So, I am going to be super cheesy and start out this post with a quote that I find most fitting for my experience here in Tanzania. In Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself he writes, “for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Tanzania will always be a resounding part of my life from here on out. Everyone here, including our group, was extremely welcoming and by the end of this month we were (and still are) Tanzanian Americans.
From our first day in town when it was pouring rain and I spent way too much money at the Maasai market, we have all learned so much. I can now barter (somewhat), maneuver my way through Arusha’s dala dalas, and can climb up to the first hut on Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will miss the pole pole and hamnesheda lifestyle.
One thing that will I will never forget are my standard four students and our last day of school. I was such a proud mama bear that day. When Hannah, Meagan, and I presented the morning assembly on Friday we added our own little dance moves. All of our students looked up at us beaming with laughter and happiness. My standard four class will always be the first class I have ever taught and they have truly confirmed that being a teacher is what I am meant to do. I was nervous at first being a special education major and never managing my own classroom before, but their curiosity, imagination, and pure goofiness eased my nerves almost immediately. Three of my students, Yusuf, Mahmoud, and Abdul were the incarnation of The Three Stooges and I am so happy they were able to provide comedy and laughter in our classroom. Our classroom was one big family and I am so blessed that I have had this opportunity to teach them and be a part of their lives.
Our group has built such a strong bond that I truly think we will be friends for many years to come. We have shared an experience and a culture that have shaped us not only as people, but also as teachers. When all is said and done I know that when I am flying away today I will be saying “Tutaonana Tanzania!”
Kilimanjaro. Was. So. Cool. Every single time I saw the summit it looked like a painting that was left in the sky. After the first time we had gone to Kilimanjaro I think we were all really excited to try Kilimanjaro round two! The base of Kilimanjaro all of the way up to the first hut honestly looked like a rain forest to me which was completely unexpected. What was expected was the climb.
The climb to the first hut was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. The first half of our climb we BOOKED it out of pure excitement (and it was also the less steep part). The second half went a little bit slower but our drive was still there! After two hours and seven minutes we made it to the first hut!!! At first, Kristin and I had thought Emily was joking when she had said we made it. But to our delight (after a very, very steep hill) we had made it. This was the kind of proud moment that I have only ever felt after running a race!
It amazed me just how many people were on the mountain that day and I can only imagine how busy it would be during high season. It was and is hard to believe that our group had climbed a part of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest free standing mountain in the world and the tallest mountain in Africa. After passing what looked like mountains to me, I asked Moses our safari driver which mountains those were and he said that everything to him is a hill when you live by Mt. Kilimanjaro. Tanzania 2015 I am going to climb the rest of Mt. Kilimanjaro (I would say 2014 but I need some time to forget how tough just getting to the first hut was)!
This past weekend we did a LOT. But, I honestly would not want it any other way. Getting to experience Tanzania as much as I can during our month stay is what I came here for and if that means tunneling through a 17th century Chagga cave and trying banana beer then sign me up!
We arrived Saturday afternoon to the town Marangu located on the foothills of Mt.Kilimanjaro. The difference between Marangu and Arusha was evident. It was a side of Tanzania that I had not seen before. Arusha is bustling with cars, motorcycles, dala dalas, and people, whereas Marangu was easy-going and peaceful. Seeing Mt. Kilimanjaro in person I think awestruck our entire group. We all had this moment like, “We are here. In Tanzania. Right by Mt. Kilimanjaro. At this moment.”
Visiting the traditional Chagga hut was an eye opener to say the least. Seeing a hut the size of, what would be a tool shed in America, that fits two people, a cow, a calf, and goats really makes you think about what you actually do need in life. In America our houses are where we spend a lot of our time but for the owners of this hut it is a place to sleep and rest and the outdoors is where your time is spent. Also, the fact that this man had built his own house was really amazing. Another awesome thing about this part of our trip were the children. These children were the grandchildren of the man who had built the house we had visited. And boy could they get down and dance!
