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From Tanzania, With Love: Part 3

13 Sep

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So we’re almost done! This is week three out of four in my study abroad recap. We’re reaching the home-stretch! You can read parts one and two here and here. As always, you can view the entire set of photos from Tanzania here.

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The beginning of the week was packed. We spent one of the days on a whirlwind field trip through the city of Bukoba. But since Bukoba was four (or more, I don’t remember) hours away, we got to make a few stops on the way. First stop: baby orphanage. Look at them potty training! Aww!!  We got to play with babies and learn about the adoption situation in Tanzania. It was a very informative visit and one of the highlights of my trip, for sure.

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After that, our guide Innocent led us to a forest found on the side of the road. He found an unassuming clearing to pass through and we found ourselves surrounded by greenery. My friend Lita described them as reminiscent of “Twilight Woods”, but since I’ve never read or seen Twilight, I’m going to have to take her word for it. Either way, it was gorgeous! We didn’t have any idea where Innocent was leading us, other than his assurances that it would be epic (my words, not his). After going around in circles for a little while – and I’m not sure how intentional that was – we ended up finding this:

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A waterfall! This picture doesn’t really do it justice, it was absolutely magnificent in person. Apparently we weren’t allowed to jump into the water, but I found myself really wanting to. After the waterfall, we set off to Bukoba to do some shopping. Innocent apparently had other things in mind, so we rushed through Bukoba without doing a significant amount of haggling, although I wasn’t really interested in purchasing sardines or men’s shoes anyway. We loaded up into the Land Rover and headed off to the beach!

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Okay, maybe not a beach in the traditional sense with a sandy coast, but seeing the water crash against the rocks while we peered across the expanse of Lake Victoria was still exciting. Besides, we’d end up on a sandy coast later that day. This particular coast was situated near a small church where we paid a small fee to stand on the rocks and take photographs.

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One of said photographs. Those are my friends Ari and Lita, reminding everyone where we were. Haha!

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After that, Innocent took us on a whirlwind trip of the city, where we got to stop by and see various sights, one of which was this charming hotel in Bukoba. Isn’t the scenery lovely? After this, we took the journey back to Karagwe, to prepare for another long day we had ahead.

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After being completely exhausted from our tour of Bukoba, we woke up early to attend the wedding of Anne and Brighton (pictured above at the reception). I had never been to a traditional African wedding, so I was unprepared for the scale and length of the ceremony, but in many ways, this ceremony wasn’t traditional at all. Anne is a missionary from Denmark and Brighton is a Tanzanian minister. The wedding fused both of their cultures. One example: the wedding ceremony included scripture read in Kiswahili, English, Danish AND German! An interpreter also translated of the various wedding speeches during the reception into either Kiswahili or English. This caused some interesting moments when the bride used euphemisms and expressions that were hard to translate, such as, “I could see his eyes smiling”.

One thing I clearly remember? It was LONG. The actual ceremony started at 10:30 in a small church in Kayanga, after which was the wedding procession at about noon. From there, we went straight to the reception area, where we didn’t leave until almost 8:00pm! While it was an interesting experience, it was a test of my endurance for sure. In fact, we ended up leaving early – there were members of our group that were participating in the choir and didn’t make it home until past nine, but said the festivities were still going strong. I wish them the best of luck!

And that concludes my third week in Tanzania! Stay tuned for the last installment next Monday!

xoxo,

Tara

From Tanzania, With Love: Part 2

24 Aug

Week 2:

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Obligatory Plug: Have you voted in the Black Weblog Awards yet? See this post for more information! Voting ends August 31st!

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!

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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.

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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:

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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:

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Baby goat!

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Bunny rabbits!

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.

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WOMEDA’s sign!

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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.

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Two of my favorites. ❤

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.

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We spent a lot of time climbing rocks, checking out the wildlife and admiring the view. And there was this:

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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!

xoxo, Tara

From Tanzania, With Love: Part 1

17 Aug

Obligatory Plug: Have you voted in the Black Weblog Awards yet? See this post for more information! Voting ends August 31st!

Hello, everyone! I originally envisioned this post with intending to briefly sum up my trip, but I don’t even know where to begin: How does one sum up such a life-changing experience in one short blog post? Regardless, I’m going to try my best to hit on the most important moments. If you’re interested in a detailed blow-by-blow of what I was doing, I have cross-posts of my emails to my mother (ha!) posted on my livejournal. I’m also working on a post about my top travel tips for international travel based on this experience  – especially when traveling to developing nations. If you have anything you’d like me to mention, or advice you’d like to share, leave a comment!

Since I spent an entire month (!) in Tanzania, with well over five hundred photos (!!), I decided to split this into two four posts, spanning the two halves of my trip. Clicking on the pictures will lead you to my Flickr, where I have most of my photos posted. As of this writing, they aren’t all up yet, but they will be as I get these posts completed. Stay tuned!

Week 1:

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It took approximately twenty-four hours of traveling to get to Karagwe, Tanzania, and that doesn’t even include stopovers! There were two plane rides that were about eight hours each from Washington, DC to London, and then from London, England to Entebbe, Uganda. From Entebbe, my group and I rode another eight hours to get to Karagwe. Whew!

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In transit, we got to cross the equator. Check it out: me and my friend Lita are standing in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, respectively. Not pictured: the thin layer of grossness from wearing those same clothes for two-three days straight while in transit. Speaking of which, I’ll definitely mention how to maintain a respectable level of hygiene while traveling long-haul.

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This is where I stayed for the month! It was beautiful, comfortable and I enjoyed myself – although there were times where I definitely missed the comforts of home. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a hot shower as much as the first one I got in Uganda heading back home. Phew!

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We spent the first week getting acclimated to life in the village and interacting with the various people who lived there. These two boys lived in a village about twenty kilometers down the road and we managed to see them every time we passed through. Don’t let the sweet smile on their faces fool you, these two were a handful – especially that little troublemaker on the right!

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We spent the rest of the week recovering from our travels, getting acclimated – and we surely had to get acclimated with that seven hour time difference – introducing ourselves to the community, learning about the culture first-hand and having a crash course in Swahili. Despite my best efforts, I only seemed to gain a masterful handle of greetings. I’m determined to learn more, though! Plus, during this first week, we got to do one of my favorite parts – lots of shopping! Although we weren’t in a touristy area, I had a great time getting clothing made and finding handcrafted treasures to take home to my family. Notice that stylin’ bag, I’m wearing? Got it in Tanzania. I still wear it every day.

That’s it for week one! Stay tuned for parts two through four in the coming weeks!

Are there any travel tips you want to share? Other thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, Tara