Whenever I first started to consider a study abroad trip, the only countries I thought about traveling to were Italy, Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica. All countries that would have somewhat kept me within my comfort zone. I am Mexican American and very in tune with my culture. I am also fluent in Spanish. I would have understood most of those cultures and customs. I would have spoken their language or been able to navigate Italy easily as well due to the similarities between the Spanish and Italian language. However, I soon realized that nothing was in those countries for me at this specific point of time in my life. There was something else I needed at the time that I did not know of yet, but little did I know that it would find me at the time I needed it the most.
Choosing to come to Tanzania was the best decision I could have made for myself! Although I have only spent a week in this beautiful East African country, I have learned far more than I could have ever imagined. I came with the misconception that the whole continent of Africa was extremely poor, that the people lacked so much, that life must not be enjoyable due to a low quality of life, and that the culture and customs would be so different when compared to my Mexican American culture. Little did I know how mistaken I was. Even driving through the town of Moshi on my first day took me back to my parent’s hometown in Mexico. The smell of fresh grilled corn topped it all off for me.
Within one week, I have realized the many similarities between the Tanzanian culture and my culture. Some of the similarities I have found are very welcoming people, great value for life and family, set gender roles, Catholic religion, spice and rice. LOTS OF RICE. Never thought I would get tired of eating rice. And I never thought I would ever feel so comfortable in a place that is so different from home. Although I am not exactly thrilled about all these similarities, it’s crazy to have found these similarities with people across the world and be able to make a connection with them instantly.
What I found was exactly what I needed to be reminded of my humanity. Although the people may not be wearing the newest Adidas shoes or driving luxury cars, they are happy and live content lives. They are not rich in material items but rather in heart, faith, passion, family. Something I was able to relate to within the first couple of days. Life doesn’t always have to be busy, stressful, on the go, and all about making more money. The short saying “stop and smell the roses,” has really applied to my life this past week because for the longest I have been on “go mode.” Stopping to smell the roses and simply finding the small ways that you are wealthy and satisfied in can be the most fulfilling.