My journey in Tanzania with eight other adventurous women began around a campfire at a lodge in Arusha with Holly. We had a clear sky, a glass of wine and a few hours before the other seven women in our group arrived from the airport. Those two hours were a wonderful reminder of how quickly women share their life stories and how trustful and engaging women can be. In those two hours, Holly and I chatted about all sorts of things – our spouses, children, politics, and how we got to where we were that moment.
That was just the beginning. For the nine of us, the next ten days were filled with sharing intimate details of our lives. Whether we were walking among giraffes, riding in our Land Rovers witnessing the migration of the wildebeest, or sharing dinners at the safari camps or at Gibb’s Farm, we never stopped listening to each others’ stories. Susan was a professor, Shannon was in the middle of a life-changing journey at home. Tanya was a like a sponge absorbing every element of her multifaceted experience of Tanzania. Each person brought their rich stories to each of us.
The crescendo for me, as I saw the many relationships develop within our group, occurred when we joined twelve Maasai women who are friends of mine and live in a very remote area of Tanzania. Through our translator, we were able to talk openly about what it meant for these African women to be one of three wives and then what it meant to some of our group of travelers to be divorced, to be dating, to be struggling in a relationship. We all talked about our sons and daughters and talked about rites of passages – a circumcision for their boys, a bat mitzvah, a baptism, a wedding for our children. We lived almost 10,000 miles apart, we were from extremely different cultures, we spoke no similar language, but on that day we were just women – women who cared about our children, about our villages, and about each other. When we got up to leave we hugged each other, the Maasai women’s’ necklaces tangling with the buttons on our shirts, the cell phones hidden in their clothing ringing with a tune we could not identify, but our warm embraces reminded all of us that regardless of where we lived, we shared common bonds as women.
That deeper understanding has stayed with all of us. We write occasionally and remind each other of that day that we spent with the Maasai women. And, my Maasai friends have sent word that this was also a very special day for them. They appreciated that our little group of travelers were willing to open up and share our stories with them and allowed them, at least for a moment, to mentally travel beyond their own borders. Their only request was that we return as soon as possible.