Things I Have Learned So Far

Here is a quick list of some things I have learned.  This is in no way close to everything nor should you be worried for me!

  1. I’ve learned that some swahili words are very close in spelling so you have to be careful what you say. For example, Jambo (which means hello) is very close to Jamba (which is fart).
  2. I’ve learned that even though you should be nice, if you respond to a “Jambo” on the street, you will gain a “rafiki” (friend) who will walk with you in hopes you will buy something and won’t go away.
  3. I’ve learned how lucky I am to be alive given the driving here is quite dangerous compared to America.
  4. I’ve also learned that if you have literally an inch between cars, that is more than enough to drive and not worry about hitting a car.
  5. I’ve learned that I am blessed and fortunate to own a bra.
  6. I’ve learned that deodorant is a blessing.
  7. I’ve learned that teachers who actually go to class is rare in Tanzania.
  8. I’ve learned that being a “mzungu” (white person – literally “a white person who walks in circles”) is expensive. They charge us a lot more than anyone else.
  9. I’ve learned that the bananas here are even more delicious than America.
  10. I’ve learned that outfits don’t always have to match.
  11. I’ve learned I took dry toilet paper for granted given its super humid here.
  12. I’ve learned pencils are not good to write with because the paper is damp from the humidity.
  13. I’ve learned that students here are the same in America – crazy teenagers who don’t like homework and try to cheat on quizzes.
  14. I’ve learned that Americans are not the nicest people. The most simple “Jambo” can make any Tanzanian smile.
  15. I’ve learned how out of shape I am thanks to Kilimanjaro.
  16. I’ve learned that goat is delicious.
  17. I’ve learned how lucky we are to only get a little rain in America because it rains here a LOT.
  18. I’ve learned how to teach with the most minimal resources.
  19. I’ve learned how fortunate I am to have had teachers with supplies and resources.
  20. I’ve learned I love Tanzania.

There are so many things that I could talk about. I could go on and on about things that are similar and things that are different between Tanzania and America. I’m gonna take this opportunity to talk about some things that are unexpected I think. I feel that when I go back to America, my friends and family will ask how the trip was and I will never be able to explain how many emotions I went through in a matter of minutes. I will never be able to answer the question “How was your trip?” with a quick simple answer. I think most people will ask how teaching was, ask how the safari was, ask how kilimanjaro was and maybe the plane ride. But this trip is so much more than a safari and kilimanjaro and I would want to talk about my students instead of actually teaching. It will be the small things that I will remember.

Town. I don’t even know how to describe town. There are all these Tanzanians walking around and it is all the time. It is not like “after they get out of work” but all the time. There are so many people on the street who try to sell anything they can. There have been countless times where guys have started talking to us and then all of a sudden they whip out some paintings or bracelets and try to sell them for a ridiculous price. Anyone. I have seen guys walking around with belts or random shoes, trying to sell those. Yesterday, we saw a guy walking around with fire extinguishers and a guy with toilet brushes. I’ve seen guys with peanuts and cigarettes, yarn and even a huge board of sunglasses. If you name it, they will have it. I can’t even emphasize how many people are walking around though. There are people walking, people pushing some hand carts (not grocery carts but wooden heavy carts), women balancing stuff on their heads. They will balance baskets of fruit, cloths, or bundles of sticks. One thing that I did not expect to see is the amount of stray dogs. There are so many roaming the streets and they aren’t mean but they don’t pay attention to people either. They look sort of depressed and just roam the streets. I witnessed a woman bend over and rinse her hands off in the muddiest puddle in the middle of the street. It makes me realize how fortunate I am and how easily I forget it in America.

The school that I taught at was a little far away, about a 45-50 minute walk. We got a ride every morning to school, which is so nice given the amount of rain there was, so we had to get a ride home. This means we had to ride the dala dala. Now, the dala dala is a weird thing. I will do my best to explain. Its a van thing with rows of seats. There are around 14 seats. The first time we rode the dala dala, we had help from a Tanzanian who worked for the safari company. He got us into a dala dala fine. The seats are small so you are basically on top of each other. You will touch the person you sit next to! They try to fit as many people as possible so there were around 22 people in the dala dala. There were people sitting in the seats and there were people standing. When I say standing though, I mean they were bent at the waist because of the roof and they were all up in your business because their heads are in your personal space. Also, they have to fit the guy who opens and closes the doors and takes the money. He will stand there and hit the vehicle and the driver will start driving and the guy will get it and then wait a little bit and then close the door while driving. Then, this person will stick their head (basically waist up) out the window to look for more people or look for stops to know on the roof to let the driver know to stop. Getting the dala dala though is the hard part. There are different colors for different routes and we need a red one. There is a collection of red dala dalas right near our school so we head there when we are done for the day. Tanzanians obviously want to make money so they want you to ride in theirs. Since there are so many options, it is competitive. There are multiple people, and I mean multiple, trying to get you into theirs and they will corral you and I was even grabbed by three different people at once. Today, Emily was headed to one and a guy tried to grab her to get her to go onto his but the guy who was in charge of the dala dala she was getting into grabbed the other guy and flung him around. Although, the Tanzanians remain happy. It is definitely an experience that is for sure.

I am the type of person who is never late and I hate to be rushed so I usually am early. Well, Tanzanians don’t know what early means. There is a thing called Tanzanian time and it is frustrating. We went to a store and they were closed from 12:30 – 2:30 for their lunch. I think that encompasses how chill everyone is that they literally close their store for two hours for lunch. The teachers are never on time to their classes at school and neither are the students and it isn’t really expected of them. One of the first days there, Lisa told us that Faith was coming at 4:30 and she said “that means anywhere from 4:30 until 5”. They are definitely on their own time.

Toilets. Let me talk about these babies for a while. I have learned sitting on a toilet seat is a luxury and so is toilet paper. Good thing I brought toilet paper with me to the schools because you can’t count on there being any. Also, there is a such this as a squatty potty where there is a porcelain bowl in the ground ,that flushes, that you squat over. It’s not like I never squatted to pee before, I mean that’s what I did in the Serengeti, but it is very different. Overall, joking aside, everything I have learned will help me in the future and I have learned from it in some way (even the things I seem to not like)!

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