The group woke up early to organize our finishing touches on our projects and also finish up small gifts for the schools. After breakfast, we were met by our Mwalimu (teacher) friends Vinold and Ombeni. We stopped prior to arriving at the school in order to buy water for the day and also to print our worksheets for the students that we would be working with. We then arrived at the school and our professor met with the headmaster.
I was a little nervous while we waited because I did not know what to expect, however I spotted some of the teachers I had met the night before. Some waved at us and I began to feel more excited. Shortly after, I was able to go with Danyella and Katie into Samwel’s class. The classroom was very big with many students in green uniforms. I later learned that the color of their uniform determined which grade each student was a part of that year. After introductions and a brief overview of our research, we moved into groups. My group was shy to talk at first, but I reassured them that were welcome to ask me any questions I had. They slowly became more comfortable and I found that many of their questions were due to the fact that they did not know all of the English words on the sheet. I quickly learned that speaking very slowly and providing a lot of examples would help address the language barrier. Our professor came in to take Polaroid shots of us with our small groups. These were helpful because they developed instantly and we could give them to the class to keep right away.
My second block was with Mwalimu Mercy’s class. This was interesting because we found out that the students had just completed the worksheet activity in their previous section. There was a mixup of rooms and teachers. Ultimately, we had to think of a brand new activity for the group off of the top of our heads. Mercy let us know that her class she taught was a literacy course. Our professor then wrote prompts on the board that the students could complete on the back side of the worksheet. The prompts addressed their thoughts about reading and writing. I liked this extension activity because we were able to hear small discussions about how reading and writing is required for the students’ career goals. Furthermore, the prompts included the four important topics we discussed at our changemaker meeting: self-awareness, self-expression, life goals, and social emotional learning. We discussed the importance of reading and writing in all different career paths. I’m glad the students understood that those two topics would guide them to not only achieving their career goal, but also becoming successful members of society.
In the final section, we met with the smallest class yet. In this class, the students were very comfortable to ask questions when they did not understand a prompt. Luckily, I was equipped with plenty of examples from the previous classes to help me translate common terms that I noticed were difficult to grasp for others. We completed the worksheet prompts rather quickly. Then, I drew for my group a small (disparaging) image of the world continents to give them a visual of how far the US is from Tanzania. The students seemed unamused and I think it might have been because my illustration was so bad haha! I went on to explain that our travel time to Tanzania was almost two full days. With this, the students did seem surprised. One student asked “Do you not become tired?” The question made me laugh: I was extremely tired and not completely adjusted to the new time zone. I responded that meeting them made it worth it.
This meeting was very anticipated as we had been communicating with the educators of Tanzania for over a month via email, and now we had the opportunity to meet them in person! Our group from USD sat at different tables with three or four teachers or headmasters from the Arusha schools. I had the pleasure of sitting with Headmaster Alex Mlengile of Poli Secondary School. We were joined by Mwalimus (teachers) Augustino and Samwel. I made the joke that I was nervous to learn new names because I was scared that they might be difficult for me to pronounce. When I heard the names around the table, they were all common names in the Spanish language that I am fluent in. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.
Our changemakers meeting consisted of organizing what were the four most important skills that students should be equipped with when the graduate from secondary/high school. We discussed why they were more important than others on the list of ten. Our final choices from the entire group were the following: self-awareness, self-expression, life goals, and social emotional learning. Personally, I felt strongly about these topics for classrooms and it was refreshing to hear that educators living on the other side of the world from me saw the importance of them as well. Once we prioritized our top four, each table group constructed some prompts for each section. We then wrote all prompts on the front board to see the ideas as one unit. When looking at what we put together, I felt so empowered to be working with so many educators that truly put student learning as their priority. Our professor shared some USD gifts with some of the educators as well as Mama Christina. The group then had some of Mama Christina's delicious African dinner to conclude our Changemakers meeting.
Once the Tanzanian educators went home, the US educator all met to type the prompts into a word document for the students to use in their classrooms. We were very tired after a long day of traveling and moving around, and although it was late, we knew we had to complete the task for the students the next day. Bright and early we were to meet for St. Mary's Duluti Secondary School, the first for our Changemaker research!
Arriving to Arusha, Tanzania was exciting. This soon became my favorite city of the trip because of all of the beautiful souls we met there. Our rafiki (friend) Vinold met us at the airport and drove us through the busy traffic of the city. On the drive, we were able to see many trees and crops on the sides of the road. We also learned that Arusha is known for its view of Mt. Meru. We were unable to see it because she was hiding behind clouds in the distance, but seeing the base of the mountain was just as exciting.
