I feel inspired and amazed at how life is manifested through the people I come across and see on a daily basis. It amazes me to hear about the lives of others and how different they are compared to mine, or how different mine is to them, especially here in Tanzania. I think we are all the same- we are human beings. We share common experiences of being challenged, happy, sad, etc. Yet, each one of us is also so unique and different, which can cause us to feel so isolated and disconnected from one another. However, what unites us is greater than what divides us, is something important I’ve learned in my community development classes and was reminded of today.
During these past few weeks, I have been trying to acclimate myself to Mwanza by spending time in town, learning the language, and trying to get around without the help of a local. On top of being in a new place, people are constantly staring or talking to me so I have to walk down the streets like I’m on a mission because if I look like I’m lost or get distracted, my chances of getting pick pocketed or cat called increases. I’ve also experienced people talking to me specifically because I am a foreigner (who is seen as privileged and can afford to buy things), or they are interested in coming to Canada (want to marry me or for me to bring them to Canada).
In order to avoid confrontations like these, I often have to ignore many people and avoid talking to people who approach me. In particular, going to the market heightened this for me as it consisted of a swarm of people, all wanting me to buy from them, constantly pushing me, and trying to get my attention. Being one of the only foreigners amongst a sea of locals made me feel very insignificant and question my ability of ever being able to relate and connect to Tanzanian locals. This has been an internal struggle for me because I feel like I have to constantly put up a cold appearance in order to get around. I am usually not like this. I enjoy acknowledging people on the street, striking up conversations with people I don’t know, and getting to know others. Thus, acting this way has often left me very frustrated me because I am not able to be myself and connect with the locals how I want to.
Today was the first day myself and another intern traveled to our destination by ourselves on a dala dala (“a bus”… not really a bus though, more like a van with multiple small seats inside). We managed to arrive and leave without getting lost, buy food, and speak Swahili well enough to make it back to our hostel alive. I also was able to greet and carry on basic conversation with the locals which made me very happy. Experiencing this today taught me that it takes time and lots of patience to acclimate oneself, and that one’s struggles don’t last- your struggles today will pay off tomorrow.
“If struggle is the essence of life, then so is pleasure.”