A welcomed journey: I had never been to Africa before. Like many people my age, I had mainly been to countries in Europe and states throughout America. My understanding of daily life and our roles in these lives was largely Western based. I had been craving a travel and learning experience that would really compare to nothing I had embarked on in my nineteen previous years of life.
Up close and personal: I have taken women’s studies courses and I was able to bring many of my understandings of gender roles in the workplace and the home into my experience in Tanzania. The most intimate of experiences we had was staying with a family in the local village of Kikelewa. There, we saw the mother and the father go about their daily routine. As we talked and shared our experiences, it was interesting to see the modernization of the gender roles in Tanzania, as many younger couples have chosen to share traditionally gendered roles. Similarly, my understanding of community that I have developed largely in my anthropology, sociology and urban studies classes was altered by my visit. So used to the private and relatively separated lives Americans live in their community or city, Kikelewa was a village where all the people rely on each other, look to each other in times of need, and have an incredible bond of trust and love.
Gaining a different perspective: Growing up as an only child, I understood parenting as mostly between parent and child, one that required constant attention and care. What was at first shocking was the children’s independence in the village, as many very young children would walk around by themselves, wander in groups, and find new and innovative ways to play. It was refreshing to see parenting as a community based effort, as the children were welcome in all the houses.
Ongoing connection: I really hope to work on keeping in correspondence with the families, students and teachers we met on our trip. The warm welcomes we received were only followed by warm goodbyes and wishes for us to come again soon. In teaching at the secondary schools, we noticed a lot of needs for textbooks and educational materials. I really want to work with my peers to start a book drive to send books to the secondary schools we taught at. Also, in seeing how driven the students were in Tanzania, as so many of their parents had given up everything to send their students to school, it made all of us feel incredibly lucky for our education.