Lasting Impressions

                I feel like I’m going to write this and just cry.  I just thought you’d like to know.

As for lasting impressions, I have no idea what is going to last, but I do know that I will forever hold this place and the people in my heart. The things I have done, the people I’ve met, and the places I went have impacted me so strongly, that I just can’t bring myself to even remotely want to go home. I have family, a boyfriend, and friends there; and yet I just can’t seem to want to return to them. This is just too much fun and I love everything about it here.

                I know the first week I was here was pretty rough. I didn’t connect with anyone, the teachers at the schools weren’t communicating well enough to give me anything to teach, and I had no idea what I was doing here. After that first weekend trip to the Serengeti, I bonded pretty strongly with Team Get Some. We were all a fantastic group of people stuck in a safari jeep together for three days and we someone didn’t kill each other. We instead got along splendidly and even continued to remain close after that trip.

                The second week here was a still a little rough, because my classroom schedule was still rather iffy and I had no idea why I was showing up to school to co teach one lesson every day. It was kind of a bore. Only one teacher really paid attention to Brandi and I (we were at the same school together) and all the others sort of passed over us as random, nonsensical teachers. Thankfully, I finally talked to the headmaster and got him to give Brandi and I English and Physics classes so we could teach separately, so my third week became awesome.

                It was the second weekend that I actually made my best friends on this trip. It was then that I found out what people were really my friends and who was willing to make sure I was okay. I really hope that I will not lose touch with said friends, because they are possibly the greatest people I have ever met. No joke. It’s a sappy “last impression”, but it’s what is going to stick with me. I need friends and this trip has provided me with the best ones yet.

                As for actually being in Tanzania and experiencing the amazingness called Tanzanian culture, it’s beautiful. The people here are super friendly (even if sometimes they only want you to buy something) and everyone cares for everyone. There’s no judgment here that I’ve run into. Jambo. Mambo. Habari. Hakuna matata. Hamna shida. Pole. They seriously want to make sure that everyone is welcomed here and I can’t say I really want to return to the harata pace back in America. The transition here was tough, but the transition coming back home I feel is going to be worse.

                Even though I had a rough start to my school week here, I fell head over heels in love with my students; and their desire to learn anything I threw at them was so amazing. They kept asking me what the difference was between American and Tanzanian education and all I kept thinking was that they actually appreciated what I had to tell them and they paid attention (at least most of the time). Those students wiggled their way into my heart and I will cherish them forever.

                Lastly, I want to say that I knew I wanted to be a teacher before coming here, but teaching these kids has solidified my desire to do this for the rest of my life; and the people here have shown me just how much people can truly love one another.

                I’m going to miss this. All of this. Looking out at everyone just relaxing, knowing this is our last night here, I know that I’m going to seriously hate getting on that plane tomorrow; but alas, I do what I must. I hope I can bring back what I have learned to the States and show my students just how much education can be enjoyable.

                To Tanzania *cheers*

– Amanda Hoezee


Lasting Impressions

            I hate to be as presumptuous as to think that I know what impressions from this trip will last, because deep down, I know that I haven’t the foggiest idea of which things will prove to be useful and/or reinforced back in the States. I can, however, give you some idea of the things that I find most important or most touching for the time that I’m sitting at Café Mambo, sipping a Ndovu beer, and wishing that I weren’t boarding a plane tomorrow morning to leave this country for what I hope proves not to be the last time.

            Truth be told, I’ve made too good of friends in this city, in this country, to just pick up and leave like that. Part of me wants to be childish and say it isn’t fair that we all have to go, because I just don’t want to! I’m not ready to say goodbye to Tanzania yet. More to the point, the circumstances here were special, and they have allowed me to make very close friends with some people who I don’t think I otherwise could have grown close to. Every person on this trip, at some point, has wriggled their way into my heart, and I don’t really want for all of us to leave just yet. I have made quite possibly two of the best friends I’ll have (at least two of the best people I’ve had the privilege to meet) and I hope they think as much of me as I do of them. But even if they don’t, that’s okay, because I have loved all of the (many, many) moments I’ve got to spend with them over the course of this month. I suppose one of the things that I’ll take away from this trip is that – the friends I’ve made. They’re wonderful, and I love them.

