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karcher

KAITLYN KARCHER

I travelled to Tanzania this summer with a complete stranger to represent an organization here on UNC’s campus, Global Music Outreach (GMO). GMO is a collaborative music program between students at UNC and students at Good Hope School and Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. The mission was to promote cross-cultural understanding and increase local students access to creative outlets. I was prepared to assist in the classroom, restructure our contract with the facility at Good Hope, and initiate a scholarship program for students to continue their education in secondary school.

During the trip, the other intern and I faced delays, rescheduled flights, and lost luggage there and back. Due to the disconnection between languages, I was left without any luggage for my first ten days in Arusha. However, I realized that my possessions were not necessities. I called the airport almost everyday to retrieve my bag, but surely I could have survived without it. It became apparent to me that many of the Tanzanians I had met in those first few days had the same amount of things, maybe a little more or a little less, than I had in my suitcase alone. Of course somewhere in Tanzania there is likely a family with more wealth than my own, but the culture itself is vastly less materialistic. This wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but it was enlightening to witness a cultural difference as opposed to reading about one.

I made a new friend in Arusha, a single mother who had just been through an abusive arranged marriage. She lived in a one-room apartment with her fourteen-year old son and her seven-year old daughter. Neither did they have hot water nor Health Insurance. When I came to Arusha in June I was an American woman who couldn’t speak the language, and when I left in July I was the exact same woman. I have hot water in my home, Health Insurance, and I have not been subjected to abuse. I have, however experienced horrible things in my life, which allowed me to empathize with her struggles, her grief, and even celebrate her joy. The greatest gift I received from my experience in Arusha was this affirmation that even though I am and always will be a guest outside of the US, I still have the ability to give all people the human recognition and respect they deserve. Most differences we are taught to see, instead of noticing them ourselves.

The other intern and I encountered obstacles, but as the summer came to a close I realized our time in Arusha was worth it. I could also look back and see that I had set my life at a slower pace- a pace that matched Tanzania. In the US, the material things in my daily life obstructed me, but without them in Tanzania, I learned how to live humbly. Not being able to speak the national and tribal languages of Tanzania didn’t inhibit my ability to develop relationships, because music transcends all national boundaries.