Author Archives: Zack.Weber

The Serengeti

This weekend, I don’t know where to start. I could say it was unbelievable, I could say it was amazing, I could say it was life changing, but all of these are just too poor to describe what I actually experienced and felt. This weekend is something I will never forget and something I will always tell everyone about, it was truly magnificent, and I absolutely loved it. My job here is to describe the Serengeti, which is so difficult to do, I will try my best to put into words what we probably all experienced but know that words can only help describe what was felt and conveying my actual feelings about this weekend would be next to impossible. The weekend started off with the long drive to the Serengeti National Park, it took at least 4 hours, if not longer with our tourist shop stops or bathroom breaks. But we finally made it there and the scenery to start was breath taking. Seeing pictures of the Serengeti plains is amazing but being there and seeing only tall grass for miles upon miles is awesome. All you could see was the plains, but even in the nothingness that was the beginning of the park there was so much beauty. We started our first game drive and we saw everything. From impalas to zebras, to wildebeest, cape buffalo, warthogs, and ostriches. They were all there just like I had imagined. The first truly majestic thing was the zebras. Apparently migration season is right now, so we drove up on the zebras and saw thousands upon thousands of them, somewhere between 10,000-15,000 zebras. You looked out both sides of the safari vehicles and literally all you could see were zebras. They are cool to look at in a zoo when you see 4 or 5, but that many zebras in one place at one time is so great it is hard to describe. The weirdest thing of all is that they travel in a single file line. My driver said this was to make it look like there are more of them then there actually is, but having that many of them in a single place I don’t think they need to make themselves look any bigger. We continued on seeing a lot of the expected animals and then we got a call that a leopard had been spotted, so we went searching. We finally pulled up at the tree where the leopard was. She was lying up on the branch and not too far from her was her half eaten kill she had apparently gotten earlier that day. We were so close and we all got some awesome pictures, it was really rare to see a leopard like this so it was extra special, and being that close to it was really amazing. We stayed and just watched a napping leopard for the longest time and then headed back to the lodge for the night. I could take up a huge blog post with just stories about the lodge, but assuming most want to hear about animals I can keep this short. The lodge was super nice. We had great food, great rooms, and some nice hot showers! At night we had to be escorted around by armed guards because animals often walk onto the lodge grounds, in fact outside my room a small family of dikdiks lived under a tree, so we woke up each morning seeing them. The next day we learned that dikdiks do some interesting things. They stay with one mate all their lives and the female and male go to the bathroom together and the male then rolls around in the feces, mixing them together. It makes him smell like the female and it is actually her way of marking the male as taken, really interesting! The second day out on the Serengeti was just as amazing as the first. We continued to see all the animals that you would expect, twiga (giraffe), nyumbu (wildebeest), samba (lion), kiboko (hippo), punda milia (zebra), and swala tomi (gazelles), among others. But the main story comes from the end of the day. We had four drivers for our whole group and three of the drivers decided to take a shortcut back to our lodge, but my driver decided to take the long way back because it was a smoother road, and I am so glad he did. We ended up driving up to a group of about 20-25 elephants and literally got to be less than 10 yards away from them. I was in awe of them, they were so magnificent. They are also so big! As we pulled up the main elephant stood in the middle of the road and stared us down, our driver had to rev the engine multiple times to scare it enough not to charge us, it was crazy! Anyways, we watched the elephants for a long time and then completed our drive back to the lodge, we were exhausted so we all went to bed and got up for our third, and last day, in the Serengeti. Our drivers got separated again today, some got to go see a family of lions but my driver went another way. We ended up seeing huge groups of zebras and wildebeest again and we also pulled up on a group of hyenas about 1-2 minutes after they had made a kill. They were all running around doing their high pitched laugh and eating on what looked like a gazelle. We were decently close to the hyenas, close enough to hear them crunch the bones as they chewed on them. It was really cool, we were all hoping to see a kill because that would be very “Discovery Channel-ish” but coming up just a short time after one was really cool as well. We eventually met up with the other group at the entrance of the Serengeti and headed to our lodge in Ngorongoro Crater for the night, ending our time in the Serengeti. It was an amazing weekend that does not even begin to describe what we all experienced. We saw all sorts of animals and seeing them in their natural habitat, as wild beings is infinitely better than seeing them in a zoo. If ever given the chance I would come back in a heartbeat and encourage anyone who may be thinking of trying to experience the Serengeti to do what they can to make it there, it was so cool and something that I will never forget.

