Tanzania embodies a culture so vast that it is unfathomable to those that don’t come from its roots. It is a country strongly built on community and love – love for the land, the culture, and the people. It is a country where a man from the Maasai tribe will be walking the streets, clad in his traditional robes with a Sprite in his hand. A country where, in the middle of a small, rural village, there will be graffiti on the walls featuring Snoop Dogg lyrics. The land has a foundation of tradition laced with modernity.
The sense of community in Tanzania colors all aspects of everyday life. The idea of the individual doesn’t seem to exist. What’s yours is your family’s. What you do, you do with others. The people around you share the same life experiences as you do. Our official welcome into the country were the words, “Welcome to Tanzania, the land of people.” The simple but powerful statement is what encompassed the entire trip, from the bubbly kids of Njoro Village whose hands always gripped tightly to ours, to the calming and gracious people of the Maasai tribe who integrated us into their culture with a genuine willingness to share.
In affiliation with Rustic Pathways, we had the opportunity to experience two greatly different aspects of the country during the SAS Interim travels abroad. Our first few days were spent in Njoro Village, where most of the population belongs to the Meru tribe. We stayed in a local couple’s guesthouse, where we were greeted daily with delicious food and plenty of affection from the locals. Our focus during our stay in the village was the construction of a dining hall in the local school. We also tried our hand at teaching the children English, a task that was a feat in itself. After our homey stay in Njoro, we travelled through Arusha to start our safari journey. For two days we visited Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park, staying in a permanent tent complex the first night and camping under the stars with the Maasai tribe on the second night. Our final night in Tanzania was spent in the city of Arusha, where we got the chance to explore the town and visit the marketplace before we departed for Singapore.
Community is everything, and this was our takeaway after spending 8 passionate days in Tanzania. Being a part of a community is the way of life in the country, one that transcends the ideals of individualism that are so prominent in western society. From Tanzania we learned what it means to be a part of something greater than just ourselves – we learned to embrace the culture, the land, the people, and ourselves as a whole entity.