Initial Culture Shock (First Impression)
Africa is a pretty cool place. The atmosphere is amazing and everyone is really nice. Even if they have ulterior motives. I am also really amazed by the beautiful foliage and the number of critters we have already been exposed to.
While we were at Prime, Kirsten and I had the opportunity to observe a Form 3 mathematics class period. This was a strange experience because I was expecting the class to be completely different. However, based on what we saw, the class was not all that different from one you would see in the U.S. The teacher was actually employing some student centered learning techniques, and the students were working together to solve problems. We were told to not expect these things.
One of the things we were told to expect, and actually did see during the mathematics course, was corporal punishment. It wasn’t with the teacher or students we were observing, but through the open door we could see it. Two boys were on their knees with their hands above their head. I saw some movement and glanced over just to see them getting hit with a stick. The worst part was that some of the students in the class that I was observing were laughing at the students getting hit.
Later in the day, one of the teachers came into the staff room with the stick and asked if we were intimidated by him. He then proceeded to say the he understands that this is not the way we do things in America and that it is something very different for us to see, but that this was the ONLY way to get the students to behave. I was a little shocked.
After the students had a break during their day, we had the opportunity to observe a Form 2 Physics course. It was also interesting to see the student dynamic here. There were some trouble makers who were interesting to watch. One of the girls showed me some of the drawings she had done because I said I was an artist. She also asked me for my address in America so that she could write me letters and we could talk. I may do this, but I think it may be easier to try and connect with them over Facebook. It seems as though they all have one.
In general, the school seems to be very nice. The students are pretty pleasant and the teachers are very nice. One of them even invited us to visit her home. On the flip side, I am quite a bit nervous. Especially because we still have no clue what classes we will be teaching and what our schedule will be like. We just have to learn how to go with the flow a little bit more and just deal with things.
Walking around on the streets of Arusha was CRAZY. I had no clue where we were going, or how to get back. We had really fantastic guides, though. They were helping us learn our Swahili and were also like bodyguards. But they didn’t stop the vendors from coming down on us. We had a huge group of guys who followed us everywhere. They were talking to us about Tanzania and Swahili the whole time. However, we could tell that they had ulterior motives. Each and every one of them wanted to sell us something.
Some of the girls ended up buying things from them because they felt guilty. These men would say things about how they spent their whole day walking with us and being our friends and teaching us. It made me a little nervous. Some of the men even followed us back to the lodge when we were done for the day. I am hoping this is not going to be a problem later in our stay.
It was also crazy to have the other people bombard us with products. They were everywhere and we stick out worse than a sore thumb. It was also really strange to see that certain people in our group were targeted by these men. Men would just walk up to them and ask them over and over if they wanted to buy their product. These men were very persistent. It was hard to find a good balance between being polite and saying get away from me.