Thursday, August 6, 2015

Karibusana Tanzania!

We made it to Berega, Tanzania after many long flights and another long car journey. When we finally landed in Dar es Salaam and experienced how the airport works (visas, baggage -- wow -- and customs), we were greeted warmly by our driver (Abdullah) from school holding a sign with our names on it. He took us to a very nice hotel, where we slept for about 15 hours. The next morning, he picked us up and took us to the grocery store. We discovered that is actually very challenging to shop for things when you don't know what is in your house, and when you don't know the names/prices of anything, and when you don't know when the next time is that you will see any of this stuff. Also add to that that the first ATM we went to had no shilling, the next only let you take out $100USD at a time. Anyway, we survived that trip, made it to the market with fresh fruits and vegetables in Morogoro 4 hours later, and then even survived the extra 2 hours it took to get to Berega.

In spite of the incredible amount of sleep we had gotten, by the time we got to our house, we were pretty beat again. We unpacked, met another volunteer, and fell right back asleep. The next day, we took a walk around the village with the other volunteer, and she talked to us a lot about Berega and where we could find certain things we'll need. She introduced us to a couple of the students at the school, two of whom escorted us on our walk. We saw things like the orphanage in town, school, the hospital, the street where the market lines up, the Hands4Africa farms, and some beautiful places where you can go to get a great view of the mountains. We even checked out the grounds where they will be building the new school building. It was a great walk and helped us to feel a little less like strangers.

We went to what is affectionately known as Monday Market to Berega's English speakers and found that is extremely difficult to ask for or buy anything in a language you know nothing of. Since then, we have learned how to ask "how much does it cost?", "do you have ___?", "change", and our numbers, more or less, up to the thousands. (Tanzanian shillings start at 50, most things cost around 1-2,000, and the highest bill is 10,000.)

We went to school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, to get a feel for it and meet some of the kids. The only grade currently in session is Standard 4; all of the younger kids start up again on the 17th. It's kind of nice, because we've been able to take this time to kind of get to know these kids on a deeper level than we would have if they all came back at the same time. Even though neither of us has a lot of experience with older kids, these ones are pretty sweet and straightforward. They're very helpful and have been practicing our basic Swahili (mostly greetings and numbers, at this point) with us, which is great. One of the boys is from a Maasai village and it takes him a couple of hours to walk home, so he stays at the school boarding. From what we've been told, other kids from Morogoro and even as far as Dar es Salaam board at the school because of its good reputation. I guess having native English speakers for teachers is a pretty big perk.

Teaching in Tanzania is also super different than what we had expected. It's nothing like in the States, but the kids still seem to learn and retain quite a lot. In the village, school really does seem to be a huge privilege for kids, and is certainly not an obligation, with most kids in the village not going at all. I guess it goes to show that kids will learn - it's inherit in their nature - when they want to, no matter what strategies or resources are available to them.

At first glance, life in Berega is kind of bittersweet: we have lost power every day for 4 days (sometimes it comes back on, but in the middle of the night); we have lost water on a couple of occasions; we took our first bucket showers yesterday after getting sick of waiting for electricity for warm water, and then losing water altogether; and the pikipiki (motorcycle) drivers are unforgiving and kick up dust and dirt that irritate your eyes like nothing in the world. However, the town is very welcoming (apparently the common thing to say in Swahili is "Karibu" - "Welcome" - or "Karibusana" - "Very welcome", so even when you talk to anyone in English, you hear nothing but, "You are very welcome!"); it's quiet and peaceful and slow-paced; and the kids are just fantastic. They're quick to come up and hold your hand, quick to give you hugs, quick to tell you they love you. They're so grateful to have us here and love spending all day (and a lot of the evening, too, at after school or just showing up at our house) talking to us or playing games with us.

This weekend, we are planning to go to Morogoro to do some shopping with the added bonus that Saturday is a national holiday called Nane Nane (literally 8 8, for August 8th, to celebrate farmers) and it is supposed to be pretty nice in the city. So we'll blog again soon, assuming we have power ;)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds amazing!! Like a total adventure! Soon it will feel like second nature to walk through the markets and take bucket showers, haha! Can't wait to read more blog posts about teaching and life in Africa! -Alena