I was going through some extra footage from my work in Tanzania and I came across video from a send-off. You might be wondering what that is. Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. A send-off is a ceremony in which a bride’s family and tribe throw a party in honor of sending off their loved one into the care of the groom’s family and tribe. It’s a huge celebration and as the video played in front of me last night, I was reminded of the many adventures I got into during my work with the local community in Dar es Salaam.
In particular I was thinking of a man I didn’t put on camera. A man whose body had been slowly devoured by HIV/AIDS. I can remember his home, his caring wife, and his smile. As I spoke to him, I grabbed his hand despite the massive flakes of skin that were covering his sheets and the dirt floor of his cement-block home. We both knew he was dying, we both knew why I was there. His story needed to be told. His community is in danger.
I have many stories such as his, some of them I filmed-others I did not. I interviewed corrupt men who seek foreign aid at the exploitation of their neighbors. The topic so captured my attention that my entire Masters thesis changed and I filmed a documentary on these corrupt individuals. As the images ran across my computer screen last night, I thought of all the ways in which Tanzania changed my life.
That is why I travel. For stories. Sometimes they are life-altering, such as the state of a community living with HIV/AIDS. Sometimes they are mild observations about me making an ass of myself in a different culture. Often they are just my interactions with people on a day to day basis.
Always however, they come from my passions for experience and human interaction. So as I watched my ex dance in the video last night with a group of tribal African men, I smiled and silently thanked the world for its beautiful diversity.