Charlie 1 – Cultural Integration

4th November 2013

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It is week 2 at Charlie 1 and the relationship between the team leaders has already been challenged by a mango related incident. George took Charlie’s mango stone claiming it was a “man’s bit” – it turns out that in certain tribes in Tanzania only the men can eat particular things, including the stone of the mango!  This is one of the many cultural related incidents that Charlie 1 has come across so far on our journey, resulting in a lot of laughter. 


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Continuing on the theme of food, the Tanzanian volunteers have taken the place of head chefs on camp, creating some amazing Tanzanian dishes such as ugali and chapatis.  However, the UK volunteers have found some of their practises strange, such as their excessive use of salt in every dish and putting oil in their boiling rice.  Likewise, the UK volunteers’ fondness of raw peppers and cold tuna and sweetcorn has baffled the Tanzanians. 

All the volunteers have been taken aback by their surroundings in Miganga.  Except for a few buildings most houses are made out of mud, which is a new experience for both Tanzanian and UK volunteers.  Farm animals run amok in Miganga.  Donkeys, chickens, cows, pigs, goats and dogs are a common site, and have got quite used to our presence, resulting in a daily 6am wake up call by a family of brave pigs trying to steal our food!

Furthermore, the cultural differences in Miganga have not just become apparent in camp, but also between the local people of Miganga and the Raleigh volunteers, making cultural integration a huge part of our lives here.  So far during our time in Miganga we have made a huge effort to integrate with the community, meeting with the local school, women’s groups, agricultural society, singing club, youth group and local football team.  All these meetings have been extremely positive and fruitful as we have been welcomed so warmly by the village.  Since arriving in Miganga the team have slowly got used to the difference between Tanzanian time and English time.  There was much confusion to begin with when the UK volunteers found themselves waiting hours for village meetings, but they have learnt to expect this now!  

Many of the villagers of Miganga belong to the tribe of Gogo and speak their mother tongue language instead of Swahili, causing communication issues when we are trying to mobilise the community and during our action research.  Added to this, the UK volunteers are very much struggling with learning Swahili whilst the Tanzanian volunteers, despite the brilliant English, have sometimes struggled with the constant translation tasks put upon them each day during our meetings with the village. 

One of the main issues faced by the female volunteers is the gender equality views in Miganga.  Charlie (our team leader) in particular faced a constant barrage of questions about marriage and children (or the lack of either at 26!).  Many of the women here wear traditional long Tanzanian dresses so female volunteers usually make the effort to cover their knees and shoulders – which is difficult when we are constantly living in shorts!   Also all our female volunteers were instantly keen to work on our two construction projects, something that at first was laughed at by some male volunteers and the local builders.  However, they have all been proved wrong as the girls have shown their muscles! 

The past 2 weeks in Miganga has brought to light the cultural differences between not only the UK and Tanzanian volunteers but also the villagers of Miganga.  Despite this all parties have learnt a lot about each other, which has really helped to move the project along and make everyone involved excited about the weeks to come.