Tanzania – The First Week of a Month Long Experience — The North Star Reports – by Paul Schulzetenberg. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
[Photo 1: The bed I was given on arrival. The pink net is not only stylish, but keeps out mosquitos. This was my bed for the first few days.]
It’s easy to speculate about a place, and build assumptions based on what is heard on the news or read on the internet, but to actually go there and experience their way of life provides one with something much more vivid. This past summer, I traveled to Tanzania for a service learning trip through St. Scholastica. I knew very little about Tanzania, and most of the information I did know was broad generalizations about what Africa might be like, which is an extremely narrow view considering the amount of countries within Africa, and the variable “cultures” due to past historical experiences (e.g. colonialism, tribal feuds, politics, etc.). While I was only there for a month, I got to see a large portion of Tanzania, which greatly enhanced my perspective.
[Photo 2: The entrance to main lobby of the hostel we stayed at.]
The trip itself was considered a service trip. The College of St. Scholastica has two sister monasteries there: one in Chipole, and the other in Imiliwaha. There were fourteen of us total: eleven students, two faculty members, and a photographer. The plan was for the group to split in half, so six went to Imiliwaha and five went to Chipole. The photographer stayed at Chipole for half of the time, and then went to Imiliwaha for the other half.
[Photo 3: A decent image of the inner city of Dar Es Salaam. I chose not to take too many pictures while in the city.]
Before the actual service part, however, we did some touring of Tanzania. We got to see several different parts of the country, which also allowed us to experience multiple different aspects of their way of life. This ranged from the more rural areas to much more urban areas and places that were in between both. I found this to be an extremely valuable aspect to the experience because my understanding of their way of life was broadened and shaped by seeing these different aspects rather than just seeing one, which could potentially lead to a false or biased view. We initially stayed in Dar es Salaam, which is the capital of Tanzania. It is considered one of the more urban areas with paved roads, tall buildings, a more prominent business sector, and other aspects. However, from the cities that I have experienced, this was much different. It’s definitely more chaotic than any city I had experienced. Traffic was unbelievable, which could be explained by their lack of street signs, lights, and maybe just their worldview in general. One instance that exemplifies this was when we had driven out of the main part of Dar to go to a beach resort, and we were trying to get back before dinner. Dinner started at 7:30pm, so we gave ourselves about one hour, which is how long the trip should actually take. It took us more than two hours to get back, and we ended up being late to dinner. Luckily, we were able to eat even though we missed the actual dinnertime.
[Photo 4: The bricks, which were made by hand, that will be used to build the Sr. Gaudencia’s school.]
We remained in Dar for a day or two before doing any touring, and stayed in a compound. I call it a compound because that is the most fitting description. The building was surrounded by a wall, and the only way to get in was through a gate, which was controlled by either guards (as was the case in Dar) or hired workers who I believe were stationed there 24/7. This seemed to be a common theme in all the places we stayed at, which I found interesting. A lot of the schools were also walled off. This phenomenon, from my own understanding, is a result of fear of theft and vandalism. One example was the boarding school run by the sisters in Chipole. They were trying to build a wall surrounding the school because there had been multiples cases of people sneaking into the rooms of the students and stealing their possessions. Walled off houses also represents that persons economic status. Having the ability to wall off one’s property is a luxury that many in Tanzania do not have. Regardless, this compound in Dar was essentially our home base for the first two weeks. It is important to mention that we were not “struggling” by any means. We had easy access to water, there was always food to eat, running water was available (showers, sink, and toilet), and we even had access to Wi-Fi (which was more common than I was expecting). I want to point this out because this is not a reality for many Tanzanians, and which probably skewed my experience whether I consciously noticed it or not.
[Photo 5: Where the sisters stay, which is a little ways behind the area where school will be built. Most of the trees in this picture are fruit trees, which exemplify their capacity of self-sustainment.]
In these first two weeks, we would travel to various places, sometimes stay there over night, and then come back to the compound before going somewhere else. First, we went to Bagamoyo, and on the way there we went to another area on the way to see Sr. Gaudencia’s (who attended CSS and received her Masters in Education) site of her new school for children with learning and physical disabilities. The school will be the one the first or the first to do cater to children with disabilities. Here goal is to start with a kindergarten, and as she gets more money, and move incrementally to each grade. People with disabilities are extremely underrepresented in Tanzania, which probably stems from a multitude of factors.
After this, we were on the way to Bagamoyo. Historically, Bagamoyo was the original capital of Tanzania, but the capital was moved to Dar es Salaam. It was an important trading port particularly as a major slave port during the colonization of the area by Germany. We were able to go down the port and see all the ships as well as the fish market. Next, we went to the island of Zanzibar. TO BE CONTINUED…
Paul Schulzetenberg serves as The North Star Reports Assistant Editor and is a student at The College of St. Scholastica
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The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
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