To try and put this experience into words is impossible. No amount of description or number of pictures could portray the amazing journey I had in Africa. It seems like just a minute ago I was nervously waiting to find out if I got accepted for the program or not and then with a blink of an eye it’s the day I leave and I’m fighting to make it through writing this reflection without any more tears! The smells, the sounds, the animals, the nature, the sights, and especially the people and the children have all contributed to making this month incredible. To have been giving this opportunity is life changing and will always be.
Anyone on this trip could back me up when I say my most favorite part was definitely the children… especially because they all had to witness my breakdown on Thursday when talking about having to say goodbye! My days at school were my favorite out of every amazing thing we did while here. To work side by side with the children and the teachers was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At school I was challenged and thrown into situations that made me have to think quickly on my feet and to be flexible. The first week was a little difficult to adjust to, but by the second week I already felt as though I belonged and that I was really making a difference with the children. That is probably what gets me the most… the impact I had on the children and how much they appreciated my being there and being their teacher. They showed me so much love and appreciation. However, what they didn’t realize is their impact on me. They were my very first class, my very first students. They showed me what being a teacher is all about and truly made me realize this is really what I want to be. I hope to feel half as significant to my future American students as I do to my students in Africa.
This experience will be talked about for years and year and for even longer than that. When you stop and think about how crazy it is that when something truly impacts your life as much as this experience has mine, it is then that you can sincerely appreciate it for all its worth. This opportunity and all of the memories I have made from it was nothing shy of incredible. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it… expect that fact that we have to leave after one short month. That being said it only took one month to impact me as much as it did and affect me life the way it has and I will forever be grateful for that.
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.
Waking up the morning of going to Mount Kilimanjaro I was so excited! This had only ever been a place I had learned about in school or seen in really cool pictures, so to be going there was awesome! My favorite part was definitely hanging out with the kids we met going to the Chaaga hut and taking pictures with them and dancing with music. Seeing the mountain was obviously very cool, but of course the children stole the show 🙂
As well as hiking to a spot to experience a beautiful scene of the mountain we also hiked to a waterfall where many of us jumped right in! This was so cool! How many people can say they have been in a waterfall right next to Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa?! It was a wonderful experience, especially to have experienced it with the people I did and the way I did.
Another thing that was very unique about this weekend was Saturday night. Saturday night after a day full of fun and adventure, we had a bonfire back at the hotel and sang songs and danced with the hotel staff! They were awesome and brought out a guitar and we swapped between them signing their favorite songs and us sharing American songs. This will definitely be a part of the trip that will always stand out to me as one of my favorite experiences!
Today was the first day of school and already my eyes have been opened to completely new world of education. From walking to school to breaking multiple pieces of chalk, my day at school was definitely something it has never been before. Walking to school today I was more excited than anything. My nerves didn’t catch up on me until the moment we walked in the school and then they definitely kicked in! I knew I wasn’t nervous for the students, but meeting the headmaster and the other teachers I was. I didn’t know what to expect. Would they be watching me teach? Would they give me a lesson I wouldn’t understand? What would communication be like? What aged kids would I be working with? I soon found all my answers
After meeting the headmaster and going over the daily schedule of the students and teachers, already it seemed so different than a school day in America. I found out I would be spending my time in a standard three classroom, which in America is equivalent to the third grade. Also, I had heard before that the schools in Africa are much more relaxed than in American. That didn’t really resonate until I was told about the different breaks the students and teachers have. In Tanzania, all teachers participate in a morning activity called “Tea Time”. This time is dedicated to the drinking of very hot, very delicious tea and is accompanied with fresh bread that comes prepared with butter already on it. This is a very different part of a school day than in America. It seems as though American teachers are always in need of such a time, but it because occupied with more lesson plans, or making copies, or running this here or there. I was pleasantly surprised by this time of the day and wished American schools would adopt such an aspect. I was surprised to find how being in the classroom in front of the students felt so similar! I found myself at ease and comfortable. Of course there were things different than in American. When called on, students in Africa stand up and step to the side of their desk before answering their question. I also notice how when giving a test the teacher hands out paper in order for the students to copy down the handwritten questions from the board, as well as their answers. Perhaps this is why handwriting in my class seems so advanced than in America. I was very impressed by this? Another thing that stood out to me was of course the children themselves. They were so happy to see us at their school and this made us feel wonderful! When randomly smiling at a child they become so bashful and their face just lights up. This of course was new to me and was a great feeling to experience.
