Waited so Long for this Week to Come: My Semester Abroad Week One

Wildlife Safari Tops Off Semester’s First Week, Tarangeri Nat’l Park

…I’ve been waiting for this first week to come for so long, I’m still getting over the idea that it’s already done.  My initial reaction to the Tanzanian culture is that it is everything that I read about and more.  I am surprised with how much English is spoken, but then also surprised with how much Kiswahili I have already learned.  While preparing for my trip I made contact with about five past Global Service Corps participants and asked their favorite and not so favorite experiences, and what exactly they suggest for packing.  I think that this preparation helped me significantly because I was able to get honest feedback from people who have been in the exact position that I was about to enter. The participants all had great things to say, and gave warnings about things they felt a little uncomfortable about. The realization of the poverty levels was concerning with a couple of the participants, so I was aware that this would probably be the case for me.  And it is.  When I walk to my home through the neighborhood where my home stay family and I live, there are an abundance of children who are sweet and welcoming, but included in that welcoming is the idea that I bring money.  Watching the children gather water from the local creek is a sight to see and reminds me of the late night East Africa poverty commercials that are aired in the United States.  I was told time and time again about the great exchange rate I would have and that has also come to be true.  Meals are inexpensive compared to the states.  Unless I go to a mzungu (white person) café, I can expect to pay very much less than expected for the average American meal.

The initial reaction that I have for family life at my home stay is heartwarming.  It seems that my Mama really enjoys my company and that my family enjoys having me.  It is slightly ‘awkward’ for lack of a better word to ask questions about bathing, eating, and trash that seem so normal to the family, but again my preconceived notion regarding these issues aren’t exactly different from what they are still.  For example: I knew that I’d be using a bucket bath, but once I was actually in the bucket bath process I realized I didn’t really know what I was doing and that made me really feel like I was in East Africa.

Although I was aware that Tanzania is a predominantly black population, I was under the impression that there would be many other foreigners and/or white people, but that seems not to be the case.  The attention given to any foreigner is a bit overwhelming, especially if you cannot pick up on any Kiswahili words.  Which brings me to our Kiswahili mwalimu (teacher).  He has been so great.  I knew that we would be getting lessons daily, but I didn’t expect them to be this helpful and thorough… Overall, I’d say my first week in Arusha has been exciting, enlightening, busy, and serendipitous in the idea that this is exactly where I am suppose to be regardless of any initial situations that leave me speechless.  Needless to say, week one leaves me wanting another 14 weeks of this Tanzanian culture.

Clare B., Semester Abroad Tanzania


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