A Student Development Experience in a Development Context

Asante Sana Tanzania

Children walking about on Market day

A late night snack of cow tail and tongue, mmmmm!

Receiving our "African Massage"

Ngorongoro Crater at noon as the clouds begin to lift.

It feels like I blinked though I didn’t miss a thing. With everything new and exciting, time felt elongated as each moment was uniquely experienced, but contradictory, it all went so fast. The other night my teammates and I camped on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. In the morning, I sat there on the edge and watched the sun rising on the horizon, the light turning the clouds orange and the land, a patchwork of scattered rays. It seemed like the ideal place for thinking and reflecting about just about anything, so following the Latin dictum of ‘Carpie Diem,’ I put my mind to work.

Reflecting on the trip I started to think about how I will remember my first experience of Africa and Tanzania specifically. Memories collide as I begin to form my own unique sense of Tanzania. I start with the sounds of Tanzania. My ears are first awoken to the morning call of the rooster, the alarm clock that arouses the town each day. A soundtrack begins to take shape with the twittering of birds surrounding me from all angles. On the street, a herd of cows moo and grunt as they are ushered along by a boy barely taller than the cows themselves, while an occasional goat makes its self known.  Children run over yelling, “Hello! Mzungu!” excitedly as I walk by, giggling with each step.

Thinking of the taste of Africa, my mouth is instantly reminded of the savory flavor of beef, followed by the salty taste of chips, the sweetness of the mangos, and the cream of the thick steamed milk. My pallet haven grown from the trip, still recalls the liver-like taste of the cow tongue and the salt of the fish eye. While the scars of Pilli Pilli hot sauce seem still so fresh, my tongue is soothed with the medicinal properties of Konyagi, Tanzania’s locally brewed alcohol of choice.  Senses begin to collide as I almost taste the air filled with the tantalizing aromas of rice cooking nearby as the scent of this country takes over. Traveling across the land through the Ngorongoro forest, a pure and organic odor massages the nose with the aroma of green foliage that has been refreshed with water that seemed to be cradled by the plants as though they knew it were a rare commodity in the country.

I could never forget the feeling of Tanzania. Traveling down a red dirt road filled with pot holes 2 feet wide and that nearly threatens to disappear entirely from erosion after a cleansing wet season, we are treated each time to a true ‘African message,’ while our land rover throws us left and right carrying us to our destination. The country seems to hold a steady pulse that reverberates within you: it is calm and relaxed, a rare pace that would make any of the world’s mega cities anxious and unsettled.  The saying here, is that ‘time follows people,’ revealing how it is perceived to be merely a suggestion of when things ought to occur, and not held as a constraint to limit and bind you to your appointments.

Feeling never so blessed to be able to have the gift of sight, my memories of the images of Tanzania form mosaics of the most brilliant blues in the skies, greens and browns of the trees, and the richest reds of the iron filled earth. Dust flies everywhere during the dry season  and I watch my feet change colors as the water runs over them when I wash them each night before I sleep. Each evening, the land seems to transform at dusk as a warm light colors the landscape in a golden hue. Looking over the Serengeti, shadows scatter across the land in a flowing patchwork, creating luminal spaces where lions and hyenas may hide while stalking the millions the wildebeest that blanket the savannah. Overjoyed with the beauty that nature has created, my thirsty eyes could not drink in the sights fast enough. Burned in my mind is the image of looking up from inside the Ngorongoro crater at the clouds that flowed like water over edge of the tall crater walls so that the sky and the earth overlapped to form a moving white ring encircling us.

All of the senses have combined to form breathtaking moments for me that I will hold dear forever. My first experience of Africa has far exceeded any expectations that I have had and I will always be forever grateful that Tanzania was my first African destination. This experience has changed me in ways that I have yet to fully identify, but that I’m sure will make its self known in the weeks, months or even years to follow. As a medium for education, this service learning project has provided me with the exposure I craved, but could never be achieved in a classroom setting: lessons of pace, adaptability, patience, empowerment, and accountability have been addressed in various ways throughout the 6 weeks. One of the most impactful lessons I have discovered on this trip is that it is through viewing other landscapes, that we are better able to view our own; our perspectives broadens with the distance allowing for a better vantage point in which to reflect from while removing filters and blinders that we are not aware that we have.

