly allows you to interact and connect with so many people. Going slowly led me to meet bibis (grandmas- my favorite ladies) as I would walk down the road everyday. These bibis welcomed me into their homes— I was able to (try my best to) converse with them in Swahili. I met so many people in the village going slowly. Go slow, talk to people, take the time to actually ask people how they are doing instead of just the “hey how are you” while you are walking by quickly. Life isn’t a rush, who knows you might meet some pretty incredible individuals (hopefully bibis) along the way.
Don’t be afraid to go off on your own/FOMO (Fear. Of. Missing. Out) - In Tanzania there are only 4 other girls in my program other than myself. Because of this, we are always together and have become so very close. When it came to spring break here, I really wanted to hike Mount Kilimanjaro but the four other girls were all planning on going to Zanzibar. I knew that if I didn’t hike Kili I would look back at my study abroad experience and regret not doing it completely, but I also did not want the other girls to get super close in Zanzibar and then feel left out when we returned. I took a lot of time to think for myself— Kili scared me and it was super expensive, but I could not stop watching videos of peoples journeys on the mountain- I knew I had to do this. It was hard getting on a bus at 6am and traveling for 16 hours by myself to Moshi when no one spoke English, and then not showering for 6 days or being able to talk to anyone- but I do not regret this decision one bit. All of the girls had SO much fun in Zanzibar, but if anything, we became even closer when we returned. I have learned to never let FOMO dictate my decisions and aspirations. Also, isolation. The village is isolation (kind of)— I think that this is what scared me most about the village, I had just spent 24/7 with the girls and now we would be separated in homestays (with the closest person being 30-40 minute walk away) in different villages. This terrified me. But the village isolation, although challenging at times was exactly what I think I needed to delve into the experience— to go out and meet people on my own and to not be afraid of it. To make friends in the village and to become a part of the family. I experienced isolation from the girls in my program, but my family and my village sure did not let me experience isolation. I always had someone by my side— whether it was my host brothers or sister, my cousins, my bibi, or just individuals that I met by walking aorund. I realized that I only experienced isolation from what I had been comfortable with, and this led me to experience community in a whole new way. Isolation (from comfortability) is sometimes a good thing for you to build relationships and to truly be where your feet are.
Read a book, man. When I was little I was a book worm— I spent all of my time in the library with my mom. When it came to high school and college, however, I have so many assignments and so much to read that I stopped reading for myself, completely. Tanzania has taught me to read books— for myself. It helped me to find my love of reading again. This experience in Tanzania has been full of VERY. LONG. rafiki roller rides (our bus/dala dala). All of these rides to places far away could be spent sleeping— but I found myself reading books (shoutout to our mini CIEE library). Like The Secret Life of Bees oh my goodness, incredible (READ IT PEOPLE). It helped me to find my love of literature, I felt like I was in tenth grade English class with my favorite teacher Mr. Madama again. Remember while you are out there adventure to slow down and read a book— it will help you to see the place that you are in with new eyes, a new perspective. Trust me. (Reading books are also great if you are experiencing some culture shock!)
Enjoy the other culture, but also keep up with your own- This is also something that is so important. Enjoy and immerse yourself in the culture you are experiencing, but do not forget to also keep in touch with your family back home. They love you, support you, and are missing you dearly. Sometimes this will make you feel homesick, but other times it is nice to just vent to the people who are always thinking about you. Talk. to. your. family. and. friends. I would have not been able to make it through this semester and the village without them back home supporting me and messaging me and checking up on me everyday.
Also, my so incredibly thankful. My host family (shoutout to the Lutambi’s!!!) WERE INCREDIBLE. They were there for me whenever I needed them, they showed me so much love, and continue to message me and call me everyday. They will make leaving this country very hard.
And… for one of the greatest lessons I have learned in Tanzania:
KARIBU SANA: Welcome, welcome, you are always welcome… If there is anything I have learned in the village it is that you are always welcome. Whether it be Bibi or my Mama — my Baba or my brother Petro— or any random person I encounter, I am always told “Karibu nyumbani” or “Karibu tena!!” “Welcome/come to my home… Welcome back again” I hear this so many times a day. The community here in Tanzania and especially in the village is beautiful— it is a kind of community I have never experienced before. It is a new level of friendliness, love and compassion. Tanzania has welcomed me, it has treated me so well. I have been able to call this place my home, I cannot wait to return again so very soon.
I am so very thankful for this experience, through the challenges, the laughs, the many tears, the fuji (chaos in Swahili), the friendships, the diseases, the many hours at the clinic, the homework, the research, but most importantly the love— upendo. I thank this country, my friends, Justin and Paulo, my professors, my homestay family, and the village of Kidete for a kind of love that I have never experienced before.
Deelightfully thankful for this experience,
The pictures above are of my host family, my host my little cousin Angel, and my host brother Adam :)