July 16, 2008

A startlingly brief, inaccurate, uninformed summary of Tanzania that should be taken with a grain of salt

(Note: I decided to plagiarize myself and post this to this blog too. For the most part, I'll try to add posts from my Tanzania trip blog to this one.)

I feel a little bit like a seventh-grader about to give a class presentation. You see, I want to tell you lots of interesting things about Tanzania because you probably haven’t been there, and you probably don’t know much about it. The majority of people can't point Tanzania out on a map. So if you can't, either, you're normal. So, let me begin:

Here’s some boring but essential stuff that you and I will both soon forget: Tanzania is in Africa, on the east coast. If you were to hold Africa like an ice cream cone, it would be at that webby part of your hand between your thumb and index finger. It’s the 34th largest country in the world, about twice the size of California. For your convenience, I’ve included a map with a gigantic yellow arrow:

Tanzania is like Michigan, where I live, in that it’s surrounded by some Great LakesLake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria. That’s probably where the kinship ends, though. Michigan does not have Tanzania’s mountains, nor its rainforests, nor its terrifyingly poisonous snakes, nor its man-eating lions, nor its tribal diversity. We do however have black bears and multiple peninsulas. Tanzania has no peninsulas and no black bears. Edge: Michigan.

The highest point in Africa is found atop Mount Kilimanjaro (If all goes well, I’ll stand there in October) and the lowest point on the continent is found at the bottom of Lake Tanganyika (If all goes well, I won’t stand there, ever), both of which are in Tanzania. Also found in Tanzania: The Serengeti plain, Zanzibar and the spice islands, Gombe National Park (where Jane Goodall spent lots of time writing down fascinating things about Chimpanzees) and Olduvai Gorge, where scientists say mankind was born, though I can’t confirm that because I wasn’t there when it happened. You’ve probably heard a little bit about all those things, just maybe not that they’re in Tanzania.

Also fascinating: Tanzania grows lots and lots of bananas. They’re a staple there, because they provide great nutrition and require relatively little work. A well-maintained banana grove will produce for 30+ years. Bananas need good rain and high temperatures, and Tanzania has both. Africa grows 35% of the world’s bananas, and the average African eats 550 pounds a year. So says a National Geographic book about Tanzania.

There's a lot more to be said, but I believe I promised a startlingly brief, inaccurate, and uninformed summary, and I'd hate to disappoint you.

I leave twenty-seven days from today. Then I'll have much much more to write.

Keep reading.


Pictures from 2005:



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