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About the Author

Carmen Paun
Secretary General European Youth Press (Brussels, Belgium)

Carmen has a BA in journalism, public relations and advertising and a MA in European Studies. She has worked for a printed magazine and took part in media projects all over Europe, being involved in European Youth Press, a big network for young media makers.


The simple happiness: Hakuna matata!

Published 09th June 2010 - 21 comments - 3132 views -

Until the age of 7, I lived in a village in Southern Romania with no plumbing.  The lack of a proper bathroom didn’t stop me from being happy, from enjoying my time playing with my friends in the countryside. Every time I went to the city, to my parents’ apartment where I could benefit from “the comforts of civilization”, I would have this feeling of claustrophobia. I couldn’t wait to be back in my yard in the countryside to enjoy freedom with no dangers.

This is a very dear memory that I recalled during a conversation a year ago with a friend in Perugia, Italy. He was telling me about his great experience while working as a volunteer for a few months in Tanzania. “It’s amazing that they are happy – at least you can see smiles on their faces even if you’re in the poorest region. Look at the Europeans’ faces”.

So a few weeks ago I asked my friend Piotrek to share with me and with my readers on TH!NK 3 more about his time in Tanzania.

Tanzania through the eyes of a young European

Piotrek Marciniak, who is a 24 years old journalist, went to Tanzania in November 2008 in the framework of a project developed by a Polish Foundation aiming to establish computer laboratories in the Kilimanjaro region and to organize a series of IT trainings for teachers, youth representatives and administration representatives. The whole project was funded by the Polish Aid Program.

“My role was to teach representatives of local administrations about the possibilities offered by the Internet, and how to build simple websites using CMS Joomla. The ones I worked with had some computer skills. I was surprised that some of them were so good in computer stuff; they wanted to learn more and more. Whereas some of them didn't know how to use the mouse”, remembers Piotrek.

Each day brought new experiences for the young Polish man. Even though he learned about African culture and policies to prepare for this experience beforehand, he discovered that he wasn’t prepared at all. “I think it's a big shock for everyone to go there for the first time and be the Other. Tanzania is green and full of colors, full of sounds, full of smells that you can experience in the city, in the tropical wood, in savanna, at the seaside, everywhere. Tanzanians have a completely different approach towards life: family is important; there is no place for individuals. Of course this is changing now. There are families with just one or two children in the cities, but you can still feel that different approach in their relationships”, tells Piotrek.           

No worries about the time

Something unimportant to the Tanzanians that Piotrek noticed is time. “You can hear all the time, when the bus is not coming: hakuna matata, no worries!” But he admits that this attitude towards time can be annoying during cooperation for projects.” Imagine that the deadline of the project is coming, some obstacles have just appeared, the European Commission is waiting for the report, and you hear from your partner HAKUNA MATATA – relax; we have time. The truth is we don't have time!”

After this experience, Piotrek believes that sometimes Europeans would like to have something from the simple life of Tanzanians: the relations with the family, no worries, smiles on their faces. Similarly, he thinks Tanzanians would like to have the Europeans’ technologies and possibilities. “I’m wondering what will happen if they acquire it one day; will they lose all these things that we appreciate in their country so much?”


 Photo credits: Piotrek's Marciniak personal archive


  • Denisa on 09th June 2010:

    Cool theme!

  • Carmen Paun on 09th June 2010:

    Thanks Denisa!

  • Johan Knols on 09th June 2010:

    Hi Carmen,
    Nice post. I do agree with two things. Firstly we ( in the west) don’t appreciate what we have anymore and secondly time is something very abstract, not only in Tanzania, but everywhere in Africa.
    Some months back I wrote this article about it:

  • Carmen Paun on 09th June 2010:

    Thanks Johan. It seems to be Tanzania week on TH!NK 3. smile I will read your article, you’re the expert for this part of the world!

  • Johan Knols on 09th June 2010:

    ‘Expert’ is relative. But it is always nice to have lived in a place and understand articles that others are writing. Yours brought back many memories.

  • Carmen Paun on 09th June 2010:

    OK, a lot more expert than me. I have to interview people to tell me how it is there. smile
    Hopefully I will there soon too!

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 09th June 2010:

    Polish Aid rulez wink thanks from promoting development aid coming from my country. In fact Tanzania used to be priority country for Polish Government. However now the only African country left is Angola… And with Tanzania we have a special tie. During the World War II there were thousand of Polish refugees there. British government built for them refugees camps in Africa…

  • Andrea Arzaba on 09th June 2010:

    I can see HAKUNA MATATA in different parts of Latin America, and in Mexico. Mexican people have this stereotype of always “getting late to places”. I have to say this is not always true, but what is a reality is that people do not take everything in a serious manner. Even if it is a developing country, people will always have a big smile on their faces smile

  • Paul Dejesus on 10th June 2010:

    It is understandable that every human being wants to improve their standard of living. It doesn’t matter whether you are from Europe, Asia, or Africa, people anywhere around the world will always try to find a way to make their lives easier and more comfortable.

  • Carmen Paun on 10th June 2010:

    @Iwona: Dear Iwona, it was not my intention to promote Polish Aid, but I did envy Piotrek for his experience which was possible thanks to Polish Aid. smile I didn’t know about the special tie between Poland and Tanzania. In this competition not only I learn a lot about developing countries, but also about EU member states. And I thought I knew a lot about the former! smile
    @Andrea: Not only Mexican have that reputation Andrea. Many Latin people all over the world have the same one: Portuguese, Spanish, Romanians, etc. I would like to see more smiles on people’s faces in the subway in Brussels. You can see all these people wearing their badges, going to the European Parliament or European Commission and they seem to be sooo serious and always thinking about their problems. And I thought working for Europe was supposed to be exciting. smile
    @Paul: Of course it is. In the same time I think many of us fail to understand that a high standard of living doesn’t always mean a high level of happiness.

  • Ivaylo Vasilev on 10th June 2010:

    Carmen, I hope you go there! Good luck!

  • Carmen Paun on 11th June 2010:

    I hope that too Ivaylo…. one day! Have you ever been there?

  • Ivaylo Vasilev on 11th June 2010:

    No… but I feel it :} It’s not Africa here on the Baklans, but I think I know what Piotrek is talking about.

  • Carmen Paun on 11th June 2010:

    DO you mean there are similar things between Tanzania and the Balkan countries?

  • Ivaylo Vasilev on 11th June 2010:

    I’m not qualified to answer that statement

  • Carmen Paun on 11th June 2010:

    smile OK. You can always state your opinion though, don’t need an expert views on this.

  • Sylwia Presley on 25th July 2010:

    Appreciating what you have is a good approach, but should not stop us from striving for improvements, I think.

  • Helena Goldon on 03rd August 2010:

    Building simple websites, even based on Joomla is a lot of help to the African community - in today’s world global trade is all internet based - how can you promote your business if you don’t have a website?

    I am too proud of Polish Aid smile thanks for posting that, Carmen

  • Carmen Paun on 04th August 2010:

    @Sylwia: I am not sure I understood what you mean.
    @Helena: You welcome Helena, I am very inspired about my friends that have traveled in developing countries and worked on developing projects.

  • Hussam Hussein on 04th August 2010:

    very nice post… completely agree with your last sentence smile

  • Carmen Paun on 04th August 2010:

    Thanks Hussam!

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