Wonder Reed Stays Connected To Her Tanzanian Heritage

Published: January 15, 2020

Going back and forth from sleeping in nets that hung from the ceiling in Africa to sleeping in a bed in America, freshman Wonder Reed was born in Makose, Tanzania and speaks both English and Swahili. Wonder has been speaking Swahili since she could talk, but once she started going to an American school she started speaking English. Wonder and her mom came to America with her mother when she was around five years old.

   “I speak English more since I go to an English school and I’m a little rusty on Swahili,” Wonder said. “I have gotten used to the fact that I speak English at school and Swahili at home.”

   Every village in Africa has its own specific tribal language. Swahili is the universal language for communication between the villages. Wonder grew up in a small village called Makose in the city of Lushoto. Wonder and her mom, Upendo Reed, try to visit their village whenever they are able to. Reed’s mother Upendo was named after love; the word Upendo means love in Swahili.

    “I have been through a lot,” Upendo said. “But I am very glad that all happened because it has made me wiser and understanding.”

   According to Wonder, the heritage has shaped her identity due to how giving, understanding and accepting she has become.

   “It’s [Tanzania] such a happy place, everyone is so happy,” Wonder said. “People in America are more judgemental and strict. America and Tanzania are so different.”

   The cultures between the two countries have some differences according to Wonder. In Tanzania they use their hands to eat while in America utensils are used with certain things.

   “In my village, everyday is like a party,” Wonder said. “We are always celebrating and it’s just so much fun. In America it’s more pressure like getting good grades, while in Tanzania it’s just please do well.”

   They eat African-based dishes at home. Her mother makes lots of chicken and rice along with goat meat and beef.

   “I love chipsi mayai,” Wonder said. “You take fries and egg and mix them and then you put ketchup over it and it’s so good.”

   In their village they believe in spirits and witches. Her family believes that her great grandma was a witch. People in her village would see witches for fortune telling and future predictions.

   “There is just superstitious things like you can’t whistle at night or else you will get murdered and stuff like that,” Wonder said.

  Tanzania is, in some ways, a safer place than America according to Wonder. There is crime everywhere, but between the two countries it’s a little different. The danger in Tanzania is more revolved around the wildlife while in America the danger is more of violence.

   “It’s such a nice place but it can be really dangerous, but not as dangerous as you think,” Wonder said. “There’s wildlife and that can be dangerous but it’s so nice. They won’t attack you unless you attack them.”

   Upendo and Wonder, mother and daughter, have been shaped by their heritage. Wonder looks up to her mother and inherits her qualities from her.

  “My heritage has influenced my identity because it has made me understanding and empathetic to others,” Wonder said.


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