A Day in the Markets of Orbomba

Note: There is current dispute on the value of service projects abroad and the view of the culture that is being helped. My time in Tanzania focused on building a school in a heavily impoverished area, when, naturally, the social status is difference across the country. This was my experience and what I took away from it, but certainly not a generalization of the nation or its people as a whole.

On June 18 of 2016, I experienced the beginning of what would change my perspective on the world forever. Traveling to Tanzania was a dramatic change from my life at home, but experiencing the hardships of poverty was another detail that brought dramatic change to my life. This day was the first of many daunting tasks that put all of us into the trying situations the people we stayed with face on a daily basis.

Upon returning from a morning walk and eating a big breakfast of Spanish eggs, toast, cereal, chai, and fruit, our group was given a task to simulate the difficulties of poverty. We broke into groups and were given 10,000 Tanzanian shillings per team, which at the time was 5 USD and happened to be what the average family in the area lived on per week. The average family also happened to be seven people in size. With the cash, we were given an index card of our family’s scenario. My groups card was the poorest family and our index card required us to buy a jelly jar for water, soap, and food for the family.

The market pens not in use

Along with our instructions, we each paired up with one of our hosts to help the language barrier, as Maa is spoken in the markets and none of us are familiar with the language. Mollel was our guide and he was very helpful. He taught us words such as punguza, subuni, nahindi, and more, meaning less, soap, and maize, respectively. In the simulation, we did the bargaining and price determining, much as the family we were representing would have to. It was pretty tough to find products that weren’t crawling with bugs (especially cornmeal) or seemed clean. When we did find some that fit the criteria, it was usually expensive and almost not worth it. With the money we were given, we managed to divide up our money in the following fashion:

  • 1 jelly jar: 3000 shillings
  • 1 package of soap: 1800 shillings
  • A few kilos of cornmeal: 2500 shillings
  • 2 avocados: 1000 shillings
  • 12 bananas: 1500 shillings

While this seems fairly good for five USD, this is not a healthy lifestyle for seven people over the span of a week. Some families are fortunate enough to have a second form of gathering food, such as their own crops and livestock but not all are that fortunate. Some others are forced to give up food to send their child to school or so on.

One team’s findings

What did we do with the stuff we bought?

The items we bought from real vendors was donated back to the camp staff and community around us to help with their nourishment and other needs. From this same market, we also bought a goat for our camp staff that would be ceremonially slaughtered in the proceeding days, as is a common gift.

So what was the takeaway?

This was the first of many lessons on this trip that taught me to be humble and understand how lucky I am. Having the food I need to have a healthy life (among many other things) is something I am more aware and grateful for having after this experience.

Additionally, I apologize for the lack of photos, but I didn’t take my camera as we weren’t in a touristy area and I wanted to respect the privacy of the people involved. Thank you for reading!

Treviso, Italy

Treviso, Italy, is often overlooked in favor of its grand neighbor, Venice, but is nonetheless beautiful and worth the pit stop if you are in the area. It is labeled as the origin of tiramisu, a soft coffee flavored cake, and Prosecco, Italy’s famous white wine and dates back to medieval times, of which you can still see the remains today.

We only came for a few hours in the evening, since we were spending our time near Padua, which is where I stayed with my lovely Italian family. We came with some of their friends and took a small tour around, occasionally stopping for food or coffee to warm up, as Italian winters are very cold!

La Befana, a Veneto tradition, in the streets of Treviso

Treviso has endured lots of hardships since its creation near 49 BCE, where Gauls, Romans, and other nationalities ruled the area. It has experienced numerous countries’ rule, but it has remained in Italian rule since 1866. In more modern history, Treviso was a target in World War Two, especially in the bombing of April 7, 1944. However, the restoration efforts taken have minimized the aftermath, even though some damage is still visible.

Treviso is walled in from the defenses of the sixteenth century and is surrounded with canals and cobbled streets (Pro tip: consider thick soled shoes so the cobble stones don’t make your feet sore). Here one can find ducks and other water loving birds, as well as the popular fish market used for selling produce, which sits upon its own island in the water. From my own opinion, these canals are less magical looking, but much more clean than in Venice. I would love to take more time exploring those alone.

Unfortunately, we didn’t tour all of the popular highlights, but here is a brief list of the main attractions:

  • Piazza dei Signori- this little plaza is home to what used to be the seat of Treviso’s government and many buildings that date back to Renaissance periods. Here there are a few palazzos, or palaces, that served as locations for officials and the town hall. During the market times, this plaza can be filled with vendors and shoppers alike. The tourist office is also nearby, so stop by there if you have any concerns or are interested in tours.
  • Cathedral and Museo Diocesano- Treviso is home to several churches and this one is also housing a museum. Treviso was granted a bishop during the roman era and they now have a Roman Catholic diocese. During the bombing, it lost the library, but the majority of it remains intact, where people can explore the history. Here, art and historical passages are also available for viewing.
  • Palazzo dei Trecento- This palace was built in the thirteenth century and was decorated with frescoes, mural paintings that are placed upon wet plaster. These frescoes have lasted since medieval times, even through the turmoil in the war. In fact, this building was heavily hit by the April bombing and had to undergo massive renovation.
The palace restored
The palace during the bombing

Wandering around around Treviso offers many beautiful views and subtle glimpses of history. From the canals to the markets to the architecture, there is so much detail to soak in. The frescoes alone are fabulous and can be seen in the arches of buildings around town. Out tour guide said they were done to protect the buildings as part of a seal, but either way, they have been intact for hundreds of years.

Frescoes near the palace
Frescoes inside the palace
These ones have been here since Medieval times!
Many of the shops in the Veneto region have similar designs

Also, I had the opportunity to try authentic gelato in Treviso. It was so good! I got chocolate and hazelnut and absolutely adored it. I was there in January, so not many gelato shops were open, but there were a few here and there. I would definitely recommend trying it.

Hazelnut and chocolate gelato

Overall, I loved this tiny town and its homey feel. It was so full of history I had never experienced before and the art was amazing! I think it makes the perfect base to and from Venice or a simple day trip from any of the larger cities.