My First Week in Ludilo

It’s been a crazy two weeks with limited internet, new experiences, and newfound love for Ludilo village!

On Sunday, November 2nd, we packed almost everything we owned into a suitcase and our shower bucket and packed into two separate safari cars. As we exited Ruaha Catholic University’s campus, I prepared myself to leave behind the small town of Iringa that I had just spent two and a half months getting used too.

It took approximately three hours to reach the district of Mufindi, where our villages are located. We stopped at RDO, a nonprofit that began with the mission of helping farmers. Now their project focus also includes helping HIV orphans and access to water in the village. RDO is where we will spend our weekends to discuss our research or internships (as the other 6 students are completing internships and need-based assessments for the month) and where Justin and Paulo will be staying (near to us in case of any emergencies!).

After about thirty minutes, Paulo our coordinator said it was time for us to go. The first group was mine—Cat, Caroline, and I, the only three researchers this semester were driven to our village called Ludilo. It was just us, our driver Sarafino (the same person who took us on our safari) and a worker from RDO who knew where our houses were. Cat was first. When we arrived at her house, no one was there. We helped her unload her stuff from the car and suddenly a woman started running towards the house. Immediately we knew this was her homestay family, and other members of the family came and helped her take her belongings inside. We didn’t stay long and pretty soon Sarafino was saying bye and had us on our way to drop off Caroline. When we arrived at the next house, a group of kids crowded behind our car to watch the two wazungu exit. I helped Caroline carry her stuff in, mainly because I was not ready to separate from my roommate and because her mom was the only person at the house. After what felt like only two minutes, Sarafino said it was time for me to go. Ever heard of a hit and run? Well arriving at our homestays felt like a drop-and-run.

When we got to my house, I had my mom and sister help me take my belongings inside. They showed me my room, welcomed me home, and allowed me to settle in. The house was simple—it had three couches, a table with chairs for meals, a tv, and a total of four rooms. Our program directors did inform us that we would be staying with the wealthier 1% of the village, as we would need access to certain levels of sanitation regarding food and water, as well as electricity. I arrived in Tanzania at the beginning of this program with zero expectations, and I arrived in Ludilo with the same outlook. I was ready for anything, but to put my parents and other friends in America at ease: Tanzanian village life and where we are staying is nothing like how they stereotyped or pictured.

By that I mean, I have access to hot water and electricity. I have a comfortable bed and so far, my stay here has also been comfortable. The food is nothing out of the extraordinary; I have eaten boiled greens, rice, plain pasta, eggs, fish, pork, and beef. I have finally been introduced to ugali, which is a dish made of cornflour and water. It essentially takes the place of rice in a meal and people use their hands to eat it: we peel a small part of it apart, ball it up in our hands, and either dip in soup or sauce, then eat it with the rest of the meal. Personally, I like it, whereas most of my friends here do not. It is extremely filling though, and probably not the healthiest dish.

Our first week here consisted of getting acquainted with the town, accustomed to our family and home, and getting prepared for research. I’ve spent the last week and a half making adjustments to my research proposal to receive IRB approval (Institutional Review Board) which is a committee of professionals in the scientific or research fields who ensure that the methods proposed in my research are ethical and the procedures ensure the protection of subjects’ rights and confidentiality.

On Tuesday afternoon, my mom and her sister-in-law invited me to church. Cat and I went together and I had a very lovely time. The church service was two hours long, which is surprisingly shorter than most Sundays my home church, Tremont Church of God in South Carolina. They had an hour of song and dance and their routine was different but in the best way. I did notice at one point that one of the melodies sounded familiar but I couldn’t remember the worship song in English. Afterward, a woman preached on Matthew 5:38-48. I only understood a few words here and there, but as a Christian, I loved being able to experience a church service in a different country. It’s amazing how universal religion can be regardless of any language barrier.

One night of the first week here, I watched and attempted to help my mom cook ugali. I wasn’t very good at it, as some of the flour spilled over, but I enjoyed watching her flip the ugali once it was almost ready. This blog is already getting a bit long, so I’ll reserve the family introduction for the next blog!

Asante sana for reading!

Friendships Abroad!

Local Friends

Tanzanians are known for being extremely welcoming, and they say the word karibu (welcome) often. Everywhere we go, locals invite us into their homes and their stores by essentially saying “you are welcome here,” karibu Tanzania!

