Tuesday, December 11, 2007

one year back from tanzania

A year ago today I returned from my semester study abroad in Tanzania. Honestly, I'm not sure what to say about it. I was re-reading the blog I wrote when I was there, just remembering and thinking. I learned a lot from my experience, but how could I not? I learned about the World Bank, the IMF, East African history. I learned some swahili, I learned that I don't live as simply as I think I do, I learned how to wash my clothes well by hand. I learned what it feels like to be a visible minority, but this was complicated by white supremacy. I also learned how to empty out the nicotine from a cigarette and remove the filter to use the paper for other purposes, =) I learned that I don't need computers nearly as much as I think I do. I learned a lot of other things, but I need to cut off this train of thought somewhere and here's a good place.

I have learned a few things since I've gotten back though too, from my own experiences and talking with the other people on my program. I decided to make a list because sometimes lists are just satisfying.

1. You can only tell "one time in Tanzania" stories so many times. And then you have to stop or you become that person who always talks about study abroad and is kinda annoying and snooty about it.
2. While it is different to go from being in Tanzania to being in the United States, not much has changed while you were gone. They had huge interstates, grocery stores, malls and hot water when you left, don't be so surprised when you get back.
3. Cultural relativism is harder to detect in your own culture. Also, cultural relativism is one of the those words you whip out when you are trying to impress your family.
4. No matter how many times you remind them, some people will never remember that you went to Tanzania, they will always remember that you went to Africa.
5. Don't idealize your study abroad experience. It's not healthy for you, for people you talk to, or for your ideas about the global community.

Anyways. Here's to hoping I keep learning more about what it means to be a wealthy white American in our crazy world.

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