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Last summer, my grandma brought our extended family on a vacation to Tanzania for a few weeks. While we did spend a large amount of the time watching wildlife in the Serengeti, the most memorable part of the trip for me was learning about the local culture. I was mollified by how hospitable everybody there was.
Whenever we rode anywhere in the ‘safari trucks’, the local children would, at the sight of the trucks, sprint to the side of the road to wave and shout “jambo”. I could tell by their huge smiles that they were genuinely happy at the sight of us, not just reciting how they’d been told to act in front of tourists. Anyone was happy to return a wave or a high five, too. At one point when our guide was showing us around a local village, a woman came over and started talking to us in Swahili, which our guide translated for us. The woman wanted to show us the baby rabbits that she was raising. “Karibu,” she said, welcoming us into her house. I was very surprised by this. I would never think of inviting a stranger off the street into my house back in the United States. After we saw the super cute newborn rabbits, we continued through the village. At the next house, there was a family cooking fish over a fire for dinner. Our guide asked if he could buy some. While he ate his fish, the family invited us into their yard. Everybody’s attitude was so different than people back home, who now seemed boringly morose. Things that seemed so unusual to me, like letting strangers into my house was completely normal to these people.
When the trip ended and we got back to the United States, I almost felt a closer connection to the people I met in Tanzania than people at home. The time that I spent this summer in Tanzania was the time in my life when I felt the most welcomed.
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