            In point of fact, I was grossly under-prepared for this trip, and for all of the stressors it would press in upon me. For the past four years – or so – I walked around the campus at Grand Valley calling myself a Mathematics and Physics teacher, and not knowing what the second half of that meant. I know how to teach math, but when it came to physics, I definitely had strong points and weak points. The weak points, particularly, were glaringly weak. Once I arrived in Tanzania, however, and walked into Engarenarok Lutheran Tetra Secondary School, I was the expert and I was expected to be the expert in physics as well as mathematics. So when I decided to take on the Physics Form III students (equivalent to junior level physics) and found out I would be teaching Optics (a subject I haven’t studied in six years, and one in which I have never excelled), I simply had to. I brushed up and taught it to the best of my ability. Mirrors, lenses, reflection, refraction, microscopes, telescopes, projectors, and the human eye – I taught them all after reading up on them and researching them in a panicked hurry in order not to look a fool and to prepare my students for their exams and life. If I’m being honest, it was daunting, even terrifying, to sit and lesson plan optics lessons when I knew that I was just as fresh to the material as they would be, but it pushed me to become a more well-rounded and better teacher, and it helped me to rediscover some of the physics topics I had previously discarded, giving me an opportunity to fall in love with my subjects all over again.

            The last thing I am making a point of writing down is just how under-resourced these schools are and, as a result, how grateful the students and staff are for us. It’s like when we walked into the building, they got really excited. They thought (and think) the world of us, and it’s very humbling. I can’t help thinking, “I’m nothing special. I’m just a guy who loves kids and wants to teach them for a career.” And apparently that’s a huge deal. The students, too, can’t get enough of these mzungu teachers standing in front of them and teaching them about math and – in my case – physics. And the resources I have to work with are as follows: an outdated, type-o-riddled book, a blackboard, a few pieces of broken chalk, and my imagination. That’s it. It’s a tall order, but one that I was up for. I suppose that the students and teachers here think that’s impressive, and I guess objectively it is, but for me, it was as simple as that: I had to teach x and y, and I could use a and b, and we had to make it happen. Nothing special. But they loved us for it. They loved us so much, and it was such a humbling experience. I will miss the challenge and reward of teaching in such communities. That is perhaps one of the most important things to take away from this trip.

Kilimanjaro Hike

Oh my word, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Where do I even begin? It was amazing!

First off, music and car rides = fantastic; so that was a nice start to the day for me. Second, I was just super pumped that I could climb a portion of the mountain.

When we first arrived, I was just waiting for someone to tell us that we could take a picture and then leave. I would have been very sad and disappointed by this discovery, so I was glad (and still AM glad) that we actually got to climb it.

The walk started off very brisk and I was surprised by the harata harata approach to the climb, when I had just been informed the day before that climbing a mountain too quickly is a bad idea (altitude sickness). I had a great walk the previous weekend, so I of course over estimated my ability to climb the mountain with semi ease and paid the price for it later.

The first hour wasn’t too bad. I had expected sunshine the entirety of the climb, but we were surrounded by gorgeous trees instead that kept us shaded; so much so, that it felt like I was in a jungle, rather than on a mountain. The only thing that kept reminding me otherwise was the fact that I had to climb mounds of rocks over and over again.

Thankfully, I have a decent amount of leg strength, so climbing up for an hour wasn’t torture; it was just a little tiring.

It wasn’t until hour two that I actually started feeling fatigued and a tid bit whiney. My whole body had felt cold the entire hike up thus far and my legs were just screaming at me to stop using them.

Thankfully, Andrew was a trooper and didn’t abandon me, so I at least had some motivation to trek onward. If I had been left alone to my own thoughts and devices, I definitely would have slowed down and just moseyed up at a sloth – like pace, making sure to curse at every rock and stone the rest of the way.

Thank goodness I wasn’t left alone.

I’m not quite sure how to describe the rest of the hike besides the fact that it was beautiful and tiring all at the same time. I saw a few monkeys, awed at the many, mossy trees, and climbed a freaking awesome mountain.

The last half hour was quite the cruel little (big, actually) thing. Uphill anything just made me want to give up, especially with Andrew bounding up those things like they were nothing. I was on the brink of giving up and laying down to accept my fate when I heard cheering in the distance. That gave me just enough energy to finish climbing that last 3 minutes worth and take a much needed break.

Unfortunately, I was still freezing cold and Brandi had all the lunches and jackets in her backpack, so I just sat there and shivered.

Once food was eaten and Andrews too-big jacket was wrapped tightly around me, we proceeded to hike another 10 minutes to see a crater in the mountain. It was beautiful, but honestly, it didn’t even compare to the Ngorongoro crater so Brandi, Andrew, and I just sat and enjoyed the little bit of sunshine we could get.

After the rest of the group circled the whole crater, we climbed down to the rest of the waiting folk and marched down the mountain in under 2 hours! Woo! Down was a lot nicer than up, in my opinion.

I started toward the back of the group, but quickly got impatient with the pace and worked my way to the front and found myself having a lovely conversation with Andrew and Jane.

