When I was a resident of Tanzania for 2 1/2 months in 2008, I lived with the happiest most loving people I have ever had the joy of meeting. I just read a post from Michael Hyatt about his experiences in Ethiopia that greatly resonated with this amazing period of my life. My favorite quote from his post makes an incredibly accurate and eye-opening observation, "Despite all of [their difficulties], the Ethiopian people remained joyful in the midst of unrelenting hardship." I can definitely say the same for the Tanzanian people.
Needless to say, I wanted to share some pictures of both of my lovely Tanzanian home stay families.
Their smiles are contagious :-)
I guess I should start with some background to explain why their smiles are so fantastic and should teach us in the U.S. quite a lesson - as pointed out in the above linked-to post by Michael Hyatt.
I lived with my Bangatan home stay family for 3 weeks towards the beginning of the trip. My Swahili was lacking quite a bit and their English was all but non-existent, and yet we still managed to connect right away. So much so that when I visited a month and a half or so later to tell them that I unfortunately had to leave the country early and I would not be able to see them again in the near future, my 3 year old brother David (pronounced Dev-dee) grabbed on to me and repeatedly exclaimed in Swahili, "Sister, don't go!!" Tears were flowing from both of our eyes. So the hardships? Well, they did have a store attached to the house (a duka), which meant my Baba (father) didn't have to travel to get to work, but also meant that when the rainy season came and the road up the mountain got severely muddy and nearly impassable, business went down (Bangatan residents could not get down the mountain to work). They also were one of the few houses to have electricity. But...they had no running water, their kitchen was a lean-to made of sticks with a dirt floor, and they had to keep selling their livestock to get more of an income. They did have it pretty good compared to most of their neighbors, but by American standards, they were not so well off. None of this phased me or them it seemed. Mama David was always so joyous and so loving and caring of me. David was such a happy little 3 year old and he latched on to me with an incredible unconditional love super fast. Baba David didn't smile all that much (I think that might just be an East African grown man thing though), but he was so welcoming of me, and even let me sit in his shop whenever I had time so that I could learn more Swahili and interact with the community.
Me and my kaka (brother) David.
He was such a sweet little guy.
Just look at that unbarred JOY :-)
Mama David (my Bangatan Mama) joyfully embroidering
a beautiful dress for me.
I lived with my Maasai family for about 5 days towards the end of the trip. I even went back an extra night while all of the other students were staying back at camp. The minute my Bibi (grandmother) saw me returning as she sat up against a tree, she reached up and pulled me into a huge bear hug exclaiming my name. This family lived in cow dung huts, had no electricity, and no running water. The women spent their days sitting in the shade on cow skin hides beading jewelry to sell (the perfect life if you ask me...). My Yeyo (mama) didn't speak Swahili at all so I had to communicate with her through my Shingazi (aunt). Regardless of our verbal communication difficulties, there was an unspoken love and feeling of family among us all. Maria, my little sister, followed me everywhere and got as close to me as she could when we would sleep at night (man can that girl kick in her sleep!!). I don't think I ever saw Sale, my little brother, not smile. Raehleah, my little cousin, was always playing silly games with me. Yeyo Simbai involved me in everything she could, even a dance a short walk away where the women were singing higher than I thought possible and jumping up and down, artfully clanging their necklaces. And Shingazi Anna snuck a 2nd brand on me by doing the "look over there" trick. I can't say enough about how much this family changed my life. I think of them daily even though it's been 4 years since I last saw them.
Me and my Maasai family.
From left to right: Yeyo (Mama) Simbai, Nabo,
Sale, Maria, me, and my cousin Raehleah.
My sister Maria.
My sister Nabo.
Me and my brother Sale.
Me and my brother N'geke.
My Shingazi (Aunt) Anna and two of my baby cousins.
Hopefully these photos show just how joyful people can be, regardless of the American-compared circumstances they are in. I realized very quickly that the people of Tanzania have much more to teach Americans than Americans have any right to think that they (Americans) can teach them (Tanzanians). People should never go into another country expecting to change citizens' ways of life - we should never be so arrogant as to think that our American way of life is the only right way.
Note: I will most likely post some of these pictures again in the future :-)
That's all for now...