Lasting Impressions

Today it really hit me that I am in Africa.  I think it is because today is our last day in Africa.  When I first arrived I did not have a huge culture shock.  I think it was because I came here knowing that the people here are people just like me but they live a different life style and they have different colored skin.  They do what they need to support them and go on about their everyday life.


Here is a few lasting impressions that will always hold a place in my heart: (in no particular order)


  1. No matter where I go I will always love to shop.  In the past two days (alone) I think I have been to the Maassi Market 3 times.  I only had things to barter and even though I walked away more times then I wanted I still had a fun time.  Especially when I went back in to find my rifiki (frined) Jeremy.  A huge group of us were leaving and I knew Jeremy was still shopping.  I asked the venders if they knew which isle my tall mozungu rifiki (white friend) was in.  As I went down the isle they were saying that I found my rifiki and to come into their shop.  I think they figured it out when I was blitzing through the market to find Jeremy.
  2. Hakuna Matata and pole pole (slowly slowly)- the exact two mottos of how people in Tanzania live their life.
  3. If I had more time with them I would have taught them more about number concepts.  It was really hard to go in everyday and see my students struggle and have misconceptions with adding, subtraction, multiplication, division, and number concepts.  They would be working on a new concept that my teacher or I have taught and still have to struggle with concepts that they should have learned in the younger grades.  At Tetra (my school) their way of helping with students who are struggling in math is to give them more problems to work on the same concept.  More practice makes perfect but if you do not take the time to it with students and teach them another way or coach them through the process then the excessive practice problems will still be a struggle for students.
  4. Community-in the classroom and in the streets.  In my teacher assisting and student teaching placement I was able to see how the classroom community was set up but I never had to build my own community.  In my classroom here I had more opportunities to build my own community of learners.  I now have better confidence that I will be able to create a community of learners in my classroom back in the states.
  5. Unexpected Friends-It never even crossed my find that I would become such close friends with people in my study abroad group or even people here in Africa.  Walking from school to the dalah dalah I thought I would b-line it without talking to people but we stopped quite a few times to talk to safari drivers that we have met.  It just amazes me that we find each other-the world seems really small when you run into people you are not expecting to run into.
  6. No matter how hard you are on your students they will always love you.  I would say that I am a stickler on rules and how I want my classroom to be run because I want to create a safe environment to learn.  I also know that at the end of the day you need to have fun.  To create that experience is tough.  It is something that I will keep working on every day in my classroom.


I am not going to cry because my trip is over, I am just happy that it happened and that I was able to experience everything I have here.


Until we meet again Africa,




Walking Safari: We were expecting to walk around Arusha National park and see animals in their natural habitat.  Right off the bat we saw a herd of buffalo.  It was really neat!  They were walking around grazing and standing together.  We stayed in one spot to look and take pictures while our guide (who was equipped with a gun) was watching to see if the buffalo were going to charge us.  The buffalo did not charge us, thank goodness, so we kept on walking through the herd of buffalo.  It was really cool to be on the same level as them.  Then we started the hiking part of our safari.  Now safari in Swahili is any type of journey and did we go on a journey.  We walked up the mountain across the mountain and then straight down the mountain on a road that was made of dirt and rocks.  Going down the mountain was harder then going up the mountain.  Our group was not prepared for the hike so there were a lot of complaints.  On the other hand it was good preparation for Wednesdays climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The views were spectacular.  We were (in retrospect of the town) really close to the top of Mt. Maru.  The climb up Mt. Maru is harder then Mt. Kili because of its steep incline.


We got to Manna Anna’s house after our walking safari and were happy to sit down.  She made the most amazing African dinner.  It was the best dinner we had here that was of African taste.  After dinner we brought our chairs up to the bonfire.  It was a very short-lived bonfire for me because people started telling scary stories.  I headed to my tent so early that I was able to start my new book.


The cows and the roosters were our alarm clock an hour before we actually had to wake up.  Someone did not tell them the correct time to wake us up.  We sat down for breakfast and had rolls and cheese.  The cheese was delicious!  The day started out cloudy so we ended up learning about their process of honey harvesting.  They hollowed out a log about 1 meter long where stingless bees could go in and do their honey making thing.  They reopened the log 6 months later and walla honey on honey on honey.  It was really neat because you could scoop the honeycombs that held the honey right out of the long.  The older man had us taste the honey by dripping some honey on our hand to then lick it off our hand.  I was expecting it to be very sweat to the taste, like honey in the states, but I was wrong.  At first it tasted tart with fruity after taste.


