This has been an experience that will be a part of my life everyday. I will constantly be thinking about the places we have been, the people we have met, and the friendships we have made. Reflecting on this trip is not an easy thing to do since it does not feel like it is over. I guess it feels that way because I have been neglecting the thoughts of this trip being over. Leaving this country is going to be so bittersweet. I have made such amazing friends and have had the experience of a lifetime, but leaving Arusha is going to be so hard. I know we will all shed a few tears and be sad for a while, but we all need to remember how much fun we have had and how the trip is going to benefit our future careers and even ourselves.
Having the chance to come on a trip like this one has had left me with many impressions. I will be taking away memories from each and every day. Teaching at Lutheran has helped me become a more confident teacher. I have learned how to help those who truly do not understand, especially those who do not know English. The language barrier that we all had to face in our schools has been something we have learned how to deal with in the best ways possible. I know I will be coming home with more certainty in helping those who are struggling or who do not understand.
Being in Tanzania has also helped me be more laid back when problems arise. The calm and hakuna matata lifestyle has left its mark on all of us, and I can say with much confidence that that is something I will be bringing home with me. It is something that all Americans need more of. We need to not worry when it’s been 20 minutes and we are still waiting on our driver, or one hour and our food has not shown up. These things are so minor, We realize this now, but at home it is a different story.
As of now I have learned more about myself than I ever have before. I can see how I have changed, maybe not that much, but a small change is still a change. I can see myself being a teacher and being a successful one, I can see all of these wonderful people and how they have helped make this experience the one it was. I am going to miss every little thing about this country and everyone who I have met. Building these friendships is something that all of us will bring home and cherish for a lifetime. For now, I will be saving up every penny I have so I can return to Arusha someday and visit those who have impacted me and, of course, to reach the top of Kilimanjaro ☺
This past Saturday we headed to Arusha National Park to go on a walking safari, which ended up being more of a hike than we expected, but it was still real fun. Seeing another waterfall was unexpected and was definitely a pleasant surprise for us all. I have a feeling we would have been swimming in that one if we had seen it more towards the end of our hike uphill. After the long hike we went to go on another mini safari through the park, which was so nice, since I had no idea we would be seeing any more safari animals after our trip to the Serengeti. After leaving the park we did not have a clue where our camping site was going to be, so the ride there became a little interesting.
Our trip uphill to Mama Anna’s home was bumpy to say the least. I live on a dirt road in Michigan and I can say from now on I will never complain about a pothole ever again. The “road” we were driving on was so uneven and full of cliffs that I was not going to be surprised if our truck got stuck. But, of course those safari trucks can handle anything and we made it up safely. We made jokes along the way and asked why do people ride rollercoasters when they could just ride up this road to Mama Anna’s? When we arrived to Mama Anna’s I jumped out of the truck to see a short lady in blue dancing, singing, and walking towards us with her arms wide open ready for a hug. She wrapped her arms around me as if I were some sort of relative of hers that she hasn’t seen in years. The hugs and smiles she gave everyone was all we needed to fall in love with her. Abbi’s first words about Mama Anna were, “We need to figure out a way to bring her back to America! I’m taking her home to America!”
Mama Anna and the other women had prepared dinner for us, and by the time Mama Anna had finished singing and hugging each one of us it became pretty dark. After claiming our tents we got our delicious dinner and had eaten it outside under the stars, using any light we could find to see the food we were eating. After dinner we headed up to the campfire, which turned into story time. One of the safari drivers had told us the story about his first trip to the Serengeti, which he had lied to his company and told them he knew the Serengeti well, but in actually he had never been there. So, his story was about how he got lost and had to lie many times in order to get his clients to their destination and to keep his job. While listening to his story Baba had been walking around the fire picking up the fallen wood that was still burning, with his bare hands and throwing it back into the fire. Many of us were in shock seeing him touch something so hot, and as we screamed and screeched he would just laugh and keep throwing the burning wood back into the fire. After the fire we headed to our tents for some much needed sleep. That was my first time camping so having the chance to sleep in a tent, in Africa, with wild animals, was certainly an experience.
The morning began much sooner than I thought it would, the rooster alarm went off at 5am and the cow alarm went off at 6am. After breakfast we had spent a while singing and dancing with Mama Anna. She is one of a kind, and someone with that personality can really change your tired cranky mood fast. Seeing her so excited and happy to be with us makes you feel so loved. She had definitely given us each memories that will never be forgotten.
I have learned many things about Tanzanian culture and teaching styles while spending my time here. I have also learned so much about the people here, as well as myself. Spending time in Tanzania I have noticed how their culture is different and similar to my own, and I have picked up a few words of Swahili. Learning a new language can be extremely difficult, which is why I feel for my students who are trying to speak English just from listening to it in school. I have learned so much from my short time in the schools already I could write a whole book about. But, to shorten things up I will begin with Tanzanian culture and what I have learned.
