Culture Wrapped In Tanzanite


Clang goes the bells as I am awoken from my sleep by sounds of the local Lutheran church calling the masses for service. Then moments later the local masque’s call to prayer follows along with some weird noise no one can explain. All before 5 am on a Sunday.

After stumbling out of bed and getting ready for the day, I could hear faint singing in distance. Across the red dirt road was a church and people were inside sing hymns. There was no loud worship band playing, just a piano and voices. I was captivated by the peaceful sound of nature’s song mixed with a song of people worshiping the Lord. Though I couldn’t understand what they were singing, I was uplifted by it. I wished we all could have experienced the rich unique blend of Christianity by attending the Sunday service with the locals, but we had to make our long journey back to Arusha.

When in Arusha we had the time to do some shopping before our flight back home later in the day. With the obscene amount of Tanzanian shillings in my pocket, I set out to find things to bring back home. This is where being culturally unconformable I became. Bartering is not my strong suit, and just the thought of having to haggle with someone over the price of a wooden giraffe was ridiculous to me. Then again what are $20,000 shillings to me? $10 USD. When put into perspective, The Bottom Billion author Paul Collier respectfully outlines traps these small store owners face in Tanzanian economy. Tanzania is caught in a resource trap, and trade restrictions imposed on them. The driver of our jeep pointed out the large shopping mall like structure where all the Tanzanite transactions in the world are carried out. No wonder the shop keepers are aggressive in haggling. Even aggressive in getting you to buy something you really don’t want either. I must have offended a half a dozen people all because I was put off by the aggressive tactics and just felt intimidated.

Beautiful Tanzanite crystal from Tanzania South Africa.   Via: Steve Ulatowski and New Era Gems:

The culture experienced while on this trip was as vibrant and vivid as the precious gemstone Tanzanite.  Like Richard Stearns says, “moving a mountain, one shovel at a time” (275), so every interaction I had with the Tanzanian people was a shovel unearthing brilliance facets of their culture, and their lives. Through Convoy of Hope, these “stones” are polished even more brilliant and worth much more.

One day I will return to Tanzania.