Dancing and singing!  After honey, we danced and sang in a circle.  Mamma Anna and some of her other friends came to sing and dance with us.  I could listen to them sing all day.  Even though I do not know what they are saying, they have really good rhythm and melody with each other to make beautiful music.


Another hiking adventure was next on the schedule.  We were all thrilled about walking for hours again.  What was really neat about the walk was the stops we made.  Our guide was really happy to share with us all of the remedies the plants around their living space does for them.  A lot of the plants are used for healing of headaches, sore muscles, sore throats, and more.  I just wonder how they learned all of these combinations of plants to “cure” some of their medical needs.


We came back from our hike and sat down for lunch, another great meal from Mamma Anna.  From what I gather, eating meals in Tanzania is a relaxing time.  We usually sit around wait for food for a very long time, eat really quick because we are starving, and then sit for another very long time.  It is a nice change from the states.


Coffee Time!  We already knew how coffee grew so now all we needed to do was see the process from plant to coffee in a cup.  The coffee bean is nestled in two shells.  One machine split the first shell from the bean.  Then they took the beans over to (what looked like) an elongated bowl and then used a long mallet to crush the second layer off of the bean.  To separate the shell from the raw bean, the mixture was put in a large round bowl to be thrown up in the air.  The wind would blow the shell casings from the raw beans.  A worker would repeat this process until just the raw beans were left.  Roasting time!  The raw beans were put into a cast iron cooking bowl over a hot fire.  We had the job of constantly stirring the beans so that they would not burn.  About 15 minutes later the beans were dark brown and ready to be crushed into coffee grinds.  Our guide gave us all a bean to taste and it was out of this world delicious!  If it were covered in chocolate it would have been even better!  To grind the beans we put them back in the long bowl to crush the beans.  It was very hands on and a great way to see how people use the resources by them.  Mama Anna’s group sells and drinks their own coffee made from their own hands.


Our coffee was our last adventure of the weekend at Mamma Anna’s.  Before we left Kristen and I went to give Mamma Anna a hug goodbye.  As she was hugging us she was blessing our family, country, and ourselves.  She was very thankful that we would come and see her.  It really amazes me because a lot of people that live in Tanzania are very thankful to people who come and help them out.  In the US, most people are thinking about themselves and what comes next on their list of things to do.  People in Tanzania have a “Hakuna Matata” (no worries/ no problem) way of life.

Things I have learned so far…

Ever since I stepped foot in Tanzania, I have been learning.  Everyday has new experiences to be had and to be learned.  Some things I have learned about myself, about teaching, the culture, and life in general.  But some things have stood out to me.


Things I have learned about culture:


I am glad this trip is filled with different excursions instead of just teaching in schools or sticking to touristy things.  Being able to see how people live in the city as compared to how people live in the rural country helps me see how different areas in Africa can be.  Before coming to Africa, I thought that it was mostly dry and not very populated.  Well was I wrong.  The city is very populated.  There are people everywhere, even when it is pouring rain outside.



Things I have learned while teaching:


There seems to be some wholes in students learning and connections of concepts.  I have sat in on math classes, assisted in, and taught math classes.  What I can gather from seeing students do math in these situations is that students are missing critical concepts.   One of the concepts that I came across were students not understanding (or relating) the sum of 7+7 is the same as the produce of 7×2.  To show how repeated addition and multiplication were the same I wanted to do a quick activity by reciting their time table 5 and marching by counting by 5’s.  As I thought about it more,  I do not think that my students would understand that the marching by 5’s would give them the same result as multiplying by 5’s.   It would turn into a whole class period lesson instead of a mini lesson or review.


Time is precious but should I give up my tea time?: Our time ran out to be in the classroom, but I was still working with these two students.  The teacher came up to me and noticed that we still had some work to finish on the problem.  She said, “Well I don’t know when I would help them.  I could during my tea time or later during play time.”  I quickly responded and told her I can finish up helping them and I will meet with her at our next classroom.  I could not believe what she said.  I was shocked to say the least.  In any American class a teacher is always more then willing to take time out of their day to help students.  There are specific teaching jobs to assist students with extra help.  I am not saying that my teacher here should be the main teacher as well as the assistant teacher, but not giving a students help with they clearly need it is not helping the student progress with their learning.