Our first stop was the Cultural Center where we were able to shop for souvenirs. The stores were full of great gifts and trinkets for tourists to take home to their families. Personally, I bought a beautiful hand-crafted backpack that will probably be used for my future travels. I also bought small jewelry for my family members. The center included a large art gallery with all of the art available to be sold and shipped. I was surprised that most of the prices were displayed in US dollars because I thought only shillings were going to be used in the country. I now can understand that the center was targeting their large population of tourists and consumers from the United States.
We left the center and arrived to Christina House, a beautiful guest house with trees and gardens all throughout. We also were greeted by Gerald and Jonas, who quickly became our friends (whether they liked it or not). We also met the loving and cheerful Mama Christina who gave us a warm welcome to Arusha and Tanzania. The hospitality here was wonderful and the food was exquisite as well. It was my favorite place that we stayed in and I will never forget the experience.
After we settled into our rooms, we met Vinold for our Swahili lesson. I thought I would be overwhelmed because Swahili seemed like a very intricate language to me. I enjoyed the language lesson and after reviewing my notes a few times, was able to piece together small sentences to communicate with our new Tanzanian friends.
After class fun!
JI SAfter we met with the classes, we regrouped in the headmaster’s office. We were invited to “tea and bread,” something I started to realize was a common time to break in many establishments, but I was not complaining. After tea, the teachers invited us to the back field for a small presentation. The students organized a small Tanzanian dance complete with traditional clothing and music to share for us. It was such a beautiful surprise that I was not expecting and to be honest, it brought a tear to my eye. I was truly happy to meet all of the teachers and students here. And the fun did not stop just yet!
Once we said our goodbyes to the students, they had a break for lunch. We met with the teachers in our changemaker group. The US teachers changed out of our professional clothes for a hike. I was surprised to see that the Tanzanian teachers joined us on the hike in their professional clothing and it was no big deal for them. We hiked up a dirt road with beautiful trees, and then down a hill on a very steep trail. When we were down the hill at a clearing, beyond the trees a beautiful waterfall was visible. We made it to Nkweranja Falls! When we arrived at the base of the water, everyone began to take pictures. I took a few and then noticed that Goodluck had his feet in the water! I removed my shoes and did the same. It was such a fun experience to share this with our Mwalimu (teacher) friends. We took our group pictures and enjoyed exploring around together. Finally we hiked back up, enjoying and laughing all throughout. This was one of the most memorable hikes I’ve had in all the ones I’ve had abroad. I’m glad this was a part of the trip because it was such a fun time.
After the hike, we returned to say thank you and goodbye to the headmaster and teachers. We shared our experiences and gratitude with the headmaster. He welcomed us back several times, as did many of the teachers. I remember telling Danyella: I had such a good friendship with those teachers instantly that I feel like I have known them my entire life. It was hard to leave such a nice group of humble and caring educators. I will always cherish this time with them and everything I learned here. Following the hike, our rafiki (friend) Vinold showed us the school he is a professor at. Students there become fluent in Swahili to carry out various programs in Tanzania. It was a large, beautiful campus. He gave us a tour of the classrooms and offices. The school also had a tall lookout tower that had a view of Mt Kilimanjaro. We wanted to go up and see the mountain, but it was closed that day. Nonetheless, it was a unique asset for the campus. We continued walking around, and we were able to look at the pop up shop with traditional Tanzanian gifts. All the shops were filled with beautiful handmade jewelry, elephant pants, and Masai warrior figurines. Everything was colorful and elaborate. We left the school to have a nice buffet style lunch at Triple A to follow our busy morning. Vinold and Ombeni joined us. I asked Ombeni if he gets the day off of work to hang out with us. He said “Well, yes.” I replied that it’s a good group to be a part of, and he agreed with a smile.
We continued our adventure at the Shanga workshop. Here, people with various abilities are hired for the workshop and create beautiful masterpieces. Glassware and jewelry were available for sale. I enjoyed that this was a very inclusive employment opportunity for all people involved. From my research conducted previously, I understand that many African countries do not always include people with disabilities. This Shanga establishment went against the norms of the country to not only include these particular members, but to employ them to create amazing works of art. I was very pleased with visiting the workshop. We were not able to have a full tour because we arrived just before closing time, but we still were able to look around the work areas and shop. Our day ended back at Christina house just before another delicious dinner. It was a busy, but exciting day. It resulted in being my favorite of the entire trip. The school, hike, and workshop truly opened my eyes to all of the beauty that Tanzania had to offer.