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Okay! When we last left off, I was describing my time getting used to staying in a completely different country. But once we had our short cultural tutorial, we were thrown into our research and experience headfirst at a breakneck speed. That doesn’t just refer to our action packed days – though they were action packed before we began to settle into our research – but also Peter, our driver (more on him later) who took those windy, rocky, mountain-side roads like a champ. He zoomed along at top speed, earning both my fear and my admiration. It couldn’t be easy for him, considering those roads felt like a non-stop wooden roller coaster.
My Professor, Dr. Linda, does a lot of work with AIDS Control in Karagwe, helping families who are in need of help. They lived in varying degrees of closeness to our home in Nyakahanga, and the further we drove, the further we got from the limited amounts of urbanization that could be seen in the area. We spent a lot of time visiting these families – many of which were very different in terms of family dynamic – and learning more about them and their lives. Everyone we met was friendly and inviting and I think there was a lot of mutual curiosity and fascination as we interacted with one another, the children especially.
The children seemed to love teaching us more about their culture (even though it took us a lot of tries to get some things down!). You can’t say we didn’t try, though!
One example of something we tried to pick up was dancing, which, despite our best efforts, we never seemed to get quite right. People definitely found us funny, though.
After that, we visited the farm of a man named Mr. Boaz. It seemed like he grew every conceivable crop on his farm – from avocados to coffee beans to passion fruits to pineapples to bananas! But even with all that, he also kept a variety of farm animals on his property like goats, chickens and cows. He was a fountain of knowledge and could explain every plant and animal in meticulous detail. I, of course, took the opportunity to snap photographs of baby animals:
Tell me that is not adorable. He was only a couple of weeks old! I’m not sure that I find full-grown goats visually appealing but the babies are just too precious for words. And here, for your viewing pleasure, a couple more baby animal photos:
After that, I started going to work. I primarily worked at WOMEDA, a non-governmental women’s advocacy organization in Kayanga. It primarily works in legal rights and economic assistance. Working at WOMEDA was an awesome experience and I met a lot interesting people, many of which I ended up interviewing for my research paper.
My primary function in the office was to digitize their records of the households that they served. It was a pretty big chore – they had shelves and shelves of records, all written only in Swahili. At first, it seemed endless; every time I completed a large stack, a staffer was ready to drop another one in front of me – but after a while I started to get the hang of it, which allowed me to have time to get to know the employees better and talk to the people who filtered in and out of the office. Some of the workers were university students like I was, and we spent time comparing experiences and talking about the differences between our homes. Many people loved seeing pictures of Snowpocalypse 2010, the awful snowstorm that ravaged the Northeast this past winter. The sheer amount of snow shocked them – one person asked me how I managed to keep from freezing to death! They also provided an interesting perspective on the day-to-day events in the immediate area and gave me insights and context on the things that I saw and heard around me.
And that’s WOMEDA’s office! This is where I spent many of my days.
Also during that week, we took a tour of various secondary schools in the region. That was …interesting, to say the least. While my experiences with the school’s administrations were mixed, I had a great time asking and answering questions of the students. Their questions ranged from the basic (“What’s your favorite school subject?”) to more difficult (“Has America’s influence in Africa been more beneficial or detrimental to the African society?”). They also raised a lot of interesting questions about the meaning of cultural identity and nationality. I described my visits in more detail on my Livejournal, so you can read it there.
While all three of the schools were unique in their own way, one left a special impact on me: Bweranyanga All-Girls Secondary School. While most students had an air of trepidation approaching us (at least initially), the students of Bweranyanga treated us like old friends. Friendly would be an understatement. As soon as we stepped foot in the dormitories we were surrounded and questioned by tens of excited young girls who were dying to hear about us and our lives: What classes we were taking, why, what our favorite musicians were and our relationship statuses were among the topics of discussion. While there was somewhat of a gulf between me and the other students, I can’t express how instant the connection was between us and these students. A teacher mentioned that self-confidence and expressiveness for young women were qualities more readily found in all-girls schools, and from my limited experience, I can see where she’s coming from. I exchanged contact information with a few of the students and promised to keep in touch.
Two of my favorites. <3
After that, we visited the Kagera River, which feeds into Lake Victoria. At this particular spot, it constituted part of the border between Tanzania and Uganda. It carries an extremely deep history, especially during the Rwandan genocide. I can’t quite describe how it felt to be standing in a place of such significance; it was intense, to say the least. It was even more jarring to consider the history of the river when compared to the tranquility and beauty of the scenery.
We spent a lot of time climbing rocks, checking out the wildlife and admiring the view. And there was this:
I won’t get into how long it took to get that picture together, ha!
And with that, I ended my second week in Tanzania. This entry was quite long, so I’m glad I opted to do this in four parts instead of two! Check back next week for part three, and stick around soon for my personal travel tips based on this experience.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me know!