Majority Rules: I have taken the advantage of the ability about the power multiple examples has on students.  If most students understand the material then the teacher will move onto the next example.  The teachers do not go around and help students. Their idea of monitoring the class while they do classwork is standing and waiting for students to get done with their classwork, mark their classwork, and then move onto the next student to check their work.  I worked with two students in standard 4 in math.  I helped them before with the formula for perimeter of a rectangle and a square.  I figured that they were also going to need more help today. Today we used the formulas for perimeter of a rectangle and square to solve for the length or width depending on what shape.  These two students were lost.  I noticed that the teacher was still moving forward with the material because ¾ of the students were chorally responding to their questions.  Even as we went through the problem together, these two students were still having a rough time deciding where to put values of numbers and what to write next.


Things I have learned about myself:


  1. I like working with small groups.  For me it is easier for me to see where students are having misunderstandings.  From there I can assess where they are and guide them to the next step.
  2. I would rather stay in one classroom then switch every class period.  That way, if I want to spend more time on a topic or subject then I can.  I think that is also beneficial for the students.
  3. The safari was better then I expected.  I would rather see animals in their own habitat then in the zoo.
  4. I like warm weather.  No more snow for me!
  5. Bartering is the best way to get a good price.  I have learned to speak up and let people know they gave me two prices.  The first one low and then a higher second price. I know I am a mazungu (white person) but I know when you are trying to hike up prices.
  6. I love traveling.  It is better then reading books about distant places.  Having hands on and real time experiences makes everything worth it!


WOW! I do not know how to explain a 4 day safari in a short blog.  I will let you know this; we saw all 7 main animals in the Serengeti including one special animal in the Ngorongoro Crater.


The 8 main animals are:


Cape Buffalo






Rhinoceros (in the Ngorongoro Crater)


*Just so you know, there are only 5 big animals of the Serengeti but I am including all big animals.


The Journey to the Serengeti:  We packed up our Land Cruisers with our weekend bags and granola bars.  Each of us was able to have our own window seat.  It was an interesting drive out of Arusha to see how people live just outside of town but there was more trees and land in between each village or people.  As we got closer to the mountains, the agriculture started to change.  There was more vegetation and larger trees.  We could tell that the vegetation was getting rich soil from being so close to mountains as well as run off water from the mountains.


At a rest stop there was a tree that reminded me of the tree of life at The Animal Kingdom at Disney World.  Our driver, Abdul told us that it was a Boabab Tree.  This tree lives up to 300 years old.  They grow on the east side and not on the west side of the Ngorongoro Crater.  We snapped a group picture before we left!


Highlights of the Safari (in no particular order):


  1. We were able to pop the roof of the safari vehicle and the hood of the front part of the vehicle so that everyone could have a great view.  We were also able to stand on our seats (shoes off of course).  It was defiantly good for short people like me!
  2. Cheetah Sighting:  Our driver got a call from another vehicle that sighted a cheetah.  As we were standing in our vehicle, our driver took off!  He was going 60 mph down a dirt road.  He knew how important it was to get to that cheetah!  Once we got to the area, all we could see was a little fur on the top of its head and a lot of gazelles.  We waited patiently for 20 minutes and then the gazelles started dashing! It was chaos.  Since there were so many safari vehicles there the gazelles split off into a “v” shape to get around the vehicles.  Then the cheetah ran around a large tree bush and right in front of our vehicle!  The cheetah just paused there for a second and then ran off to find its cub that was also there.
  3. Elephants: Majestic Creatures.  This is my kind of animal.  They eat all day and roam around to find more food.  Sometimes they are with their herd and sometimes they are chilling by themselves…eating.
  4. Hippopotamuses: I could watch them all day.  They mostly hang in their water whole, like a large swimming pool for them.  We were able to see one hippo walking around in the grass.  It was pretty far away but still cool to see it out of the water.  We went to the main water whole the day we were leaving the Serengeti.  It was preserved so that people could get out of their vehicles and see the hippos without harming them.  There was also some information about the hippos and how they live.  For instance, hippos live in their own toxic waste.  As they go the bathroom, they are claiming their territory.  I unknowingly took a picture of their tail wagging which happened to be the hippo splattering their poop.  Did I gross you out?  Hope not!
  5. Places we stayed:  I felt like a princess.  The first place we stayed was in the national park.  To preserve the land and its animals the lodge was not able to have a fence around it.  At night we had to get a guard to escort us from the main part of the lodge to our huts…think dome shape hut but build for a princess.  Yup it was wonderful!


