Day 13 “Mud, Music, Memories”

•May 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Our trip this weekend was definitely one for the books!  It started off like any other trip; we loaded all of our things into our suitcase, put it into the classroom and climbed into the safari jeep with nothing but a small backpack with a change of clothes inside.  We made great timing to Arusha National Park and had a good time talking with one another and enjoying the sights.

Unfortunately, when we entered the park it was raining and so we all pulled out our extremely fashionable rain gear and made limited stops on our way to the hike.  One of the stops was at this little building.  Inside all sorts of wildlife had been killed and then stuffed and stored so people could look at them.  There were bees, other insects, bones from ngiri, etc, but the funniest thing for me was the birds.  The birds were kept in this dresser like furniture that had short drawers each containing probably ten birds, so the entire dresser had about fifty birds.  When I first opened a drawer I burst into laughter, as did Kendra who was right next to me.  I don’t know what I had expected to find in the drawers, but dead birds tied up in bags were not it.  The whole thing seemed like a bird morgue and kept me laughing for twenty minutes, even as we continued our drive deeper into the National Park.  Looking back now, I think it was definitely something you had to witness to understand, but even now it still brings a smile to my face.

We continued along the winding roads, passing the flamingos on a lake, birds of all sizes in trees, and views unlike any other.  Eventually we stopped the vehicle in a small parking lot and we all exited to begin our hike.  The hike was so nice.  Luckily, Mother Nature decided to hold back on the watering can for that period of time, so we remained dry and warm.  Our hike led us across rivers, next to buffalo, up a mountain, and even through a waterfall!  Each adventure brought us closer as a group and was a wonderful bonding experience to do together.  My favorite part was probably going through the water fall.  Although we were soaked afterwards, it was super fun and memorable.

We continued on our way after the hike and the drive was bumpy as always.  We eventually turned up this random one lane dirt road, (not an abnormal thing to happen), however, when even the drivers started to get nervous about the drive we couldn’t help but worry.  You have to understand that these drivers are not ones to get nervous about anything, especially driving, so for them to be worried about the road conditions was a little unsettling.  We did not worry for nothing, for next thing we know we are up to the wheel wells of our vehicles in mud!  Our first thought, we are turning around, we’ll just have a different plan.  Nope!  The drivers had a different plan, they decided to force the first car through the mud by pushing it with a second car.

Now, events like this do not happen regularly so you can imagine the crowd that was beginning to grow around the car!  People from all over the area swarmed the vehicle and the men jumped right in to help in the now manual shoving of the jeep.  It was so neat to see and amazing the community support in this community.  After several attempts, raking the road, rocking the jeep, and a few more hands helping the safari vehicle rolled up the muddy embankment to safety.  Shouts and cheers filled the air around us and I could feel the excitement surround us.  I could tell this was going to be a great weekend!

The other vehicles followed without much trouble and we made it to Mama Ana’s house and set up camp.  Our time at her place was so wonderful and she treated us as if we were all her grandchildren.  During our stay we learned how stingless bees make honey, how to make fresh Tanzanian coffee, how to dance with bananas on our heads, and taste all the local foods.

Overall, one of the best parts was bonding with the other girls on the trip.  Friday night in particular sticks in my head for while we were all waiting for dinner to be served we began to sing songs together under the gazebo.  It was such a blast and brought out all of the girls together as a group.  It made me realize that although it rained, we got stuck in the mud, and we were camping out in someone’s random backyard we were still a great group who could have a blast no matter what came our way.  I can’t wait to see what is yet to come!


– Colleen


why walk when you can dance with bananas on your head

•May 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The drive into Arusha National Park was the low point of the weekend. As we were pulling in rain hit our windshield. Instead of thinking about the adventures that awaited us in the park I though about the over night camping trip that was to come latter in the day. That was the first time I threw Hakuna Matata out the window, as the rain continued my excitement of walking in the parks of Arusha faded into worry of wet shoes and the night to come. While we were driving I was thinking about the agony of the rain and how bad I want to go back. But after a while I realized rain is not the end of the world, I am here experiencing a new world. Why worry about something so small when I’m looking at something so big. After that I threw the complants of rain out the window and thought to myself I’ll have time for that when I get home, not here.

The walk was unreal. From the mountain to the waterfall I was amazed to see what can be created just from nature.

Getting to Mama Anna’s was awesome in it’s own way. I had no idea how much one can live off the land. I was cool to see how the things we think we need we really dont! I was so captivated by how welcoming everyone was. They just opened their house up for us to come and experience what they do. My favorite part was the fire and sitting all together. It just showed me how far we have came with the culture. Overall, I don’t feel ready to leave.

