Manual Labour and Minorities

I decided to get out of the AIT house today and explore some more of Dar. I ended up going with Sabrina and Esther to their project, which is working at the local orphanage. In the morning they do construction work, trying to get the orphanage completely built. So we took the Daladala to a new part of town and set to work. We were working on the security office, the outside of which had been done with plaster. And before we could paint it (what we’ll be doing tomorrow), we had to sand the whole thing down. They don’t have electrical sanders or power tools, so it was 3 girls, with 3 pieces of sandpaper, sanding down a shed-sized building. It took hours and my arms have never been so sore, but there’s something very satisfying about manual labour. We were covered in white dust from the plaster (it got EVERYWHERE – we were literally coated), but we managed to get it done. I’ll go back tomorrow to help them paint the outside. On the way back from the orphanage, we stopped at a bakery, which I am told is the best bakery in Bahari Beach, and I can attest that this is probably true. Although I wanted to sample everything, I ended up with a – well I’m not sure what it was called. The best way to describe it is mashed potatoes with onions, carrots and spices rolled into a ball, fried, and served hot. And it was delicious, I can tell you, as well as incredibly cheap. It was 400 shillings, the equivalent to about 25 cents. It’s a treat to have food like that, because most often at the volunteer house we have some form of rice and beans. It gets monotonous. I think that I will never again want to eat rice once I’m back in Canada. I think what I would like to next is actually go INTO the orphanage (what they do most afternoons) to play with the children.

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Children here are so interesting, because to them, I (being a white person) am so interesting and unique. The children that come to the AIT house for nursery school will chase after you all morning, all to get a high five. Some of the kids that are too shy to say hello or ask for a high five will simply run up, give you a little shove, and run away again. I think it is maybe just the thrill of touching someone with such different skin colour than your own. It’s endearing, but it also makes me grateful in a way that I grew up in a place where there were many different types of people. Canadian is not a race, it is a nationality and a state of mind, and I think the cultural acceptance of those who are different from us is a very precious thing. For although the excitement of the children is cute and understandable, the constant calls of “mzungo” and the stares as you walk down the street is enough to make anyone uncomfortable, especially someone who has never stood out because of her skin colour before. I have never been a minority before, and quite honestly, it is an experience I won’t want again. But perspective is a rare thing in the world we live in, and to be able to see things from a different point of view is valuable. I think that if everyone, at one point in their life could experience what life is like as a minority, the world would be a very different place indeed. People would understand that painting an entire culture with the same brush is an insult to our very humanity. We may all look different, but coming here I have learned that we are all very much the same.

It was recently discovered that the oldest evidence of human life is here, in Tanzania. It all began here, millions of years ago. And here I am today, in a place where you couldn’t imagine was the starting point of human life. But perhaps, once you look past all of the modernizations and years of growth, you can start to see the vastness of the earth; the completely unimaginable time and effort it took for us to get where we are, and that we are only one planet, in one solar system, out of who knows how many. And maybe, once you think about that, the emphasis we place on race and the differences between us no longer seems that important.

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