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Teaching

The professional aspect of teaching here in Tanzania is very different than in the United States.  The first thing is the order of units and topics.  I have form 3 which is equivalent to an advanced algebra unit in the USA.  The students just finished up series and sequences before I got here and now I just started teaching circles and properties of circles today.  In the US I would have assumed that circles would have been in a geometry class while the series and sequences would be in an algebra class.  Instead of totally dividing the two up they mix them together and put them in each form instead of having one form just be geometry based and the other form being algebra based.  Another thing I noticed and what everyone probably can assume is the lack of technology and the basic things that the kids have to do that we take for granted.  All I have to teach with is a blackboard and chalk, nothing else.  In the US there are up to touch screen whiteboards but here we have nothing like that.  Because of this the students here have amazing basic computation skills.  They can solve multiplication problems and such things way faster than I can.  They also have more approximations of things such as pi.  They use 22/7 as their value for pi, so when I prepared my lesson I had left pi in all my answers while all my students plugged in that fraction for pi, this made a more on your feet aspect to the teaching.  Also they have less edited textbooks.  At my school each student has their own math textbook that happen to be less than a year old each.  But the textbook lacks in some areas.  The ways it explains different topics is very instrumental just giving a definition on how to solve the problem, not actually what was happening.  So this makes me have to use my teaching trying to give the students a more relational understanding of the topics, and having just a blackboard this is pretty difficult to achieve, and the language barrier does not help much either.  The last thing I will mention about the teaching here is the teachers at the school.  Since it is a small school there is only one other math teacher besides us students.  This makes it difficult to try and plan lessons because it is tough to find people to bounce ideas off of.  But at the same time they are amazing people and will help you as best they can whenever they can.  The teaching here is definitely different than the US and takes some adjusting to but with time and practice I think I should be able to get the students understanding to a level where I would want them to be.


First Day of School

The first day of school here was of course nothing like what I have come to expect in America.  I started off by going to Prime Secondary school.  There we were greeted by the Headmaster, Mr. Arnold.  He brought us to the teachers’ lounge/office and there we sat while he ran off and did some stuff.  We talked to the two teachers that currently were not teaching and after about 15-20 minutes the headmaster came back and led us into his office. There he got to know us and found out what we would like to teach; Form 1, 2, and 3 mathematics were our choices.  I chose to do form 3 math because I wanted to get the higher level material.  After that he disappeared for a while again and came back.  We then went into each of the classrooms and were introduced.  It is a smaller school and so they have only one class of each form 1, 2, 3, and 4.  When we went in the students seemed interested but did not interact with us at all.  We got only one question from the four groups and that was “where are you from?”  Hopefully as we teach more the students will warm up to us and we can get to share our culture with them and learn from them more.  After being introduced to all the students we were led back to the teachers’ lounge and given the material for our respective classes we were to teach, that way we could get an idea of where we will start on Monday and be better prepared for class.  After looking over material we proceeded to observe our class.  I observed a civics class and got to see how the class was run.  I wasn’t in a math class because this school does a block schedule so form 3 math is only Monday-Wednesday from 9:20-10:40, therefore on those 3 days I have to do double lessons to account for the longer time periods.  Since the classrooms only have blackboards it is a very lecture orientated style of teaching, but interaction between the teacher and students was also present.  It is going to be tough getting used to only having a blackboard but I think I can become accustomed to the minimum amount of material to teach with.  After observing it was tea time and so our group went into the kitchen with the other teachers and we talked about America and our own lives for the next 30-45 minutes.  During this time the teachers obviously drink tea but they also had some donuts for us to eat.  I took one, it was pretty dry but it still was really good.  Since we were starting to get a little hungry at the time it really helped carry over until I could get some food into my stomach.  It was very cool hearing their impressions of America and learning about how they lived and the experiences they have had, as well as sharing our own experiences and knowledge.  Since we went a little long in the tea break talking with the teachers we decided to go back to the teachers’ lounge to get some planning done.  More teachers kept coming in and out asking us questions, so not much planning got done.  After about another hour it was time to leave.  Since this school has a Muslim majority, Friday they get let out at 1:00 for prayer and services.  It was an interesting day.  It definitely was a go with the flow experience and still I am unsure of how I am going to exactly approach everything but it was really a great experience to see how the classrooms are run here in Tanzania.  Teaching starting on Monday will be very interesting, I am really exciting to actually get to put everything I have studied to work and do what I can to best help the students.  It will be an awesome experience that I won’t soon forget!


First Impression

All the time I had been preparing for this trip and all the way here on the plane I would think to myself of what I imagined and what I should expect. Since the time I have stepped off the plane at Kilimanjaro airport I can see that my expectations and first impression seem to have matched to a point. As no one can actually predict fully what to expect I can’t say that I was expecting everything that I have encountered. The very first thing I noticed was the known lack of electricity. I can only remember a few times in my life where I have seen such a dark and black night. It was quite beautiful. But we had to drive here, that was pretty nuts. They are constantly passing each other and I felt like we had some close calls, but it was quite fun, got the adrenaline pumping for sure. Also, the helpfulness of the people is something that I have noticed and really needs to be included into my first impressions. They seem to always want to help us, whether it is with speaking our Swahili or explaining part of their culture. It is quite fun and interesting to learn about the cultural differences between the Tanzanians and what we have in the United States. But at the same time going into town was unbelievably hectic. Like most big cities everyone was walking around but we did get hounded by some street vendors. Although I expected them to be on us they followed us all day, not something I thought they would do. So it gave me the impression that the streets here are pretty crazy. And one last thing to mention in my first impressions is the ability and want to use and reuse things. I saw numerous pairs of sandals in town that were made out of old car tires and it seemed like a lot of things were just recycled or reused. Trash cans are very rare and I feel as if everything needs to be reused to be acceptable in the culture. So my first impression overall of Tanzania is a friendly and helpful culture that wants to share their stories and experiences with us and will do what they can to make us feel as home as possible, even though we are at their home. It is quite amazing and I am excited to keep learning about the people, the land, culture, and myself as well. This is going to be an excellent trip!