Arusha National Park & Mulala

•May 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Saturday morning, we headed to the Arusha National Park.  It rained all morning, which sucked, but it cleared up a little bit when we got there for our walking safari – which turned out to be us climbing the base of Mount Meru.  On the way to the mountain, we got super close to baboons, warthogs (ngiri), and a bunch of cape buffalo.  We also saw giraffe poop, which our guide picked up like it was no big deal, as we all stared at him and watched him play with the turd.  The view from the top of the mountain was mrembo!  On the way down, we stopped by a waterfall and ran under it a couple of times.  SO awesome.  On the way to Mama Ana’s, our safari vehicle got stuck going up a super muddy hill.  I think the whole village was outside helping us haha.  It was exciting though and we got to hand out stickers and suckers to kids until we eventually made it up, with lots of man power.  Mama Ana cooked us a delicious dinner and had a big camp fire.  They had a toilet they made out of concrete, which was weird, but kind of cool (Kelly thought so). It also rained all night.  I swear, that always happens when you go camping.  For breakfast we had chai tea and mandazis.  It was again, still rainy, but we went on a walk/hike to a viewpoint thing and around the village – although we couldn’t see anything from the viewpoint since it was so rainy.  We learned a ton about how they use different plants and such.  I smelled more plants today than I have in my life.  We got to go see the secondary school, which was different.  The classrooms had dirt floors and tons of scattered chairs, which outnumbered the desks.  It was built on a hill so some classrooms were up on the hill and some were down below.  It was a huge school because they only have one secondary school for all the villages around, as opposed to one primary for each village.  We went back to Mama Ana’s, learned about making cheese, had a good lunch, I finally got to try ugali, got wrapped in kangas, and danced.  Mama Ana’s husband and son showed us how they get honey from the no stinger bee hives in giant logs they hang around the outside of the house/yard.  It was so cool and we got to try honey straight out of the log.  For once, I wasn’t completely terrified of bees (who would have thought?)  Why have I never heard of these no sting bees before?  They looked like little flies.  Then, we got to take the coffee beans they picked, pull off the shells, grind off the second shells with huge wood poles, roast the beans over a fire, grind the coffee with the wood poles, and they made the coffee over the fire!  We will never have such fresh coffee again.  I don’t even like black coffee, but this coffee was exquisite.  I don’t think any coffee will ever compare.  We also got to balance these big banana bushels on our head.  That was pretty up there on my highlights of the day.  It was deceivingly heavy.  These women can carry so much on their heads without ever dropping anything, and they can even dance with it on their heads with no problem.  Awesome.

Sarah T.

New Insights

•May 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

When asked to blog about all of the thins I have learned so far, I was a little intimidated. Over the past two weeks, I have learned a wide variety of things on a very steep learning curve. My perspectives on some things and my beliefs have been tested by the views of others I have encountered. Therefore, the following list is an abridged version of the things I find most insightful and entertaining. So, here are a few of the things I have learned so far, in almost chronological order:

  1. 18 hours of flying is a long time. Walking around the plane is a must.
  2. Tanzanians operate on a different time zone. If someone says they will have something done by Wednesday, Friday is a more likely time to expect it to be completed. Similarly, if you schedule a meeting at 8, arrival any time before 8:30 is on time. Hakkuna Matata!
  3. Mzungu(white person) will be a commonly heard phrase heard as you are walking down the street. It is not meant to be offensive, just to point out the obvious. It is best if one embraces the term.
  4. Adolescents are never perfect angels. No matter where in the world you are, they will not always listen or respect their teachers. Also, covert flirting seems to also occur in any class containing 16 year old students.
  5. Corporal punishment is not a myth. As someone who has never seen it and has learned other methods of discipline, it is very difficult to see and understand. Teachers here have come to rely on these types of punishment and see no other way to do things. Nonetheless, the system is effective and is ingrained in the school culture here, so, no matter how I feel, there is not much I can do.
  6. Don’t take a picture of a Maasai person without asking first and expect your wallet to be lighter after said picture.
  7. The Lion King is real. This includes all animals as well as Pride Rock.
  8. Tipping for almost any service is expected, be it serving a drink, waiting a table, or walking you back to you room in order to ensure you are not eaten by a lion. As a poor college kid, I was not expecting this, though I have no problem with the system itself.
  9. Maasai children line the road asking for food and money from the safari vehicles. These children have become dependent on these handouts, changing the Maasai culture from an ancient lifestyle to one dependent on modern culture.
  10. A direct quote from a teacher at my school: “The problem in Tanzania is not that we don’t have enough food. We have plenty of food we can share with all. What we don’t have is money.”
  11. Street vendors are pesky. They will not leave you alone unless you buy something or ignore them. The clever ones will start a conversation with you and walk with you around the entire city, then make you feel guilty enough to buy something from your new “rafiki”.
  12. Safari drivers are incredibly knowledgeable, funny guys who appreciate the witty banter of 20 something year old girls. Also, they enjoy teaching us new Swahili words that may or may not be appropriate for teachers to say. When we mispronounce said words, the car erupts in giggles.
  13. Safari vehicles are able to withstand almost anything. You may think you are going to die, or be stuck in the mud, but everything will be fine in one of these vehicles.
  14. When someone tells you that it is the rainy season, expect a few days of nearly endless rain.
  15. Sting-less bees exist and make delicious honey.
  16. Sleep is over-rated. (This is something I previously knew, but have learned here even more so.)
  17. From a commerce class I observed: All people need to live is food, shelter, and the company of others. Everything else is merely a luxury.

