The Song of Uhuru

Uhuru (Swahili for “freedom”)


I recently went on a journey. It was a journey in search of freedom for everyone and the truth of the world. It was my attempt to understand Africa and it was my opportunity to listen to true stories from people of Africa. It was an extraordinary experience that cannot be exchanged for anything in the world. It was a beautiful dream that I never wanted to wake up. I have met wonderful people and the relationships that I built there are unforgettable. A lot of people have inspired me, the beauty of African nature has mesmerized me, and the spirits have preached me.

While I was in Tanzania, I learned how to haggle properly with the locals, especially with Bajaj (three-wheel taxi) drivers. My friend, Kei and I could almost get the ‘local price’ frequently. For those who never haggled, they paid about twice as much as we did. Most of us international students learned broken Swahili and we instantly adapt it to negotiate with the locals everywhere we went. I thought I was setting a reasonable price for other foreigners so that they can be treated equally. I thought I was advocating the concept of equality to the locals, explaining all humans should be treated equally.

Looking back, that was a mistake. I applied ‘equality’ in a wrong way. I said I wanted to help out people in Africa, yet I tried so hard to give as less as I could. I thought I was fighting against ‘bad’ Tanzanians who are trying to take advantage of foreigners. At the end of the day, they are probably the people who need supports the most. It made me think about impartiality, one of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s principles. Everyone has his or her own stories. I don’t know what’s going on with the bajaj drivers’ lives and what they have to go through. I tried to fight them and judged them when I only encountered with their ‘drivers’ side from them. It was their attempts to fight against their daily needs. Trying their best is not enough for them. It’s extremely hard for them to escape from their usual struggling lives. Those facts and the reality have made them act in certain ways including taking advantages of foreigners. I felt sorry for them but I was jealous of them after I realized their purity and genuineness. It’s the genuineness of them trying their best for their survival. It’s the genuineness that makes almost every Tanzanians call me ‘Mchina (Chinese),’ not because they want to insult me, but because they really don’t bother to think about. It’s the genuineness when my friend could get her passports, credit cards, cell phone, and some Taxi money when she got robbed. It’s that genuineness that saved my life when I had a machete put on my neck.

I promised myself I will do my best to keep this genuineness.

I learned a lot from their mindsets, life styles, and people there and I owe them. If I pay back, we are even. We are equal. No one is more valuable than the other’s. No men should on the men and no men should under the men. When it comes down saving humanity in Africa, I would call it as “team-working with them” rather than “helping them.” Sometimes my fellow neighbors around the world will struggle for a while, for 10 years, alas even for more than 100 years. But hey, who knows, in 500 years, the world could be a different world with whole new structures. At that moment, my nation might need supports from the nations that I’m team-working with right now. The world is one team and everyone is equal. Let us not be blinded and fooled by the system that us humans have created. See through the world and judge yourself what’s right and what’s wrong. You have your freedom and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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