As we were moving into RUCU, local students were moving out for a break. So, our first few months at the college consisted of just the nine mzungus (foreigners) in the dorms. This made finding and making local friends a bit difficult, however, we often ate at the same restaurants in Iringa and we were able to form friendships with the employees there. I also volunteered at daycare at the Matumaini Center, which is a craft shop, workshop, nursery school, and vocational training center located in Iringa, Tanzania. The mission of the center is to support young mothers, girls who can’t attend school, orphans, and other women in need by providing education and vocational training. Women are trained in sewing and create a wide variety of homemade sewing products. While volunteering at the Matumaini Center, I got to know some of the girls who took classes, and I definitely formed relationships with the children in the daycare center. One of the two moms who worked in the center could speak a little English, while the other mom only knew very specific words. We often traded stories about our lives and they helped me learn and better my Swahili. Since we’ve moved into the village, I’ve missed my Matumaini kids and moms a lot– thankfully I still have two weeks in Iringa after our month in the village to see them and say our official “see you laters.” https://matumainicentre.wordpress.com/

By the end of November, local students began to move back in. Some students often visited our rooms to “greet us,” which is the term used for when locals simply come and say hello and get to know someone. A few of us girls traded WhatsApp numbers with the locals, but we left for the village about two weeks later so we were not really able to get to know other students very well. However, I’ve learned a little bit about the lives of the different employees at the restaurants we frequented– for example one of the waiters Adam, who works at our favorite restaurant Mama Iringa, (the only Italian restaurant in town) recently applied for a job in Las Vegas and he wanted to get advice and tips incase he was hired and moved to America. Even though I may have not been able to form solid friendships with locals, I have met some amazing and kind people throughout my time here in Tanzania.

Forever Friends

When I chose this program, I anticipated that it would consist of a small group of people. Some may be overwhelmed by the fact that there are only nine of us together in Tanzania– but I’ve loved it. Truthfully, we all do get along (most of the time). Of course, spending 24/7 with the same group of people whom you are still getting to know can get intense sometimes. However, over the past few months, we’ve shared such a unique experience that has helped each of us individually grow, learn, and discover ourselves. Thanks to Tanzania and CIEE, I’ve found my go-to person for all things enneagrams and essential oils, my fellow criminal-show lover and go-to for rants or hugs during mental breakdowns, my first friend who understands long-distant relationships, a forever “Amiga” who helps me figure out my life plan, an inspirational human who taught me to always stick up for what you believe in, a jokester who can make a whole room erupts in laughter, someone who teaches me new things about the world every day, and a hard-core politically conservative friend who reminds us all that our differences make us unique and memorable.

As I watch this amazing group of people play a game of cards while I type this blog, I can’t help but smile and be thankful for our journey and these memories that only the nine of us have to share.

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One makes silver and the other gold.”

These sweet people are definitely keepers for life.

Life in Ludilo.

Yesterday I moved into my house in Ludilo.
I am a guest but they treat me like family.
It is a different life, but I like it here
Where my mom is a superwoman,
Who wakes up at 6 am to cook, to fetch water, then clean the outhouse, then wash clothes, then cook again for lunch. The kitchen is completely separate from the house in a smaller room across the property.
She carries heavy water buckets many times a day to cook and clean and fill my shower bucket— yet still has a job working at a clothes-store in the afternoon.
Naps and sit-toilets are indeed a first-world privilege.

In this village, a mother carries lumber wood on her head and a baby on her back.
Grandmas venture into the forest and chop down trees— because they are “independent women who don’t need no man.”
Fathers farm from sunrise to sunset and walk hours to get back home.
Chickens run loose and the flowers bloom, as the sun sets beyond the mountain peak.

Coming home from my afternoon walk with my American friends, through unknown roads, I hear a peaceful town. I see children stare and moms eager to welcome me into their homes. “Shikamoo, asante,” I say to them.
As I arrive home, my neighbors’ children ask for an English lesson. I teach them simple words like school and store and write it all down so they can practice later.

The table is being set for dinner and I help my mom bring in one of the pots from the “kitchen” that’s a separate and outside of the house.
We eat the ugali with our hands and I try to tell her my plan for the next day in as much correct Swahili as possible. I walk to the filter and fill my water bottle, take my plate to the kitchen.
I say Asante sana for my dinner and wish them uziku mwema. I change into pajamas and write a few newly learned Swahili words in my notebook.
I fall asleep under my mosquito net as my baba eats dinner at 10 o’clock. Tomorrow, we do it all over again.

 

The view of Ludilo “town” from our property.

Studying in Tanzania

Swahili word(s) for the blog: Ninajifunza Mandaleo ya Jamii na Historia ya Afrika mashariki – I am studying community development and history of East Africa

Last year, when I started looking at study abroad programs, I knew I wanted to go somewhere unconventional. I did not even both looking at any programs in Europe because I honestly did not want to study abroad there. Any time I did a search for programs, I also checked the boxes for Asia and Africa, the two continents I knew I wanted to travel too. After that, I just had to find a program that adhered to my academic and personal interests. I chose CIEE’s Community Development, Culture, and Language program a) because of the location, and b) because of the abilities it provided for working with NGO’s. I also, of course, knew that this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity that I would never otherwise be exposed to.

