Lasting Impressions: Unconnected but reconnecting

Lasting Impressions. What will I forget? What has stayed with me the most? What has made the most impact? I have pondered these questions for some time and I do not think I can answer them. Being away in Arusha, Tanzania for four weeks changed me in ways I am still unsure of. There are memories that I will never forget, memories I do not want to remember and people that gave me perspective on the world which have challenged me as a human being. However, if I have realized the changes or impressions that have been made on me is another question as what I use to believe seems so foreign to me now.

So my answer is not straightforward, not cut and dry, not simple. To me I cannot sum up four weeks of my life in a simple blog post. There are so many things that have left footprints on my heart as a teacher, student and human of the world. As a teacher, learning how to think on my feet, seeing how schools here function with minimal resources and funding or even just talking with teachers about differences and similarities in methodologies is something I will never forget. One thing I have learned here and will stick with me is the idea of a simple conversation. In America, people skype, FaceTime, text, email, call etc. but having a conversation, face to face and actually being genuinely interested in the other persons words is rare. Here in Tanzania, not only did I have conversations with teachers about teaching and school, but I got to know them as human beings. I will forever cherish these conversations. Never in my life have I felt more welcomed in a place that is so foreign to me. These conversations not only occurred daily with teachers but with students and locals as well.

When it comes to my students that I have come in contact with over the last month abroad, they will never be forgotten. I have yearned to touch the lives, meet the children and learn from students all over the world. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe my first trip abroad would be to Africa, but I thank myself and my parents daily (well in my head) for the opportunity and letting me take the leap to enter a third world country. My students here were so eager to learn, ask questions and be around me. It was like being a celebrity, which was kind of cool if you ask anyone of us that were on the trip. However, as I said my students will never be forgotten. I have met so many children and students here, more than I ever imagined. Each one of them holds a special place in my heart and in my memories. Some of them opened my eyes to new ways of thinking, some challenged me as a teacher and some were great playground buddies who loved our stickers.  As a human being not just a teacher, meeting, learning and growing is a major part of life. This trip, with all the students I encountered, allowed me to grow and learn about myself in the best way possible. These students will never understand the impact they had on my life as they thought the only reason I was here was for them but in reality, I was here to not only teach them but learn from them as well.

Outside of the school settings, the locals will forever be engrained in my memories. Even though our walks through the city may have been crazy as locals bombarded us with goods to buy from them, they had good intentions. Before I continue on about them, I have to say the stereo type that a third world country is unsafe, is in my opinion is because people are afraid to experience and connect with other people. Personally, I felt safer walking the streets of Arusha than I have ever felt walking the streets in America. People here are genuinely interested in who you are, what you are doing and how your day has been. As our professor has said, they will not hurt you, they may want your money and will be creative in trying to steal  (as some of the girls experienced), but that is because they are desperate for money. Nonetheless, the relaxed atmosphere and “hakuna matata” slogan that everyone lives by makes it a place that is easy to fit into. Through our time here and our walks through the city, the locals have taught us Kiswahili, guided us through the city, asked about our students and our days, fended off pushy sellers and even given us advice on buying, eating and people in the city.

As our time winded down in Arusha, we talked about what we would miss most, and many of us said the people and their genuine interested in what we had to say.  So I would have to say through writing and thinking about my experiences here, the people of the country and their outlook on life have made the biggest impression on me. I have so many memories, conversations and mental photos locked away in my head and I just wish that everyone could experience what I just did. In my opinion, the world would be a better place if everyone could broaden their perspective on life. To decrease the amount of time always being connected to the latest trends, social media and material things and increasing the time reconnecting with the people next to you, may be a small change that could have a big effect.

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