Chelsea’s Impact of Travel: Tanzania


Lindsay Igoe, Writer

Where and when did you travel?

I traveled to Tanzania this past summer. It was for twenty-three days from the end of July through the beginning of August.

Remind us what you did while you were there.

I was traveling with the community service organization Rustic Pathways, meaning that we were traveling all over Tanzania and doing infrastructure-based community service work, as well as some English teaching and education work. And then it was kind of intermixed with a little bit of just seeing Tanzania.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

Luckily, that’s a really hard question because there’s so many amazing parts of the trip, but to me the most amazing part was kind of what I touched on in my speech at assembly. It was in the second village that we went to there, Midabini, where we got to talk with a lot of the village elders, and we asked them questions, and they asked us questions, and it lasted for three hours, and it just was amazing, and eye-opening, and I would probably single that out as the most life-changing of events, so I’ll say it’s my favorite.

What was an average day like?

The most average day probably was we would wake up around 6:30. We generally were woken up by the sparrows that would get into the roof, and so they’d land on us, and then, we’d go over to breakfast, which was normally done by 7:30, and that’s roughly when school starts, and we would hear the bells calling all the students in. Then we’d go over to our infrastructure site and work on that till about 12, and then we’d have lunch, then we’d do English teaching for about an hour, then go back to infrastructure till about 5, and then do some kind of evening activity and then dinner and then bed.

Where did you stay in the village?

We were staying in the village, for the most part we were staying with host families, so when we were in our first village, which was called Njoro village, we were staying with the village chief almost you would say, and we were staying in his guest house because he’s had lots of Rustic groups stay with him before, so he was hosting us. Then when we were staying in Midabini we were staying in this extra room attached to the teachers’ quarters, so we were kind of staying with three other teachers, but they had separate rooms.

What was the food like?

Lots of rice, and there was always one main starch, and then some kind of sauce and meat to put on top of it. The starch was mainly either rice or something called ugali, which is pretty much like mashed potatoes but if mashed potatoes stuck together a little bit more, like it sounds disgusting but I’d almost say it’s more rubbery mashed potatoes. It’s pretty good when you put some nice sauce on it, but I realize that probably sounds disgusting. And then, it was some kind of sauce and like beef or pork which, because when I travel internationally I eat meat, so I did eat that. And then there also was a lot of corn and bean mixtures, which they would serve with ugali.

What were the biggest cultural differences you noticed or that surprised you?

At least, in Midabini, the second village we were in, one of the things that really surprised me was how much life centered around the local church there because there’s not a lot of — this village was Christian, there’s not a lot of Christian villages — it’s either very Christian or not, it seemed, I might be wrong, but it seemed like that — and so church was a big part of life there. Another thing that really struck me was how much — because it was a very very small close-knit rural village — how interconnected everyone was even though they lived very very far apart because the village had a city center, or town center, but people lived in a five-mile radius around that, but everyone seemed to really know each other.

One of the things that really struck me at one point was when we were talking to a local woman who was giving us a cooking lesson, she was teaching us how to make ugali, and we were asking her what the hardest part of life there was, and she was saying that during the dry season one of the hardest things was to make sure you always had food, but one of the traditions there in the village was that any time anyone comes to you and says that they don’t have food and that they needed help, you have to give them something even if you don’t have anything to give.You have to give half of whatever you do have, which really, I thought was rather incredible, and not very American, so I thought that was impressive.

Another thing that at least blew my mind because I never thought of it was a lot of the houses or cooking houses were made of mud and sticks, and so in the rainy season they wash away, which I just had never even thought of, that you have to rebuild your house every dry season because you no longer have one, which surprised me.

Has this travel experience changed you or your outlook and, if so, in what ways?

I would like to think it has changed at least my perception of the world. I think it’s hard for me to say because I think that I am very privileged here I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, one trip changed me forever!’ but I would like to think that it helped me understand another piece of the world a little bit more. I definitely think it did. It showed me something that I’d never experienced before, and a world that is unlike my own, and yet very like it in other ways, but in some ways very different. I think that that’s hugely valuable, and I think it will definitely change at least my perception of those areas of Tanzania and I feel really honored to have gotten to know them in that way and have gotten to know the people that were there.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t think so, other than everyone should definitely try to travel to Tanzania if they can. It was absolutely incredible.

Thank you!