Walking the Line Between Black and White

Upon arriving in Tanzania, I was unaware of what our lives would look like here. I LOVE learning about other cultures, learning other languages, and most especially love living IN other cultures. I think the best way to get to know people, and language is to be among them. Before coming here, I had hoped that we would have this kind of experience here in Dar, however, I have found that we have experienced something completely different than my expectations.

Working at a school for mostly foreigner’s children, and the rest being of the wealthier population in Tanzania, the community that we have been apart of, although wonderful, does not represent the majority of Tanzanians. Living on a compound with huge houses, in the city, with way more than we need, although a huge blessing, we have been separated from living life with Tanzanians. Being surrounded by English in our jobs, has made it difficult for us to pick up any language, and we definitely did not have time to study it while we were working so hard. Overall, our friends here have been friends that we made through HOPAC. They hail from all over America, England, Europe, and other countries, but very few of them from Tanzania.

Therefore, I found that we were in this sort of “third culture.” Where we were not apart of Tanzanian life, or the life that we were familiar with like that of the ex-patriots that live here in Dar, but with a culture that has been created all on its own at HOPAC.

There are times when I get a taste of Tanzanian life. Like when I am squished inside the dala dalas with 30 other of my closest friends, or when I am shopping in the duka’s nearby and people actually know my name and asking me how I am doing, or when I am actually in a situation where I can only use Kiswahili, or eating out at T-square (a local Tanzanian restaurant). However, the majority of the time my life is not filled with Tanzanian culture.

There are a few Tanzanians who have been a significant part of our lives here. The first one being our houseworker Jackie, she only speaks Kiswahili so she really is a great help in language. The second are our guards Imani, Panclas, and Francis. Day and night they are working on our compound taking care of the yard, and protecting us from harm. They are wonderful. The third are the HOPAC staff who are Tanzanian. Many of them have been working there for a long time and they are always super friendly and welcoming. And finally, our friends workers who do a myriad of jobs. They too are wonderful, and they teach us a lot about Tanzanian culture.

Recently we had two barbecues. The first one consisted of our wazungu, foreigner, friends and the second was with our Tanzanian friends. I so badly wish that the two worlds collided more but in our circumstance they do not. There are definitely cultural lines, and employer/employee lines that get gray when it comes to this. The reality is that as an American, that has traveled all this way, I have way more than many Tanzanians may have in a life time when it comes to financial resources and needs and wants being met. This does not make me any better than them, it does however make them see me differently. As a white person you are thought of as wealthy, and although it is true in most cases, and definitely compared to most Tanzanians, it creates a divide. You are white with more than you could ever need, they are black with many needs.

I find myself wanting to live with them, speak with them, eat with them, so that I can better understand them and so that the divide between us could be less. I try my best to love everyone as Christ loves me regardless of color or status. I try to make them all feel welcome, equal and included. I want to be best friends with them, and sit and have conversations about family, faith, and life, like I would with anyone else. Although, this is difficult here. I know people who are doing this here in Africa, and I so very much admire their work. I would love for it to not be us and them, but rather to be just us. I so wish this divide could be shattered. Until then, I will be praying for  Christ’s love to come and be the bridge in this community between black and white.

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