Lasting Impressions

As I begun my journey to Africa it was my dream come true to finally be here but I never knew it could weigh on my heart so heavy to make me love it more than I did before. As I became more familiar with the culture, people, and traditions, I have been able to see the similarities and differences between the people and culture from Tanzanian people and American people. No matter where you are in the world you will have people who are the same as you and some who are different. The children here are similar to children in America, they play in similar ways but have adapted to less play equipment and play with what they have. The older people are different as they aren’t in such a hurry to get to where they are going and interested in others lives.

The culture here has shown me how to love my neighbor as myself. As you are sitting on a DalaDala you get to know people and talk to them instead of just keeping to yourself or talking on your cell phone. People are so consumed in their own life and what is happening next in America that they miss what is happening in the now. When you stop to take a moment and look around, you see the beauty in the culture, the world, the people, and are able to take interest in peoples stories they have to talk about. A simple change of “hello” on the street to a stranger is so common here that a stranger no longer becomes a stranger and it becomes a beginning of a conversation with a friend.

The people on this trip will forever have an impact on me as they all have their own perceptions and have an individual uniqueness that we all worked together so well that we started as individual strangers and grew to a family of unique qualities that bond us together. The best way to describe the bond of the people on the trip is to talk about beads on a necklace made at the market. They are uniquely woven, delicately strung, and forever bonded together. With each other we compliment all of our strengths and make up for the weaknesses that we don’t let over come our sight of seeing the final picture.

While working with the students, I have been able to gain strength in my ability to maintain a classroom and teach for the first time. The ability to know that I can do something that I love and succeed in it, gave me a feeling of grace. The students will forever have a piece of my heart as they captured my heart moment-by-moment everyday. The way their smiles lit up a room when I walked into the classroom, a simple high-five, a positive reinforcement and their reactions, the way they played, and the new material I was able to teach to them in knew ways to retain information.

This experience has been one of the most astonishing experience I could ever dream of. I could not ask for more, except to stay here but Lisa and my parent’s wont let me. As for teaching in the schools, visiting Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, playing with the kids, hanging out at the outpost, getting to know the culture, visiting Mama Anna’s house, the Masaai market, the Shanga Shop, and learning more every day. This experience will forever have an imprint on my heart as I bring a piece of Tanzania back to America with me.


Lasting Impressions

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!” 

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. 


Lasting Impressions

                I feel like I’m going to write this and just cry.  I just thought you’d like to know.

As for lasting impressions, I have no idea what is going to last, but I do know that I will forever hold this place and the people in my heart. The things I have done, the people I’ve met, and the places I went have impacted me so strongly, that I just can’t bring myself to even remotely want to go home. I have family, a boyfriend, and friends there; and yet I just can’t seem to want to return to them. This is just too much fun and I love everything about it here.

                I know the first week I was here was pretty rough. I didn’t connect with anyone, the teachers at the schools weren’t communicating well enough to give me anything to teach, and I had no idea what I was doing here. After that first weekend trip to the Serengeti, I bonded pretty strongly with Team Get Some. We were all a fantastic group of people stuck in a safari jeep together for three days and we someone didn’t kill each other. We instead got along splendidly and even continued to remain close after that trip.

                The second week here was a still a little rough, because my classroom schedule was still rather iffy and I had no idea why I was showing up to school to co teach one lesson every day. It was kind of a bore. Only one teacher really paid attention to Brandi and I (we were at the same school together) and all the others sort of passed over us as random, nonsensical teachers. Thankfully, I finally talked to the headmaster and got him to give Brandi and I English and Physics classes so we could teach separately, so my third week became awesome.

                It was the second weekend that I actually made my best friends on this trip. It was then that I found out what people were really my friends and who was willing to make sure I was okay. I really hope that I will not lose touch with said friends, because they are possibly the greatest people I have ever met. No joke. It’s a sappy “last impression”, but it’s what is going to stick with me. I need friends and this trip has provided me with the best ones yet.

