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consists of a corner in one of the small closets and almost never gets used due to a lack of books and books that are out of date.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.