The classes I chose to take include community development and history of East Africa and these classes are taught by Tanzanian professors from local colleges. The classes are taught in English and they follow a syllabus provided by CIEE. I chose to take these classes partially because I am interested in both topics and because I get credit for both of these classes respectively towards my two majors (History and International Affairs). Another reason I chose the community development class and a program tailored to learning about community development projects is because I considered community development as a possible future career. After taking the class, however, I learned that community development is not actually the field I am most interested in, and now I am considering master’s programs in international development or social work.

As part of the program, we are also required to take a research methods class and Swahili class Monday-Thursday. These two classes are taught by our program coordinator and program coordinator. Justin teaches research methods and will also be guiding us throughout the research project three of us will implement during the village stay. Paulo, an amazing linguistics teacher, has taught us an abundance of Swahili– enough to allow us to communicate to our homestay families for the next month as none of them speak English (wish me good luck).

Today was actually our last day of classes as we move to our village homestays for a month on Sunday. In the past two months, I have learned so much about community development and the history of the region. Our midterm exams were structured similarly to the exams I have taken at Wofford and all our classes were structured as lectures. Aside from the fact that our professors were Tanzanian, there is not much difference between classes here and the classes I have taken in the U.S. I do know however that our experience through the program is designed to be a bit more “Americanized,” in the sense that professors seek our input a lot more than they normally would from Tanzanian students. In this country, teachers are used to being in a room of at least fifty students, if not more. Teachers also rarely ask for questions or opinions from students as there are too many people in the room and not enough time. Personally, I’ve loved getting to know my two Tanzanian professors and they honestly have taught me and my peers so much about the respective topics.

As for our academic environment, I’ve mentioned in other blogs that CIEE students have a personal classroom. Compared to classes at Wofford, we’re always in the same classroom. This is because American semesters do not always line up with the Tanzanian school year; we also get our own classroom to have somewhere to store food and drinks, study or do homework and keep items in cubbies if needed. Even though we don’t meet fellow students in classes, we’ve made plenty of friends in the dorms, especially now because students are moving back in.

There aren’t really major differences between school here at Ruaha Catholic University and at Wofford. Having a dress code where we’re only allowed to wear skirts passed the knee is definitely very different, but it was not a huge adjustment. Dorm life is extremely similar; I have a roommate and we have communal showers and toilets (though since I am a senior this year I will return to Wofford hopefully in the village or in the apartments YAY). Aside from that, studying here wasn’t that big of an adjustment (except for the culture and limited food options that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs).

This Sunday will be the introduction to a new chapter of our study abroad experience. We will move to a district called Mufindi (still within Iringa) which is about three hours away. Each student will be placed with a homestay family, and no one speaks English. We will live with these families in the village for a month, and stay at an NGO on the weekends. There will definitely be blog updates from that experience, as long as we have service!

Tutaonana!

What a Wild Weekend!

Greetings from Tanzania! We just returned from our semester break in Zanzibar, and as amazing as that was, I will be saving it for a later blog. However, never fear! Because as you can see from the title, you will be reading all about my extraordinary weekend on a safari!

Lions, Zebras, Giraffes, Oh My!

Last weekend, my friends and I together with our Swahili instructor/Program Coordinator Paulo saddled up in two jeeps and started our two-hour drive to the inside of Ruaha National Park in Iringa, Tanzania. I asked how the park rangers keep the animals from leaving the savannah or going toward villages that border the national park, and our guide said they don’t forcefully keep the animals in. If an elephant or any other animal gets close to public human interaction, Tanzanians will call the park rangers and they have a way of coaxing the animals safely back towards their habitat. Before we arrived at the park entrance, we passed two female lions who were most likely hunting and a few giraffes eating dinner. We officially reached the park’s entrance, waited for a few minutes, then went on another drive for about thirty minutes to the campground where our bandas, or little huts were. We passed a bridge above a river where we stopped to look at the pod of hippos. They were all swimming underwater, but right as we entered our jeeps we saw one walking around. It was huge! Afterward, we stopped for dinner at a canteen inside the park then retired for the night inside our bandas. Once the sun goes down, we are not allowed to go outside or walk around without a guard because of animals. Paulo was specifically worried about hungry lions.

On Saturday morning, we woke up before sunrise and drove to a field to take pictures. After capturing the pretty sights you will find above, we began our safari drive, or as Paulo called it: moving around and seeing animals. To set the mood, I played Circle of Life from the Lion King on my phone and it was a nice aesthetic. It took us a while to spot our first animal, but alas! We saw impalas! Impalas were a repetitive sight throughout the weekend and we were lucky to spot some kudu, a species of antelope. I didn’t even know there were different species of antelope! It was truly amazing to observe animals in their own natural habitat.

