Lasting Impressions

I’m not really sure how to sum up the things I have learned into a short paragraph…or a long paragraph for that matter. You never quite realize that you’ve done so much until you look back on it…and we’ve certainly accomplished a lot here in Tanzania. So here’s my attempt to condense the important parts of this safari we’ve been on for a month. 

1. Pole Pole. Life is too fast. We are always running from one place to another. Running to the grocery store last minute. Running to class. Running to that thing we forgot last minute because the other thing distracted us from it. Slow down. Pole Pole. Life will happen whether you are trying to keep up with it or not. It doesn’t need us to keep up with it. It just needs us to enjoy the ride. In the Serengeti we lost track of time. Waiting. Sitting. Waiting. Driving. Waiting. Taking pictures. More waiting and more waiting. And you know what made it an incredible experience? The fact that we didn’t care whether we were late for dinner. Whether we forgot to call that person that we said we would call and never did. Whether we missed that last tweet from our friend, which in the grand scheme of things, has zero impact on our lives. We just waited. We waited for an elephant to slowly cross the road, because he has nothing important to do except take a leisurely stroll through some tall grass and eat. We waited to see a pride of lions do…nothing…and it was awesome. Tanzanians are not trying to rush through life. They enjoy it. They enjoy the little fleeting moments more than anyone I have ever met. And you know what? They’re happy…with their limited possessions…they’re truly happy. 

2. Hakuna Matata. Yes. The most cliche words in Swahili…thank you “Lion King”. But it’s true. No worries. You’re teaching in the classroom and your lesson plan goes down the toilet in the first ten minutes because you had everything prepared and then all of a sudden BAM! You’re shooting from the hip using any technique possible to get your students to understand…none of which are on your freshly typed, brand new, been working on it for 2 days, lesson plan. At the end of the day, maybe none of your students understand the material you wanted them to understand. But maybe they remember a funny joke. An inspiring quote. Or they notice that you’re exhausted from a long week and you still wake up the next morning to do the thing you love. In the end, they will learn something…maybe a small something…maybe a large something. But Hakuna Matata, something is better than nothing. 

3. Don’t work too much. During this trip, we had a week of teaching in a classroom where maybe half of the students understood us. Where we had to deal with students not having textbooks because they spent their money getting food for their family. It’s exhausting work. But if you don’t live a little and go on a few adventures you’ll end up hating your work. Take a day or two to relax, by yourself or with friends. Don’t do any work, don’t think about work, just don’t do it. Because if you never go on any adventures…you’ll never have anything exciting to talk about on Monday when you get back to the classroom. And let’s be honest…Mondays suck. 

I was told by a friend before I came on this safari, that it would change me. I wouldn’t be the same person when I got back home. And that scared me. I’m not scared anymore though. I’m ready to go home and accept that I have been through an incredible experience and it has changed me into a better teacher, a better friend, and a better man. This experience just simply makes you better. And that’s nothing to be afraid of. 



Kilimanjaro Part 2

It was extremely exciting getting the opportunity to climb up Kilimanjaro. Only thing, I wish I could’ve have made it to the summit. I know I was not the only one to feel this way. However, it was an experience none the less. 

I was not really sure what to think of the climb. I have never climbed to high altitudes such as that. I have never been a fan of climbing period. But something about Kilimanjaro made me want to man up and do it. 

I enjoyed the pacing, that everyone could make it to the first hut as they pleased. If people were going to fast, I could slow down…collect myself…and continue. I didn’t feel like I was rushed or I had to keep up with people. I found it difficult to pay attention to where I was stepping because of all the beautiful scenery around me. I had never experienced being in that thick of jungle before and it was incredible to be a part of something like that. I tried to take as much video as I could, and by the end of the trek I became a pro at walking while videotaping the people in front of me. No injuries!

It is such an accomplishing feeling when you make it to the final destination of your climb. I can only imagine what it would feel like when I eventually summit Kilimanjaro. It has officially been added to my bucket list. 

Things I Have Learned So Far (Part II)

Wow. We’ve been here almost three weeks and I’m supposed to condense everything I have learned into a simple blog post. Prepare yourselves people. 

For starters, the differences between American schools and Tanzanian schools is obviously the biggest thing we get to observe on a daily basis. From the differences in instruction time. To the scheduling of classes, everything in America is just more structured. As an observer here we are able to learn so much about how lucky we are as teachers in America. Even when we feel we don’t have enough…we really have more than we need. We just need to be more creative with what we do have. 

