Adventures in Tanzania

We’ve been extremely busy these past few days, getting into a routine and really becoming part of the community. Yesterday I shadowed an English teacher at the Secondary School, and got my first look at how they run their classroom here. The students give a lot of respect to their teachers and are extremely disciplined. They were learning about a play called “The Lion and the Jewel;” the entire class is taught in English even though it’s a third language for most of the students (and teachers!). They read aloud and analyzed the work, even though they only had one copy of the book for a class of 56 students! Once we’d observed class for the entire 80 minute double period, we took tea with the teachers again and presented our experience to them. It’s a little nerve wracking to talk to a room filled with all the school teachers and staff, but they’re always so kind and interested.

We left the Secondary School with about an hour and a half to fill before we came back to the mission house for lunch, so we decided to walk through town and talk to people that we saw. I think that people are finally realizing that we’re here…hopefully that’ll mean people will get to know us soon! After lunch and an afternoon nap, we walked back down to the Secondary School to help the mason to repair the outer walls of the library. We didn’t really know what we’d be doing, but we quickly learned that chipping away at the old cement and mud between the bricks was very dusty work! I left covered in red clay dust…looking like a got a very bad (and very orange) spray tan! HA! It was really nice to work alongside some of the boys from the Secondary School…they were hilarious. They joked with me about my pale skin, my poor Swahili, and my young age! They found it so funny that I was going to university and I was only 18! They’re probably my favorite locals I’ve interacted with so far.

We headed back and took a shower…I’ve never been so happy to see running water! The shower here is more like a dripping faucet above your head that’s cold and you can’t put your face in. Doesn’t sound great…but after dust and dirt and more dust and more dirt, it felt pretty dang good! We spent the evening playing card games and Jenga, and drinking hot tea and chocolate by the fire.

This morning we woke up early and Linda and I headed off to our first day of teaching. I was working with Mr. Herry, an English teacher for Form II (ages 14-17). Since I’m only a few years older than these students, I walked in expecting to only assist a little with pronunciation or tricky phrases. Little did I know that when he handed me the teacher’s guide and a piece of chalk that I’d be teaching the ENTIRE 80-minute class on prepositions BY MYSELF! As in, the teacher sat in the back of the classroom while I wrote, explained, gave examples, and even assigned homework! I’m very glad the students were respectful and patient because I was definitely a little nervous. After I dismissed the class, I walked over to the department office to wait for the students to bring their assignments by. Because paper and notebooks are very valuable resources, they complete homework in their class notebook and then bring it to the teacher to be “marked” or graded. All the students did really well, so hopefully that means I’m an okay teacher!

Then it was back to the mission house for lunch and a nap (loving the daily “siesta” that I get here!) and then back to work on the library this afternoon. On the way, the Secondary School teachers stopped me and asked if I could come help with their game of Scrabble. They play every day after school lets out as a way to practice their English and learn new English words…it was great fun! These teachers are quickly becoming my close friends, and they invited me to join them for Scrabble again tomorrow! After the game was over, I joined Linda and my mom at the library where the dusty work began again. As we chipped away at the cement and clay with hammers and broken chisels, the boys there tried to help me with my Swahili (important word being “tried”) and asked all sorts of questions about me and about the United States. I wish I could bring them all back with me so they could see for themselves! They’re all between 18 and 22 years old and have never left Tanzania; most of them haven’t even left this district! Our work time flew by, filled with laughter, good conversation, and come butchered Swahili words on my behalf, and we wandered back to the house.

Just as we got back, a group of 5 or 6 young girls walked by, and I ran out to greet them; before we knew it we were kicking around a soccer ball and giggling so bard our sides hurt! It was great fun…and the girls just loved playing with a real ball. As the sun began to go down, one of the girls came up to me and said “Thank you for good football, Meg. We must go, but back again to play.” I was so impressed with her confidence and English skills! Hugs and waves were exchanged and I spent the rest of the time before dinner relaxing and reading. Mama Toni made a fantastic meal of rice, hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, papaya, and a mouth-watering red sauce. After a very spirited (and funny) game of UNO with Linda, Mom, and Aidan, it was time to record the events and head to bed. Tomorrow I work with the “human beings,” what they call the pre-primary school students (age 3-6) so that’ll be exciting! Time to tuck into my mosquito net and get some sleep…whew! Lala salama!

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