Global Education

Student travels to Tanzania

By Lena Warnke
Published: September 2010

The view from the plane as we flew over Tanzania and descended into Dar es Salaam was both amazing and intimidating at the same time. The houses, countryside, and vegetation were like nothing we had ever seen before, and our excitement increased every foot that we got closer to the ground.
Athuman, a teacher at Kwala Secondary School, where we were to be spending most of our time, and Patience, the local coordinator of United Planet, waited for us at the airport with open arms. While in Dar es Salaam, we walked around the city and visited the fish market, which was really the first time that we were exposed to the attention that all white people –wazungu’€get in Tanzania.
It is overwhelming to have all eyes on you no matter where you go, and it definitely takes some getting used to, to say the least. In comparison to the dark skinned Tanzanians, we were white as snow.
After our short stay in Dar, we set off for the island of Zanzibar, famous for its spices and slave trading history, as well as its beautiful beaches. We spent our time exploring Stone Town’s narrow alleyways, in which we got lost more than once, watching the local kids jump off cliffs into the ocean, and taking local fisher boats to snorkel with the dolphins.  One night we even stopped by the night market to get a taste of the real Zanzibar, and though we weren’t supposed to eat street food, it ended up being some of the best food we’d ever tasted.
After these first three days of orientation and acclimatization, we were ready to head to Kwala, the rural village where we spent the remainder of our trip. The last half of our three hour drive was on an extremely bumpy dirt road that was barely wide enough to drive on. Luckily, we survived the drive, and our excitement grew as the first mud huts came into view. As we drove through Kwala, people started running out of their homes and staring at our mini bus like it was from outer space. Since only one person in the village actually owns a car, it is a rare and peculiar sight for the locals, who use only piki pikis, a kind of motorcycle, to get around.
While in Kwala, we lived in the homes of families, which allowed us to experience the Tanzanian lifestyle first-hand. Mama Annu, our host, taught us to cook Tanzanian style, which meant no kitchen, running water, or electrical stove, but simply two pots resting on coals on the ground. We also went to school almost every day to either teach classes, paint, or just hang out with the kids. And once a week, the school hosts a teacher vs. student soccer game, which the whole town attends. Whether we went to school or ‘Ëœdown town’ to get some sodas, we were always the center of attention. As we walked through the village, more and more small children would follow us, shouting, “Mzungu, Mzung, piga picha! (white person, white person, take a picture). They would hold our hands and each other’s hands so we formed a long line as we walked along the main road. It is everyday incidents like these that we certainly won’t forget.
Our trip to the market was another memorable experience. Every Saturday morning, merchants and farmers set up their stalls on a field in the village to sell their products, which range from clothes, to cooking utensils, to cows. Our family decided to buy a chicken and a goat, which we walked back to the house. Later that day, they were both killed while a large crowd watched in preparation for the huge celebratory meal that awaited us that night. It is not every day that a goat is slaughtered in Kwala, so this was a big deal all over the village.
Hanging out with the kids daily was definitely the most insightful and rewarding experience of all. Although Tanzania and its culture had seemed so strange to us when we first arrived, it felt strangely familiar when it was time to say goodbye.  The connections that we established with some of the village children still last as we email some of them daily. The hospitality and general happiness of the people created such a warm atmosphere that it felt almost like leaving home. The friendships we made show that people can relate to others, no matter where in the world they are, and that language or cultural barriers are easily breakable when we want to break them.
Asante kwa kusoma’€Thank you for reading.

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