(FYI, this is round two of this blog post, I hope it works out this time.)
We made it! It is the end of day one here at Arusha. It was crazy! I’m gonna tackle this post one stage at a time.
I have been on a plane before, but never for 16+ hours! We had a half hour flight from Grand Rapids to Detroit, then 7 hours to Amsterdam, and 9 hours to Kilimanjaro International Airport. What a trip! I watched three movies, napped for 4 hours, talked to everyone, and ate a bunch of nasty food. Exhausting, but a good time overall. Amsterdam was the most exciting part of the trip. Due a great deal of my family coming from the Netherlands and it being Tulip Time in Holland, I was quite pumped to be in the land of the Dutch. Along with eating a delicious breakfast sandwich, we also saw a mouse in the kids play place! Aggh! It was quite hilarious. After finally reaching Tanzania, we had about an hour drive to The Outpost.
The Outpost is our home base! The lodge is way to nice for a bunch of college kids I tell ya what! Everything is very open-air oriented. There are very few walls in the office and eating area. It is beautiful! There are plants all over and there is very comfortable outdoor furniture. The staff here is unbelievable! Someone is always there to help you whenever you need it. I am trying to learn all of their names, but because my mind is trying to take in so much information it hasn’t been easy. The best part of The Outpost is the secure feeling here. There are walls and security of course but the location of the lodge is away from the craziness of the city. I love it. Very quite and I feel like home. That was for you mom!
So this will be a much shorter story than the first round of the blog, but here goes nothing. Arusha is the town we are staying in here in Tanzania. Scratch that, Arusha is a city. When we left Michigan I expected Arusha to be somewhat small with a few people walking around. I was very wrong! Arusha is like a bee’s hive! The sidewalks are always full! The roads are always full! The city is packed full of people! I was blown away. Our group of white outsiders walked around the city and visited the money exchanged place as well as a conga shop and massi market. I was worn out when we got back to home base. The exchange was very interesting! An american dollar is worth around 1600 schillings. I gave the women at the register 80 dollars and got tens of thousands of shillings. Crazy and cool!
I have been lucky enough to visit the Caribbean a few times and thought I knew what to expect when walking through the streets of Arusha. Wrong again! The aggressive salesmen were out and ready for us when we stepped into the city. Now if you don’t know what I mean about aggressive salesmen then listen up. We walked through the town in a mob. People were all over us trying to sell anything under the sun. The craziest part was that they walked with us for the whole day. Persistent would be an understatement. The craziness was especially insane because it is the slow season for tourism and these guys need money. I loved talking to them though. If you were excited to talk to them they would be excited to talk to you. Simply by talking to salesmen, I learned Kiswahili and much about the culture of the people of Arusha.
Why am I in Africa right now? I was wondering about this question yesterday after the first day of school. After yesterday l was not a happy camper. Now don’t stop reading this post because you are worried about me or you don’t want to read a sad sob story. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! Bare with me!
I have been placed in the Arusha Primary School with four other Grand Valley girls, and one Mizzou girl. We walked to school at 7:00 am and arrived around 7:30. The physical layout of the school is based on a European design. In fact, Arusha School was a European school in the early 30’s. It is absolutely beautiful. There is a library, multiple buildings, dormitories, and a great deal of arches. I love arches! Now, before you think that this school is just a work of art, know that it is falling apart. The walls are crumbling and the plaster is chipped. The walls are many different colors at this point, but mostly white. It seems like an old ruin in some areas, but the school has done their best to make it work. There are at least 800 students in this 1-7 school, which gives you a hint about class size. On average, there are 50 students in every class, which is a higher student to teacher ratio than all of the other schools where GV students are working in Arusha. Unfortunately, there are schools in the city with up to 200 students in every class. Appreciate your 25 – 30 students in America teacher friends.
The first thing we did upon arrival was meet with the headmistress of the school. She seemed like she was very organized and happy to see us. This gave me hope that the school would be run in the same organized manner. Unfortunately, it was not. Teachers can not always find their schedules for when they teach what classes, students run around everywhere in the grounds, and often times there are classrooms full of students with no teacher present for long periods of time. What?!? How would that fly if you were teaching in the U.S. You would find yourself out of a job thats how it would fly! Getting back on track here, the ladies and I then followed the Dean to the teachers lounge and we sat there for at least 3 hours… We created some good friendships with some of the teachers in the school, but we ended up being a little stir crazy. Finally, the dean introduced us to our teachers. Yes! Let’s start teaching!
I was not able to start teaching for the entire day. Many of the other students came back to The Outpost and told stories about being thrown into a classroom and just going with the flow. Hakuna Matata. This is what I wanted! I just wanted to teach! Instead, the rest of the day I sat in the teachers lounge with my teacher who didn’t seem very interested in me or her classes. On top of that, she hardly had any classes to teach in Science or anything for that matter. Three out of the five days a week, my teacher teaches one period of science. Letting this all sink in, I was very worried after the day was over about what this month would be like. I ended up deciding that I would not sit around all day and talk to teachers. My plan was to either help my fellow Grand Valley students teach, or go into a class with no teacher and 50 kids and simply start teaching.
What an amazing day!! I did it! I started the day at Arusha with no periods of science planned for the fifth grade. Fifth grade science is what I was assigned by the way. Anyways, I first observed a Tanzanian teacher teach a lesson on the history of Zanzibar. This was very interesting and I am sure I will share the similarities and differences of teaching styles soon, but I am way too tired! I’m trying to get this blog finished! Continuing on with my exciting story, I then just walked into a classroom with no teacher and a bunch of students and started teaching. I choose science of course, but that’s a given. Anyways, I taught for a good 20 minutes until a teachers showed up to teach English. Long story short, I ended up teaching her English class as well, but she stayed in the classroom and observed my teaching. It was very exciting and inspirational. I left that school on top of the world! The students loved me, and many of the teachers like us as well. The only teacher that does not like us at all is the teacher I was assigned to. I’m not gonna lie. I hope I can teach my science lesson tomorrow without her around. Teaching here is something very different from what I am used to, but it is a fantastic experience.