As I begun my journey to Africa it was my dream come true to finally be here but I never knew it could weigh on my heart so heavy to make me love it more than I did before. As I became more familiar with the culture, people, and traditions, I have been able to see the similarities and differences between the people and culture from Tanzanian people and American people. No matter where you are in the world you will have people who are the same as you and some who are different. The children here are similar to children in America, they play in similar ways but have adapted to less play equipment and play with what they have. The older people are different as they aren’t in such a hurry to get to where they are going and interested in others lives.
The culture here has shown me how to love my neighbor as myself. As you are sitting on a DalaDala you get to know people and talk to them instead of just keeping to yourself or talking on your cell phone. People are so consumed in their own life and what is happening next in America that they miss what is happening in the now. When you stop to take a moment and look around, you see the beauty in the culture, the world, the people, and are able to take interest in peoples stories they have to talk about. A simple change of “hello” on the street to a stranger is so common here that a stranger no longer becomes a stranger and it becomes a beginning of a conversation with a friend.
The people on this trip will forever have an impact on me as they all have their own perceptions and have an individual uniqueness that we all worked together so well that we started as individual strangers and grew to a family of unique qualities that bond us together. The best way to describe the bond of the people on the trip is to talk about beads on a necklace made at the market. They are uniquely woven, delicately strung, and forever bonded together. With each other we compliment all of our strengths and make up for the weaknesses that we don’t let over come our sight of seeing the final picture.
While working with the students, I have been able to gain strength in my ability to maintain a classroom and teach for the first time. The ability to know that I can do something that I love and succeed in it, gave me a feeling of grace. The students will forever have a piece of my heart as they captured my heart moment-by-moment everyday. The way their smiles lit up a room when I walked into the classroom, a simple high-five, a positive reinforcement and their reactions, the way they played, and the new material I was able to teach to them in knew ways to retain information.
This experience has been one of the most astonishing experience I could ever dream of. I could not ask for more, except to stay here but Lisa and my parent’s wont let me. As for teaching in the schools, visiting Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, playing with the kids, hanging out at the outpost, getting to know the culture, visiting Mama Anna’s house, the Masaai market, the Shanga Shop, and learning more every day. This experience will forever have an imprint on my heart as I bring a piece of Tanzania back to America with me.
Mulala was more fantastic than I could of thought. Camping was “intense” (pun intended). It was the most authentic African experience to have. Mama Anna was very warm and welcoming as she greeted each and every one of us as we got out of the car. We have never met her but we were able to feel welcomed as we stepped foot into her home.
When we gathered as a group we got into a big circle and Mama Anna started singing and dancing. It was cultural and I felt as it was very neat to be part of the traditional singing and dancing Mama Anna welcomed us to. She also put congas on us and it was wonderful to wander around the city in a traditional conga while learning about the city and medicine plants. We also got the chance to walk with bananas on our head, which was one of the things I really wanted to do while we were here. I seen so many people here with lots of bananas on their head and I wanted to see if I could do the challenge and I succeeded!
We also did a walking safari, which was neat because we got to see buffalo up close and it was neat to climb a mountain as you see the view of the climb, as it was beautiful and to know you achieved the height of the climb. The climb also entailed many neat things such as the hole in a tree that you can drive through because it was naturally made that way.
The most important thing I take away from the weekend is that the community of the home and people at Mama Anna’s house. They told stories as they stared at the fire, sang songs as you make coffee, and show your love through the cultural aspects of their eyes.
Over the past several weeks I have learned so much from my experience here in Tanzania. To begin I have learned to adapt to minimal resources that the culture has. I have had to really open my eyes and understand how much they don’t have here. They literally have a chalkboard and chalk and they teach. So finding teaching aids, manipulatives, or even simple books to use for the class is difficult. I realized how much I rely on technology in the classroom and maniputlatives for students to learn with. It made me understand that materials aren’t always in hand and the lesson can always change with the class and you will have to think on your feet which I have learned to do here. In Tanzania, I solely have had to learn ways to really understand the material I am teaching and understand the culture to best present and teach it to the students.
I have also learned that no matter what subject you are going to be given you are going to have to teach it and learn the subject enough to teach it. I have been given the best opportunity to teach standard two English and I have Dyslexia and having had this opportunity I have been able to challenge myself through the struggles of teaching an English Language Learner how to speak English. I challenge myself everyday when I teach to take my time and read slowly to understand the pronunciation. I understand the struggles of seeing the strange letters on the board and not knowing the direct orientation of the words or how to read them when you first look at them because they are different directions or backwards. This opportunity gave me the chance to feel that I will be able to overcome my Dyslexia as a teacher but also as an advantage to understand how students are struggling when they don’t fully understand the objective.
Another thing I have learned is that you have to be flexible and know that teaching at 10:40am really might mean at 11:20am and you just spend more time getting to know the teachers you work with. The culture has taught me so much such as you don’t just rush around to your destination and not talk to anyone, here they have taught me to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the world, culture, and people around me. They have also taught me to slow down with my thoughts and really describe what I want to say to get my point across.
