Culture shock in Tanzania?

Last but not least in the #WhileIwasaway series comes what I enjoyed the most. NEW CULTURE! AIESEC Global Volunteer is a cross-cultural experience for youth who want to gain personal development and leave an impact on the world. There’s nothing quite like being in a brand new country, living and volunteering with people from all around. I can really attest to that.

Although Tanzania is just our next door neighbor, there are elements of new culture I experienced while there. Perhaps the different vocabulary; apparently the word ‘stima’ that Kenyans use to mean electricity doesn’t exist in Kiswahili. Its ‘umeme’ guys! But catch a Kenyan saying ‘Umeme umepotea.’  Haha! Rarely so.

Another thing that was new is the greeting culture. People greet each other courteously on the streets, whether or not they know each other. I’m told the same happens in Coastal Kenya but that was definitely new for the Nairobi-bred me. There’s one particular lady who lived a few houses away from us& sold chapati at her verandah every morning. I had no problem greeting her at first occurrence each day, but she insisted that we should greet her each time we passed by her home. Shikamoo more than 5 times a day? To the same person? That was new! But I finally got the hang of it with time since “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

AIESEC Mzumbe organized a Global Village event where we could all showcase our culture. It was an amazing experience!

Laura’s holding bubble tea, a famous Taiwanese drink ( Tony made this for us to taste one day prior to Global Village)
Makini&I winnowing the maize and beans with an uteo. We were making Muthokoi, a Kamba meal similar to githeri. (Githeri uses whole maize while Muthokoi uses maize without husks)
Maggie and I singing Amenifanyia amani by Paul Clement
Makini shows them how Kenyan men dance
Our Muthokoi was a hit! #TeamKenya
Joy and laughter as we are taught how to dance to the TZ local song; Bertha, Nangi, Lightness and Gervas (in pic)


Maggie took this splendid photo of Jackie, the current AIESEC Mzumbe LC
Kenyan queen, Laura Adhiambo
Dancing to a Taiwanese traditional chant

Learning about Taiwan from Jason, Maggie and Tony was lovely too. First, the English names I have been using to refer to them are just nicknames. Can you imagine? They give themselves these names to avoid the trouble of having to make others pronounce their Chinese names; though I challenged myself to calling them by those names over time and finally got it! And yes, I say Chinese because the languages spoken in Taiwan are both Chinese and the native Taiwanese language (which is mostly spoken by the older generation.) In the hiking video here, Jason taught me the Chinese word for waterfall pu – 瀑 – pù…which was very funny because that word means something quite different in Kiswahili!

If you are wondering where Taiwan is, it is a small island right next to China. Its capital city is Taipei. And guys, I finally got to learn how to tell Asians apart! Haha, well, to a certain degree. They told me of the cultural differences between Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and Koreans. Not only by their looks, but also by how they write out their language. Trust me, it’s similar but it’s not all the same!

Remember how I said here that we had taught them how to sing in Kiswahili? Well, I learnt how to sing a Taiwanese welcome song as well. Don’t laugh, it was among my first tries.

Closer home, Serge from Rwanda taught me some Kinyarwanda. I don’t know why I had always assumed that all of Rwanda is French speaking until he told me that they have Anglophone and Francophone regions. I also realized that Kinyarwanda is somewhat similar to Kiswahili; perhaps due to the similar Bantu roots.

So you now how in Kenya if someone calls you “Wee nani” it sounds so rude? Apparently, in Rwanda, it’s the total opposite. Serge would call me “Wee Joy Muli” with good intentions, but up until he explained that it is a respectful way of referring to someone in his country, I thought he was being rude! Haha…

Mozambique! Did you know that they speak Portuguese? ‘Te amor Senor’. That means ‘I love you my Lord.’ Sounds amazing huh? Leila was my partner when it came to composing songs as I had narrated here. We had lyrics in Chagana (one of the native Mozambican languages), English, Kiswahili and Portuguese. International music… don’ mess!

Let me tell you guys something random about me. I support Manchester United Football club. “Okay, Joy. How is that even related to what we’re talking about in Mozambique?” Well, remember Christiano Ronaldo? Hehe! I liked how he played (ahem) and that’s kinda how I became a ManU fan. So honestly, he’s the one person that comes to mind whenever I think of Portugal. Random huh? (shout out to the real football fans unlike myself; my brothers and close friends like KB. ) But let me challenge you since you’re probably out there judging me. How many former Portuguese colonies can you name? Mozambique…Angola…are you blank? Haha! At least I’m not alone. So don’t judge me with my Mozambique-Portugal -football correlation. 

(Fun fact- there are only 10 countries in the world that have  Portuguese as their official language; Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe.)

Anyway, another thing I admired about Tanzanians was their unity. Despite having so many tribes, they identify themselves by what region they come from. Each time I asked, “Where are you from?” I’d get answers like “I’m from Mwanza…From Moshi…From Iringa”. Rarely did they go by their tribes. Not that they don’t ascribe to a particular tribe, but it isn’t a huge point of differentiation, conflict or a matter to lord over others. This I admire, and hope for the same to happen back home one day. I also got to know tad bits about Ghana, Nigeria, Poland…there was such great cultural diversity within the AIESEC community!

(Photo credits to Maggie, Dennis Damian &Isaac)

There you have it. That’s it for the #WhileIwasaway series.  Hope you enjoyed it and learnt a thing or two from my narration about this journey that God purposely set out for me. 

Soli deo Gloria.