from Tanzania, a letter home about week two, from Nathan Hsieh

Today marks the end of our second week in Arusha. Things have become much more comfortable as we have overcome jet lag and fallen into a routine: Swahili lessons with Godson and Beatrice in the morning, LTP classes with Meru Primary School students through the afternoon, and after school programs with Arusha School students into the evening.

Learning Swahili while we have been here has been incredibly useful to us, as both teachers and guests of Tanzania. Godson reminded us daily that “language is culture,” and being able to speak the language of Arusha has allowed us entrance to the heart of the city. Besides being able to better communicate with the teachers and students that we work with, being slightly competent in Swahili has enabled us to greet the locals that we come in contact with, hold basic conversations, and even bargain for the week’s groceries at the local fruit and vegetable market. But most importantly, learning Swahili has begun to transform us from a group of wazungu (foreigners) into a group of teachers and learners, ready to dive into the culture of Tanzania and willing to meet the Tanzanian people where they are.

Initially, working with the Class 6 students at Meru Primary School proved to be a bit challenging. Some of the students knew very little English and we had not learned enough vocabulary to perfectly explain LTP techniques in Swahili. However, through repetition and patience, we introduced both groups of Class 6 students to basic LTP concepts and techniques, and had them imagine and photograph professions and alphabets. The students worked quickly and excitedly; they loved both taking the photographs and being in the pictures as well. The novelty of the camera as well as the encouragement to be boundlessly creative seemed to give the students an energetic drive. They would take multiple pictures of each scene with different students taking turns being the photographer and the subject of the photograph. To enrich their photographs, the students went all throughout the school grounds and pulled out seemingly every resource the school had to offer.

At the Arusha School, we continued our afterschool programs that we had been holding for the boarding students. These students stay pretty much consistent throughout our time here in Tanzania, and we will be meeting with them almost every day that we are in Arusha. The constancy is crucial to relationship building, and building relationships with the students has made the sessions much more effective. As teachers, we get excited when we see daily improvement in our students, pushing us to come up with bigger and better lessons for our students. The students have come to expect us daily as well, and they have an insatiable hunger and incredible capacity to learn new things. In the span of two weeks, we have watched them learn new languages, new songs, new dances, and much more. But the students of Arusha School are not the only ones who are learning; the students of Duke University are learning as well, about the culture and lifestyle of Tanzania, about bridging the gap between two different worlds. The students of Arusha have graciously welcomed us to their home, and simply by allowing us to share our experiences and culture with them, they have expanded our vision and knowledge of the world.

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