I had craved this experience, and was hungry for a new perspective that would challenge what I thought I knew about anything. Coming to Tanzania, I was instantly gratified and soaked up as much as I could from the novelty of being in a completely different environment. I just couldn’t get enough. One of the big differences I noticed from being in Tanzania was in the economies and how people choose to spend their money. Perhaps because there is less disposable income in the average family, there seems to be much less emphasis on buying what one wants and more of a focus on spending money on actual needs. So often in Western culture we buy things that we think we need, but are actually wants such as needing the newest iphone or needing 3 different colors of the same shirt. Skilled marketers have sold us on the idea that we need far more than what we actually do. They convince us that we cannot live without their product and must run out and purchase it right away or risk being unhappy by doing without. It seems our culture has become accustomed to this pressure to buy, but traveling to a country that seems to have far less of this pressure has made me more sensitive to our cultural shopping habits, causing me rethink how I will spend my money in the future.

Some people say that after a trip like this, it’s difficult to return to the ‘real world,’ by which they are referring to your home country and your everyday life. The thought crossed my mind, but then I realized that by saying that, it would be negating my experience in Africa as something unrealistic. Each destination, Canada and Tanzania, are the ‘real world,’ and my ‘real world’ is not one or the other, but both. I will take some of what I’ve learned back with me and incorporate it into my life and with a broader, more revealed perspective and a new lens in which to view my home in Canada, I will steer my future differently. What an experience it has been and I cannot say it enough how lucky and grateful I am to have been able to have the privilege to come on this journey. Thank you everyone who has played a role in this, weather you are a donor, a member of the CPAR staff, a committed blog reader, family or friend. This would not be possible without your support. For giving us all an amazing journey, I thank you Tanzania. Asante sana Tanzania.

– Jacklynn –

Jacklynn Stott stands with 4 local gold miners

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3 responses

  1. Sarah S.

    Awww 🙂 Sounds like you had an amazing experience! I especially liked your paragraph about both Canada and Tanzania constiuting the “real” world. It can be all too easy to look at a country like Tanzania and call it “developing” (assuming we all have the same idea of what development even is) or “third world” (what puts Canada first? How is that right?) I love the consciousness of you looking upon both homes as two of the same thing just in a different light. I felt proud reading that. I also felt proud reading your description of needs and wants. Unfortunately, that is neoliberal capitalism; a culture built on consumption. If we don’t want it, we have to fight for it in our political system.
    It sounds like this trip has changed you a great deal and I am eager to hear more stories about your experiences when you come back to Canada. Till then, enjoy your last days there and have a safe trip.

    Cheers!

    June 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm

  2. I have enjoyed every single one of your blogs Jacklynn. Your blogs have even made me feel and taste a little bit of what you are experiencing in Tanzania, here right in my own apartment at my laptop. It seemed this trip was absolutely amazing and I am so glad that you had the opportunity to go. Your extremely detailed blogs have inspired me to maybe one day go to Africa, as I never thought of this before. Thank you for writing such wonderful blogs and including us all in your trip to Africa.

    I cannot wait to see you and hear even more stories!

    Love you!
    Tiffany

    June 26, 2011 at 3:00 am

  3. Jacklynn

    Thanks Sarah! Very good comments. Yes I think neocapitalism definately has its place and has its merits. At times it can weaken our economy (recession) but generally, it strengthens the community. I should make clear that there is still pressure to buy things that one does not necessarilly need, in Tanzania. The coca cola company has really left their mark on communities here, with entire roofs painted in their logo and their products and logo visible all over the country. I just personally find the whole materialism thing to be less and the pressure to buy to be less and that has been refreshing to experience. Sitting in Amsterdam right now, I have gone from two different ends of the spectrum in one day and I prefer the less materialistic culture. Except for cell phones, computers and the internet, I could do without it all. Some things make life easier, but many others just transform our problems to something with a differnet appearance, not enhancing a thing. Materialism still can play a good role, but I just think we should be self-directed, informed and critical in our purchasing, rather than a passive tool that thoughtlessly buys into what markets want for their own gain, driving us into debt for our “stuff.”

    June 28, 2011 at 6:52 am

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