Photographer reflects on National Geographic trip to Africa

By Leslie Ostronic, Photographer

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This summer, I was accepted into National Geographic’s Student Expedition to Tanzania, Africa.

Each student was assigned an “On Assignment” project based on conservation. My goal was to represent Western influence and conservation of culture in Tanzania through a series of photographs.

In the process, I developed strong relationships with students across the world. Jonas, a 16-year-old living in a village called Mwera, became a close friend. While I was being guided through his town, Jonas said, “I wish black people in America were treated the way whites are here.” He raised his arms shouting, “Karibu! Karibu!” to imitate all the children of Mwera who had seen me.

The people of Tanzania say “karibu” or “welcome” before even knowing your name. He brought me to his family’s home, his best friend’s home and even his father’s grave. When parting, Jonas gifted me a plaid shirt from his mother, a Swahili/English dictionary and two bracelets. While the industrial world continues to pervade Tanzania with products, it has not pervaded the citizens’ integrity.