This compiles a basic summary of what I have learned. Many of the things I have learned are hard to put in words that truly display their depth. Over the next two weeks, I plan to take in even more of the culture so that I can return home a different individual. For now, I strive to keep my mind open to everything and try to view everything without my American perspective lens.

Kirsten C

Two steps forward, ten steps back

•May 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This trip has opened my eyes to tons of new behaviors, and ways of life that I have not experienced before. I learned that the saying “you take two steps forward but then ten steps backward” has proved true. The beginning of my week started out good and I was excited about the relationships and classroom management I had established in my classroom but as the week approached Friday I soon learned that I did not have as much control as I thought. By Friday my classroom management was not working and I had a really difficult time teaching my students. After taking a deep breath I re-grouped and made it through one of the most frustrating and exhausting two hours of my life. Looking back now I have learned that no matter how much progress you think you have made it is still possible to have a bad day. I have also learned the importance of being resilient and determined as a teacher to let one bad day go and prepare to get right back in there and do a great job the next day. I have also learned a lot about other ways of life from our weekend at Mama Anna’s house. I loved learning about the various plants and foods the family uses as medicine. I also enjoyed opening up a stingless bee hive and collecting the honey from it. We ate it straight from the hive! In addition we were able to learn about the process of making coffee and doing it ourselves. We were able to crush, sift, roast, grind, and boil the coffee beans until the coffee was ready to drink. I not only got to learn and practice doing all of this but we also got to join the women in the songs they sing while they work. Overall I thought it was an unforgettable experience that really helped me get a chance to experience a lifestyle that is completely different from my own. Ashley Archer

Coffee Break!

•May 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I learned so many things this weekend trip to the Mulala Village with Mamma Anna, but my favorite thing I learned was how to make coffee. First I was surprised to learn that when the coffee beans are ripe and ready to pick they are red and look like berries. I have seen the plants many times during this trip, but never realized they were coffee plants. During my stay with Mamma Anna she went through the many steps it takes to begin brewing. The first step in the process, which we weren’t able to do, is to peal the beans from their red skin and put them through a grinder to remove the slimy skin and then let them ferment. When we began making our coffee we crushed the already dried beans in a bowl made out of a wood log using a stick as a mudler. This was done with rhythm while singing and dancing. It was so great to see Mamma Anna’s and the other lady’s great spirit during this. This process was done to remove another layer of skin from the coffee beans. I then was able to use a weaved pan to sift the outer shell away from the beans. A pan was then placed on fire and we roasted the coffee beans until they turned black. I learned quickly that you have to move the beans around fast so they don’t burn. We then crushed up the beans, using the same process to remove the second layer of skin, to ground up the coffee. It was sifted through another strainer to make sure the beans were grounded up enough. I never realized how hard it was to make coffee. When I was grounding up the coffee I definitely broke a sweat and couldn’t imagine having to ground up the entire batch myself. We bowled water over the fire and added about four to five tablespoons of the grounded coffee. After letting it bowl for a little bit the coffee was strained into a pot and then finally poured into a coffee cup. It was amazing all the steps it took to make coffee. It really makes me wonder who came across the plant with red coffee beans and found out if you follow these many steps you’ll end up with an amazing cup of brewed coffee. I will never think of coffee the same again and will most likely never have such a fresh delicious cup of coffee again.

No “Right” Way To Teach

•May 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

There is no “perfect” way to teach. I observed Tanzanian teachers here writing notes on the chalkboard, the children copying them down in a notebook, and then answering questions about them. To me this seemed so boring and dry at first glance. I wanted to try to shake things up and make things more fun for my kids. In my college courses, I learned so many integrative and up-and-coming instructional techniques. The minute I tried to put them into practice there was total chaos. I tried doing a group activity. It was clear my students had never done anything like this before, and they definitely didn’t understand the behavior control needed to complete it. It was a complete mess.

Since my first big flop, I’ve tried to do more straight-forward lessons that my students will be used to. Then for each lesson, I try to add in a little something special at the end, something that pushes them slightly outside their comfort zone. Nothing that takes too much time or too much self-control. That isn’t something I can teach them in three and a half weeks. Gradually easing different instructional techniques into my students’ day seems to be working pretty well so far, and I am seeing a lot of growth. I now see that the way the teachers here teach isn’t wrong or bad in any way. The students respond to it and learn a lot from it in most cases. It’s been great seeing different instructional techniques than what I learn back home and getting the chance to put them to use.

–Allyn G.