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9/15/16 - "My Time in Tanzania" by Sophia Yang

My Time in Tanzania

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Sophia Yang received an ARC research grant in Fall 2015 for her project entitled "Culture, Disease, and Healing Practices: A Study of the Traditional Healing Methods of the Maasai of Tanzania".

My time in Tanzania just went by so fast. I definitely feel that this experience led me to new understandings and learnings. First, I've just felt so much at peace to get away from the man made sounds at the home in Virginia and just relish the silence the nature brings. Of course, it is often interrupted at times by vervet monkeys or other animals. The soft noise of various birds singing their own song and the wind moving through the trees and high grass. It's wonderful. And at night, the night skies are peppered with the bright stars that all hold their own place. The sight of the massive expanse of the skies, uninterrupted by tall buildings, is too amazing for me to just hold to myself.

Furthermore, this experience further expanded my understanding of the indigenous Maasai in Tanzania. This experience was amazing because I've read many papers and articles about the Maasai but being able to speak with them and be invited to their village was just absolutely special. Meeting and immersing in their culture and traditional norms, I truly felt that the topic of culture is something that needs to be felt and experienced.

In all, I appreciate every single one of the amazing people I've gotten to meet over the trip. They have helped me more than I could count, showed me so much about the rich culture and welcomed me into different aspect of their daily lives. I haven't realized the amount of people I've grown attached to and the environment that I've just gotten used to. Speaking "asante" and replying "poa" or "nzuri" has become second nature to me. Throughout my time, I've not only learned a lot of the people in Tanzania and of my topic of research but also got to experience life there, which was a wonderful gift. It was such a treat to hear different tongues in chatter, smell the unique blend of spices wafting out from snack shots, shake hands every morning with the bus conductor, taste the jaw-clenching sweet tea, and exchange greetings with people on the street. As I've gotten to just truly try in connecting with the locals there and attempting to develop a relationship, I severely regret not learning the language and just naively going without any words known in Swahili. Thought it all, even though it sounds cliche, I've learned a lot and experienced things that I would not have been able to through the research project.