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

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

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:


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.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Paul Schulzetenberg, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

27 responses to “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

  1. Meghan Lozinski

    I liked your comment that your experience in Tanzania may not be like those who live there because you have easier access to some amenities. This is something that is so important to keep in mind for anyone travelling. One trip does not open a traveller’s eyes to every way of life in that country. It definitely exposes a few important things about culture and living but it by no means is all-encompassing.

    • Carley Nadeau

      I never knew mosquito nets could be that stylish. I remember in elementary school we did fundraisers to buy mosquito nets for children around the world and I never remember them being that nice. That was very fun and informative to know. You also seemed to point out alot of diversity about your trip in general. I found it all to be very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Matt Breeze

    That seems like a fun and informative trip! I like that you pointed out the diversity of life experiences that the people of Tanzania experience. How was the wifi service? Sorry I just had to ask. I look forward to reading more of your articles from your trips!

    • Paul Schulzetenberg


      The wifi service was actually pretty good. I was able to communicate with people via Facebook (I didn’t bring my phone), and stream music from Soundcloud. On another note, they have Internet cafe’s in many of the cities, which is generally where most people who can’t afford wifi or a personal internet source will go. The one I went to had decent internet connection, but it was spotty, which is not all that surprising. Still interesting nonetheless!

  3. Bryce Gadke

    The way that you described the diversity of life experiences of the people was very interesting. What were a few things that you found to be similar with your own way of life that astounded you? I like how you prompted the idea of the traveler’s privilege vs. the native people of Tanzania. Look forward to hearing more from you in the future!

  4. Roman Schnobrich

    You touched on an important issue that our generation has and will continue to face with the emergence of the Internet– seeing and reading about places and experiences are entirely different than actually being there. With this being said, the whole “virtual reality” idea could and likely will have a large impact on how we live. Was the photographer paid to be on the trip or was it a volunteer position? I’d imagine the traffic is similar to New York City, but I’ve never even been there either… Is the mess just a way of life for the locals or do you think they grow tired of it?

    • Paul Schulzetenberg


      There is definitely something special about physically experiencing something.

      He might have been paid, but I am not entirely sure. However, I do believe he actually had to pay to go on the trip.

      As for the traffic, I could only speculate. I would assume some grow tired of it, but overall I think it is just their way of life. I would describe it as organized chaos. Motorcycles weave through spaces between cars, smaller cars will drive onto the paths intended for foot travel, and there is just a lot less “order” overall. They all seem to be on the same page though. It was an interesting experience. I have not been to New York, but I would imagine it would be similar.

  5. Lindsey Bushnell

    It is interesting that you pointed out that being able to build walls around your property is a sign of status in Tanzania. I went to Costa Rica a few years ago, and that is something that true there as well. Likewise, we have those gated communities here in the U.S. that bar people from coming into neighborhoods that some people “don’t belong” in. Great article, and I look forward to reading more about your tip.

  6. Carley Nadeau

    I never knew mosquito nets could be that stylish. I remember in elementary school we did fundraisers to buy mosquito nets for children around the world and I never remember them being that nice. That was very fun and informative to know. You also seemed to point out alot of diversity about your trip in general. I found it all to be very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  7. It is true that the only way to truly understand and know what a place is like is to experience it yourself. Preconceived ideas can be blinding. Although, as mentioned before, one trip only exposes some important aspects of the ways of living and culture, and is by no means all encompassing. Why was it that you chose not to take too many pictures in the city?

    • Paul Schulzetenberg

      The reason I decided not to take pictures in the city was because it was a lot more populated. Due to this, I personally did not want people to think I was objectifying them. Especially with the language barrier, it would be easy to cause a misunderstanding.

  8. Carley Nadeau

    I never knew mosquito nets were that stylish. I remember as a kid fundraising to buy mosquito nets for the children of Africa and I don’t remember them looking that good. This is just one way how you showed me the diversity of Tanzania. I found alot of this article very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Logan Davey

    I’d like to start off by saying that this is a great report on a country that I did not know much about. I’m curious of knowing your feelings towards all the walls. Did you feel unsafe or scared knowing the walls were being implemented due to high crime rate? Also could you tell if the crime rate was taking its toll on the people in anyway? Hope the rest of your time there goes well.

    • Paul Schulzetenberg


      This actually occurred this past summer. I wrote it in present tense at first, and decided to keep it that way.