Spotting animals was a lot harder then I thought it would be, partly because the park is the largest national park in Tanzania and there are only a few roads we are allowed to actually drive on. However, our guides were really good and spotting animals and guides would stop and ask each other if they spotted any animals in certain nearby locations. We also listened to rustling trees or bushes and looked for other safari cars. When our guide saw a couple other safari cars over in the distance, we quickly turned our car around, sped over a few humps, then slowed down as we approached from behind the two lions enjoying pumzika time, or relaxing. Since we have to be quiet to not scare the animals, we instead whispered our “ohs” and “ahs” and took turned taking photos with the King of the Pride behind us.

The best part of the entire weekend was truly just being able to witness the animals in their natural habitats where there belong, instead of behind cages and glass screens. Knowing that we were guests in their home was a humbling experience and being able to observe them so closely as they ate leaves off the trees or guarded their young one was truly indescribable. I saw zebras for the first time up close and in the wild, and watched giraffes chomp flowers for lunch. We even lion prints in the sand and saw baboons fight for a few minutes! All I could say in the moment was “wow,” then proceded to stick my head out the window and hang on to the top of the jeep so my friend Erin could take a picture of me with the animals.

After half a day of “moving around,” everyone was in need of a nap! Around 4 pm, we went back out to see more animals. After dinner, some of us students gathered around a fire pit and just spent some quality time together sharing stories and conversations. At one point, we heard a lion! Except, he wasn’t growling, he was making a crying noise. The guard shined his flashlight over and over to spook the lion who was most likely across the river and not actually anywhere close to us, and we stopped hearing the noise. I thought the experience of hearing a lion in the wild was a bit fascinating but some of my friends were a bit spooked. So, a few minutes later we all were escorted back to our bandas for a good night’s rest.

The World’s Largest Land Animal

The most majestic moment of all however occurred on Sunday afternoon. As we were getting ready to turn around and begin exiting the park, we saw a herd of elephants behind some trees. Our guide began to drive us closer, but the elephants began walking further behind the bushes and trees away from the road. I witnessed a mother elephant wrap her trunk in front of a baby elephant as if signaling the young one to stay back. My heart raced at such a beautiful yet real moment. These animals, though still extremely protected, were subjected to what felt to them as an unknown danger. Though I could see and feel the irony of a safari trip in those few minutes, I still think it is important and beneficial that we have safari parks to provide opportunities where we can witnesses moments like a mother protecting her young so we are endeavored in preserving our wildlife animals. Humans should work together to preserve these beautiful creatures because they have emotions and families and are just as important to the world as we are.

As our driver began to drive off, we saw three elephants climbing up the hill beside us. They seemed to be walking towards the herd, but our safari cars were in their path. Our driver started to continue driving but we yelled “simama!” which means stop. We refused to miss the moments that would follow. I quickly asked my friend to take a picture of me with the elephant behind, and I took one of her. When we put down our phones to see the animals, one elephant stopped beside our cars. It was so close, we could see the groves in its skin and its long eyelashes. I made eye contact with this beautiful creature and was overwhelmed with emotions. It then flapped its ears one last time and began walking towards its family. It was a beautiful ending to an unforgettable trip.

Daily Tanzanian Schedule

Habari za Asubuhi!

Good Morning from Tanzania. Today is Wednesday, October 2nd. On a regular Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I wake up at 8 am and miracoulously leave by 8:25 am to walk a short distance across campus for my Managing Community Development class, which starts at 8:30 am. Tuesday and Thursday are a bit different because I do not have class until 12 pm, so I spend my morning volunteering at Matumaini Women’s Center, an NGO that provides free vocational training to unmarried mothers and also a daycare and school for young children.

Our classes are held in the “CIEE Classroom” in one of the buildings at Ruaha Catholic University. Only CIEE students and faculty are allowed in the classroom, which has two water filters, a sink, a small fridge, some dishes and silverware, a bookshelf with both pleasure and educational reading, and a second bookshelf with various items like sunscreen, mosquito repellant, hygiene items, and other items bought by our directors or left by previous students for our use.

Managing Community Development ends at 9:30 and my next class, History of East Africa, is not until 11:00 am. During my break, some other students have Sustainable Rural Development, so I go back to my room to either do work or take a nap. On Mondays, 10-11 is a scheduled time for guest lecturers or NGO visits, and on Fridays, the same time slot is for a coffee hour where Justin, our director, brings us snacks and we all just hang-out or sometimes have wellness check-ins on how we’re doing mentally and emotionally. Every day at 12, we all take our Field Research and Methods class which is also taught by Justin. This class is by far the most challenging as the main assignment is developing a research proposal, and we do little by little each week.

Tanzanians eat lunch a little bit later than Americans, so our lunch break is not until 1 pm. Most of the time we all go to a restaurant called Clock Tower (see blog #3 for a review of restaurants). Most of us order their veggie curry (which is actually just veggie stew) which is affordable and good. RUCU does have a cafeteria, but students have been on break since September, so that cafe has been closed since then.