The culture here is incredibly different than my own in the US, but also shows many similarities. To start, I have learned that the culture here is very relaxed and slower paced. Even going on safari I could see this aspect of their culture present, especially when Maluta would be the last truck in the line just so we could stay an extra 5 minutes to watch the zebra, or when he dropped us off in the middle of the road so we could walk around for a bit while the other trucks just kept going. He, as well as almost every other Tanzanian we have met, are so laidback and have very relaxed personalities. Everywhere we go in Tanzania you hear people saying, “pole pole,” which means “slowly slowly” or just “slow slow.” We see men on the streets just hanging out not appearing to be doing anything productive, which I have learned is a norm here. In the US people are always on the move or have places to be and are constantly in a hurry. Speaking of hurrying, I know we can all agree that meeting someone on the streets and then meeting them while they are driving are two completely different people. Once a Tanzanian gets into a car they change that laidback personality into someone who needs to get to their destination in as little time as possible. So, for me, seeing this way of driving has shown me the similarity between the US and Tanzania, since we are always in a hurry and they drive as though they are. But, I do have to say if I were to drive like them at home I’d end up with tickets everyday.
While teaching in the schools I have learned so much about my own teaching style. I have noticed that the students will be most engaged if they are understanding what I am saying and are not lost in translation (since they have to translate the English to Swahili in their heads). I have noticed that teaching with only chalk and one textbook is very difficult, but it is manageable to create effective lessons in which the students do learn the material. I have learned to become very flexible with my teaching since you never know when you may get sick and have to hand over the chalk and book to someone else. I have learned a lot about the differences between the students here and the students in the US. At home students don’t respect their teachers as they do here and most of them do not take their education too seriously. While in Tanzania students are very serious about school and try their hardest everyday to learn as much as they can so they can hopefully get to a university and become pilots, doctors, etc.
Being in the classroom I have learned now rewarding teaching can be. Just seeing your students learn new material in a language they barely understand makes you feel as though you can teach anything to anyone. It is very difficult for some students to grasp any concept you present them, since they have no idea what you are saying. So, when you see these students actually participate in class and show that their mathematic skills are improving just makes you feel like you are a good teacher. While teaching I have learned that creating lesson plans on the spot can be annoying and stressful, but I have also learned that no matter the situation it always seems to work out. Even ten minutes of planning may show better results than none, and I have noticed this in my own teaching. Also, at the school I am teaching at I have seen different teaching styles that show different results, just as I would in the US. One teacher speaks quietly and reads word for word out of the book, while their students sit quietly and say “yes” when they have to. Another teacher asks questions that require more thought; this teacher has students do their work on the board, has other students clap for each other, and has fun while teaching. In the US, we see these teaching styles and we all can agree a teacher who can create effective questions and has fun with their class will have students conceptually understand their material faster and most likely better than those who have a teacher who is not so interactive. So, overall I have learned many things while teaching here and I cannot wait to see what else I learn about Tanzanian teaching and culture before the month is over.
Yesterday was our first day at the schools, and I am teaching at Lutheran Secondary School. We had to take a van to get there and the dala dalas on the way back. Getting to the school I had no idea what to expect. I did not have any idea what the school would look like, or even the students for that matter. The school is one story with maybe ten or so classrooms. The rooms have broken windows, no electricity, old desks and chairs, chalkboards, and uneven cement/dirt floors. The students are in uniform and are all extremely well behaved.
The first class we attended was a math Form 2 class. Before going to this class we had the chance to meet some of the teachers and the headmaster. They were all very nice and always saying “Karibu.” So, we observed the math class and saw a very “typical” teaching style that was described to us before coming to Tanzania. He was very straightforward and read directly from his book. Later we were able to watch a history class, which was very unusual since it was taught in a different point of view. We also were able to sit in another math class, for Form 3 students. This teacher taught in a style that was very similar to teaching styles in the US. He was very interactive and had his class very engaged and asking questions. The students in every class were very well behaved, as mentioned before, and they all seemed to like school.
At the end of the day we had the chance to chat with the students for an hour. They asked many questions and were very interested in the pictures we brought from home. They were not the greatest with their English yet, but some had the courage to ask us questions the entire time. We discussed our lives in the US, politics, animals, and many other things. The girls were curious of my hair and wanted to touch it, so I let them. They laughed and said it was soft, which was very fun for them and me. We had a great first day and learned a lot from only 6 hours of being there. I cannot wait for the next three weeks!
Landing in Africa seemed unreal to me, since I had no idea what to expect. While riding in the van to the Outpost it was so dark we still were not able to actually see Africa. After a well needed sleep, we were able to wake up to see a very tropical place (I was not expecting that!) The first day here was so much fun, besides the rain.
The rain is something everyone will be blogging about since it is so different from home. It pours for hours straight and the people here act as though the rain is not any bother. In the US we all hide inside when it is raining this hard, while in Africa everyone is out and about with no umbrellas, hats, or hoods. A woman, in a very fancy outfit and in high heels, was walking down the very pothole filled road with ease while the rest of us are hiding under our hoods watching every step we take. After getting drenched we had time to dry off and have our first dinner here at the Outpost, which was very good! The food here is much better than any of us would have guessed.
Also, having time to just chat with everyone and get to know each other has been so much fun. Whether we are just sitting eating dinner or having nervous breakdowns about going to the schools and teaching, we all seem to already be great friends and are here to calm each other down and just have fun. This experience, so far, has been one I will not forget, and I can tell I will definitely not want to leave on June 2nd.