I’ve spent the last two days traveling through Mundemu to the different villages. I was really just along for the ride as one of my co-workers was delivering more data collection forms to the dispensaries (local clinics). When I was in Mundemu before, I only went to the location of the World Vision office there. So, I was excited to take the chance to actually see the villages. The days were very enjoyable, but quite exhausting. Even though I was just in the car all day, none of the roads we were on were paved. So, it was two days of being jostled around. It’s a small price to pay, though.
Driving from village to village is quite an experience. You drive on miles of road with no signs, and you could drive for 20 minutes and not see a single person. So, I have a lot of respect for our driver who got us to all the villages. We only got lost once–we missed a turn, but I didn’t even realize there was a road there. So, I couldn’t blame him. Luckily, we didn’t have to drive very far before we found someone we could ask directions.
These villages are definitely rural. So, a big car coming through is interesting in and of itself. But, a car with a white woman in it is definitely cause for curiosity. Adults would look from afar, but many of the children would come to get a closer look. They were eager to smile, especially if I waved or gave a thumbs up. If you have never been someplace where you are the anomaly, then I don’t think I can really explain what it feels like for all eyes to be on you, watching your every move. Some people would be scared, probably. I just felt…awkward. Am I supposed to do something or say something? So, I smile. I try not to stare back too much. Thankfully, Tanzania is a pretty peaceful place. People are just curious. It’s not like I’m the first white person they’ve ever seen…it’s just many don’t come to the village. So, I’m sure they are wondering what I’m doing there… Though, there were moments where I felt a little bit like an exhibit…it can’t be helped, though.
In the last three days, though, I’ve seen more non-Tanzanians (white and Chinese) than I have the entire time I’ve been in Dodoma. Light skinned people kind of stick out. So, they are hard to miss. It’s strange to go a week and a half without seeing another white person and then see multiple in one day. It felt like the M&Ms Christmas commercial where they see Santa Clause and Santa says, “They do exist!”
Anyway, back to the Mundemu trip. Other than getting to see some of the villages, I also had lots of time to talk to some of my coworkers. I think it has been a great bonding moment! I got lots of questions about things in American–everything from dating and marriage to wildlife to witchdoctors. The driver seemed to be surprised that we don’t have any giraffes, lions, or hyenas. I tried to describe some of the animals we have here. For most animals, there is something I could compare it to. The one I had trouble with is bears, only because one person thought I meant something more like a deer, and so I was having to try to describe a bear while also having to say things like no they don’t have antlers or horns. One of the male WV staff has decided it would be easier to date and marry in America than in Tanzania. So, I jokingly told him to write a profile and I would pass it around to see if any of my single female friends were interested. That got a lot of laughs. Through the questions, though, I learned a lot about Tanzanian culture. Someone would ask a question, I would answer, and then they would talk about the differences. I think it was a great learning experience for all.