Habari za Mchana?

How’s your afternoon? After lunch every day I have Swahili class until 3 pm. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, Paulo is an amazing language teacher and though Swahili can be a tough language to learn, he makes it fun and less challenging through his teaching methods. Some days we learn by flashcards, others we complete worksheets, and even some days he makes us speak in front of the whole class, which is never fun but you learn quick!

After Swahili class, I return to my dorm, which is a girl’s dorm for other students at RUCU. There are seven girls so three pairs of roommates, with one girl living by herself. When the break is over, we will have Tanzanian students as our neighbors, but for right now, the nine of us are alone in the dorms (the two guys in our program stay across campus in the male dormitory). All our rooms are beside each other– we often yell questions to each other and communicate that way because our voice carries through the walls, and especially if the windows are open.

Lastly, I could not end this blog without officially introducing my roommate. Her name is Caroline and she is a junior at Trinity University. She recently spent the summer in Ecuador working with a nonprofit called Amigos. She is intelligent, funny, and independent and she listens to me talk random thoughts out loud. She is a friend I never knew I needed. Next week, she will climb Mount Kilimanjaro while the rest of us spend our semester break in Zanzibar. I have the COOLEST roomie!

Troubles and Ties in Tanzania

It has been a whirlwind week. The feelings of arrival and new beginnings are definitely wearing off and the repetitive routine is getting bothersome.

The Truth.

The truth is, I one-hundred percent miss my parents. I miss being able to drive home on a weekend and have my favorite meals cooked by mom because she just loves me that much. I miss going to see movies with my dad, and most of all I miss my dogs (Tanzanians are terrified of dogs so there are not many here, and we haven’t seen ANY stray dogs).

I honestly have not been experiencing Wofford FOMO (fear of missing out). I think that because I have mentally prepared myself for graduation and everything that will come next (big yikes btw). I’ve almost conditioned myself to know that I won’t have those experiences next year anyway. I do, however, ironically enough, miss how busy I was on campus–with all the meetings I attended for organizations, my numerous jobs, and the kids I nanny. Detoxifying my life from some chaos and stress has been nice but there are just some days where I miss all the things I learned to love doing over the past three years. The truth is, I miss my routine and my people, for sure.

The cultural differences, as I mentioned in the last blog, were somewhat easy to adapt to. I’ve taken every day with stride and always remind myself I am in a different country with different people, and a different culture. Some of my peers, however, recently dealt with a teacher who not only had cultural differences, but also personal differences. Some students were uncomfortable with how he was discussing or teaching certain topics and voiced their concerns. Our program director and coordinator both listened to the issues, supported students, and next week their class will have a new professor. It was extremely comforting to know how much our program coordinator and director respected us as not just students, but also as people, rather than excusing the behavior and attitudes of the professor. At first, I did think that the professor was simply a product of his culture, but it turns out that was not the case as some ideas he had were not culturally shared. It was a learning experience for all, but it also strengthened my respect for our program directors who helped the students and the rest of the group through the trying time.

CIEE Fall 2019 students with our program director Justin, and program coordinator and Swahili instructor Paulo.

Friendship

Aside from handling emotions and comfortability, adapting to Tanzania is going surprisingly well. Our group has really formed a solid friendship in the four weeks we’ve been. One of the students suggested that the nine of us sit down together and have a “wellness check.” It was a time and space where we discussed personal feelings, worries, and grievances that may have formed over the first few weeks. It was a very adult conversation and everyone participated with respect and honesty.

The four weeks have not only been trying for us as individuals but also as a group. We are sharing experiences, but we are also understanding and internalizing them differently. Everyone has been supportive of anyone who has a tough time or day, and it feels like we’ve known each other longer than a month.

Knowing that I am not alone in this experience is extremely comforting. Everyone definitely has a go-to person on the trip, but we can also all socialize and converse with each other at any time. During dinner, we often put our phones in the middle and just ask each other questions. Sometimes these questions are regarding favorite movies, embarrassing experiences, or special memories. We especially learn a lot from each other during our dinner questionnaires and maybe learn some things about ourselves as well. As everyone listens to the person speaking, the notion of eye-contact and interest brings peace, and the collective silence followed by loud laughter makes me feel whole.

Even though we have times of trouble, thank you Tanzania, for tying the nine of us together through what I know will always be, an unbreakable bond.

what a crew.

All Things Tanzanian

When I chose this program back in the spring, I knew I would eventually face cultural differences and language barriers. Luckily, our CIEE Study Abroad Advisor Mary and the information given by CIEE was really helpful in preparing me for most of the differences and potential challenges. After being here for a little over four weeks, I have definitely fallen in love with the country, culture, and (especially the) people.

