The first four days here have been absolutely exhilarating. Our first two school days, we took language lessons in the morning, and then had a technical lecture/lesson in the afternoon pertaining to developing world hospitals and equipment. Needless to stay, with only about 4 weeks to prepare, we have to cram enormous amounts of material in this short period of time.
Ninajifunza kiswahili kwa Mama Lois
That means I am learning Kiswahili with Mama Lois (my mwalimu or teacher). Unlike English, Kiswahili language is fairly simple structurally. Each verb has three essential parts, the who, the when, and the what. So when I say Ninajifunza, Ni = I, Na = now, -jifunza = to learn. So, by learning the prefixes for different people and times, you can ‘easily’ learn the language by just knowing all the verbs. Of course, theory is easier than practice, but Nabil and I have been practicing with each other, and our homestay family.
Most fun has been doing some of the homework at home. Nabil and I sit at the couch (Tunakaa couch? – note, they don’t use as many prepositions and helping words as we do) with our books, and my homestay brother Shardock will climb onto my lap and read everything. He has been an absolute sponge, trying to read and learn everything we are. Of course, he is already fluent in Kiswahili and pretty decent at English, but with me asking Unasemaje (how do you say) for nearly everything, he has been a ton of help, despite being only 9 years old.
[Insert picture of Shardack here] <-Maybe later, internet here blows
Nimekwenda Lima Meru [I went to Mt. Meru]
Saturday, our group had the opportunity to take a tour around the Ng’iriri village on Mt. Meru (the 5th largest peak in Tanzania). Walking up and down the hills of the muddy roads (which were incredibly slippery and wet, some people had multiple messy falls!), we witnessed the lifestyle of some truly impoverished people. However, unlike those commercials with the children who look so unhappy about their condition, these children were very happy and full of life, greeting us all (Mambo! Habari!), walking with us, holding our hands, and just being bright. There were little children who we would pass yelling, “BYYYYEEEE!!!” at the top of their lungs. The cutest things ever.
Trekking for about 1.5 miles up and down hills took us about 2 hrs going towards the epic waterfall. It took us about half that time on the way back, partially because we were so tired and we just wanted to get to food, and partially because we didn’t stop to take pictures of every flower and cow we saw on the way. Once we got near the waterfall, we had a nearly vertical climb down the side of a hill. It would have been okay with dry soil and spiked boots, but the combination of the mud and my basketball shoes ended up in me slipping halfway down, and getting my jeans all muddied up on my backside. The way up was the same, except it was the front side of my jeans that got messed up. Nevertheless, the waterfall was a beautiful way to end the safari (trip) and we somehow made it back to the meeting spot.
The reason the village allows tourists to simply visit is because they charge for the tours, and use that money to fund building schools. At first, the children had basically no schools to go to. But since starting the program in 1996, the combination of 5 villages in the area have been able to coordinate efforts, and have built enough primary and secondary schools to support the nearly 3000 children in the area. This has helped the village slowly grow out of the poverty, as the graduates can now go to town and properly start the businesses used to support the agricultural lifestyle they live (they grow bananas, coffee, yams, and many other fruits and vegetables).
We ended our visit with a trip to the Masai village, one of the more primitive areas. There we saw the small mud huts and dirt floors they lived in. But once again, they greeted us warmly (a common theme here in Tanzania), and we even got the chance to jump rope with them, a very universal activity.
It was a long, but thrilling day that really opened my eyes to the condition of people that is common to most of the world. In the United States, we are trully blessed.