                As for actually being in Tanzania and experiencing the amazingness called Tanzanian culture, it’s beautiful. The people here are super friendly (even if sometimes they only want you to buy something) and everyone cares for everyone. There’s no judgment here that I’ve run into. Jambo. Mambo. Habari. Hakuna matata. Hamna shida. Pole. They seriously want to make sure that everyone is welcomed here and I can’t say I really want to return to the harata pace back in America. The transition here was tough, but the transition coming back home I feel is going to be worse.

                Even though I had a rough start to my school week here, I fell head over heels in love with my students; and their desire to learn anything I threw at them was so amazing. They kept asking me what the difference was between American and Tanzanian education and all I kept thinking was that they actually appreciated what I had to tell them and they paid attention (at least most of the time). Those students wiggled their way into my heart and I will cherish them forever.

                Lastly, I want to say that I knew I wanted to be a teacher before coming here, but teaching these kids has solidified my desire to do this for the rest of my life; and the people here have shown me just how much people can truly love one another.

                I’m going to miss this. All of this. Looking out at everyone just relaxing, knowing this is our last night here, I know that I’m going to seriously hate getting on that plane tomorrow; but alas, I do what I must. I hope I can bring back what I have learned to the States and show my students just how much education can be enjoyable.

                To Tanzania *cheers*

– Amanda Hoezee

Lasting Impressions

            I hate to be as presumptuous as to think that I know what impressions from this trip will last, because deep down, I know that I haven’t the foggiest idea of which things will prove to be useful and/or reinforced back in the States. I can, however, give you some idea of the things that I find most important or most touching for the time that I’m sitting at Café Mambo, sipping a Ndovu beer, and wishing that I weren’t boarding a plane tomorrow morning to leave this country for what I hope proves not to be the last time.

            Truth be told, I’ve made too good of friends in this city, in this country, to just pick up and leave like that. Part of me wants to be childish and say it isn’t fair that we all have to go, because I just don’t want to! I’m not ready to say goodbye to Tanzania yet. More to the point, the circumstances here were special, and they have allowed me to make very close friends with some people who I don’t think I otherwise could have grown close to. Every person on this trip, at some point, has wriggled their way into my heart, and I don’t really want for all of us to leave just yet. I have made quite possibly two of the best friends I’ll have (at least two of the best people I’ve had the privilege to meet) and I hope they think as much of me as I do of them. But even if they don’t, that’s okay, because I have loved all of the (many, many) moments I’ve got to spend with them over the course of this month. I suppose one of the things that I’ll take away from this trip is that – the friends I’ve made. They’re wonderful, and I love them.

            In point of fact, I was grossly under-prepared for this trip, and for all of the stressors it would press in upon me. For the past four years – or so – I walked around the campus at Grand Valley calling myself a Mathematics and Physics teacher, and not knowing what the second half of that meant. I know how to teach math, but when it came to physics, I definitely had strong points and weak points. The weak points, particularly, were glaringly weak. Once I arrived in Tanzania, however, and walked into Engarenarok Lutheran Tetra Secondary School, I was the expert and I was expected to be the expert in physics as well as mathematics. So when I decided to take on the Physics Form III students (equivalent to junior level physics) and found out I would be teaching Optics (a subject I haven’t studied in six years, and one in which I have never excelled), I simply had to. I brushed up and taught it to the best of my ability. Mirrors, lenses, reflection, refraction, microscopes, telescopes, projectors, and the human eye – I taught them all after reading up on them and researching them in a panicked hurry in order not to look a fool and to prepare my students for their exams and life. If I’m being honest, it was daunting, even terrifying, to sit and lesson plan optics lessons when I knew that I was just as fresh to the material as they would be, but it pushed me to become a more well-rounded and better teacher, and it helped me to rediscover some of the physics topics I had previously discarded, giving me an opportunity to fall in love with my subjects all over again.

