I’ve never been able to like a place without hating it at the same time. This is how I have felt about Georgetown and how I came to feel about Zanzibar, Tanzania, where I spent four weeks teaching and living in a local village at the start of summer.

Summers for college students are the time to explore different things, such as internships, jobs, teaching or studying abroad. Whatever we choose to do, we are all attracted to opportunities that entail some sort of challenge, open our horizons or provide a whole new experience. Spending four weeks in Zanzibar, a Tanzanian island with a dominant Muslim culture, was a decision made exactly to this appeal — the exotic culture of Africa and the challenge of living in the third world.

I will be honest: when I first arrived in Zanzibar, I couldn’t stop thinking about the day I would return home. I craved a fresh meal with silverware and no flies hovering around my head. The salad station at Leo’s that I’ve always disdained all of a sudden became the only thing I ever wanted. I never thought finding a bar of soap in my suitcase and being able to wash my hands thoroughly before and after eating would be so thrilling. I hesitated to bathe every day, as I hadn’t quite figured out how to wash myself with buckets of water instead of a running shower. The chunks of hair in the bathrooms of New South were nothing compared to the accumulation of feces I saw in the squatting toilet. The nights seemed longer because the entire village is asleep after dark. Used to my four-hour sleep schedule at Georgetown, I would lay in my bed and listen to the mosquitos buzzing. Once in a while, I’d pick up my iPhone and wish I could send a Snapchat of the white sand beach by my house to some friends or scroll Facebook’s news feed for a couple of minutes.

The first week in Zanzibar was no doubt much more difficult than what I envisioned it would be prior to arrival. I couldn’t help asking myself many times if the challenge I had bestowed upon myself was much more than I wanted.

The beginning is always the hardest, and I’m surprised how fast I was able to adapt to a drastically different environment. Halfway through my second week, I learned to eat rice with my hands without dropping the grains on my skirt. I stopped cringing when using the toilet and was getting used to showering with buckets of water. I stopped thinking about the differences between Zanzibar and home and the lack of material resources in the village. What stood out to me was no longer the poverty or the lack of hygiene, but instead the way students were able to learn and were eager to be taught anything and everything, even without papers, pens, pencils or any stationary supplies that we take for granted in the States.

When I finally stopped thinking about where I came from and allowed myself to live in the moment, to be integrated into the Zanzibari culture, to make the effort to know everyone around me, I found the community of the village to be tight-knit, welcoming and loving. I was surrounded by happy people without any of the trappings we normally associate with happiness.

While at first I held doubts about my decision to teach in Zanzibar for a month, this experience has proven to be valuable because I now know how to live in simplicity, without a bag of toiletries but just a bar of soap. I found leisure in the absence of technology, as I was able to read peacefully without iMessages constantly disturbing me. We cannot know how much we are capable of if we live perpetually within the Georgetown shelter. That is what summer is for — to take adventures and experience another world.

Rita Chang is a rising sophomore in the College. Perks of Summer appears every other Wednesday at thehoya.com.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*