First Impressions

Since we arrived in Tanzania when it had already turned dark, the ride to the Outpost was uninteresting. The morning though, is when everything came into perspective and I started my journey in this amazing country and city of Arusha. These are my first impressions of my experiences here in Tanzania.

The Outpost – It is all in an open-air format with the dining areas and front desk without a door and open to monkeys, cats, and plenty of rain drain off. Through the dining/restaurant area is a set of rooms, which is where I will live the next 3 weeks. The pool area is complete with padded lounge chairs, tiki style table umbrellas, and various Tanzanian palms. Our room, which I share with Molly, is similar to a typical hotel room except the mosquito nets made with plastic pipes. It even has a television, which we have yet to turn on. The only time we are in our room is to sleep and take showers. Everything including our sheets, pillows and towels are damp because of the high humidity. The meals usually contain rice and veggies, and variety so far is not much.

The city of Arusha – On Sunday we were taken on a walking city tour of our new home for the next month. Not only were there not paved or flat sidewalks, the dala dala’s (form of bus system in Tanzania) drove crazy, motorcyclists weaved in and out of traffic, and various people, bikes and walkers were roaming just a few inches from oncoming traffic. It is definitely nothing I have seen before (They also drive on the other side of the road which makes for crossing the road a challenge in itself). That first day I was not used to it, but now I am able to walk confidently down the street. Arusha, being the second largest city in Tanzania is definitely not like any American city I have been in. Stray dogs wander the streets, unpaved roads (which is a majority of them) contain potholes that could go to my mid calf. Walking through the city requires you to definitely watch were you are walking. During the walking tour we went over a few bridges and when I looked down at the running water below it was spoiled with large amounts of trash. Even the sides of the road and all around the city trash was sprawled about.

Arusha Primary School – Monday, my first day at the school, two others and me were escorted to our school on a 20min walk from the Outpost on one of the most busiest and chaotic streets I have been on. Once there we met with the head mistress to get our placements. She seemed to not have known we were going to show up and asked us many questions about were we came from and what we wanted to teach. After she met with us she took us to the teachers lounge were she dropped me off with my 5”, male, geography, history, and physical education teacher. He welcomed me but I knew that he didn’t know English well when I asked him a few simple questions that he didn’t end up answering. The first class we went into was standard 3A (aka grade 3, class A), which I later counted and found it contained 58 students, some without desks or chairs having to share with their classmates. After the third day though, their sprits were high and as soon as they saw me walk into the schoolyard attacked me with hugs and “welcome teacher Shannon.” The public, government owned Arusha school is on a huge area of land with various academic buildings, boarding houses for both boys and girls, a library, and various well groomed walkways and halls. The classrooms only contain desks, chairs, a chalkboard and a teacher’s desk. Younger grades usually have posters on the walls but being in a 3rd grade class their walls are bare and show bad signs of wear and little upkeep. The situation of this school was definitely a culture shock coming from smart boards and carpeted hallways. The teachers and workers here vary in education and dedication to the school. Often I walk past teacher-less classrooms, which we are encouraged to jump into and start teaching. I am excited to do this more as this experience continues!

– Shannon Blood

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