In the short time that I have spent here in Tanzania I have learned so much and my heart has been so happy. I think it has finally started to sink that I am really here and that this all is really happening. The piece that has really made everything click for me has been my time spent at the Arusha Primary School. The school is so very different from the schools I have worked with in the US but I have also been able to find a few similarities. Before beginning this experience I didn’t really have any idea about what it would be like; the only thing I knew is that it would be an amazing, once in lifetime experience. This single idea has been more than surpassed in just a few short days. When we arrived it was night time so I could not get a sense of what anything looked like or what my surroundings were. I was able to open the window on the dali dali and I could smell the flowers thanks to the rain. When we woke up the first morning and opened the door, we stepped out into a beautiful lush environment that I couldn’t believe was real. Every where you turned there were giant green leaves and beautiful red flowers. Every meal that we eat is outside under a giant roofed in area. It’s so amazing that we are able to constantly be outside in this environment, even if it is raining! When we went into town for the first time I was shocked by the millions of cars and motorcycles that were on the roads. I was unaware of how busy the city of Arusha was. There was so much to see, smell and listen to that my sense were on complete overload. To top it off rather than being able to focus on my surroundings I had to keep my eyes on the path in front of me because there are so many GIANT pot holes and cars that just come flying past you/toward you! There were so many people just walking the street and there were so many different buildings and things to look at. As we got to the clock tower many Tanzanian men joined us in our walk to the market. These men shared so much information with us and helped us to practice our kiswahili with a local. It was a lot of fun walking through the town with someone that knew where they were going and that could look out for me. I am pretty sure Peace pulled me out from in front of quite a few vehicles. As time went on these men tried to sell us some things. After a long day of saying no, I gave in and made my first purchase. One of the men, Franky, gave me a bracelet made of the colors from the Tanzanian flag. He explained to me the reason for all of them and continued to share with me that we are all people and we all have that in common. He wanted to welcome me to Tanzania and tell me that they love to have Americans and people from all over come and visit because we should all be together. It was awesome to see how welcoming all of the people were and how often they told us! I think I heard “karibu” a million times in just one afternoon. When we went to the Maasai market we walked around and looked at the different shops. It was so hard not buying things from the people. They looked so desperate to sell things and kept asking for our support. I know that is apart of their sales operation but I couldn’t help but feel they truly needed the support.
I have never been to an orphanage so I was extremely unsure of what to expect. I honestly thought there would be 50+ children there. However, this wasn’t the case. Part of me was disappointed that there were not more children to play with but the other part of me was happy to know that there were not that large of a number of children living with out families and loving homes. I am confident that they are loved at the orphanage but it is not the same kind of love. I had so much fun spending time with these children that were so happy. They were no different than any other child and it was incredible to see them laugh and play just like any other child. I spent most of my time with one young girl. She was very shy in the beginning as I helped her with her math homework but once the beach balls and stickers came out, she was all over the place! I loved getting to run around and throw beach balls at everyone and just spend so much time laughing. There was nothing else going on in the room except pure laughter. Everyone had a smile on their face. I cannot wait to go back again next week.
On the first day of school one of the teachers took us around and introduced us to many of the classes, including the two class 3’s that we would be teaching at Arusha Primary. When we walked into the first classroom all the students stood up and sang to us. It need with “good morning” and the teacher replied “good morning, how are you”, all the students replied in unions and stood until the teacher told them they could sit. The students giggled and looked at us until we caught their eye and they would quickly turn around snickering. They were so beautiful! I couldn’t believe how many there were in each classroom. We have about 45-50 in each of our classes. This class size was unbelievable to me but I don’t feel that I am handling a big class than I do back home because the students are generally extremely well behaved. I wasn’t too shocked by the lack of resources the school had readily available but I did find it disheartening to see the condition of the school. Through out the day the students stay in one classroom while the teachers switch rooms. There are so many times through out the day that the children are not being supervised. During breaks like tea time and lunch the students do not have anyone monitoring them or making sure they are staying on the school grounds, yet the children are behaved and never leave! This would never happen in America. To expand a little further on the tea time, the students have a 30 minute time everyday that is set aside for tea time. All the children go to the cafeteria and have tea! Back home I feel like we struggle to fit all of our subject areas into one day and we only have a 20 minute recess. On top of tea time, the students have a break for lunch and playing from 12:30p.m. to 2:00p.m. It’s mind-blowing that they are able to dedicate the time to things other than content. A similarity I notice between the two is that these schools are just as focused and centered around standards as the US is. They follow a strict schedule and do not veer away from it to teach things that they just have a passion about. Back home I just got used to writing with Smart Boards and now I’m trying to learn how to use a chalk board with out breaking my chalk every time or making a screeching sound. Just a little fun information, when I went to the bathroom here I had to pop-a-squat over a hole in the ground and use the toilet paper that I had brought from home. I think this really showed me how these students and teachers have to function in their everyday lives and the struggles that they have compared to us. If a person that had not anticipated some of these situations was dropped here in Tanzania, I’m not sure if they would survive. On the other hand I am not sure how the Tanzanian people would react to be in the US.
There is so much to say about this extraordinary place and I am so glad that I will have this to look back on! Here’s to more journaling!