Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thanks Again

Hello everyone! I’ve been back for nearly four weeks now and I greatly miss Tanzania. Once I got back I spent one day relaxing and catching up on sleep, and the next day I went right back to work for my Dad at Grove Landscaping. It has been great to be back home to see friends and family again, but now I also have friends and family half way across the world in Tanzania that I also miss.

My experience in Tanzania taught me more than I could ever have imagined. I learned countless lessons about life in general that I will never forget. I will always argue that traveling abroad is the best way to broaden your horizons. It allows you to see the world in a whole new way and to look beyond our own borders and see how life is lived by the people of other nations. Traveling from the U.S., the richest country in the world, to Tanzania which is one of the poorest countries in the world, really put things in perspective for me. It made me realize how fortunate each and every one of us are.

I have been asked many times since I have been back, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” This is not an easy question to answer as I experienced so many incredible things, but hands down, my favorite part of my travels was the people that I met. This includes all of the close friends that I made as well as many strangers I came in contact with. It was not unusual for me to ask someone on the street for directions, and instead of just telling me how to get there, they would personally walk me to my destination even if it took fifteen or twenty minutes. The people of Tanzania are incredible and they are full of generosity and kindness.

Traveling completely on my own for two months was not easy, but it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself. I learned to challenge myself and put myself in situations that I knew might be uncomfortable. I think that this can be incredibly valuable as it forces you to learn how to deal with adversity.

With all of your generous and loving support, I was able to reach my goal, and donate $2000 dollars to St. Margaret’s Academy. The school is currently in the process of building a new cafeteria and new classrooms, and this money will most likely go towards the continued construction of these additions. To put things in perspective, $2000 U.S. dollars is enough to pay for nearly two teachers’ salaries for an entire year. Everyone at St. Margaret’s Academy is incredibly grateful for your donations and support, and greatly appreciates everything that you have done for them. Following is a thank you note that Mama Tesha gave to me to share with all of you;

A word of thanks,

With sincere appreciation, thank you so much for the thoughtfulness you have shown. Thank you for your contributions to St. Margaret’s school in Arusha-Tanzania.. We feel blessed by your kind hearts.

With much love and gratitude,

Mama Tesha & the St. Margaret’s Academy Community

I made my donation to St. Margaret’s through Friends of Africa Education (FOAE) which is the non-profit organization based out of Minnesota that has significantly helped support the school. If you would like to continue to support St. Margaret’s and FOAE, please visit their website at www.foae.org.

If any of you would like to hear more about my trip, or just learn more about Tanzania and East Africa, I would love to sit down and talk with you. Once again, thank you for all of your support over the past several months. I greatly appreciate your help in making this experience a reality.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Zawadi ni Zawadi

About two weeks ago, Mama Tesha called all of the teachers into the staff room and when we all arived, she seemed incredibly happy. She informed us that a recently retired couple from Illinios had decided to build a library for St. Margaret's Academy.

David and Kim Olson of Chicago Illinois traveled to Tanzania a few years back and while they were here, they took a visit to St. Margarets. They happened to visit at a time when school was not in session so there were no students at the school. The two of them still felf like St. Margarets had a need that they could help fulfill. When they returned to the United States, they began talking with friends and family and decided that what the school needed was a library. They started an organization called "Zawadi ni Zawadi" ("A Gift is a Gift") and began talking to libraries and schools asking them to donate books. To date, they have gathered an entire container of books which are currently being shipped across the ocean.

As of now, St. Margarets Academy has a very small library which consists of a corner in one of the small closets and almost never gets used due to a lack of books and books that are out of date. Very few of the students have text books, and the teachers have next to nothing for books to refer to when teaching. With the addition of this library, the quality of these students education will be greatly increased.

The ground breaking happened on July 2nd, which happened to be Mama Tesha's birthday. Quite the birthday gift! It was an exciting day as all of the teachers, bus drivers, cooks and anyone that could use a shovel was helping. It has been really neat to see all of the hard work that everyone is putting into this project. Everyone is contributing every free minute they have towards the construction of this wonderful addition to the school. I have spent as much time as I can using the digging skills I have learned from landscaping to help start the foundation. With everyone's hard work, the construction should be complete withing two to three weeks.