My favorite thing about this trip was definitely the waterfall. Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, they got to see some pretty waterfall and took a lot of pictures by it.” We got to go IN the waterfall! It started out with everyone wading in the water beside the waterfall and slowly Sam went full blast under the water! After that, we all decided we’re only in Tanzania once (but hopefully not) so we might as well! Being able to swim by and in a waterfall, for me, seemed only to happen in movies but this was my life and it was actually happening. The feeling of being alive and free actually succumbs you and you just want more and more. A great way to end our trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It was a crazy first day! We went to town and viewed all of the markets, ate lunch, and got congas. The markets were crazy. I have learned a lot of Swahili already from passing through Arusha. I now definitely know “Poli, Poli” (slowly, slowly), “Poa” (cool) and “Hapana, Asanti” (No, thank you). This last phrase had gotten plenty of use yesterday in the markets. All of the crafts were amazing and I saw so many things. I think I need to collect my thoughts and take it all in!
I was very happy that our guide, Juma, was there with us. The city was a lot bigger and a lot more confusing that I originally thought it was going to be. Juma was given a hard time (jokingly) for leading around the “Mzungu” or white person. Everyone was extremely friendly and said thank you for coming and “Jambo!”.
I found it very interesting that many of the people in town were still out and about even though it was pouring rain! The rain really did not seem to affect anyone as vendors and people roasting maize were under the building awnings outside. One thing that was really amazing to me was that as it started raining the vendor’s selling products changed from paintings to umbrellas. Overall, it was a great and overwhelming first day and I enjoyed every second of it!
Our first day was crazy and overwhelming but a lot of fun!! After touring the school, which took only 5 minutes, I went into my 4th grade class and started to observe their French lesson. At this time they were taking an exam and were copying the questions down from the chalk board and answering the questions. After about 10 minutes the French teacher peaced out and all he said to the students was “do not disturb teacher (me)”. I did not see him the rest of the day and ended up giving their exams to another teacher. I was probably very comical for the students because I had no idea what they were allowed to do and what they were not allowed to do. I am guessing I accidentally let a couple of things slide because I would here muffled giggles coming from the back.
After this it was lunch time and I had the opportunity to compare their lunches and typical U.S. lunches. Once the bell was rung (by a young boy racing around the school) 5 or 6 different vendors crowd the school and students may either bring their own lunch or buy one from one of the vendors. A school supplied lunch is non existent. A lot of students were eating ice cream and candy and there was really no place for them to sit and eat it.
Lunch was about 30 minutes long and later was supposed to be Games (like a P.E. class) but the Headmaster said it was too cold to do Games. It was 70 degrees outside and it was too cold. All of the students and teachers had either sweaters, winter coats, or hats on and were mesmerized by the fact that all of us were comfortable in just t-shirts!
Because my 4th graders did not do Games I was given the privilege of being in the classroom on my own for about an hour. I asked whether I was supposed to be teaching them something and the teachers said “just do what you would like hamnesheda” (no problems). So, I decided to utilize the hour as an introduction. The students and myself were very excited to get to know one another and it turned a bit chaotic. I definitely need to work on my classroom management skills. Out of all of my students the only name I have learned is Clifford (it is probably easy to see why). Tomorrow I teach my first lesson of reading and I am hoping it will go well!!
How do I prepare for an experience such as this one? Passport? Check. Visa? Check. 95% Deet bug spray? Check. Planning to immerse myself in a culture completely unknown to me? Almost!
I do not think that I will ever be fully ready for what lies ahead during our month stay in Arusha, Tanzania. This trip will be an eye-opener and a life-changing experience. Can one ever be ready for a life-changing experience?
Excited is not an adequate word to describe how I feel right now about our adventure. Ecstatic. Ecstatic is how I feel. I am travelling half-way around the world to an unfamiliar place to do what I love: teach. What is there not to be ecstatic about? I get to do what I love all while improving myself as a person and as an educator. And for this opportunity, I am very grateful.