thoughts on week one in Tanzania, a post by Emily Yang

view of Mt. Meru from a street in Arusha

View of Mt. Meru from a street in Arusha

Even though we’ve been here for less than a week, we seem to be caught in a whirlwind that has yet to set us down. We have hosted four workshops at three different schools, witnessed both the kidnapping and triumphant return of Arusha School’s one hundred-year-old tortoise, and made a wide variety of friends, from a one-year-old at Kundayo named Mikey, to our drivers, street vendors, and especially our students. With jetlag vanquished, a typical day starts at 8:00am with Swahili lessons and ends at 6:00pm with our afterschool programs, with occasional group meetings at 8 PM. In short, we keep busy. Slowly we are learning the ropes of living in Tanzania and of being teachers after having been students for most of our lives, some of the challenges and triumphs of which I will detail below.

First off, Arusha, Tanzania is a vibrant place to be. It has personality in its crazy drivers, colorful kangas, and unique conversational markers (such as a tsking noise to get attention). Almost everybody we meet is extremely welcoming and nice. As we travel by van, taxi, or foot, we get the chance to breathe in the dust of the city and absorb the map of the streets day by day.

Visual aids made by teachers during our first workshop held at Uhuru Primary

Visual aids made by teachers during our first workshop held at Uhuru Primary

Being a teacher here presents its own unique challenges, especially when trying to reconcile the differences between the US and Tanzanian school systems. The reality is, the classrooms are large, the language barrier is real, and it can be hard to get students to realize that there is no one right answer in our LTP activities or even to speak up in general. However, after having honed our communication skills to basic English, pantomiming, and broken Swahili we continue to work on spreading the ideas of framing, noticing details, and creativity in both photography and everyday life. Also, I have yet to meet a group of kids who is not thrilled when handed a camera. Finally, our afterschool programs at Arusha School are taking off. The nature of our programs is informal, and basically we’re all leading kids of various ages through activities and games, be it focused on language, photography, animals, art or music. We love our kids and their enthusiasm, and hopefully our teaching becomes better because of this.

Form 5 students at St. Jude's Academy presenting their LTP work about Swahili proverbs

Form 5 students at St. Jude’s Academy presenting their LTP work about Swahili proverbs

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