The Danger of a Single Story

It is my hope to give an honest and real account of my personal Peace Corps Tanzania experience. This is important to acknowledge, as whenever you are reading someone else’s story, what they choose to reveal is often only pieces of the experience and it is completely subjective to them and their perspective.

The stories I share in this online space will be genuine, but leave out the parts of my experience I have deemed for my knowledge only. They are percieved through my current lens and do not speak to the opinions of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers or that of the National PC Program.

I was SO EXCITED (yes all caps excited) to see for one of the afternoon sessions we would be watching and discussing The Danger of a Single Story, a TED Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Be sure to have watched it before reading any further!

This idea of a single story is something that I especially struggled with before leaving the US. So many people tried to shape my views of a place that neither of us had ever been to and it took a lot of mindfulness to try and respectfully brush it off. I appreciated that their concerns about my safety was coming from a place of love for me, but I so wanted to go into this journey with ears and eyes open to learn about Tanzania from Tanzanian people or at least from other in country Peace Corps Volunteers.

My walk home from school training each day

Once I got into country, a different story was being told, but this time it was about me. During the training session, Ellance (one of our AMAZING Volunteer Training Managers), shared some of his story about when he left Tanzania to study in Norway and his Tanzanian friends would tell him things like, “the Western life is much easier and better” and “your life would be good.” He shared that Tanzanians often do not have a clear picture of life outside of TZ and about the perception of “white is right” (cue me cringing).

So as much as I may have tried not to consider the story told about African countries by American media, I too am going to be faced with Tanzanian people perceiving me in a certain lens because they know I am American. I am not completely sure what this perception is entirely, but am mindful it could make building genuine relationships and collaboration more difficult. Overall, I hope we will both be curious and ask questions about each others cultures so that we may tell a story different from the single stories often, a story that empowers rather than strips others of dignity.

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