Paris woman gets lesson in sharing in Africa.

PARIS – Since returning from Africa last week, Pat Gott has tried to live with more patience and respect for others. Having witnessed a culture based on sharing what little one has, she now sees American culture in a new light.

Gott of Paris spent the month of November in a small village in Tanzania with the group Cross-Cultural Solutions. The non-profit organization arranges volunteer opportunities and housing for participants, who pay a fee that covers meals, lodging and professional services such as language assistance.

Because of her experience owning Motion 26 roller rink in Oxford, Gott was asked to spend her volunteer time in Tanzania helping a small business woman, Mama Lida Msaki.

Msaki owns Unique Batik, a business that dyes and sells batik cloth. A two- or three-color batik, created through a 10-hour process of applying hot wax and dye, sells for the equivalent of $4. For an additional $4, Msaki’s seamstresses will make the cloth into a skirt. Gott showed Msaki how to set up a basic bookkeeping system for the shop and created advertising flyers. She also convinced Msaki to do an inventory count once a month.

With accurate bookkeeping and inventories, the business woman will be able to fight unfair taxes levied by government officials who assess taxes based on their own perceptions of how well a business is doing. Msaki will share the skills she learned from Gott with other women, as she has always shared her time, space and ideas.

Surrounded by photos from her trip, Gott described an example of the spirit of sharing and respect prevalent in Tanzania. When Msaki took Gott to visit another business woman, the American had her first experience with Tanzanian public transportation. The daladala is a minivan designed to seat 15 passengers, but Gott said it never carries less than 28 people at a time. The sliding doors are left open so that riders can lean out of the van, making room for more people.

Gott, as a “bibi,” or grandmother, was given a seat when she boarded, near a “babu,” or grandfather. Soon the seat designed to hold three had five people sitting on it. Then a baby was passed in through the window. Gott held it while the mother squeezed in. She rode with the baby in her lap until a child needed a seat. “So I passed the baby to the babu, and now there’s a child in my lap!”

Although there are no stop signs on Tanzania’s dirt roads, the entire trip passed without the blaring of horns or yelling of angry drivers. All 28 passengers on the minivan rode peacefully, without jostling or shoving.

Gott believes that every American should spend some time in a Third World country. “We have such a good life here,” she said, “but we never learned to share.” Gott was amazed at the joy she saw in Tanzania, even in the face of poverty, joblessness and a seemingly uncaring government.

Her hope for Tanzanians, who look to the December elections to bring them road repairs, clean water and sewers, is that through education, “a peaceful revolution” may be achieved. “A little at a time,” she said, “if they can see what other cultures do, it’ll maybe change for the better.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.