Tanzania is an ethnically diverse country with many different tribes; and within each tribe, there are different beliefs, ideas, and practices. However, overall the culture can be described as welcoming and the people here are extremely friendly. Tanzanians do not rush, and “Tanzanian time” is a very real concept here, which means that five minutes can actually mean fifteen, and a meeting at 2:30 pm may not actually start until 3:45 pm. We’ve also learned that saying “no” doesn’t really fit in with the culture– Tanzanians want to carry out requests and help others constantly. One time in Dar, a man walked with our whole group for fifteen-twenty minutes to help us find a hair salon for some of my peers; and he simply did it because he wanted to help and could.

Tanzanians also love their music and parties. Weddings here are extravagant and our program director told us Tanzanians would actually love if we crashed a wedding. We have yet to crash a wedding but we’ve been tempted! Tanzanians love to dance as well; whether it is to more upbeat and contemporary music, or to traditional African songs and instruments.

In comparison to the U.S., Tanzania as a society is definitely more traditional and collectivist. They greet everyone and it is often rude to pass someone on the street without acknowledging them with a greeting. There may be some laws or beliefs here that could be considered past its time, but I know we are surrounded by a society that is respectful and caring.

Kneelength, Please.

Tanzanians generally dress conservatively, meaning most of the women wear dresses or skirts past knee-length and shirts that cover their shoulders. It is also often cold at nights so Tanzanians often bundle up (in what Americans normally wear as winter clothing). We’ve seen a couple of younger women wearing pants, but most of the time, they are wearing dresses made out of a fabric called kitenges. Our program director has a friend named Agnes who is an amazing seamstress. Check out some of our Agnes-made outfits below!

These outfits are obviously very different from regular American dress. On RUCU’s campus, girls are required to wear dresses or skirts passed the knee and men have to wear collared shirts and pants. Whereas on Wofford’s campus, most ladies wear whatever is comfortable (which varies from shorts and leggings) and on most days nice shirts but paired with jeans. The dress code can be uncomfortable somedays, and it has definitely made us aware of how clothing can either make you feel like yourself, or a totally different person. We look forward to the weekends when we can wear pants and just feel a bit more like ourselves (aka Americans). However, we have loved having Agnes make us very Tanzanian clothing and it is nice to (sort of) fit in every once and a while.

Ninajifunza Kiswahili.

I am studying Swahili. There are over 130 languages spoken in Swahili, but the national language of Tanzania is Swahili, which we are all required to learn as a part of the program. Paulo Keteme is our Swahili teacher (and program coordinator) and he is an amazing Swahili and over-all language teacher. Just in our third week, we’ve learned verbs, dates, prefixes, pronouns, sentence structure, greetings, and self-introductions. I am able to have short conversations with Tanzanians now, which is really enjoyable. I love being able to communicate with the people and assimilate more than most wazungu, or foreigners. The way Paulo teaches has helped me and other students retain the language better and faster. It is definitely a hard language to learn, like most languages, but once you understand the rules, the only step left to do is practice and memorize words. Practice makes permanent!

Let’s Talk About Food!

Tanzanian cuisine varies by geographical region (coast versus inland). Tanzanian-specific cuisine includes foods called ugali, a cornmeal porridge, plantains, and chapati, a type of flatbread. Many meals also come with rice (or versions of rice like pilau, fried rice, biryani), and side dishes of veggies, greens, or beans. A considerable amount of foods are inspired by Indian cuisine, so if you love Indian food, like pilau and curries, Tanzania is a good place to be! Here in Iringa, there are around five-six options for restaurants that we enjoy and can get (trusted) food from. As Americans, we honestly do have to be careful about where we get our food because of health safety. For example, I won’t be eating any street food because of how it’s prepared. Also, when we order fruits and vegetables, we have to ask if they’re washed with tap or filter water. For now, most of the Tanzanian food we have been exposed to is various curries, biryanis, chicken, fish, and rice or chapati. I am sure that in November during our village stay, I will be exposed to more Tanzanian foods. For now, I will gladly take the time to review and rate our favorite Iringa restaurants! Even though our restaurant options are limited, we’ve can’t complain because its all such good food!

Clock Tower:This restaurant near RUCU is our daily lunch break option because it is fast and also affordable. Most of us order the veggie curry and rice (its the best dish there in my opinion), which also comes with a side of beans and greens for around 5000 TSH. When we’re not in a rush, the menu includes burgers, curries, and other Tanzanian snacks like chapati, meat chops, and ugali. $ | 5/10

Ruksanas Indian Restaurant: This is one of our favorites! They serve Indian food, so paneer, curry, masala, etc. The only downside is its the furthest place to walk from RUCU but we also don’t mind. On really hot days, we take a bijaji for 1000 TSH/person. Another downside is that rice is a separate price from the dish you order, but I promise its so worth. A normal meal costs most of use 12500-14000 TSH (rice and drink included). Their free appetizer mixed pakora is definitely a highlight of each meal. Also, they deliver! $$ | 8/10

