Lasting Impressions

So I’ve been doing some reflecting the last couple days knowing that our last day was coming up.  Today is our last day and I have to admit that I still can’t fully wrap my head around everything that has happened.  You try your best throughout the trip to appreciate and take in everything as you go, but it feels like you really can’t fully appreciate everything until the last day and even more so when you get back home.

I have learned so much from here though.  I think the biggest take away for me is the confidence I gained in the classroom and realizing that lessons won’t always go as planned.  I like to be well prepared in everything I do, so the fact that I made this realization and accepted it is a huge accomplishment.  I now feel ready for teaching assisting! 

As far as lasting impressions?  The biggest lasting impression that I will forever have is the people here.  The children that we taught this month are so smart, funny, and caring.  The teachers as well are some of the nicest people I have ever met.  And even though the vendors can be a bit overbearing, they are really nice once you get to know them.  The thing that gets me the most is that we are in a third world country, where people have many reasons to be sad or depressed, and everyone seems happy.  I think that they choose to be happy, which is so refreshing to see.  In America we see a lot of unhappy people and yet they have everything they need. 

As most people know, the motto here is “hakuna matata” which means “no problem”.  They really do live by this philosophy…even though there are many problems and worries here.  I think I will miss that outlook once I get back to America, where everyone seems to have “problems” and “worries”.    

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Mulala

So when the syllabus says “walking safari”, it really means a 4 hour hike up Mt. Mayru.  The highlight of the walking safari was probably walking among a herd of buffalo.  It was both terrifying and exciting at the same time; don’t worry though, we had a guide who was carrying a rifle to protect us.  It was pretty legit.  After lunch we headed over to Mama Anna’s house.    

We were greeted by Mama Anna and the gang singing “Jambo, jambo bwana…” as we got off the bus Saturday evening.  It was the perfect way to start the weekend…and it helped that we knew the song (Lisa made us memorize it before we left for Tanzania).  We ate dinner and then sat around the campfire for awhile and shared some stories. 

The next day we woke up, ate breakfast, and sang and danced with Mama Anna and the group for awhile.  They taught us some sweet dance moves and of course we showed them some of ours!  We walked for a couple hours after this before coming back for lunch, a quick tutorial of the cheese they make, and a demonstration on how to make fresh coffee.

Like every weekend here, this past weekend was an adventure.  We got to see so many cool things and experience things that most people don’t ever have the chance to (like walking with wild buffalo).  It really makes me realize how lucky I am to have had this opportunity.  Also, meeting Mama Anna was a great reminder that the people here are so friendly and caring.  On top of that, they are willing to just invite you to their homes and teach you about their culture.  It’s so great.  I love it. 


Safari

I’ve been to some pretty cool places around the world but I have to say that the safari tops every other thing that I’ve done.  The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater are two of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen.  This blog post and the pictures that I took just don’t do it justice!

We did the safari for about four days and saw the Big Five (lions, rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, elephants) and much more.  My favorite thing about the safari though was driving through the great migration.  This was such an incredible experience and there is really no way to describe how amazing it was.  Basically, we drove through a herd of thousands of zebra and wildebeest.  Our driver, Maluta, took the initiative to drive off the main road and directly into the herd so we were right in the middle of all of the animals. Seriously…it was so amazing.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go on a real safari in Africa.  We got to see so many animals (that we normally only see in zoos) in their natural habitats.  We also saw beautiful scenery that tops anything I’ve seen before.  Doing the Harlem Shake in the Ngorongoro Crater was pretty great too!


First Day of School

I was so nervous the first day of school that I wanted to throw up. We didn’t know if we would be observing or teaching and if we were teaching, we didn’t know what we would be teaching. When we opened the gate to our school, Assumption, the kids (all 300 of them) we’re running together around the whole playground in a circle. We then walked to the headmaster’s office to get everything figured out.

After we introduced ourselves to the headmaster, we had a good 45 seconds of awkward silence before someone finally said “we’re here to teach”. Apparently she forgot we were coming. A few minutes later we were taken to our classroom and as soon as we walked in the students said “Good morning teacher, how are you?” We stood there in amazement and I’m not even sure we responded. Luckily, we weren’t asked to teach right away and we went to the back and sat to observe.

Observing was such a cool experience. I’ve observed classrooms in the U.S. so it was really cool to compare and contrast the two. One thing that is obviously different is that they use corporal punishment. It was really hard to see. The kids, however, are really well behaved. We are in a first grade classroom and the kids have so much respect, sit quietly for the most part, and are really smart. The kids are so sweet and love all of the attention we give them. The best part has got to be the look on the kids’ faces when we say “good job”. They are so proud. I’m excited to see how teaching will go in the next couple weeks!


First Impressions

Our first view of Arusha was walking off the plane at night and into the airport…in the pouring rain.  It really wasn’t that bad though!  I kind of got caught up in the moment of finally arriving in Africa (after 24 hours) and was too busy looking around to notice that I was soaking wet.  We then got our luggage and walked out to the trucks to take us to the Outpost.

My first impression of the people is that they are all very nice.  All the people in town stared at us as we walked around Arusha the first day and we had a ton of guys come up to us and try and sell us things (like paintings and bracelets).  In the last few days, we have had time to actually talk and have conversations with some of the locals, which is really cool.  They are just as interested in our culture as we are in theirs.  They also love to teach us Swahili, which is a blast! 

My first impression of the city is that it is  more developed than I thought it would be.  I honestly thought we would be seeing a lot of shacks and collapsing buildings in the main part of the city.  Instead we saw a city that had traffic, restaurants, and stores.  It wasn’t until I walked to school the first day that I saw a part of Arusha that looked like what I thought Africa would look like.  We saw shacks that people lived in, run-down buildings, and trash in the streets.  It was a really overwhelming sight and it still hasn’t sunk in that this is life for people who live here.

Overall, it has been an eye-opening experience so far and we’ve only been here for 3 days.  I can’t wait for what we will see and learn in the next 3 weeks!       


Preparing for travel

The fact that we are leaving for Africa in about 6 weeks is completely overwhelming and exciting all at the same time. I have to admit that Africa was never really a country that was on my bucket list of places to travel. Now that we have started learning about the culture and hearing about all the cool things we will be doing there, I couldn’t be more thrilled to go. I love traveling, exploring and learning about cultures different than our own; the world has so much to offer.

This is my second time studying abroad, so you would think that I have since learned how to stay on top of things when it comes to preparing for a trip. Well, I haven’t. I’m not doing terrible, but I would like to be a little further ahead. I did get all my vaccines, malaria prescriptions, some clothes, and a new pair of shoes though. So that’s a start. Another part of the preparation has been learning about the Tanzanian culture. I love that we are reading about the culture and discussing it. It really gives us a chance to get a taste of what to expect and also to be educated travelers, rather than just tourists.

I can’t put into words how excited (and a little nervous) I am to be able to go into these classrooms and teach. I’m also really excited to get to know these children, spend time with them, and be a part of their lives for a month. This is truly the opportunity of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more thankful!