            The last thing I am making a point of writing down is just how under-resourced these schools are and, as a result, how grateful the students and staff are for us. It’s like when we walked into the building, they got really excited. They thought (and think) the world of us, and it’s very humbling. I can’t help thinking, “I’m nothing special. I’m just a guy who loves kids and wants to teach them for a career.” And apparently that’s a huge deal. The students, too, can’t get enough of these mzungu teachers standing in front of them and teaching them about math and – in my case – physics. And the resources I have to work with are as follows: an outdated, type-o-riddled book, a blackboard, a few pieces of broken chalk, and my imagination. That’s it. It’s a tall order, but one that I was up for. I suppose that the students and teachers here think that’s impressive, and I guess objectively it is, but for me, it was as simple as that: I had to teach x and y, and I could use a and b, and we had to make it happen. Nothing special. But they loved us for it. They loved us so much, and it was such a humbling experience. I will miss the challenge and reward of teaching in such communities. That is perhaps one of the most important things to take away from this trip.

Kilimanjaro Hike

Oh my word, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Where do I even begin? It was amazing!

First off, music and car rides = fantastic; so that was a nice start to the day for me. Second, I was just super pumped that I could climb a portion of the mountain.

When we first arrived, I was just waiting for someone to tell us that we could take a picture and then leave. I would have been very sad and disappointed by this discovery, so I was glad (and still AM glad) that we actually got to climb it.

The walk started off very brisk and I was surprised by the harata harata approach to the climb, when I had just been informed the day before that climbing a mountain too quickly is a bad idea (altitude sickness). I had a great walk the previous weekend, so I of course over estimated my ability to climb the mountain with semi ease and paid the price for it later.

The first hour wasn’t too bad. I had expected sunshine the entirety of the climb, but we were surrounded by gorgeous trees instead that kept us shaded; so much so, that it felt like I was in a jungle, rather than on a mountain. The only thing that kept reminding me otherwise was the fact that I had to climb mounds of rocks over and over again.

Thankfully, I have a decent amount of leg strength, so climbing up for an hour wasn’t torture; it was just a little tiring.

It wasn’t until hour two that I actually started feeling fatigued and a tid bit whiney. My whole body had felt cold the entire hike up thus far and my legs were just screaming at me to stop using them.

Thankfully, Andrew was a trooper and didn’t abandon me, so I at least had some motivation to trek onward. If I had been left alone to my own thoughts and devices, I definitely would have slowed down and just moseyed up at a sloth – like pace, making sure to curse at every rock and stone the rest of the way.

Thank goodness I wasn’t left alone.

I’m not quite sure how to describe the rest of the hike besides the fact that it was beautiful and tiring all at the same time. I saw a few monkeys, awed at the many, mossy trees, and climbed a freaking awesome mountain.

The last half hour was quite the cruel little (big, actually) thing. Uphill anything just made me want to give up, especially with Andrew bounding up those things like they were nothing. I was on the brink of giving up and laying down to accept my fate when I heard cheering in the distance. That gave me just enough energy to finish climbing that last 3 minutes worth and take a much needed break.

Unfortunately, I was still freezing cold and Brandi had all the lunches and jackets in her backpack, so I just sat there and shivered.

Once food was eaten and Andrews too-big jacket was wrapped tightly around me, we proceeded to hike another 10 minutes to see a crater in the mountain. It was beautiful, but honestly, it didn’t even compare to the Ngorongoro crater so Brandi, Andrew, and I just sat and enjoyed the little bit of sunshine we could get.

After the rest of the group circled the whole crater, we climbed down to the rest of the waiting folk and marched down the mountain in under 2 hours! Woo! Down was a lot nicer than up, in my opinion.

I started toward the back of the group, but quickly got impatient with the pace and worked my way to the front and found myself having a lovely conversation with Andrew and Jane.

It was an amazing climb and decent and even though I can’t say I loved every minute of it, it was still worth it and is definitely something everyone should experience at some point in their lives.

– Amanda Hoezee

Kilimanjaro Round Two

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)!