Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Secret Students

While my peers back in South Carolina were out of school because of the ice storms, I was enjoying the warm, tropical climate of Iringa; but our fates must have been intertwined, because I was also barred from classes. For me, it was because we had tourist visas to enter the country with the idea that once we entered, we would obtain student visas or resident permits with the help of our program. The process is slow, especially if you're not in a big city like Dar, and we weren't technically allowed to be taking classes with tourist visas, so we had to stay out of the classroom for a couple of days . . . and this, of course, turned into a week. We started our classes again today. Fortunately, during that week we were still able to have our Swahili class with Bw. Paulo, since he is with CIEE and not the university. And when we weren't learning Swahili, since we did have tourist visas, we became tourists.
Bw. Paulo took us to Kalenga, where the skull of Chief Mkwawa has its final resting-place. In the same room are displayed some replicas of traditional Hehe spears, shields, and cooking utensils.

 After leaving Kalenga, we headed to Isimila, a stone-age site boasting incredible pillars made of eroded sandstone. We were able to see the pillars from above, and then to hike in the bottom, which is a seasonal riverbed. It was an incredible hike, but I feel like the best thing to do for you now is to leave you here with some extra-large photos.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Iringa Town

Well, it’s the end of our first week of classes and I am sitting with the other students in my program at our favorite haunt in Iringa: Neema Café. The café offers great food and a quirky, modern atmosphere and it is a nice respite from the loud dorm life and monotonous rice and beans. Below the café is Neema Craft, where beautiful notebooks, blankets, clothing, jewelry, and décor are sold. But the best feature of Neema is that both the café and the craft shop are non-profit organizations which offer job training and employment to disabled individuals.

As for the university, my classes have been very interesting so far, though we just started on Tuesday. The campus is small but beautiful, with stone pathways and gorgeous mountain views. The climate is perfect; the air is cool and fresh, and the flowering trees are in bloom.

In the dorms, where I share a room with three Tanzanian students, things are somewhat less peaceful, but there is a feeling of community and excitement. When we arrived, our roommates came to greet us and walk us to our rooms, and they have been very welcoming ever since and are always ready to help, especially when it comes to teaching us the proper way of doing everyday things. Unfortunately, I am often very confused about what is going on as the other girls carry on enthused conversations in Kiswahili, often embarrassed when I can’t answer a simple greeting, and often hurt when I hear the word “mzungu” (or, “white person”) scattered throughout their speech and wonder what they are saying about me. Nevertheless, as I have begun to get to know my roommates, I think I am becoming less of an alien in their eyes, and their speech has started to be directed to me more often than about me. Still, I stand out quite a bit on campus, so I haven’t wanted to look like a tourist by taking photos of the classrooms, campus buildings, and living arrangements. When the students have their semester break and we are still in classes, since the semesters are on a different schedule here, I will show you around.
For now, I’ll end here at Neema’s, in the heart of tiny, lush Iringa town. If you'd like, you can join me virtually by checking out their website at: