To try and put this experience into words is impossible. No amount of description or number of pictures could portray the amazing journey I had in Africa. It seems like just a minute ago I was nervously waiting to find out if I got accepted for the program or not and then with a blink of an eye it’s the day I leave and I’m fighting to make it through writing this reflection without any more tears! The smells, the sounds, the animals, the nature, the sights, and especially the people and the children have all contributed to making this month incredible. To have been giving this opportunity is life changing and will always be.
Anyone on this trip could back me up when I say my most favorite part was definitely the children… especially because they all had to witness my breakdown on Thursday when talking about having to say goodbye! My days at school were my favorite out of every amazing thing we did while here. To work side by side with the children and the teachers was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At school I was challenged and thrown into situations that made me have to think quickly on my feet and to be flexible. The first week was a little difficult to adjust to, but by the second week I already felt as though I belonged and that I was really making a difference with the children. That is probably what gets me the most… the impact I had on the children and how much they appreciated my being there and being their teacher. They showed me so much love and appreciation. However, what they didn’t realize is their impact on me. They were my very first class, my very first students. They showed me what being a teacher is all about and truly made me realize this is really what I want to be. I hope to feel half as significant to my future American students as I do to my students in Africa.
This experience will be talked about for years and year and for even longer than that. When you stop and think about how crazy it is that when something truly impacts your life as much as this experience has mine, it is then that you can sincerely appreciate it for all its worth. This opportunity and all of the memories I have made from it was nothing shy of incredible. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it… expect that fact that we have to leave after one short month. That being said it only took one month to impact me as much as it did and affect me life the way it has and I will forever be grateful for that.
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)
- 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.
- Hakuna Matata and pole pole (slowly slowly)- the exact two mottos of how people in Tanzania live their life.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
As I reflect back on this month, I can’t put my finger on one thing that I will take away because there was so many wonderful experiences. I just would like to start by saying that all of us students bonded so well together and still at the end of this month, we are all great friends. Everyone gets along and we are all so close. These friendships that I made on this trip are definitely forever friends. My professor, Lisa, is such a great leader and I couldn’t image this trip without her. She helped to inspire me to do my best everyday and also to push me to be the best teacher I can be. It saddens me to leave this beautiful place called Tanzania, but all of the memories are forever.
Yesterday was the last day at school and it was the saddest part of the trip. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my students, I just wanted to say see you later. We were able to play with the students all morning and then around 1pm, the teachers had us come into a classroom where there was a table and chairs set up for all of us elementary teachers to sit in. All of the teachers at Lutheran Primary were sitting in this classroom smiling at us. They started with a prayer and then the headmaster gave a speech. He talked about how we have helped the teachers and how they have helped us. He thanked us for being so kind and loving to the children and he didn’t want us to leave. They then blessed us with a song from the bible. It was so beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. They asked us to sing them a Christian song so the only song we could think of at the top of our heads was “Jesus Loves Me”. We sang that to them and they blessed us again with another prayer. We were told to stand up, close our eyes and wait until we received a gift to open our eyes. We all received different colored wraps that go around our waist. It is such a beautiful gift that they gave us! They then presented us with soda, a meat pocket, and a muffin. We all talked and for a while and then said our goodbyes. I am really going to remember this moment because of the fact that all of the teachers were there thanking us and blessing us. I was so sad to leave them but Rehma, my math teacher, told me that she will come to America one day. After saying goodbye to the teachers, we said goodbye to the students. I cried and cried leaving those students but I know that I made a good impression on them and they will always remember that. I hugged them and we all sang the Lutheran Tetra School Song and waved goodbye.
I am deeply going to miss my math teacher at Lutheran named Rehma. I was able to get really close to her and become great friends. I told her about my life and she told me about hers, I learned about her culture and she learned about mine, and sharing ideas in teaching will always stay with me and I will never forget that. Rehma is so full of life and believes that God has the right path for her and that path is to become a business woman. She went back to school to get her certificate to be in business. She told me that when she makes enough money, she is going to come to America to see me. I just can’t wait for that moment to happen!! 🙂 My teacher taught me to be more confident in my teaching, she taught me to always believe that God has a plan for you, and to always be happy about life. My nickname at school was Nashiva, which means happy in Maasai. They brought out the best in me and I will never change who I am.
