Saturday, June 28, 2014

Similarities and Differences

As promised, my latest blog post will discuss some of the cultural differences and similarities in Tanzania.

Home life: What do you think of when you think of Africa? If you are like me, you probably imagine brightly colored clothing and mud huts. That is what I notice when paging through National Geographic. While the Maasai do live in huts, families also have smaller homes. Our hostess, Elisa Deo, lives in one of the nicer houses. They have three bedrooms: one for her and her husband, another room with a single bed and a third with a queen size bed and two bunk beds. They do have running water for the toilet and tub, but not the sink. 

Having a flush toilet is nice, not going to lie. While their tub does have running water, it is cold water. When I need to shower, Elisa boils a kettle of water. The water is boiling hot, and you add some of the cold water from the tub to get the perfect temperature. Then I use a small pitcher to dump the water over my body.

A bucket shower? I could never do that! Actually, the shower is quite nice. I have enough water to wash my hair, shave and wash with my body soap. I usually have enough water left over to dump over my head for one last rinsing. 

McMoody's has nothing on Elisa's home cooking
Food: All of the food I have been served is delicious, and some of it is not that different from what I normally eat. For instance, one morning for breakfast we had hard-boiled eggs, watermelon and a type of Tanzanian pancake that tasted pretty similar to a Swedish pancake. As I mentioned before, mandazi is similar to our donut balls, and our dinner last night included a lot of rice. Then there was lunch at McMoody’s. 

If you are homesick and want some food similar to home, McMoody’s has shakes, soda, burgers, pizza, fish and more. It was absolutely delicious. The shakes were quite tempting, and I had to give in. The first time I ordered a pineapple shake. The second time I indulged in the Snickers shake. Both times I left with a smile on my face. Honestly, I have been happy and satisfied with everything I have eaten here. 

Driving: Traffic in Tanzania is both safer and more dangerous than driving in the United States. How is that? Well, people normally drive pretty crazy here, and as a result, people expect it. While traveling to the school the other day, I spotted a truck decide it was his turn and pull out about three feet in front of a car driving on the road. The car anticipated it and stopped to allow him to go.

People pushing or pulling carts also share the road.
If you are on a bike or motorcycle, Tanzania is the place to be. If you are driving a car, you are expected to watch out for motorcycles. Although I have not witnessed an incident, I have heard that if you hit a bike, people will drag you out of your vehicle and beat you up. 

While Tanzania may be more safe for cyclists, it is more dangerous for walkers. Pedestrians have no rights in Tanzania. It is not the responsibility of the driver to watch out for you, it is your job to watch out for the cars. While visiting the Maasai market, I was a little slow and a car was driving out, but luckily Tom helped me along and got me out of the way in time. 

Oh, three more differences: 1) You drive on the left side of the street, oncoming traffic is on the right. 2) The steering wheel is on the right side of the car. 3) The speedometer is a little different. At one point it said we were going 90, but in the U.S. that would actually be around 60.

Believe it or not, this photo was shot at dusk through the window.
Photography: I was really looking forward to taking photos of some of the people while I am here. Unfortunately, I learned that the Maasai will get mad if they see you taking their photo, and other people will demand money if they see you taking their photo. Now, that does not mean you cannot take photos of them, it just means you have to take them on the sly. Believe it or not, many of the photos I have taken have been shot from inside the van while Deo is driving. The windows are tinted so people outside cannot see much inside, but you can take photos outside that are clear as day.

Jane Krogstad’s secret photo hideout is from the balcony by the New Life Band School office. People do not look up, so you can get some great photos. If someone does spot you, you just go hide inside the office. (;

I would have thought I would be spotted as I have my professional camera, but I must be pretty good at being inconspicuous because I have not been spotted yet.

One thing that is the same is children love posing for the camera. During my time at the New Life Band School, I loved taking pictures of the students. They would often ask to take pictures with me. When I walked to the dorms and started taking photos, the students all wanted me to take their photo. They would say "take my photo" or "Madame!" And they loved to strike a pose. The same thing happens when I take pictures of children in the U.S. They never hide from the camera. It is good to know some things are not bound by cultural differences.

The students love picture time!

Clothing: I am falling in love with the Tanzanian fashions. Everything is so bright and colorful. On my first full day here, we went to the Maasai market, and I purchased a black kanga with teal and pink flowers. Although we have not had time to go to the Arusha market yet, I am looking forward to discovering more of the hand-crafted beauty that I see everywhere I go. Last night during dinner, I heard a comment from one of my fellow travelers that people in the United States always worry about everything matching, whereas in Tanzania people just pile it on, and there is always a lot of bright colors. I never really thought about it, but it is true. When I think of my own wardrobe, my jewelry and shoes are designed to complement whatever outfit I have on. And I have never seen anyone in the United States dress as colorfully as in Tanzania. 

A boy reverently prays while singing
Another major difference: In the United States, it seems like beauty is associated with sex appeal. Women dress very skimpily. The shorts keep getting shorter and the tops show off a woman’s assets. As a result, it seems like there is a lack of respect for women. Since coming to Tanzania, I have not seen a woman in a dress or skirt shorter than their knees. They are a testament to the fact that beauty is more than skin deep, it radiates from the inside. 

Singing: While at the New Life Band School on Friday, I heard something beautiful: singing. I wandered down a couple classrooms and found about 40-50 students singing. They were praising God at the top of their lungs, and it was breathtaking. When I attended the Edgerton High School graduation earlier this month, they had roughly the same size group singing, and their volume was about half of this group. It was music to my ears to hear the heartbeat of Africa from such amazing, strong and hopeful youth.

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