Stretching Simplicity (Tanzania)

By Experimenter Sophia:

When we push ourselves to our limits, we find that we can go even further than we ever thought we could. Like a difficult stretch, we always find the strength to push an extra inch after reaching as far as we think can muster.

Back home, I fancied myself living a simple life. I rarely shop for clothes, recycle like a demon, and turn off the water while I brush my teeth. This trip, I imagined would only be a slightly more difficult extension of my already ‘simple’ life. After the first few days in country, I felt satisfied that I had been correct- life in Tanzania (albeit in a Western-style hotel) was almost like life at home. Secretly, I was proud I had adjusted so well. However, I was in for a rude awakening when the group arrived for our rural homestay in Stahabu. Gone were the nightly showers, the luxury of chairs, the promise of light to journal by in the evening. Even the simplest pleasures back home, like acquiring chocolate, were now monumental undertakings, requiring ten times the effort and determination they might have taken back home.

I was in awe of the villagers living around me. Lugging heavy jugs of water across the village from the pit well, wrestling with a goat for the evening meal, walking miles in the blazing sun to reach school or the next village. How humbling for me, a girl who thought her life was no frills, to see a truer vision of a simple life. Yet, life in Stahabu was neither backwards nor austere. The villagers seemed to have everything they needed and even wanted, and were more than happy to shower me generously with home-cooked food and genuine love in their homes. Adjusting to life in the village was an experience that opened my eyes to the excesses in my own life. Back home, I told myself that I had stretched enough, met my limit. But to witness a lifestyle so pared down from the over-the-top extravagance we all know at home was a reality check. I realized I could stretch that extra inch- an extra few inches, perhaps.

I see my life at home now with new eyes- no longer as a simple existence but as a life with many luxuries to be thankful for. I have become so much more conscious of how the “simple” things really aren’t so simple after all. I hope to bring my changed mindset back home with me. Maybe I can get a few others to stretch a few inches as well.

riverExperimenters cross the river that separates Stahabu village from the beach.

sophiakidsExperimenter Sophia plays games with Stahabu schoolchildren to help improve their English.

walkExperimenters take the 45 minute walk that Stahabu children travel daily to reach school.

waterExperimenter Aflah helps a Stahabu mama with carrying water from the well to her home.

riceExperimenters sort through uncooked rice to take out impurities.

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