Mama Iringa: A taste of Italian when we need something….else. As of today, we have yet to go to Mama Iringa because it’s an hour walk or 20-minute bijaji ride, however, they do deliver, which is an option we use often (there are delivery charges and a charge per box but honestly it is so worth it. There are kinds of pasta, and pizzas, and very Italian appetizers. We also recently visited the restaurant, which provides a European aesthetic! $$$ | 9/10

Hasty Tasty Too: Personally, I like this place and their food but it has received mixed reviews from our group. Hasty Tasty is a Tanzanian restaurant that offers a variety of foods on its menu. They’re also a decent brunch option because the pancakes are chapati majis, which are sweet and similar to crepes. $-$$| 6/10

Nnema Craft: I talked about this restaurant in my last blog. It is a nonprofit that employs Tanzanians with disabilities in the restaurant and craft center. The menu includes sandwiches, Tanzanian snacks (samosas, chapati, rice, and ugali), curry, and even lasagna. They wash their salads with filtered water and also offer coffee, teas, smoothies, and fresh juice. $$ | 7/10

Wikiendi in Iringa

Karibu Tanzania! Tomorrow marks our third week of classes and the fourth week of being in Tanzania, but honestly, it feels like we’ve been here way longer than that.

Weekend 2: Basket Weaving

Normally when students study abroad in European countries, they’re able to spend the weekends traveling to neighboring countries. In Africa, its not so easy to take the train from Tanzania to places like Kenya (considering time, immigration, and distance). So instead, our program directors plan different things for us to do on the weekend so we don’t bore ourselves with homework and Netflix. For example, last weekend, we did a basket weekend activity and learned about the Hehe tribe.

Basket weaving was very relaxing and we had expert basket-weaving mamas to help us along the way. At first, the process of weaving was a bit complicated, but once you understand the pattern and get a rhythm going it’s just all about pulling the straw tight and not making any mistakes. However, it was really easy to get distracted with the kids that were in the room, and there was even a baby named Baraka who got most of my attention. At one point, one of the children went around to all of us students and “Shikamoo-d” us. When greeting someone older than you, Tanzanias say the word Shikamoo to which the response from said elder is Marahaba. To show ultimate respect, the younger person will place their hand on the elder’s head while saying Shikamoo. We all felt very honored and Tanzanian after the child greeted us in this manner.

After about an hour of weaving, trying to better my Swahili, and falling in love with baby Baraka, it was time for us to leave. Before we loaded the bus, basket-weaving mamas sang and danced for us. Paulo explained to us that guests who come to learn about Tanzanian culture are considered blessings to Tanzanians. The ladies danced and chanted for us to show their appreciation for visiting them and spending time with them. I appreciate them so much more though for welcoming us into their home and for taking time out of their day to teach us such an amazing skill!

After that, we visited a museum and learned about the Hehe tribe– the ethnic group based in Iringa. We mostly learned about the history of Chief Mkwawa, who was the Hehe tribal leader during German colonization. He is also known for committing suicide to avoid German capture. Years later after World War I, a stipulation in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles included that Chief Mkwawa’s skull be returned to the Hehe Tribe to reward them for helping the British. However, the skull was not formally returned until July 9, 1954 and it can be found at Mkwawa Memorial Museum in Kalenga, near Iringa. Fun Fact: our program director’s son Juma went to school with the current chief of the Hehe tribe: Adam Mkwawa.

I won’t bore you with the details about our classes in Tanzania this past week– as I also plan on doing a blog solely dedicated to the academic part of our program later on in the semester. However, on Monday’s from 9:00 am-10:30 am we have visits to NGO’s. This past week we toured Neema Cafe, a nonprofit that employs deaf workers in their restaurant and craft center to provide training and employment opportunities to Tanzanians with disabilities. Neema Cafe is a favored location for foreigners in Iringa, and through our visits and meals there we’ve made lots of friends and learned Swahili sign language!

Weekend 3: Cooking

On Saturday we learned how to cook chapati, chapati moja, kuku (chicken), and a Tanzanian beef stew. Chapati is a type of flat-bread made with flour, water, and oil and chapati moja is made with flour, water, oil, egg, sugar, and salt. I like chapati moja a lot better because it is sweeter and tastes like a crepe! Chapati is often paired with most meals with or instead of rice. We arrived at our cooking location at 2:45 pm and we were not able to eat until around 6 pm! Everyone helped by cutting vegetables, sorting through the rice, stirring pots, kneading and flipping chapati, and cutting meat. We learned how to cook Tanzanian dishes, but more importantly, I think everyone gained a deeper appreciation for American kitchens and Tanzanians who cook (mostly the mamas but no matter how gender-based and conservative Tanzania is, I know there are men here who cook; including one of our cooking instructors from yesterday named Chris!)