I am also going to miss the town people and how their motto is “hamna shida” which means no worries or no problem. Everyone is so happy with what they have even if they don’t have much. I can see how happy people are here and they just aren’t consumed in money. They do need money and sell things for money, but it isn’t like America because there is the whole “no worries” motto. I would love to live my life the way these people do. I want to believe that whatever happens is going to be okay because God had that plan for us and not to worry. This town was great for me to see in terms of culture and the way of life. It is sad and different when you think about how some of these people live, but they are so happy!
I am going to take back all of my experiences and use them in America to teach my students the best way I can and to live my life in happiness all the time. I am so sad to leave Africa but I know I will be back here. I grew so close to these students and my teachers that I just can’t live my life never seeing them again. Africa is a magical place and it will have a huge place in my heart. As I leave Africa today, I am going to miss the smells, the Dala Dalas, the town people, the markets, the schools, the children, the orphanage, the food, and the great weekend excursions. I will always remember when I first was thinking about this trip and how I almost didn’t come. I can’t believe that I am here and I am so proud of myself for doing this. I believe that I am going back to America with a different attitude and a different outlook on life. I love this place and as they say in Swahili, tutaonana, Africa….see you later, Africa! 🙂
My first lasting impression would have to be the educational system here. Teaching in these schools has really shown me what it looks like for an entire classroom to be eager for every new thing you have to teach them and they really truly hang upon your every word. I feel that the flexibility within their schools, such as starting class whenever the teacher shows up and only finishing when the teacher decides they are done, is something that I will never forget. I think this really translates well into our classroom situations too. As a teacher it is important to be flexible because not everything is going to go as planned. We need to be able to shorten lessons and lengthen them when necessary and sometimes fill empty time that we weren’t expecting to have. Also within the schools, the ability to promote learning in such an environment where there are no teaching tools besides the teacher and the blackboard is very humbling. Before this trip I had it in my mind that in every lesson I needed to be incorporating some sort of tool or manipulative but these schools have really taught me how to create more learning with less resources. I feel that this is HUGE within the classroom because there is always the chance that the resources you want to use will somehow become unavailable.
My second lasting impression is the “hakuna matata” lifestyle that the people here live. Everyone is so carefree and, like I said before, living on their own time schedule. The lifestyle here is so calm and truly taking each moment as it comes which is completely the opposite of what I feel like living in America is like. At home everyone is going a million miles and hour and tries to do so much at all times. I know I get stressed out more than I should because I am always overloading myself with things to do. Living here for a month has really taught me to slow down. “Pole pole” as the people here would tell you, meaning “slowly, slowly”. At home, the focus is on getting as much done as you can in the shortest period of time possible but this culture has really taught me that it is okay to do things slowly and not to rush through every moment of my life. I feel that trying to incorporate some of the “hakuna matata” and “pole pole” lifestyle into my daily life in Michigan will really help me to find a greater joy in the things I am doing.
I feel that my biggest lasting impressions would be the change I have seen in myself within the past month. Before this experience I was very shy and typically kept to myself in most situations. I never liked to try new things and stuck to doing things that were within my comfort zone. If you asked me a year or two ago if I would be willing to try and come on this trip I would have decided not to come solely because I wasn’t confident in myself and this would have been something that took me way out of my comfort zone. Making new friends and willingly putting myself in situations with people I don’t know has always been something I have shied away from. This experience has really helped me become vulnerable and open up to new people while trying a LOT of new things! The confidence I have gained in myself from teaching these students is unbelievable and just the love that they have shown me every day has really helped me accept myself for who I am. I am no longer afraid to try new things with people I don’t know and that feeling is extremely empowering and something I will never forget!
How do I even begin. This trip has been such an incredible adventure. From going on Serengeti safari or traipsing through Arusha National park to teaching precious children how to subtract with double borrowing, this trip has been such an amazing blessing and experience.
The biggest impression that will last forever are all of the faces and the culture of the Tanzanian people. Simply walking on the street, you are able to notice the pole pole lifestyle and the hakuna matata life philosophy. There is so much respect between everybody which amazes me since there are 120 tribes that all accept each others differences. There is so much unity between the people. No matter what tribe you come from, young and old know the Tanzania Anthem. Going on our weekend adventures really showed me how proud the Tanzanians are about their land and how proud they are to be called Tanzanians. However, walking through the markets you notice that the Tanzanians have little personal pride. The hakuna matata lifestyle allows relationships to grow and invest since they all work together. For example, a vendor in the market could watch his neighbors shop and continue to help his neighbor shop instead of ushering people into his or her own shop. This creates a family unity that is also shown inside of the classroom.
During our time at Assumptions there wasn’t any bullying going on that I saw! Being in Standard II, the children really work well together, look out for one another and share! This sense of unity and acceptance by all in the classroom is a huge necessity and one thing that I now can visually picture.