Another thing I have learned is that the amazing group of people I have been with have been such a wonderful support and helpful to each other as we all grow in our education. I never knew that I could be so close to so many people that I have met before but never been so close to. I couldn’t be happier.
As the vehicle that would take us to Lutheran Tetra approached us, I began to feel excitement bubble over in my body, as I knew I really was going to go teach in schools to help better the education of students and myself. Although the excitement was very much, I knew the first day of school might be interesting as I had nerves that were through the roof that I would have to teach a class and the teacher wouldn’t be there and I wouldn’t know what to do. I just knew I had to take one breath at a time and know to be calm and be flexible. As we pulled up to the school we saw the little children along the fields in front of the school and they saw us white people and began smiling and waving. It was heartwarming and made me extraordinarily excited, as we were to begin our teaching. As the day began I had to visit the Headmaster and Academic office where they aasked us what we would prefer to teach. I asked to be in standard (grade) 2 and they asked what I would like to teach and I said anything as long as it wasn’t Swahili as I am not good at it and it is not my first language. We got a small tour of the school and I was the first one to be dropped off into a classroom. The classroom all smiled and said “Goodmorning Teacher,” and they wait until you say goodmorning and sit down as you begin your lesson. I observed the day as it gave me much relief to know that I could see what happens in the day. I watched them do English lessons as that is what I am teaching. The classrooms are very different from American classrooms as the teachers talk on their cell phones or listen to music on their cell phone while they teach. They also leave the classroom while they teach and it is a very relaxed atmosphere. The students have very rugged pencils, limited erasers and sharpeners as they have to share and that distrupts the others from learning. The only thing really in the classroom is a chalkboard and the students’ workbooks. The teachers also have “tea time” and the tea often comes late and they do not go teach again until they have had their tea. The teachers trade classrooms and they have two classes they teach with standard 2 A and B. The students play outside during the tea time and they play on a pile of rubble but they find use of hill and make it creative. They play “king of the hill.” As the day ended we walked through the city, as we had to catch the DalaDala. The DalaDala is a small van/taxi that carries about 12-20 people depending on how many people get squished inside of it. The school was quite an interesting experience and I am excited to learn more about the students, school, and become a better teacher through my opportunity in this school.
As we approached the ground in Tanzania it felt surreal and almost as if we were passing through another airport. I thought we were going to be going through the airport terminal but you definitely take stairs off the plane and walk to the airport. It was hard to see anything, as it was dark and very rainy. Inside the airport it was nice, it had wooden floors and conveyer belts, pretty standard for an airport. We all piled into one vehicle and I thought there were not going to be enough seats but the seats definitely folded down in the isle and held about 26 of us in the van. It was insane. It was also crazy how the men who helped put our luggage on top of the van just lift the luggage which each was about 50 pounds and toss it to the man on top of the van. As we approached the next day we went about the town. We were definitely watched throughout the town as we stood out. We went to the money exchange and I was taken by surprise as people came from the streets to sell us stuff. Especially at the Maasai market the first day everything in each shop was unique… which was interesting because everything was the same! It was interesting but very likewise. We also walked to the conga shop, it rained very hard, and I forgot a rain jacket so walking in the rain wasn’t pleasant. It was interesting as we watched many people stay in the city and the rain didn’t affect what they planned on doing for the day. People still stayed under the coverings in the street, still tried to sell us things that were “unique” and spent time together as a community. As in America, many people attempt to get out of the rain and avoid the outdoors as much as possible. I also had a first impression on the driving and streets. The driving is on the opposite side of the road and I get so confused on where to walk! The roads and sidewalks are run down and it is hard to observe the community, as you have to watch every step you take or else you will trip or fall in a hole. I couldn’t believe how nice people were when we arrived, as they would constantly greet us and say, “mambo” or “jambo” and would say “karibu” to the town. It made me feel at home as I began to fall in love with Tanzania as we explored the street more.
Six weeks away is my dream come true. I can’t wait to step foot off the plane and experience my first sight of Africa! I explore all the photos and videos online but seeing is only so much. I get so excited when I do see the photos and videos and think about what we are going to be doing that I want to jump out of my skin! I am all vaccinated for the trip and ready to go (minus the packing part of course.) I think about Tanzania every waking moment and it is so hard for me to wait patiently over these next few school weeks as I am ecstatic to leave.
I am nervous about the language barrier of english and Swahili, as I want to be influenced and influence as many children’s lives as I can. I read about the culture and practice the different “social norms” every day to become familiar and identify with the culture. I am nervous about teaching as well and making sure I can perform the best lessons for the students as possible to create the best learning environment as possible.
I am rather curious to see how different the school systems will be compared to ours. What will I teach? How will it look? How will it compare to being an American teacher? How will I be able to apply it all to my classroom here in the future? So many beginning questions only waiting for the end answers as I begin my journey.