Very First Experiences
Four days in and our experience has already been incredible. We arrived in Boma on the fourth (after a full 24 hours of travel) and have been crazy busy since the second we stepped off the plane. After being held up at the airport for three hours, we met our host, John, who took us back to house for the night. There we were treated to dinner and had our first experience with the culture. John’s home is very nice and John has taken great care to help our adjustment as much as possible. We woke the next morning and had our first Chai, a meal that acts as breakfast here in Tanzania. We took a bajaji (see below) to a local hotel to meet our second contact, Joel, who works for the Asante Africa Foundation. We will be working with them for our first 3 weeks here.
Joel led us on a bus ride to the nearby town of Arusha where the Asante offices were based. After receiving an orientation from the staff, Joel took us to a local market. At the market we were able to buy local cloths and art. It was all a bit overwhelming at first, especially since we know very little of the language (Swahili) and were attempting to barter in the local currency (Shillings). After the market, Joel helped us get our Tanzanian phone set up and then sent us back on the bus to Boma.
The next day we met up with our professor who is here for a couple days and went on a safari. It was an amazing experience! We had to wake up at 5 am, which was not the most enjoyable, but it was definitely worth it. We drove three hours to the Tarangire National Park and spent most of the day there, driving around with our guide. We saw tons of animals, including elephants, lions, impalas, zebras, warthogs, vervet monkeys, baboons, wildebeests, ostriches, a hippo, and others. We also saw some cheetahs, at first from a safe distance with the rest of the safari vehicles. Then, our tour guide asked us if we would like to get closer to the cheetahs. We responded that it was okay, we were comfortable where we were. However, he may have misinterpreted, as he drove us within 5 feet of the cheetahs, where no other vehicles dared to go. After a short visit with them and some pictures, we went on our way. We took all sorts of pictures and then headed back to our homestay.
One struggle of many this week was navigating our driver back to our homestay in the dark. We had only been driven there one time in the daylight, so we were very unsure of how to direct the driver. We managed to get two of the turns correct, and then lost our confidence in where to go. Luckily, our driver was very resourceful and was able to talk to a random person in a nearby shop and call John, so he could direct our driver to get us home. We’ve learned to be adaptable, flexible, and how to navigate through challenges as they come. As each day goes by, we become more confident and independent and know we will be comfortable here soon.
Workshop With Asante Africa
This weekend, we worked with a leadership team from Asante Africa, a foundation that empowers youth in Tanzania with educational opportunities and leadership skills. We met with Erna Grasz (the founder of Asante), Ewald Tesha (the local program manager), and twelve youth leaders, all of whom were extremely friendly and welcoming. Along with our professor, we assisted in conducting a workshop that focused on teaching the youth the process of Human Centered Design (HCD). HCD is a tool that focuses on solving problems effectively, by working in teams to research, brainstorm, and prototype new solutions. We split up into four groups, each working through the stages of HCD on a real problem in their community. The solutions that we came up with involved sharing leadership skills with local entrepreneurs and persuading secondary students to pursue STEM and teaching careers. By the end of the workshop, we had all learned a lot more about how to solve community problems with design thinking. We especially learned that it might take a few iterations of the process to narrow a solution down to a workable plan of action. Additionally, we learned A LOT more Swahili from the new friends we made!
End of Week Reflection
Even though we are very sleep deprived and a little dehydrated (we found a place that sells water now, so don’t worry), we have very much enjoyed our first week. We are learning more and more about the cultural norms, the language, and daily life in Tanzania. We have also reflected more on the projects that we will be working on in the schools, which we will start in this upcoming week. So please check this blog again next week to learn about our progress!
Funny (and maybe embarrassing) moments of the week:
Andrew: Our Bajaji driver explained that even though he was the same age as Andrew, Andrew was much bigger than he was. He then attributed this to the fact that Andrew “probably ate a lot more than he did,” basically calling him fat (in a jokingly way…we hope).
Lauren: When we went to the local shop to get water, the vendor (who did not speak any English) asked us if we wanted bottled water. Lauren initially responded with “Yes.” When this was met with confusion, she realized that she was speaking English, so she then responded with “Si” (Yes in Spanish, not Swahili).
Ian: When we were going through the market in Arusha, the vendors were very, very, very adamant that we buy something from their shops. Like VERY adamant. And Ian ended up paying a lot more than he should have after the first ten minutes of “looking around.” He got a pretty nice elephant shirt.
Jennifer: Jennifer has been absolutely ruthless in her funny backhanded compliments to the rest of the group (Just kidding Jennifer…maybe).