It was a grad trip with an entirely different slant. Instead of another metropolis in Asia or Europe bursting with museums, palaces, shopping malls and theme parks, I decided to set foot in Tanzania under AIESEC’s Global Community Development Programme.
While making a difference to the lives of the students in Moshi, I took the opportunity to hike Mount Kilimanjaro, fish along the beautiful coast of Zanzibar, and see the real Lion King in action at Serengeti.
The Tanzanian Way of Life
Moshi is a mid-sized town nestled in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. Each morning, I would walk through the labyrinth of maize fields for an hour to reach school. Along the way, the locals greeted me with “jambo” or “mambo”, meaning hello in Swahili, the local language. Collectively, they have built a community where manners are valued, where handshakes are full of affection; and their sincere smiles would radiate warmth into any passers-by.
Women were adorned with “kanga”, a printed cotton fabric in vivid and bold colours that spanned their outstretched arms, covering them from neck to knee. They would balance baskets of daily necessities (such as bananas, eggs and avocadoes) on their heads as they walked to and from the market.
Tanzania’s national dish “ugali” is an acquired taste for many foreigners but certainly worth trying. Essentially, it is maize flour cooked with water to a porridge-like consistency and served with a sauce containing meat, fish or beans. Cows and goats frequently roamed the roads. Eggs were available in mom-and-pop shops, near which chickens wondered freely. Everything was fresh and natural.
Reflecting the dominance of agriculture in the Tanzanian economy, most inhabitants reside in huts next to their farmlands. Only in cities such as Dar-es-Salaam and Dodoma could one see some tall buildings. Clean potable water is rare in Tanzania while blackouts are a daily occurrence. The Apps in my phone which I frequented the most were no longer Facebook or WhatsApp – it was Torchlight, used to guide the way after sunset as there was no street light in the maze fields.
Strong Appetite to Learn
Education is highly valued in Tanzania. Based on my observation in the English language classes I conducted daily for some 80 primary school children, the Tanzanians truly have a love for learning. The Chairperson of Moshi Co-operative University (Tanzania’s best business school) requested me to deliver a two-hour lecture in accounting to nearly 100 business students. Yes, I even weaved in a workshop on how to structure an effective resume. Thankfully, I could recall the AB1000 and AB2000 lessons I had during my NBS days.
Tanzanians’ Philosophy of Life
“Hakuna Matata” or “worry not” aptly summarizes the essence of the Tanzanian attitude to life. It was one of the aspects of African life that had a huge impact on me. Through them, I learnt that worrying can never be a good problem-solving tactic. The sun will still rise the next day, and worrying would not have alleviated the situation.
I witnessed an unwavering commitment to learn about language and business. Textbooks are shared and passed down year after year. Students dutifully raised hands to answer questions and submitted homework in person to the teacher’s office.
Tanzanians are remarkably optimistic and big-hearted. They believe that life will be better and the country will remain a good place to live in. This shared optimism can be an asset as Tanzania deals with the challenge of raising the education standards and the long fight to reduce poverty.
Contributed by: Long Hao, ACBS Class of 2015