Just after the first day I feel exposed to something that will change my appreciation for all different kinds of education. I can tell from this is experience I am going to develop the need to become more and more exposed to education and a world outside my own. If today at the school had been my first and last day, I would already be walking away from so much. Luckily it’s not and I have a whole month here!
Jambo all the way from Arusha, Tanzania! What a trip it has been so far! After many hours of traveling we are finally here. We landed at Kilimanjaro Airport around 10 pm Tanzania time on Sunday night and following that got on a bus to drive to Arusha. The bus ride experience was quite a welcoming! Although it was at night, I took a lot from the experience. From the bus we could see and hear and smell all different things. We passed animals and people walking on the street, which gave us the feel that we were definitely someplace new.
Arriving at The Outpost Lodge, I was very impressed! Going to bed that night I could not wait to explore our new home and get a feel for where we would be living for a month. I woke up to a magical place! Not only was the lodge very clean and beautiful, the staff members are very friendly and definitely welcoming of our presence. The first day in Africa we spent time venturing out in Arusha. After enjoying lunch at The Blue Heron, which was so delicious, we traveled around town to a local market and a Conga shop. Shopping in Tanzania is definitely a new experience and one I wouldn’t ever be able to forget. The people are so concerned with your business they will follow you around town and more than once I was pulled in to a deal! At the Conga shop we experienced a power outage and it went dark while we were shopping. It was interesting to me how the locals just carried on about their business like it was something they were so used to. I can only imagine in America the chaos something like that would cause and it caused me to think about how we take advantage of our resources much too often at home.
Another thing I must talk about is the people of Arusha! Never have I felt an audience quite that large. Anywhere we went in town looks were directed our way. Not in a negative way though, much more of a wondering stare. The people were also very welcoming of us being there and many were willing to greet us as we walked passed them. Hearing Kiswahili everywhere was definitely a culture shock, but a pleasant one!
Can’t wait for more adventures!
6 WEEKS! In 6 short weeks we will be leaving for the adventure of a lifetime. As fast as time has gone since I applied for the Tanzania trip, these final weeks will go by even faster. For me, preparing for this trip has been anything from checking the countdown on my phone everyday (sometimes every few hours!) to watching Swahili YouTube videos. I have even added an African Radio station to my Pandora account and rock out in my car and of course in the shower to all of its music! Something as simple as this gets me thinking about the trip and makes me very excited. This coming week, Mizzou is on spring break and I am dedicating this time to start packing, which is very strange for me considering I am always a last minute packer. I figured by getting an early start to packing, it would give me more than enough time to remember all of the things I will initially forget. Also, much of my wardrobe shopping will happen this week too. I plan on taking Target and Goodwill by storm. Last week I had my doctor’s appointment and am proud to say I took those shots like a champ! I was able to do a little research and find the most cost friendly way to get my vaccinations and prescriptions filled. Checking off items on my Tanzania to-do list is making this trip seem so surreal and getting me extremely excited.
Aside from the prescriptions and packing preparations, my free time is consumed with simply just thinking about the trip. What will the first night be like? What will be the toughest part of teaching in the classroom? How hard will saying goodbye to the students be? The more time I spend thinking about the trip, the more excited, anxious, and ready I am becoming. I can’t wait to see and take in the culture. Reading about it is one thing, but living it for a month will be another. When I am at my field placement Monday afternoons and Friday mornings I find myself taking mental notes about what I want to remember when in Africa. How will teaching there compare to my observing here? That is what I am most excited for. I want to be able to walk away from my experience in Africa realizing the similarities and differences of everything that has to do with education I find between the two. How I am going to be shaped by both as a teacher? This journey will be one filled with both joys and challenges and after I am going to be so much more thankful for this opportunity than I am already. What an extraordinary blessing!