It was an amazing climb and decent and even though I can’t say I loved every minute of it, it was still worth it and is definitely something everyone should experience at some point in their lives.

– Amanda Hoezee

Kilimanjaro Round Two

Kilimanjaro. Was. So. Cool. Every single time I saw the summit it looked like a painting that was left in the sky. After the first time we had gone to Kilimanjaro I think we were all really excited to try Kilimanjaro round two! The base of Kilimanjaro all of the way up to the first hut honestly looked like a rain forest to me which was completely unexpected. What was expected was the climb. 

The climb to the first hut was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. The first half of our climb we BOOKED it out of pure excitement (and it was also the less steep part). The second half went a little bit slower but our drive was still there! After two hours and seven minutes we made it to the first hut!!! At first, Kristin and I had thought Emily was joking when she had said we made it. But to our delight (after a very, very steep hill) we had made it. This was the kind of proud moment that I have only ever felt after running a race!

It amazed me just how many people were on the mountain that day and I can only imagine how busy it would be during high season. It was and is hard to believe that our group had climbed a part of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest free standing mountain in the world and the tallest mountain in Africa. After passing what looked like mountains to me, I asked Moses our safari driver which mountains those were and he said that everything to him is a hill when you live by Mt. Kilimanjaro. Tanzania 2015 I am going to climb the rest of Mt. Kilimanjaro (I would say 2014 but I need some time to forget how tough just getting to the first hut was)!

Kili round 2

WE MADE IT!!! We climbed Mount Kilimanjaro… well halfway 🙂 This time around going to Mount Kilimanjaro was way different! For starters we actually did some climbing this time and had quite the workout along the way. I was so excited for the hike, but also a little nervous at the same time! I knew that it was going to be a tough day, but I also knew that it would be so worth it… and trust me it was!!!

Climbing was both so exciting and such a challenge all at the same time. It was a lot of mind over matter, especially when we could see a steep part ahead and just knew that we were about to be climbing it! Even though it was the most difficult hike I have ever done, it was at the same time the most rewarding. I was really proud of myself and of everyone else for accomplishing the hike and for accomplishing it together. To have experienced it with the people I did made the day that more special!

One of my favorite parts about the hike (besides the finish!) was running into people who had already made it to the top and were on their way back! They said that the summit was incredible and gave us encouragement to make it to the top… we didn’t correct them when they thought we were going all the way 🙂 Another one of my favorite parts was the view from halfway up the mountain. We literally ate lunch in the clouds! I went from being so sweaty and so hot, to way too cold! Just looking around at the view and being with everyone will be something I will always remember and stand out as one of my greatest memories from the trip.

Lasting Impressions

These past four weeks have been the fastest weeks of my life. I looked forward to this trip for so long and now it is almost over. However the experience I had here will always be with me. I have learned so much about myself, my profession and Tanzanian culture while being here. People here are so welcoming and friendly. Everyone you pass on the street says hello to you. Everyone seems so carefree and happy. Their attitude about life is a nice change and I will miss it.
My students I will also miss. They will forever be in my heart as my first class. The students were always so happy and excited to see me as soon as I walked in the door. They may not have as much stuff as we do back home, but it doesn’t matter to them. They are always happy and thankful to be alive.
I will forever be so grateful to everyone I met in Tanzania. This is a wonderful country that I think everyone needs to visit. Tanzania will always be in my heart.

Lasting Impressions

When I think about my time here in Tanzania, I cannot think of one thing that has made this trip what it is. There are so many things that I have learned and I have grown in so many different ways. Before this trip I was really nervous about having my own class to teach and having to make sure that I was teaching my students in the best way possible. There were a few times when I did not want to go on the trip just because of the fear of failing the students. But once I walked into my standard one class on the first day, I knew that was where I belonged.

The students and the teachers here are very similar to those back in the states but there is one slight difference I have noticed, the sense of community. Here in Africa everyone is so nice and you can feel the connection between the people. In America many people are on their own and do not even turn their cheek if someone walks by. I find it very interesting that the African community is so large and so welcoming while Americans do not have that sense. I am going to try to be more welcoming of others when I return just because I love the friendliness and I have learned a lot from those I have met on the streets.

While walking up Kilimanjaro I was reflecting on our trip and I came up with a metaphor. Our time in Africa is just like our climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. As we climb, the path can get rough and be very difficult at times. So much so you almost want to give up all together, but other times it can be very simple and easy to walk. Every day on this trip was different, some days were very easy and fly by, while others drag on and you feel like throwing in the towel. But once you reach the end you just feel amazing. You can look back on all that you have accomplished and it feels great. I hope this feeling of accomplishment stays with me for a long time after this trip and I will never forget everything that I have done here and all of the friendships I have made.