Friday, August 17, 2012

Tanzania Experience: Kongwa

After spending two relaxing days in Dar Es Salaam, we were ready to make the trek to our new (temporary) home. Savannah Tours had arranged three caravans that would stay with us until we left for Zanzibar. Once we got into our caravan groups, we were off to Kongwa! The students stuck together and we all got along so well! That's probably why our full-day safari didn't seem quite as long. For the majority of us being strangers at the beginning, we lucked out with the perfect group! We liked each other so much that we didn't even want to change drivers! Sorry, Moses, but you are stuck with us. Moses as well as Patrick, Arnold and Julius--all of our drivers--turned out to be some of our most valuable resources when communicating in Swahili and navigating our way through Tanzania.

Leaving our beach bungalows for the village life.

The Mosquiterz. From left to right: myself, Naomi, Katelyn, Hannah, Anna, and Andrew.

Moses taught us our first Swahili song! The Mosquiterz would later be the name of our band.

The drive through Tanzania was beautiful. I never imagined East Africa to be so lush and full of beauty. Just along the road we passed by dozens of fields of sunflowers. You could look off into the distance and see mountains filing behind each other--one right after the next. It was an endless expanse of wonder for me. It went from tropical to valley to desert all in one car ride. It reminded me so much of our family trips to Mexico except we actually had leg room on this trip..

When we arrived in Kongwa, we immediately went to the St. Philip's Guest House. We had five days of home-cooked Tanzanian food! I really took a liking to ugali, which looks like mashed potatoes but has a play dough consistency. Traditionally when you eat a meal, you use your hands so you mold a piece of ugali into your fingers and use that to spoon the other food (meat stew, beans, vegetables) into your mouth. I never had a meal that I didn't like in that house!

Side view of St. Philip's Guest House.

Barbara with the three lovely women who cooked our meals daily. They are singing a church hymn.

Dividing up all the donations for each of the schools.

The next four days FLEW BY! Every day we would go to Mnyakongo Primary School, where Peter, Barbara and David went to school as children, in addition to Mnyakongo Secondary School, Kongwa Secondary School, and Kongwa Beef (each on their own respective days). From the start, Mynakongo had my heart. I kid you not. I felt like the Jonas Brothers every day we went to visit the children. Reminder: the students were on break when we arrived but the first day we got there, there had to have been around 400 students there--all running up to meet us. US! I had never felt more popular. All you could make out in the sea of children were smiles and eyes trying to catch yours. All you felt were little hands trying to hold yours, or touch your hair. I wanted to hug each and every one of them and hold them so they could feel how much love I felt at that moment.

Mnyakongo Primary School students running towards our caravans.

The only group of people I will ever want to be mobbed by!
(You can see us against the car in the far left)

Kids more than happy to hold Gail's hands.

I wish I could see these faces every day!

Finally making our way out of the mob.. only to find myself in the middle of it later!

At all of the schools, we toured the premises (some nicer than others but all well-kept), learned how each school operates, what subjects the students seek the most help in (any physics, chemistry or biology teachers  looking to relocate?), and were guests of honor. They celebrated us and revered our knowledge. Kongwa Secondary was a great experience for us because we got to interact with students closer to our age who had real questions for us. Bless their little hearts that they spoke English, too! Counting numbers can only take me so far.. 

However nice and welcoming each school as well as the beef factory were, I wanted to spend all of my time at Mnyakongo Primary. Even before our first day was over, I knew I would be back one day. I wish I could've done more with the students (like organizing a dozen groups to play and planting a garden wasn't enough) to really interact with them, but it's just given me a whole new goal for life--both for the immediate and distant future. Giving myself to others is where I thrive. I want people to have a memorable experience in my company. I want them to feel welcomed and loved. I want them to laugh and dance to the music in their heads and all around them. I can't imagine spending my life doing anything else.. The next thing to do is figure out how to make it all work!

Dinner with politicians. NBD.

Andrew playing soccer with some of the kids. One of the many activities going on that day!

Teaching the kids "Hip Hip, Hooray!"

Gave gardening my best shot...

Oh, just hanging out in Peter's Library. Not only is it named after him, but these are some of the many shelves filled with books donated by him.

Some of the Mosquiterz introducing "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" to Mnyakongo..

I tried keeping this one short, but there was just no way! This barely scratches the surface of how incredible this trip was.I hope you could get through the majority of it. Until next time when I describe the significance of pipi and later Zanzibar, here are some fundamental Swahili phrases:

Habari gani? (ha-BA-ree GON-ee): How are you?
Nzuri asante (n-ZOO-ree ah-SAN-teh): Well, thank you.
Tuteonana kesho (too-teh-oh-NA-na keh-SHOW): See you tomorrow.
Lala salama (la-LA sa-LA-ma): Good night.

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