Friday, July 4th, was my last day at St. Margaret's Academy. I was sad to say goodbye to all of the students and staff as I have grown so close to many of thkem. I have learned so much from this experience and I know it will help me as a future teacher. Although teaching here is much different than it is in the United States, especially since all I have to work with is a piece of chalk and a black board, there are many valuable lessons that I have learned. On of those lessons is that a teacher needs to be flexible and able to adapt to certain situations. I have had to chanbge many of the strategies that I had planned to use here due to the environment that I was placed in. The techniques that work for teachers in the U.S., dont always work for teachers in Tanzania, or any other country at that. I learned that I need to take a look at what my students know and how they learn best, and then go from there.

Now that I have finished my time at St. Margaret's, I have begun my travels around Tanzania. The week after I finished at St. Margaret's I went on a five day safari to Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It was far better than I could have ever imagined! I now know why these are some of the most popular national parks in the world and why they are always shown on Discovery Channel and in National Geographic Magazine. I had many great encounters with the wild life, including one particularly large male lion that decided to urinate on our vehicle.

After returning from safari, one of the other teachers and I trekked Mt. Kilimanjaro which is the tallest mountain in Africa, and the tallest free standing mountain in the world at 5895 meters. It was incredibly challenging but very rewarding. I can now say that I have been to the roof of Africa!

On wednesday I am going to visit a Masai village in the mountains for three days. During my stay there I will learn about their culture, participate in some traditional farming activities, and even watch some traditional tribal dances. The tribal elders have been informed that I am a teacher so they havve asked if I could take some time to teach their children. I am not sure what to expect but I am sure it will be an interesting experience.

After my visit to the Masai village, I plan to climb Mt. Meru with a few of my Tanzanian friends, and then end my trip with a few days on the island of Zanzibar. I also hope to observe the proceedings of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rowanda which is held here in Arusha every day.

I have two weeks left here in Tanzania and I am sure my time will fly by.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Getting To Know My Students

Getting to know each and every one of their students is arguably the most important things a teacher can do. I decided that I would have my students answer a few questions for me so that I knew a little bit about them. I figured that many of you would like to know about the students as well, so I have decided to post a few of their "profiles" to my blog. Below is Bill, and Alice. Enjoy!

Name: Bill Silito Chao
Age: 10
Grade: 3rd
What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite is math because I want to be a doctor.
What is your favorite color?
My favorite is blue.
What do you do during your free time?
I spend my free time reading.
What is your favorite food?
Chips and Sodce. (Chips are french fries and I have no idea what Sodce is)
If you could travel any where in the world, where would you travel?
I would travel to USA because I want to see how the car are going but I want to see good cars.
What is your biggest feqr and why?
My biggest fear is HIV because I dont want it.
What is your favorite animal?
How old do you think Mr. Matthew is?
Mr. Matthew is 24 years old. (I am actually 21)

Name: Alice Godson

Age: 8

Grade: 3rd

What is your favorite subject in school?

My favorite subject is science because I want to be a doctor.

What do you do during your free time?

I play netball. (Basketball)

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color is pink.

What is your favorite food?

My favorite food is chips with hen and also pizza. (Chips and hen is french fries and chicken)

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you travel?

I would travel to Japan and America

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear is a fox

What is your favorite animal?

My favorite animal is a rabbit.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When I came to St. Margaret's Academy, I figured I would only be teaching the children. To my surprise, a large amount of my time has been spent instructing the other teachers how to use computers.

A man by the name of Chuck Follen, of Minneapolis Minnesota, has donated 14 laptop computers to St. Margaret's Academy through Friends of Africa Education which is a non-profit organization, based out of Minnesota, that has helped St. Margaret's become what it is today.

Until now, all of the teachers had been creating their lesson plans, quizes, exams, and homework assignments by hand. Now, with the help of these laptops, they will be able to spend more time teaching and focusing on the students needs and less time writing everything out by hand.

Yesterday was a big day for all of them. Mama Tesha came to school with a computer bag for each laptop which will allow them to bring thier computers home with them when they are swamped with work. When the annoucement was made that they were allowed to bring the computers home, it was like watching a little kid opening presents on Christmas morning. Each of them had smiles from ear to ear. They have been incredibly thankful and are eager to learn as much as they can.

This experience has remined me of how lucky most of us are in the United States. I have taken for granted the fact that I have been learning how to use a computer since I was in elementary school. I am incredibly happy for all of them and I hope it will allow them to spend more time focusing on each individual student and less time sitting at a desk writing each and everything out by hand.