I had the privilege of spending around 20 days in Tanzania, Africa as a UNESCO volunteer.
Mysterious but well-known, the limitless yellow glazing land, wild animals, dazzling sun, poverty, hopelessness, and so on, were the words that came to my mind when I thought of Africa, words interrelated with the notion of "underdeveloped" I, too, was thinking that I should teach and help them. Yet, Africa taught and helped me more than I taught and helped.
There were about 20 people in the group consisting of one Belgian, two Koreans, and the rest locals. For 20 days we shared our souls and hearts. Our normal day began with the cock crowing to announce the coming of the dawn. Even though we did not have a watch, we had the Sun during the day and the Moon during the night which was hard for watch-dependent people to adapt to.
When it was still dark, we headed to the dining hall where we began our day with warm conversations over hot tea. By pairs, everyone in the group had to help prepare food, set the table, and do the dishes.
During the day, we worked on the road under the dazzling sun which made our skin turn a chocolate color. Our mission was to cut all the bushes that were hampering the road. The process sped up when we finally got used to all the agricultural tools, which I had never seen before.
Besides the work, we also visited nearby villages to know the community better. I was surprised by how much they were aware of their situation. They were curious about us and about our rapid development and the most questions asked were how we could develop so fast with such little resources. However, they knew our environment was not in a good condition. During my stay, I learned how to live with the nature and the value of it.
I discovered most Tanzanians, in spite of possessing little material wealth, were dignified and proud. With more than 100 tribes and two big religions (Christianity and Muslim both 30 percent respectively), it seemed nearly impossible to make peace like other African countries. But Tanzanians were proud of maintaining both peace and nature.
Every night, we had "Culture Night" where we presented on our regions. This was the most fun part of the day where we sang, danced, ate, and listened to presenters.Even though most participants were from the city, they knew about their own heritage. It was a shame for me since I did not even know how to dance to Korean folk music, or sing all the lyrics of our national anthem.
It was a life-altering experience, and I would like to go there again. Africa opene d up my mind. Africa has changed my view of the world and the role that I can and should play to improve it. I feel compelled to encourage people to go, and see East Africa for themselves. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Min So-ra (International Studies, 4) went to Tanzania as a UNESCO volunteer during the winter break.