I Dreamed of Africa is the title of the book, by Kuki Gallman, that has accompanied me on my first few days in Arusha, Tanzania. A beautiful, auto-biographical love story between the author and her husbands, children and this incredible continent:I see so much of the Africa I once dreamt about depicted in her stories. Unlike her, I can’t really remember when I first dreamt of this vast, diverse and extraordinary continent. It was a gradual adoration and passion to travel and to explore that led me here in the first place. Kuki dreamt of the wildlife: the black rhino, the majestic elephants, the orange and yellow tones of the sun, the mountainous landscapes and the sweet smells of the Acacia trees. I dreamt of the people: the culture, the languages, the daily life and the intriguing, ever-fascinating experience of discovering a different “people”. I dreamt of Africa because I never knew if I’d manage to come in my reality. Luckily I have…twice!
As a young child, living in countries that neither one of my parents is a citizen of, I grew up in a trilingual, intercultural atmosphere, constantly traveling and discovering new places. With family members in three continents, traveling is something that doesn’t phase me at all:I love it! Maybe it was my first flight, at six months of age, to Bermuda that did it. It’s a part of my daily life and something that intrigues and motivates me.
It’s for a rather similar reason that I love people, culture and language. I’ve often been called a “citizen of the world”, a global nomad, and, after much thought, I agree with this “title”. Not only am I part of a family built on intercultural understanding and communication, but I’m a part of a generation that is, whether some like it or not, increasingly mixed culturally and ethnically. I didn’t accept this “title” easily because I feel it needed to be earned: just by having dual-nationality, speaking multiple languages and traveling isn’t enough. Although some may disagree with me, I believe a global nomad has a special and unique desire to explore, to discover and actively engage in cultural exchanges. There is also an element of education — a willingness and openness to learn beyond the four walls of a classroom, office or library. My growing love for traveling and exploration has come from this willingness. I love learning and teaching. I have an incredibly strong belief in education — I believe that it is the foundation to any facet of my life. I could go so far as to say that education is the foundation to everything.

Like Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” This quote, which I read the UN Headquarters in New York City last year, has given me a succinct meaning to every trip, experience, language, culture and volunteer opportunity I’ve engaged in so far in my life: it’s given a higher meaning to everything I do. Again, thanks to my parents and their dedication to my education, I’ve learnt the value of volunteerism and serving the community. Just as my love for traveling has grown, my passion for volunteerism has grown exponentially. They’ve come hand in hand, and my reasons for traveling have shifted from simply leisure to dedicated service.

Maasai people in Tanzania

This is what brings me back to Africa, more specifically Tanzania — for the second time. I realized how to make my dreams to traveling to Africa real, by educating and being educated. My dreams of Africa, of its people and its many cultures is because of cultural exchanges. Engaging in a cultural exchange for me is about teaching. In this case, teaching Maasai tribe children English, three hours outside of the city in the middle of nowhere, and learning, in return, about their traditions, their life, their troubles and their languages. I do this because of what Nelson Mandela so simply said: I do it for change, I do it to make a difference in peoples lives.  I do it for the smiles on the children and their parents at the end of the day and their gradual progress in life. Ultimately, I do it because of the opportunities I’ve been given to explore, discover and educate. Be it in the children I’m teaching or you, the readers of Go Girl, I hope to impact and share with people the experiences that inspire me. Everyone deserves the right to education, and if I’m able to give it then I shall. That’s why I still dream of Africa — I dream of continuing these travels and enabling more exchanges for the benefit of a greater, just, society.

So for the next three months, I hope you join me in my experiences, exchanges and stories from my little village of Sakina in Tanzania, East Africa!