Arusha, Tanzania will always hold a special place in my heart. It has helped me grow professionally and personally as I was able to really dive into the culture and lifestyle of a Tanzanian. Africa may be third world but in my book, but I believe that in some aspects they are better off then we are.
When I think about my time here in Tanzania, I cannot think of one thing that has made this trip what it is. There are so many things that I have learned and I have grown in so many different ways. Before this trip I was really nervous about having my own class to teach and having to make sure that I was teaching my students in the best way possible. There were a few times when I did not want to go on the trip just because of the fear of failing the students. But once I walked into my standard one class on the first day, I knew that was where I belonged.
The students and the teachers here are very similar to those back in the states but there is one slight difference I have noticed, the sense of community. Here in Africa everyone is so nice and you can feel the connection between the people. In America many people are on their own and do not even turn their cheek if someone walks by. I find it very interesting that the African community is so large and so welcoming while Americans do not have that sense. I am going to try to be more welcoming of others when I return just because I love the friendliness and I have learned a lot from those I have met on the streets.
While walking up Kilimanjaro I was reflecting on our trip and I came up with a metaphor. Our time in Africa is just like our climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. As we climb, the path can get rough and be very difficult at times. So much so you almost want to give up all together, but other times it can be very simple and easy to walk. Every day on this trip was different, some days were very easy and fly by, while others drag on and you feel like throwing in the towel. But once you reach the end you just feel amazing. You can look back on all that you have accomplished and it feels great. I hope this feeling of accomplishment stays with me for a long time after this trip and I will never forget everything that I have done here and all of the friendships I have made.
I really, really, really enjoyed this trip. I enjoyed it so much. I do not want to leave. I wish I could stay here. I think my final impression that will stick with me is when I said goodbye to my students. Right before I left it went to all happy and playing tug of war to many, many tears. It was so sad. I had a group of girls hugging me all crying. There was a boy that was making fun of them, which I did not like. I did not want to cry. It took everything in my power not to. I think that then it really hit me how much a big deal it is for us to be there. We mean so much to them.
This past week I have adopted a little pack of standard one students or first grade students. One of my standard five or fifth grade boys has two little sisters that I met, and the one in standard one looks just like him. They are so cute. So, they were tagging along with me for my final days and fighting over holding my hand. I have many lasting impressions. Most of my memories are from the schools because I have spent so much time there.
About four teachers had asked if I would like to go to dinner with them and the rest of the American teachers at Prime Primary School. We were supposed to get together, but we ran out of time. I was also supposed to give one of the teachers my contact information, but he never came to see me, so I was unable to. The teachers are also so happy that we are teaching with them. Everyday we come back from a trip, the teachers would say that they missed me. They are just so sweet.
The last day of school with the kids was definitely a great one. We led assembly and did silly dance moves with the kids. My class helped me put up signs that said Miss Meagan will miss you all. I then listed all of their names and wrote that they were all awesome. I handed them letters and American coins. I gave them envelops if they wanted to send something to me along with my home and school address. I gave the class as a whole three books. We danced to the cupid shuffle. We moved all the desks to make a dance floor and even took turns at one point. We also played this circle game where one person is in the middle and says their name and something they have never done, and if they have done it, the move to another spot. There are spots marked with shoes, and there are one less amount of shoes than their are players. I let some students use my camera to take photos and videos. Towards the end of class time, my camera got dropped and is sort of broken. I think it can be fixed and I did not want to students to worry about it. I knew that it was an accident. I have accident protection on the camera and it is new.
While we were playing the game, one student thought it was too loud and I guess another student was not listening to him when he said to quiet down, so without my permission he went to tell a teacher. The teacher said to be quiet. When I confronted him why he left without permission and why he did not come to me first, he started walking away and kept talking to him. Apparently he felt sick, and he started crying or tearing up. I felt so bad, and I told him that I was not mad and that I was just asking a question and next time to come to me first and ask before he goes somewhere. I then made him give me a hug and told him not to be sad. We had tea time or break next. After break we had a tug of war contest. After that we said our goodbyes. I made all the students I could find give me a hug. One student that I was very close to never said goodbye to me, and I am pretty sure her bus left early, and it was too hard for her to say goodbye because she would be so sad. She almost cried on Monday. Three of my students were absent on my last day, so I am happy that I was able to get a whole class photo the day before. I have really enjoyed my trip, and I would LOVE to do it again. I will miss it here and the people and students here dearly.