Social Networking … Moshi Style

The Internet made it to Moshi, more reliable than last year and light years ahead of when we first came in 2007. While some consider this progress, we worry about the influence of this technology on their culture and their youth as they become closer to this new way of communicating and finding others throughout the world with similar interests.

However, while the non-Tanzanian population may have better computers and other toys, or may be more sophisticated in social networking, I am amazed how they change their ways while they are here in Moshi. (Remember, most of these people are from other countries outside of Africa, tend to be white, young, and volunteering in one or more of the hundreds of NGOs, orphanages, AIDS programs, and environmental projects.) From the viewpoint of a more mature individual, it is great to see these people rediscovering each other, face to face, sitting on the veranda of the Union Coffee House, sipping cappuccinos and sharing stories about their work, their travels and their next adventure. Being a good eavesdropper becomes a valuable skill. One picks up key words and soon you’re sitting at their table, listening to them describing their enthusiasm for life and adventure, improving our planet … something it seems to me that so many people have lost.

Near me, there were three people in their mid twenties from Australia, two of whom were off circling the globe for a year while wanting to give something back. Sitting next to them was an American man, mid thirties, who did the same trip eight years ago but missed Tanzania – back to pick up on the safaris, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and volunteering in his field of ecology. He seemed mature, at ease with himself and very modest.

One of the things that strikes us about these younger people is that unlike our generation, they don’t seem to need to publish their resumes before they decide their new friends are worthy of their presence.

No need to “one up” their new acquaintances or impress the girls.

So, are they “better” than we were at that age? I think not. What is different it seems is the effect that world traveling has had on them. This continent is not easy to navigate in almost every way. The poverty, the culture, AIDS, regional violence … requires a quick study. No time for self-importance, bravado or self-pity. So it was 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon on the veranda and the younger people seemed to tolerate me. I wonder if they knew I was writing about them and admire them so much. You have to sit at a sidewalk coffee cafe in the developed world for a long time to hear the conversation I heard that day.

Rich

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