What an amazing weekend! The animals and scenery we saw were absolutely spectacular and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to come on this trip. We traveled to the Ngorongoro Crater Sunday afternoon and spent our last day of safari there on Monday. I still cannot believe how nice the hotels were that we stayed at! The view from our hotel room was breathtaking and the food was absolutely delicious. Our trip this past weekend also made me realize how close we are becoming as a group. We all look out for one another and I know I could talk to anyone about anything. It is not always easy being so far away from home. Despite the awesome things we are seeing and doing here, there are still times when I get slightly homesick. Yet, I know I can rely on and talk to the people in my group, who I know are always here for me. I am so thankful to have met people that I feel so comfortable with and that can lift my spirits no matter how low I might be feeling. We have all just came to the realization, though, that this is our last week here so we are going to try to make the most of it. We all encourage one another to stay positive and make every moment we have here count. Despite how excited I am to go home and see my family, I am very sad to leave the people I have met and spent so much time with on this trip.
I have learned many things about myself and the people in this group on this trip, but I have also learned many things about Tanzania and animals, especially on safari! We saw so many amazing animals! It is still unbelievable to me that we were seeing these animals in the wild. There were no fences or cages! Lions would walk right up to our vehicles; sometimes they were so close that I could have reached out and touched them. The one animal I wish we could have seen was a black rhino. We learned, though, that there are only 21-24 rhinos in the Ngorongoro Crater, so it is very unlikely to see them. We also saw many wildebeest and zebra on our last day of safari. I learned that zebra and wildebeest migrate with one another. Our driver was able to talk to us about this interaction, which I found to be very interesting. Zebra are more aware of their surroundings as they can easily detect predators. But, wildebeest have good senses and even have a certain smell that wards off predators. Stephanie told me that zebra and wildebeest have a “symbiotic relationship.” This relationship intrigues me and I thought it was so interesting to see how the animals coexist with one another in the wild. I will never forget going on safari this weekend. We all took so many pictures! Yet, the pictures do not even begin to capture what we truly experienced and saw. With each day that passes, I am learning more and more about Tanzania as well as myself. The memories I have made on this trip will truly last a lifetime.
Interacting with the students at Sekei High School is one of my favorite things about this trip. Their faces always light up with a smile when we enter the classroom or pass by them outside. The students make us feel so welcomed and I already feel connected with them even after just one week. They consistently ask questions such as the following: When are you coming back? Can you please teach me something? How long will you be here? The students speak very softly and it is sometimes hard to understand their English. It is also a challenge pronouncing and trying to learn their names! Yet, the students are extremely appreciative that we are here and most of them genuinely want to learn. Last week, the science teacher left the school. So, Sekei was without a teacher for Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. A couple students came up to us and asked if we could teach them science. I was amazed at how strongly they felt about continuing to learn, even without a teacher. We were happy to help out and are doing the best we can at teaching science. Both Stephanie and Paige are doing a fantastic job teaching Chemistry and Biology!
On Monday, Stephanie, Paige, and I had the opportunity to talk with Ruth, a Form 4 student. Mr. Shayo, the English teacher, arranged for us to meet alone with her in a classroom. We talked to Ruth for about an hour and it was an amazing time! She was extremely helpful in teaching us Kiswahili. We learned the basic pronouns (I, he, she, and you). We were actually able to start forming our own sentences! She also taught us certain words and phrases that she thought would be important for us to know. For instance, we learned how to say the following words in Swahili: school, girls, happy, tired. I now know how to say “I love you,” “I am a student,” and “Let’s go!” Ruth is a very special girl and she was so helpful and kind. She was very excited to teach us. We got to be the students instead of the teachers for once, which was fun! Ruth also taught us how to make chai (tea).
The students continue to impress me more and more with each school day that passes. They are very intelligent and they speak English very well, which is quite remarkable. These students have no textbooks and the only resource in the classroom is the chalkboard. So, we spend much class time writing examples and homework problems on the chalkboard. Despite the lack of resources and the challenges this may present, these students are still eager to learn. They are teaching me to be a better person, a well-rounded individual. I hope I can make a positive impact on these students just as they are making an impact on me. We have only been in Arusha for one week and the students are already changing my life.
Six Grand Valley students, including myself, were assigned to Sekei High School. When we were walking to the school on our first day, I was not really sure what to expect. I was uncertain as to how the students would respond to us and we did not even know if we would be teaching that day. Yet, the moment I walked into the headmaster’s office, I felt very comfortable and welcomed. After introducing ourselves, we were led to the Form 3 classroom. I learned that there are six Forms in secondary schools in Tanzania, which is equivalent to different grade levels. When we walked into the Form 3 classroom, I was blown away by the students’ enthusiasm. They all stood up and welcomed us with huge smiles on their faces. We again introduced ourselves and some students then introduced themselves to us. Next, we sat amongst the students and were told to “get to know one another.” This was my favorite and most memorable part of the day. I sat down in a chair and six students surrounded me with welcoming smiles. They unhesitatingly asked many questions. They asked me about what life is like in America as well as some of my interests. At one point, one boy even asked if he could touch my hair. I was told previously that this may happen and was not surprised. So, students began touching my hair! My hair is so different to them and they do not usually come into close contact with Mzungus (white people). I felt completely comfortable with this. Also, they were very confused as to why I am 20 years old and not married. They did not understand how different our culture is from their culture in terms of marriage. Although it was sometimes difficult to understand their English, I was happy to answer any questions they had. Along with this, they also were able to tell me different things about themselves. I learned about their families, some of their hobbies, and what they want to do when they are done with school. I had an amazing time today and am looking forward to begin teaching next week. I will be teaching two classes: Form 3 Mathematics and Form 3 English. When I was leaving a classroom today, one girl stopped me and grabbed my hand. She smiled and enthusiastically said, “I am so happy and excited that you are here!” This remark truly touched me. These students are genuinely excited that we are here and are very appreciative. I feel very welcomed at Sekei High School and was impressed by the quality of students at this school. I look forward to teaching and getting to know these amazing students even better over the next three weeks.
At the moment I stepped off the plane Wednesday night, I knew I was in a different country. The plants, trees, and flowers were beautiful, but very different. It was very warm, especially once we walked in the airport with no air conditioning. These were my first impressions of Africa, but I was experiencing a mixture of emotions. I was super excited to actually be in Tanzania. After being on a plane for such a long time, it felt really good to be walking around again. I had been preparing for this trip for a long time and I could not believe that I was actually here. I was also slightly nervous; I am not entirely sure what to expect on this trip. On the drive to the Outpost Lodge, we really could not see much because there are no street lights. But, I did learn one thing. Tanzania drivers are wild! It was a crazy drive from the airport. I was also very impressed with the Outpost Lodge. I sometimes feel like I am staying at a resort! The scenery is absolutely beautiful. I am staying in a room with three other girls and it felt strange to all crawl into bed last night with mosquito netting around us! When we went into town today, I was slightly overwhelmed. There was a group of guys that followed us wherever we went, trying to sell different things. I was offered paintings and an assortment of bracelets. I enjoyed conversing with these people. They were even able to help me with my Swahili! But, it would have been nice to walk around Arusha without people swarming us wherever we went. Overall, though, I have a very positive first impression of Africa. The people I have met here have been very nice and helpful. I have also enjoyed getting to know the people in my group better. I am sure we are going to have an amazing time here, a life-changing experience. I am looking forward to all that lies ahead for us in these next three weeks!