Traditional Female Gender Roles in Tanzania

One thing I noticed that was very evidently different in Tanzania than in the United States was the role that the female played in society. I lived in a host family with a Mama(mom), Baba(dad), and Kaka(sister). My Mama did some serious work! She woke up before 6 am, did laundry, cooked breakfast, set the table for us, went and bathed, ate, got ready for work, and left to walk 45 minutes with us to school(the same location as her job). That was all before 8 AM. Our Kaka, Lucy, had a similar story except she went to school instead of work. At work, Mama did housecleaning. When she got home around 4 oclock. She sometimes went to the market, cleaned the house, cooked more, set the table, ate, made tea, washed all the dishes, and went to bed around 10 oclock. In the United States, although my mother does many of these tasks in our home, but she doesn’t do all of this in one day. Also, her cooking facilities are significantly more easily usable than my Mamas. Lucy, who is 13, has been trained to play the role of the wife since the day she was born. I spoke to an older daughter of my host parents, she is 27 and works at a bank in Dar es Salaam, and she said that unless you are able to cook, clean, raise children, and keep a job, no man will want to marry you. This indicates the amount of pressure that is put on women to be domestic and “house trained” in Tanzanian society. Whenever I tried to talk about women’s rights with anyone except University students, I got blank stares, as if these women had never contemplated their ability to live different lives. Although it makes me sad knowing that these women are limited to being a domestic housewife, I know that my Mama is a very joyful human being. She laughed all the time and she said she truly enjoyed serving others. I hope other women in Tanzania can say the same.

Italy – Trip One

Italy was an amazing experience. Seeing all of the different places amazed me. When I arrived in the country, I had preconceived ideas thanks to Hollywood and literature. However, I discovered that southern Italy was dramatically different than what I thought it would be. However, once we made it to Arezzo, it was My stereotypical idea of tuscany. 

This adventure helped me realize how small our world it. I cannot wait to return in August. 

My favorite thing: the weather. In Arezzo, I had to wear a sweater to dinner almost every night. I have found my corner of the world that has similar taste in weather! 

Seeing all of the churches was an amazing experience. Seeing the diversity of the individuals in the world was beyond humbling. It helped me realize that there are so many differences between people. It is important to understand a group of people’s history to learn how they interact.

Journey to Turkey Thoughts

IMG_0945Rather than write about another experience I had while in Turkey, I decided to write about something that I learned and felt was important to understanding modern Turkey. While in Turkey, the class had discussions nearly everyday on the bus, some of which were much more fascinating than others. The discussions often covered a myriad of topics, but one subject that seemed to come up more than others was the Kurdish question. Before coming to Turkey and taking the classes, I had very little knowledge about the relationship between Kurds, the government, and the European Union; the in-depth discussions and interesting readings shed light on the often changing and confusing relationships between the three entities. It was during one of the bus discussions concerning Turkey’s potential membership to the European Union that made me realize that perhaps it is not in Turkey’s best interest to join the European Union. That’s not to say that Turkey should never try to join the Union at a later point in time, but, in my opinion, given current feelings among Turkish citizens and relations with various countries in the EU, the Turkish government should halt Turkey’s application to the European Union. It seems like in recent years, due to certain events and political issues, Turkish citizens are not as positive about jointing the European Union as they were several years ago. For the European Union to even seriously consider allowing Turkey into the organization, Turkey would have to implement numerous reforms and policy changes. While I personally think that change in policy would ultimately be good for Turkish citizens, their actions by voting in Erdogan and his party seem to reveal that the people either don’t want progressive change or they aren’t ready for the changes necessary to make the EU consider allowing Turkey into the Union. Erdogan and his party are altering Turkish policy in a way that Europe doesn’t approve of. I personally think that his changes will be detriment of Turkey in the future, it is ultimately up to the Turkish people – which the elections next week should be a pretty good indicator if they share my opinions or not. I think that if the parties opposing Erdogan don’t break through the 10 percent threshold, then the majority of people don’t want to join the European Union in the near future, as Erdogan’s policies are moving Turkey further and further away from the European Union. The discussion about possible Turkish accession led me to consider the cultural and political impacts of Turkey’s admission (or lack thereof) into the European Union. Given that the European Union grants funds to member countries to preserve culture and language to minority groups, the minority groups in Turkey (mainly the Kurds) could potentially benefit from Turkey’s admission into the European Union. However, I think that the European Union’s granting of funds and resources to Kurdish institutions will exasperate the already high tensions between Turks, Kurds, and the Turkish government. There are many Turkish people, mainly the more extreme nationals, who oppose the teaching of Kurdish language and culture. Should Turkey enter the European Union, it will most likely put money towards preserving and teaching the language, something that goes against the Nationalists’ plans. Instead of creating a more culturally united Turkey, the European Union would be causing issues between the two groups that have been known to get volatile. I think that Erdogan has contributed, at least partially, to this growing shift, which may be one of the reasons he seems to be moving away from making policy changes that would argue for Turkey’s admittance. The Kurds would, of course, appreciate any money of aid that would allow them to continue their culture and teach their children in their native language. Sweden has schools that teach children in Kurdish, which are funded the the European Union. So it can be concluded that the EU would also contribute to such institutions in Turkey. I think that allowing the Kurds to embrace their culture would lead to a renewed cry to create a separate nation for Kurds (both in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran), or at the very least an autonomous region. I don’t think I have enough information to say if this would be a good think overall or a bad thing. Either way, I doubt the Turkish government would be willing to let either situation happen, which would thus increase the anger and the conflict on both sides.

Culture Shock in Tanzania

I have only ever travelled within the Western hemisphere. So, I knew before I went to Tanzania that being there, I would experience some sense of culture shock. I didn’t quite feel it until the second day we were there but as I woke up to bird sounds I had never felt before, I could tell that this trip would be unlike anything I had ever experienced before. There were countless things about Tanzania that were different than what I am used to here in the United States. First of all, water. Water is so much more precious of a commodity in Tanzania than here because Tanzanians don’t have easy access to clean water. We couldn’t use tap water to brush our teeth and we had to boil tap water before washing our hands or our faces. Also, the host family I was staying with didn’t have any running water in their house. So, we learned how to take a bucket bath! Bucket baths are actually very fun. You have one big bucket full of water and a smaller cup that you use to scoop with. You stand, bare naked and freezing, and wash yourself one cup at a time. Other people weren’t as enthusiastic but I really did enjoy bucket baths. Another thing that gave me culture shock was the traffic in Tanzania. In Arusha, the town we were located in, there is one major road that runs straight through the center of town and small dirt roads that break off of it. People in Tanzania DRIVE ON THE LEFT! I had to stop myself so many times from telling our driver he was on the wrong side of the road! Also, there aren’t any traffic lights and people can pass at anytime they want. Countless times, we would pass someone during oncoming traffic and there would be three cars next to each other at one time. There are also motorcycle taxis called Boda Boda that dodge in and out of the cars. It’s like traffic you see in action movies but never truly experience. It was positively fascinating. Because of the spread out nature of the roads, the neighborhood I lived in was far away from school and my family didn’t have a car. Therefore, we walked to school! I was completely unused to this because at OU I lived right on campus, under 10 minutes away from any place I could possibly need to be. Our walk was 45 minutes and it wove on dirt roads through shops and homes and schools. I really enjoyed this aspect of the Tanzania that I got to experience as well. It was refreshing and gave me the opportunity to observe daily Tanzanian life. There are hundreds of other parts of Tanzanian culture that I had to learn to adapt to. However, many of them are subconcious so I can’t put them into words. My entire experience in Tanzania was a learning experience and I can’t wait to go back and experience it all again!