We don’t have access to a kitchen here at RUCU so we won’t be able to cook for ourselves again until we return back to the US– but it definitely felt good to make our own food here in Tanzania for once!

Thanks for reading! Sending love and smiles from Tanzania!

New Home in Tanzania

Campus.

It is our second week in Tanzania and classes have officially started! A lot has happened since we arrived in Iringa after our week in Dar. There are nine of us this semester (which is better than the average number of four students they get) and we’re all getting pretty close. We’ve had lots of time to get to know each other while we wait for our dinner that often takes an hour after we’ve ordered. Our program director Justin is truly one of the coolest people I’ve ever met and never gets tired of our questions (or he’s just really good at hiding when he’s annoyed with them). Our Swahili teacher Paulo has been teaching us lots of words, and I can officially count in Swahili!

Ruaha Catholic University — my home for the next two months!

We are spending the first two months of the program at Ruaha Catholic University for classes. The campus is small, just like Wofford. The dorms here are small but livable and all of us except one student have roommates. My roommate Caroline is really fun, and our personalities balance each other out. The most interesting part of our dorm routine is the showers– we take bucket showers because the water here is so cold. We have hot kettles to warm up water and my secret is four kettles and covering the bucket after each pour so the steam stays in. Afterward, I fill-up the rest of the bucket with the cold water but it’s still so warm!

My handy-dandy bucket for my bucket showers!

For our entire program, we are also expected to do our own laundry….by hand! I’ve done my own laundry a few times before in the Philippines, but four months of handwashing will be a first for me. Sunday was laundry day and the women’s dorm has a laundry room. We have two guys in our program and they came to our dorm to do laundry as well (for instructions and because they could not find their laundry room). A couple other girls had their own techniques and everyone who was new to handwashing took tips from all of us. I do the following: 1) Fill one bucket with soap and water– this is where all the dirty clothes go. 2) Soak then scrub scrub scrub!!!! 3) Ring out the soapy water (really good) then place it in a larger pan of clean water. This will hopefully let the clothes soak in clean water. (If you think about it, it is just like a washing machine). 4) Last, I ring out the water, check for soap, and rinse if I have too. Disclaimer: jogging pants and jumpsuits are not fun to handwash. Maybe in four months, I’ll have really good arm strength!

My first set of laundry! Mom would be so proud.

Culture.

Traveling to Tanzania was not much of a challenge for me; I’ve traveled a lot with family in the past and this is my third trip on my own. Plus, I’ve been to the Doha International Airport in Qatar before, so my layover there was relaxing. Culture shock has been occurring in small instances– I’ve been craving American food, staring is not rude here, and the toilets take some adjustment. I had my first clinic trip on day 6 so that added to the adventure! If we get a fever or anything worse than a common cold we have to visit a doctor– considering the country we’re in and how easy it is to get sick per the food or water. But no worries! My doctor gave me a very strong anti-bacterial, I am taking lots of vitamin C, and drinking lots of filtered water!

I grew up in the Philippines, and Tanzania has a lot of similarities to the country so adjusting here has not been as difficult. The biggest challenge is definitely the language, but as I said, our Swahili teacher Paulo is really good and I’m learning a lot; I just need more practice. The food here is pretty good, they have a lot of Indian dishes and I am a big fan of rice so I’ve been eating a lot of curry, other chicken dishes, shrimp (which is a tad pricey), and fish.

Any major differences between Tanzanian culture and American culture (or also in my case Filipino culture), we’ve all been somewhat prepared for or just see it as different. Well, we were informed during orientation to expect marriage proposals, because we’re American, so Justin and Paulo gave us a few different strategies. These strategies included saying we were already married, saying no forcefully with intense body language, or grabbing one of the two guys in our program and calling him our boyfriend. At first, we thought it was really funny but both Justin and Paulo were very serious with explaining to us that this would very well happen and the man would be adamant in his proposal. None of us have received a marriage proposal yet but we have four months left… so wish us good luck.

Tanzanians also dress conservatively: women wear skirts and dresses past their knees and shirts with sleeves. However, their clothing is extremely colorful and bright— but mostly the women. A lot of men wear solid colored shirts and pants. On-campus, women also follow a dress code of skirts or dresses only (no pants). Men on campus have to wear khakis or pants and collard shirts. Off-campus, we can wear whatever we want but we try to assimilate to the Tanzania style of dress and cover our shoulders and knees. Justin introduced us to Agnes, an amazing tailor here in Iringa who has been working with him for nine years. The other day she took us to the market to buy kitenges, which are a type of fabric used to make clothing here in Tanzania. She is currently making the girls dresses and skirts that we will be able to wear in a couple of weeks!

Kitenges: fabric used to make Tanzanian clothing.

Well, its time for homework: study for a map quiz for History of East Africa, reading for the research methods class, flashcards for Swahili, and more reading for Community Development! Badaye!