The second place we stayed was in the Ngorongoro Crater.  It was on the upper ring of the crater.  The view was breath taking.  We could see the whole crater and even to the other side.  The stars were breath taking.  With the exception of the lodge and another lodge in the crater, there is absolutely NO light pollution in the crater.  We saw many stars.  For my family back home (or for the folk who have been up north Michigan), the stars in the North Channel are more breath taking then the ones in the crater.  We had French doors to our patio so we left the curtains open at night to see the stars while we were in bed.


  1. Giraffes: As we were coning back from our first day of “Game Driving” (driving around the Serengeti to find animals) there was a cloud of dust we drove us to.  After the dust cleared a little bit we could make outa tall figure with long legs.  It was a giraffe!  There was a giraffe right in front of our safari vehicle!  We all popped up from our seats to take a picture.  The giraffe then turned right to get off of the road.  By time we passed the giraffe with our vehicle, we were about an arms length away from it.  Every time I see and animal up close to our vehicle I am just in awe.  They are much larger when they are closer to you!
  2. Elephant: Elephants are huge!  It was Live up to 70 years old. Crossing the road.  Just eating away.  They get pretty scatter-y when people or vehicles are making lots of noises.
  3. Any baby animal was pretty stinking cute!!
  4. Lion: As we were driving along in the Serengeti, there was a long stretch of land where huge rocks and boulders were left behind from glaciers.  Amanda was spotted a lion up in the rocks.  Little did we know that there was also a lioness and three cubs!  We were amazed!  At first we only saw the back of the lions, we think it was because they were drinking water or eating.  Once they were done, the lion and one of its cubs turned around facing us.  We were lucky that there was a road leading around the huge boulder.  In the Serengeti, safari drivers are not aloud to drive off of the road.  Breaking the rule would result in a fine from the national park.  We were able to snap some great pictures and also enjoy seeing lions so close to us.  It is amazing when we took the time to think how we are observing them in their natural habitat instead of at the zoo.  The lions went out of our sight so we decided to drive around the rock to see if they would come around on the other side, but they did not.  So we went onto our next adventure of driving around to see what else we could find!

10. Great Migration: You could barely see the beginning of the migration and barley see the end of the migration of wildebeests.  It was a once and I lifetime chance to see this amazing migration of animals.  The Wildebeests and zebras migrate from Tanzania to Kenya.  The migration time is mostly spent in Tanzania (6 months) and then one month in Kenya.  As we were looking out we would sometimes see a group of wildebeests dash away from something.  Just listening to the sound of 80-100 wildebeests and zebras run is amazing.  You could also hear the sounds that zebras and wildebeests were making.  We also saw zebras playing with each other and running after one another.  Baby zebras and baby wildebeests with their families learning what to do.

11. Ngorongoro Crater: Breath taking. Was not expecting to see as many lions as we did.  One lioness lying on the road by safari vehicles.  I could touch one it was so close!

12. Rhino: Boooo Yaaaaa!!!  After we ate lunch at one of the (small, think pond like) lakes in the Ngorongoro Crater we were off for our last game drive before leaving the crater.  It was 1:30 and two vehicles were left in the crater, mine and another one of our safari vehicles.  We decided to videotape each vehicle’s Harlem Shake.  We did not have the music so we will have to do one editing later.  Each vehicle had the background of the crater, another (small) lake, and flamingos.  We watched our vehicles video later that day and saw a wildebeest running through! He wanted in on the fun.  Back to the crater.  As we were driving out, our diver, Maluta, spotted a rhino!  We drove back toward the lake to intercept the rhino.  Maluta stopped the vehicle because he said that the noises of the vehicle might scare the rhino and the rhino would change directions.  After sitting and waiting about 10 minutes the rhino was headed for the road.  Maluta started the vehicle and we were off!  We took a hard left and then saw the rhino cross the road right in front of us.  We were ecstatic!  We got some pretty great pictures.