      As far as the walls go, I suppose I had some fear, but nothing that kept me up at night. I would like to say that walls were not that common especially as we got out in to the more rural areas. It mostly was all huts made out of mud, brick, or thatch, and open space. I am also curious as to how much of an issue it was as I was told this by my guides, so it was not first hand experience.

  10. Thomas Landgren

    I really liked how you started the article and talked about how the media is only showing us a very small slice of Africa. I also was surprised on how significant walls were in Tanzania, i would have never thought that they would be that big of a socioeconomic indicator. It was very interesting to learn about Sr. Guadencia and her work with children with disabilities and how her school is basically the first of its kind in Tanzania. Great Article i can’t wait to read more!

  11. Jimmy Lovrien

    This article reminded me of a Facebook status I saw shared by a classmate who is from Zambia. Their post expressed frustration at the way many perceive Africa. Namely, that it is seen as a war zone despite the fact that many countries have not seen warfare in decades.

    I also found your mention of the walls to be interesting. In Duluth, I see this in a few ways. First, many of the homes that are clearly in wealthy neighborhoods have fences or walls, likely for the same reason. In more middle class neighborhoods, I observe less apparent walls and more fences. I think these are built for security as well, but also for privacy and to mark property lines as the yards become far smaller.

    • Paul Schulzetenberg


      Very true. There is very skewed idea of Africa, and I find that people tend to generalize what they hear about certain places within Africa to the entire place. For instance, those who were not familiar with the Ebola outbreak thought it was much more widespread than it truly was.

      About the walls, that is a really interesting concept. I hadn’t considered that. Even trees and other sorts of “barriers” do a similar sort of thing.

  12. Jenna Algoo

    I like the details you give about why they do what they do, at least to you. That makes the article come to life. Tanzania sounds pretty remarkable. It is an interesting phenomenon people form this idea from what we hear about a place in the world we have absolutely no idea about. I like your descriptions and I look forward to having more stereotypes crushed! Also, I hope you felt very fancy sleeping in that netting bed, because that is super cool! I remember wishing we had more of those in Guyana when I visited.

    • Paul Schulzetenberg


      Yes, I agree. The distinguishing of stereotypes is very important! Also, I did feel extremely fancy sleeping in that net, especially after sitting on airplanes for 18 hours! Unfortunately, I had to leave it behind.

  13. Delaney Babich

    I appreciate how the trip included a tour of the country so the students could see all aspects. Not a lot of programs will do that, so the view of the country is still somewhat narrow. It is unfortunate that there is such a fear of theft, and a high rate of theft that people are forced to build walls around the buildings! I have never experienced that before, and I am sure it was a little weird when you stayed there. This was written beautifully and descriptively, great job!

  14. Don’t dip your toes, just jump right in! This post was a great read and can’t wait for the rest of the story. Its amazing what kind of a picture that one can paint in their head, while knowing so little. Then witness and to experience something completely different of what might have been expected. To hear that you could use wifi frequently shocked me. I guess everyone has a generalization about something, but until you witness it for yourself you can never know for sure. Awesome post!

  15. jmg1912

    Thank you for sharing–it sounds like you had an amazing experience. My amount of knowledge about Tanzania (and Africa, in general) is very limited and it’s wonderful to gain a bit of insight. It’s so common to associate or create a reality based on a small amount of information received; I’m definitely guilty of that. I appreciated that you also noted how your experience was likely a skewed one, based on geographic location. The traffic sounds frightening, but at least it’s something you can look back on! Wonderful post.

  16. Avnish Miyangar

    As My Father is also from Tanzania it was nice to see so many similarities from my own visit to. Visiting the amazing Island of Zanzibar was definitely a highlight for me. Did you see the turtles on prison Island? or any dolphins in the clear waters on the way to the Island? How did you cope with the language barrier?

  17. William Brennhofer

    I have always wanted to do something like this. Going somewhere else in the world and seeing what other people go through in their daily life is amazing to me. That they need nets over their bed is a weird concept but it is interesting to see that they have embraced the idea and made something fun out of it. Reading things like this makes me want to go even more. Because the things ou do sound like so much fun.

  18. Ellery Bruns

    I liked that you pointed out your experience of Tanzania as a person on a mission trip is much different than the experience of people who live there. I think that when in a different country for the first time one doesn’t always get to see what life is actually like for those who live there. I experienced this myself on a much smaller scale when I moved to a different city. The first couple of months I was there I still kind of felt like a tourist. When expanding this idea to countries, I would imagine the culture shock and I-am-a-tourist-felling doesn’t go away for some time. So, thank you for pointing this out.

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