Elephants Part III: Tanzanian Life LessonsPosted: February 23, 2011
When all was said and done, I learned a lot in Tanzania. I learned about the history of Ruaha (probably 15 times total), I learned some tips and hints – tricks of the trade – when it comes to searching for animals in the wild, and I learned how to do my laundry in a brown river.
Really though, I never thought that I would learn as much as I did, and if I have to be honest, I didn’t realize how much I had learned until I left and saw things from the outside. When I was there it was very easy to push things aside, but let me tell you, I had reverse culture shock when I finally landed in London. It really put things into perspective.
Some lessons I learned include:
– things on the clothesline better be secure or the dogs will think your panties are their chew toys
– always make sure you close the tent so rats don’t run over your body at night
– chili sauce is a necessity for every meal
– for that matter, so is 3 tablespoons of salt
– no matter how hard you try, diarrhea is inevitable
– solar panels can be used to charge your computer, phone, cameras, and ipods
– bread can be baked using charcoal
– that I will never eat a mango outside of East Africa again
I learned countless facts about animals, and I could now describe the meaning of many animal behaviours that I would never have known before. I also know now that Ruaha must be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It is what one dreams about when they imagine the African wilderness. It was dry, everything was golden. Animals were hungry and thirsty. It was harsh – I wouldn’t last more than 2 hours. I preferred the safety of the vehicle. The sun was huge, the wind was hot, and when the rain finally came, we all took our clothes off and danced in it.
Above all though, I learned about appreciation. The things I learned in India were just reinforced by the experiences I had in East Africa. That those with the least amount, are always the most generous. That those with nothing to share, share everything they can with their community. These community bonds are so strong and family support cannot be compared to anything you have ever known (unless of course, you are from rural Tanzania). Honesty is something to be rewarded, and everyday citizens won’t hesitate to take the law into their own hands when their own government has failed to provide this security.
The problems in East Africa are obviously very complicated, and I wouldn’t even attempt to explain them here. But what I do know is that despite these problems, Tanzania (Uganda and Kenya I didn’t have the privilege of staying as long) is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. The slow pace of life, the easy going nature of the people and the fact that much of their material wealth and opportunities are out of their control (weather, drought, disease) I’m sure all play a role (but again, I am just making observations). It seems that the less you have, the less you have to worry about.