Right now I’m sitting outside of Misha Guest House in Kayanga town, our new home for the next 3 months. We arrived here last Thursday from Kampala, Uganda, where I met the other 7 students. This semester I am taking part in a Global-Service Learning semester through an organization called Amizade. Amizade partners with local organizations around the world to promote sustainable development initiatives and to encourage students to become global citizens through intercultural immersion and exchange. My program site is in Kayanga town, in the Karagwe district, of the Kagera region of Tanzania. It is one of the most remote regions in Tanzania, and we are living in a rural community in the mountains of the Northwest. We are situated between Rwanda to the West, Lake Victoria to the East, and Uganda to the North. Last Thursday we made the trek from Kampala to Kayanga, kicking up dirt in our dueling land rovers as we made our way down the dusty bumpy roads. Our car broke down (in a little town luckily!) but after a couple hours and many heads under the hood, we were back on the road and arrived here at Misha without any other complications.
Kayanga is beautiful. It is higher in elevation than Moshi, so it is greener and a little bit cooler. From our guest house, you can see the hillside leading down into a green valley and in the distance a green river. There are rolling mountains all around us, red dirt paths, flowering trees, and welcoming people. There are not many wazungu here—foreigners, or white people—because Kayanga is pretty remote, but everyone is incredibly friendly and welcoming. Many of the students have already employed the help of the neighborhood kids as part time Kiswahili teachers. Life here is different in the little ways. We sleep under mosquito nets every night, we have to boil our water before we drink it, we have squat toilets, the electricity goes out sporadically, the water isn’t always turned on, we hand wash all of our clothes and dishes, and few people speak English. After the first couple days, these things no longer matter and just become normal. Although they've already made for some funny stories.
Sunrise from Misha guest house, our new home.
Where we live. Not too bad...
Since arriving, we’ve already settled into a semi-routine. We had our first classes on Monday. We have Kiswahili with Bwana Osward everyday except Sundays, a field-placement reflection class, Sustainable Development in Rural Tanzania, and Global Service Learning. We start our volunteer placements next week, and every day this week we are visiting a different NGO, listening to presentations on their goals, missions, and our possible involvement.
Jumapili iliopita, nilichota maji na wasichana ambao wanaishi kilimani. Last Sunday, I fetched water with the girls who live on the hillside. Three of our Amizade students had met the girls on a walk the day before, and we came back the next day to help them carry water. The girls were all 6-10 years old. They walk over an hour, twice a day, to bring water back to their families. One of the girls, Mariam, helped me fold my kanga into a crown, which cushions your head from the heavy plastic jerry can of water. The spring was across the hillside and down into a steep valley. It was a 3 foot long, 3 foot deep pool of water being fed by a tiny stream of water coming from under a rock. We filled our jerry cans and shoved a banana end in each of the openings as a cap. The girls are amazing. Its inspiring and extremely humbling. They fixed leaking containers, folded our kangas, helped us lift the water up onto our heads, and they asked if we were okay. They were worried about us. Its hard to explain how you feel when a ten year old girl is carrying more water than you are, which she does twice a day everyday, and she asks you if you’re okay. Everyone knows about the water crisis here. But, the more I see and the more I experience, the more I realize that I will never fully understand what its like to live without a reliable water source and the direct and indirect effects it has on the community.
As far as my Kiswahili goes, ninajifunza kidogo zaidi kila siku--I’m learning a little more every day. Today I sat outside in the shade with Justina, Winstrauss, and Dianna, 3 of the Misha staff, and they taught me a bunch of new words and phrases. They don’t speak English, so it’s always a fun time trying to understand each other until finally everyone is laughing because I finally finally get it. Yesterday, I made a best friend. Her name is Edna and she is two years old. She’s the daughter of one of the young women working at Misha. It’s the perfect friendship because she doesn’t care that I can’t speak Swahili yet. And she might be the cutest child I’ve ever seen, with the biggest personality. Tunajifunza Kiswahili pamoja. We will learn Swahili together.
Things are just getting started here, as we arrived only a week ago, but I’m excited to see how everything plays out. Today is my 21st birthday and it’s a wonderful gift to be able to celebrate it here.