Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
Population: 49.25 million
Drives on the: Left
President: John Magufuli
I traveled with nine students and one additional adult. The trip was a service learning trip affiliated with Free the Children, Me to We and EF Tours. The focus of the trip was to work in a local community on a specific project connected to education. My group was assigned the task of renovating classrooms and getting them ready for the students of the area. The tasks included sanding, painting, moving furniture, digging holes and engaging with the teachers and students. None of the days at the school felt like work. We had so much fun listening to music and dancing while laughing and smiling the whole time. Meeting new people and being immersed in a new culture is refreshing. It allows for personal growth and an eyewitness account of the world around us. Kids are kids everywhere. As a teacher I can spot the child who loves to do his/her homework, the child who dislikes sitting for an extended period of time and the child who just wants to be loved. The children in the community are just like the children I teach in my local community. The students ranged from first grade up to seventh grade and they all took an interest in each other. They had the most beautiful smiles and faces and loved interacting with my group of students. Each day one of my favorite activities was to just sit back and watch the students play together. One of my favorite scenes involved my student engaged in a language lesson swapping English words for Swahili words with a group of boys while the larger part of my group played in a soccer game.
The trip itinerary was full of excitement in addition to the work we had to complete. Before being at the camp and the school I thought the best day was going to be the day we went on safari, but now that the trip is over that is the last thing I think about as I reflect on my experience. We engaged in Swahili language lessons with two Maasai warriors who were our teachers, local guides and by the time we had to leave they were a part of my travel family. These two men might have been two of the most interesting people I have ever met and I know that my students would agree. The way they interacted with my students and myself was precious. The tears flowing down my face the morning we had to leave and the night before we had to leave were a sign of how much I enjoyed them and did not want our time together to come to an end or as one of them would say, “The time is no longer with us.”
Another activity that impacted my group was the water walk. We had the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of a local mama to a nearby water source to collect water for her family. This moment allowed all of us to understand the challenges faced my many in accessing clean water. By walking in somebody else’s shoes it allows you to open your mind. I know that day changed all of our lives as we gained a deeper sense of how fortunate our lives are at home. Each day all of us were so happy and in awe of what we did the day before. Everyday was an amazing day.
Saturday is market day and we were able to become locals by going to the market and purchasing needed items to survive. I walked around in a small group and some of the items I purchased included corn, bananas, rope and avocados. Another fun activity was beading with Maasai Mamas. We had the chance to work with local mamas beading and singing while we worked. Beading is not easy, but it is a traditional skill that my group was able to embrace. Our facilitator told us that he never saw a group bead as much as we did and believe it or not the kids were still beading on the plane ride home! I walked to the back of the plane to see them using their barf bags to hold the beads as they were making more necklaces and bracelets.
What makes you different is what makes you beautiful. Every person has the ability to make a change in this world, but not all people do. This trip to east Africa brought about many changes to our personal lives, the lives of the people we met in Tanzania and the lives of our family and friends at home who experienced what we did from our memories by listening to our stories, watching our videos and viewing our photographs. Change is defined as becoming different and I know each of us returned home a changed person and for that I am grateful.