Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Africa taught me to believe in the American dream

It’s been nearly a month since I returned from Tanzania, Africa, and I’m finally bringing myself to reflect on the experience as a whole. It wasn’t the hours of editing my documentary, “It Takes a Village,” travelling home to Maine or writing articles on Marcellus Shale that kept me from this entry, but more like the need for the whole trip to sink in. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned from the wonderful people and culture I encountered during my month-long visit to Tanzania.

There were a lot of difficult situations, a lot of hardships that I witnessed when I visited families in rural areas. But, they didn’t really seem like it at the time. A lot of people asked me if it was sad there, but that is one of the last words I’d use to describe Africa.  What I saw was not as sad as it was inspiring.

The people I met were living tough lives, struggling with lacking resources and opportunities. But they weren’t unhappy. They made the best out of their situations. They were the most resourceful people I’ve ever met. As a result of their resourcefulness, they weren’t tied to materials for their every day life.

The people of Tanzania were immensely hospitable, which was even more impressive in light of their daily difficulties. Even to a complete stranger like myself, they were unbelievably welcoming. They would bring me into their homes, offer refreshments and ask curious, insightful questions about the U.S.

They put such an importance on community and relationships. They always took the time to meet and talk with anyone they came across, as this was something ingrained into their culture. They really appreciate the interactions they have with others.

To my surprise, I also learned a lot about America. For the first time, I saw the American Dream as a real, thriving entity. When I saw how hard students had to work to get an education and rise out of an impoverished status and how many obstacles they faced made me realized how lucky we have it. It made me appreciate all the opportunities we have as Americans, more than I ever have. This, along with the importance of community, is something that has stuck with me since the trip and will continue to shape my values.

This is only my attempt to describe an unbelievable, rich experience and to condense everything I’ve learned into one post. If you want to read more about what I did, please check out the blog I updated during the journey: (my school made me use their separate, existing blog).

Now, I hope to make the final touches to “It Takes a Village,” my documentary on education in rural Africa, and use it to give back to the people of Tanzania. I hope awareness and donations will help send more orphans reach their dreams of education.

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