Published: March 6th 2010March 6th 2010
Tanzania has already been quite the experience. I arrived at dusk on Monday morning and as we drove to the Dar House for Volunteers of Art in Tanzania NGO, 30 km outside of the city center in Bahari beach, it was raining pretty hard. I soon learned it may be the start of rainy season, lasting 3 months...Ugh! (I don't mind the getting wet, it's the mud that'd be a hassle. But it's been sunny weather so far...knock on wood!) Well anyways, the first day I basically rested, unpacked, and met the few volunteers that were already here (I guess a whole lot had recently departed). The next few days were for orientations, meaning a city tour and a local walking tour.
The city tour was very interesting as I was with one of the Tanzanian team leaders, Selestine, and another new intern from Finland (older man). We took the dala-dalas to the city; these are mini-buses that they pack as many people into as possible. The first dala-dala you take from Bahari Beach to Mwenga is literally a mini-van with 20+ people all crammed in...madness! And not to mention they are kind of rickety. But really they are not all that bad (kinda fun in a weird way), especially when you get a seat and a window seat is best. The best part is they cost less than a quarter to ride. Once we got to the city of center of Dar es Salaam we walked around and Selestine pointed out certain things. It was all fairly western looking; one part (arrr, I can't remember the name) near the daily market was a bit more broken-down. We had a traditional Tanzanian lunch at a local restaurant, I had rice with vegetables and spinach. I am not to keen on experimenting with meat, even at home, but Selestine pulled off a big slab of his goat meat and said, "try this." I couldn't be rude and I think wasting food in Africa just has to be a sin. So I nibbled at it. It wasn't all that bad; a bit tough and stringy but good flavor. We soon headed back to Mwenga on the dala-dala, mind you I was soaked because of the heat and humidity, and walked almost a mile to their shopping mall. Once in the mall I was toasted, literally; walking in the direct sun was rough as I am pretty sure I was just sweating off all my sunscreen. The mall was super nice and air-conditioned (Yes!). I bought sunscreen (SPF 50), a hand towel, and washcloth and it was nearly $40 (Damn!). The trek back to get a dala-dald home wasn't as bad as now are backs were to the sun, thank goodness!
The local walking tour was again quite a battle with the heat, but I really enjoyed it! It was nice to get an idea of my surroundings; I was feeling lost the last few days and like I was dropped in the middle of nowhere. Basically, there's one long dirt road with a doctor, schools, market, shops, etc. on it. We visited one school that the other volunteers were working at and I quickly learned that if you are white you are automatically called "teacher." They chant it and run up to you and hug you. I love the children! They are absolutely precious and so ridiculously cute (just beautiful).
I just finished my first full day of volunteering (did visit the orphanage yesterday afternoon) and really liked it. I have to admit I was nervous to start, I had no idea what to expect. I walked in the morning with one of the teachers, who's only 20, to the nursery school and carried a huge sack of flour for the porridge she was going to make the children. Right away she asked me how she could get sponsored to come to America, I think wanting me to say I would. When we got to the school the kids greeted us very politely (I can do an impression when I get home). I was then definitely just thrown into a class of a dozen 4-6 year olds (I am just guessing there ages) and was to teach. I have never taught and really had no idea what I was doing. I knew I could wing it, but I just didn't know what level they were already at. By the end of the morning I was totally impressed as to how smart they were. We did a bit of English and mathematics (addition and subtraction) and they were really good at it all. I definitely feel like a lesson plan would be helpful but I am really not here that long. I also played outside with the kids for awhile. I loved when they would sing and dance (you would not believe the moves their little bodies can make), so freaking cute!
Later this afternoon I returned to the orphanage again. It's an islamic orphanage and yesterday when I arrived they were killing a cow right there (for dinners) and some of the kids were kneeling and praying. I really just play with the kids, coloring and soccer so far, and talk with some of the older kids and adults, who have broken English. I believe there are nearly 70 kids living there, ranging from ages 6 months to 18 years old. It's really amazing! Of course very sad, but the kids are so happy that it keeps my mind off of the reality of it. Truly they are all smiles!!!
Tanzania so far is amazing and definitely an experience of a lifetime. My time here is short compared to other volunteers, but maybe one day I can return. I am really only getting a brief exposure to life here in Tanzania. I think it will leave a lasting impression no matter what. This weekend I am traveling to Zanzibar (Stonewall and Kendwa) and then the following weekend (long weekend really) is up to Moshi, near Mt. Kilimajaro, and on a tented safari to Masai village, Lake Manyara, N'Gorongoro Crater and Serengeti. I am super excited!!!
Be home before I know it! Miss all your faces!!! xoxoxo