This week has brought new “firsts” for many here, myself included. Before ever coming to Africa, I’m not going to lie, I tried to rid myself of expectations. I came in with an open mind. I have noticed how friendly and welcoming the residents are, although some do latch on at the sight of a large foreign touristy group. At first, these “batik sellers” were impossible to brush off, but now after only a few days of Swahili lessons, we’ve been able to move on.
It is this language barrier that has thrown me off the most. Having lived and traveled in similar settings to where I find myself now, I have always managed to get by with English, Spanish, or a mix of Romance languages. The first days were stressing, trying to get around the city or read a menu. Locals would see us as rude and wouldn’t let us be. I’m proud to say that now we can buy the tasty roasted corn off street vendors without relying on a single English word. It is then that the locals respond warmly towards you and notice you have a deeper interest than just taking safaris.
Oh, speaking of safari, it is amazing how much that word comes up here. In reality meaning “trip/voyage” in Swahili, it has become a tourist magnet to everything from hotels to beer.
If this trip will teach us anything, its to break out from comfort zones. When some of us have to hand wash our own clothes in a sink, boil every drop of water we drink, or go days with out internet or our cell phones, it makes us see things around us just a bit differently. We see other ways people do things, other ways people eat. Even if we don’t like it, it’s always worth giving it a try. And as the craft peddlers say to us tourists, Hakuna Matata, no worries. (No, they aren’t quoting the Lion King)