Tanzania Cultural Shock

JULY 8TH AT 1:45 AM: I had just arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport. Oh god. The longest journey I ever had, alone. Whoever thought that me, a timid Asian girl, would go to Arusha, Tanzania. I remember the year before, the prospect of going to Africa was scary and challenging, but becoming a medical volunteer there sounded quite exciting. Yes, I know. Asian = Medicine. Thank you stereotypes. Well, my whole family never believed that I would actually go. Not only that, but the typhoid pills scared my parents to death. This live vaccine put me in the hospital! They kept on begging me not to go (I was also hesitant to go after the pill incident), but the trip was a once in a life opportunity. I couldn’t miss it for the world. So on July 5th, I set off for Africa with an airplane stop in Istanbul, Turkey. Remembering my journey, I still can’t believe I got through 44 hours on an airplane as well as a hotel room by myself! My old friends would have never believed that I would go to a total new country alone! Well, my arrival to Kilimanjaro Airport marked a new chapter in my life that would change my perspective of the world forever.

4:00 AM: Backpack. Check. Documents. Check. Money. Check. Candy. Of Course. I was ready to enter a new life. Entering Kilimanjaro International Airport, I didn’t know what to look for, but I didn’t think it would be so different. The whole interior of the airport was miniature size and a bit rundown. Additionally, there was almost no one there except three staff officers who didn’t really help us. When I got off the airplane, I didn’t think it would take two hours to get out of the airport! No one told us that we needed to get the business visa form before we waited in line. So. two hours were lost in space as I tried to rapidly leave the area. Finally, I succeeded around 3 o’clock in getting outside. Two Projects Abroad staff members were waiting for me and I could just tell from the start that I was going to have a second family. They welcomed me in straight away and brought me to the host family’s place, TheHaus. At 10 o’clock, I discovered that there was a primary school next to the hostel filled with lots of adorable children.

Primary School

2:00 PM: First one there, I didn’t know what to expect. Was Arusha going to be filled with mosquitoes that would cause malaria? Oh no, what if I possibly received Typhoid fever because I didn’t take all the pills? Was the food edible? In a whole new country, everything scared me, but I had Daniella, my volunteer coordinator, who I knew would help me whenever I need, lessening my fear. This morning, I was filled with apprehension as well as excitement for new adventures. With the staff members, we all went to an Italian restaurant for lunch probably for me to get used to the area first. As I looked around the region, cultural shock exploded within me. Arusha, Tanzania was filled with Africans living to survive. People who did not live for luxuries. These individuals did not care about time. They controlled time instead of time controlling them. Everywhere I glanced, women were carrying heavy baskets on their head while men were pulling large wagons of heavy objects. There was no one who was racing to get things down, but people enjoying their time in the world. This world was not the world I had always experienced since birth. It was a new view that I had to be patient enough in order to journey through.

Arusha, Tanzania

11:00 PM: Soon, it was dinner time. I had heard that there was a volunteer that came that afternoon, but I was asleep when he did. Curiosity to see who it was blew up within me. There was finally another volunteer and I wasn’t alone anymore. Daniela and I walked down the stairs to the room and knocked. Out popped a guy’s head who introduced himself as Dara and was doing the two-week trip just like me. My trip with the other volunteers had begun. We bonded right from the start and got along quite well in the first few hours! Later in the night, two more volunteers came and I found out they were my roommates. A new beginning had just arrived and I was inflamed with passion to get the journey started. I knew that with my roommates, Amanda and Mirelle, we were going to have a hysterically fun time together.


Sophia Cao

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