Second, tracking your thoughts is so important on this trip. So many things happen at once and you have to be sure to write everything you can down so you don’t forget. This is definitely a skill I have been working on since I have been here, from reflecting on lesson plans to just the general flow of the day. I know that this is something that will be continually worked on during my student teaching semester as well. 

Third, Hakuna Matata. This phrase covers a wide range of life but it is something that we as teachers need to specifically learn. We are not always going to teach a perfect lesson. There will be countless times when we have students fail our class. Students may drop out or may fall asleep in class. There may be times when it seems nothing is going right. But as teachers, Hakuna Matata, each day is a day to improve upon yourself. And as long as you are a better teacher than the day before…you’re doing pretty alright in my book. 

Fourth, this country cannot be experienced in a month. Everyday I am finding more and more things I wish I had time to do. And all that really tells me is that I will be back soon to experience more of it. This country is so rich in culture it makes me jealous living in America where we sometimes take culture for granted. 

First Day of School

The school I will be teaching at this month is Sekei Secondary School. Heading into the first day I had no idea what to expect in terms of the setup of the school and size as well. When we arrived, our tour guide, Juma, did the honors of introducing us to the headmaster…a quite intimidating man. However, since the first day I have come to find he is a very kind hearted man…just very tall. Our headmaster asked us what subjects we would like to teach as well as what forms. I have always wanted to work with Sophmores and Juniors, so I responded that I would like to teach the Form 3 students in math. 

We then were introduced to the academic headmaster who assigned us the classrooms we would be teaching. As of now we are teaching math on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As well as teaching English everyday. I have attempted to get the responsibility of teaching a Kiswahili class, while some may think I am crazy…I want to try my best!

We also met Bwana Shao, or Baba Shao as we like to call him. He is easily the greatest person I have ever met in my life. He is very wise and always has a purpose when he speaks, a trait I wish more people would learn in America. I definitely feel at home when I am at Sekei, I feel as though all the teachers and students watch out for each other, and take care of each other. Another trait I wish schools in American would adopt. 

For now I am extremely excited to not only better my teaching practices, but also create a deep relationship with my students in the short amount of time that I am here. 

First Impressions of Tanzania

Rain…lots of rain. You get off the plane. Rain. You wake up in the morning to walk into town. Rain. You go to sleep. Rain. I guess they weren’t kidding when they said this was the end of the rainy season. I’m not mad though, my biggest excitement was to fall asleep to the sounds of a Tanzanian storm, and I’ve done that now…twice. 

When we arrived, the only thing that let me know I was in Tanzania, was the smell, it wasn’t foul or unpleasant. It just smelled as I would expect Tanzania to smell, it smelt natural, untouched, there was no pollution or smog. There was fresh air and there was rain. To me that was perfect. Then we walked around Arusha, and I believe the best way you can describe it is that it is like a musical. There are so many things going on at once and it is all mashed up in a form of beautiful chaos. Street vendors screaming, cars whizzing by 6 inches away from you, dala dala drivers standing outside of their vans waving people down, children running to and from school. It all fits together perfectly…it just works. While there is this constant chaos, everyone there lives and breathes the following phrases…Hakuna Matata and Pole Pole. No worries, slow down. Even when things are moving a million miles an hour, people still have no worries, and there’s no rush. 

I wish America was like this at times, no one is in an angry mood getting to where they need to be. Tanzanians have this mentality that they will get there when they get there…Hakuna Matata. 

The food is beyond comprehension, the people are the most friendly people I will ever hope to meet, and the weather…while rainy, is perfect in every way. I love it here. 

Preparing for Travel

I can’t even begin to contain my excitement for this trip. It’s to a point where I can’t sleep at night because I want to continue preparing to go! I am so excited to broaden my teaching horizons especially after being in my teaching assisting semester this year. I feel like seeing education systems of a different country will just make my teaching habits and skills so much better. You can only learn so much about teaching from only seeing schools in Michigan.

Aside from my excitement for the teaching aspect of this trip, I am so excited to learn about a new culture. Being from a Mexican family, I was immersed in Mexican culture and it is a part of me. I am ready for a new culture to become part of my life, between Kiswahili lessons and learning the proper way to introduce myself to new people I can’t wait to use everything I’ve learned!