Tanzanian Safari: The People of Tanzania

Finally, the last animals we’ll report on-Tanzanians and ourselves.

20234One of the highlights of a trip to Tanzania is interacting with the locals. The people there are friendly, happy and smiley. They go out of their way to help you and are optimistic and committed to driving their economy forward. And even the villagers who are very near the bottom of the economic ladder are proud and helpful rather than adopting a ‘begging’ stance.

20214On our first day in Tanzania, we had a local guide us through a nearby village. Children came out to greet us as we walked about. They spoke to us as best as they could in English. And those who couldn’t speak English simply lingered about us, smiling, soaking us in. There was the young, handsome high schooler committed to achieving his dream of becoming a doctor. Three little kids for a hillside hut with fancy dresses, but dirty faces. There were kids playing with wheels and sticks. And the group who excitedly shared a leopard tortoise with us as we passed. There were also the ladies grinding their corn at the local, commonary mill. And the ladies tending their vegetable gardens and accompanying stands to sell their goods. There were also moms selling fish cooked fresh while you wait. As well as little ones chasing chickens.

20229Really, walking about harkened back to the days of my parent’s childhood in America. Bathrooms were outdoors. Pleasures were simple. And neighbors stuck by one another to make it through. The chickens ran wild and the children came home REALLY dirty. You had to work hard and most walked to school as cars were hard to come by and gas was impossible to afford.

20219There are a few things, however, that make things different. 20% of Tanzania’s city population is estimated to suffer from HIV or Aids with approximately 10% of the country’s total population suffering as a whole. And a portion of the population’s beliefs support and encourage casual intimacy from an early age. If for nothing else, these two factors could make growing up so Smiley and Happy a challenge.

21047This said though, as emerging economies go, Tanzania is quite refined. The roads are generally good (much better than India’s!), most families (other than Tribal ones) appear to live in block houses with tin roofs (definitely a step up from India’s tarp slums) and while the plumbing’s primitive, it doesn’t appear to be exposed (not the case in Beijing or Shanghai).

21057Perhaps, though, our recent experiences in China, Morroco and India have dulled our perception of extreme poverty. Or, perhaps, it’s simply that we now see the scenes of dirty children, hay and water carried by cart or bicycle along the roads, or ramshackle huts serving as convenience stores through different glasses these days as it’s not our first go? But regardless, I continue to grow and realize that in many ways the people in emerging economies leading simple lives have an advantage over those of us in workaday mindset. Their stress levels are low. Their focus is on their family and their larger community. And they help one another out when they’re down instead of pointing fingers. And their kids get dirty–really dirty. And isn’t that what childhood should be about? Who wouldn’t want a childhood framed by chasing turtles and minnows and climbing trees–to be followed by helping in the garden and chatting with the neighborhood kids at the village mill. We, in more Western cultures, often stress so much about ensuring that our houses are perfect, cars and blemish free, children are clean in pressed white dresses with ribbons in their hair and we forget to have simple, carefree fun. Especially kids.

21052I’m certainly happy living in my white London tower in a nice clean, pressed, white dress. But, I have to say that those bygone days of my childhood on the farm–chasing minnows and getting dirty–really dirty–were pretty grand. And just as it’s hard to make your way to college from small town Tanzania, the same was once true (if not still true) of small town America. These kids have a chance.


20349Now–for our favourite people. We were fortunate on this trip to have G’s parents along with us…and we have to give them credit for being low stress, high fun travel partners. We had a great time together catching up since we don’t see one another often and I believe the trip was made better by their presence. We’re very fortunate that they love and support us in our choice to move abroad–and that our love for travel (with their recent retirement) coincides. Thank you Allan & Virginia for traveling half way around the world to hang out with us! And we count ourselves lucky that we spent two lovely weeks together and parted while still smiling 🙂

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