Jambo (hello) from Tanzania! All is well here. I would write about the amazing colors, scents, sights, sounds, details, and food that come along with any study abroad, but I experienced a far more interesting encounter yesterday that I deemed blog-worthy. Let me know of your thoughts.
A hot topic of today’s conversation was the fraternity death that occurred at Penn State this past February. I’ve appreciated my group’s willingness to talk about the subject, as it can be sensitive with a few of the members of the cohort in Greek life. I find the differing opinions fascinating, but by far the most interesting take on the issue came from Judith, an assistant lecturer at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS).
Judith informed my cohort, as we sat wide-eyed and slightly bewildered in her wonderfully air-conditioned office, that people in Tanzania are viewing Tim Piazza’s death as sort of cultural ritual or sacrifice. She related this incident to how albinos are sacrificed (albeit, rarely) as a form of witchcraft ritual. The news of Piazza’s death reached Tanzania through various forms of media, and some Tanzanian headlines even have the phrase “cruel hazing ritual” in them.
For a few months, the details behind Piazza’s death were unknown and all evidence was without proof. In this time, Tanzania and other parts of the world were speculating that this tragedy might be part of a cultural ritual, not unlike ancient practices that occur in East Africa. This moment highlights two important lessons for me. First, never underestimate the interconnectedness of the world or the ability for a seemingly small story isolated to our university to reach a developing nation. Second, I think the fact that this tragedy can be interpreted in a light of ritual, sacrifice, and witchcraft by other cultures calls for an extremely thorough examination of Greek life, now.