We then had one hour to drive out of the crater and then past the gate of the park.  We were passing other vehicles and whipping around corners.  I don’t think we heard Maluta breath one time until we got the gate!  We made it with one minute to spare.  If we did not make to the gate in time then we would have had to pay for one more day at the crater.


Kariebu (welcome)

Fist Day Hay Day!

We pulled up to school and it was unlike any building I would have expected for a school.  The building to the right was the high school, the building in the middle was abandoned (maybe a church?), and the building to the left was the elementary.  The elementary building looked like a hotel converted into a school.  There are 4 floors with one hallway that connects you to each classroom on the floor.


We met with the headmaster first and then with the academic headmaster.  The academic headmaster asked us our names and grades/subjects we want to teach.  Another teacher took the primary teachers (Michelle, Danielle, Abby, Aeriel, and myself) to our classroom teachers.  It took some time because some of the teachers were not in the classroom yet!  Interesting because American teachers have to be at school 15 minutes before school starts.


 I met with my teacher, Joyce.  She was older then I expected for a teacher in Arusha.  Later I found out that she had been teaching for 14 years, but not all at the same school.  In the classroom, the students were sitting in desks.  There were a lot of children in my class (class 4-comprable to 4th grade in America).  The students had a dress code of green sweaters, white collared shirts, and green pants of skirts.  When a teacher entered the room all students stood up and chorally said “Good Morning Teacher.  How are you today?”  The teacher would respond “fine” which is like our “good.”  The students would not sit down until the teacher says so.  We checked homework and then had students copy their homework from the board.


After school:  We were done with school around 1pm.   Our guide that was scheduled to pick us up was not coming until 2pm.  So we had time to kill.  The elementary students were in and out of classrooms, eating rice, and playing on a mount of dirt.  Other students were holding our hands and gathering around us.  That was an amazing moment.  Students were memorized with us as we were memorized with them.  They had joy in their eyes and were very excited to see us.  Aereil and Abby had some books so we were able to read them aloud.  While we were reading books the children would literally be on top of us just listening.  In America I would normally ask them comprehension, character, or prediction questions, but I got the hint that these students just wanted to be by us, listen to our voice, and be by us.

First Impressions!

Before entering Tanzania I was not expecting much.  I thought we were going to be walking around the rainforest, eating grains, and living in log cabins.  I was defiantly surprised on how developed the town of Arusha is.  There are buildings, restaurants (that are an open concept), people walking around, and cars zooming by.  There are some differences though.  For instance, our first day walking around it was pouring rain.  Despite the rain, there were a lot of people on standing next to buildings just hanging out.

As much as I wanted to take in all of my surroundings, I also had to be very cautious of where I put my feet.  There are sidewalks but for the most part they are not paved.  It was more like broken cobblestone and dirk mixed together.  There were also trench-like ditches between the road and the sidewalk.  This would make sense because during their rainy season they get a lot of water.  A lot of running water on concrete will eventually erode away the concrete.  For this area it is a good invention.

As we were walking to lunch at the Blue Herron, exchange our money, and then to the Massi Market people seemed to be very friendly (rafikki!!).  People would say jambo or mambo.  We were trying to get the correct response back.  Like it would not be proper to respond poa to jambo, you would need to respond se jambo.  You would use poa to respond to mambo.  We also learned to say “no thank you” because a lot of people would try and sell merchandise to you.  They would keep persisting.  It was almost exhausting saying “no thank you” to them.

At times it almost felt like we were on parade.  We definatly stand out because we are “white people” or mozungos.  I don’t feel different because we are a large group of people.  To be frank Arushians are people too.  To me what sets us apart is the color of our skin.  I am sure we think differently because of the area or country we have grown up in.

All in all it was an overwhelming day of new experiences.

Preparing to Travel

     Preparing to travel is making getting me really excited to be in Arusha and be engulfed into its culture.  As we gather every couple of Mondays to talk about what to bring, differences in cultures, schools we will be teaching at, Kiswahili..the list goes on.  I am understanding that there is more to traveling then just buying a plane ticket and arriving at the destination.  On those Mondays we talk about certain garments we need to wear due to the culture.  As Americans in a different culture we want to be respectful as possible to other cultures.  It is also helpful knowing what the people in Arusha are going to be like.  Some mannerism that they do may seem out of the ordinary to us but the reality is that is how their culture.  I am truly glad that GVSU has set up such a great program for students who are traveling abroad.