Hamjambo! We have made it safely to Tanzania. There was a strong breeze and refreshing warm air to greet us as we stepped off the plane and walked across the tarmack.
After getting through customs we met our program guides and drove to where we have been staying for the past two days, Vijiji Center. As we drove to Vijiji it started raining which is unusual for this time of year in Tanzania, but as the locals say "Rain is a blessing." We took it to mean a good sign signaling our safe arrival and the beginning of an amazing experience.
The first night we all fell asleep (or tried to fall asleep) to a choir of croaking bullfrogs and the buzz of night insects. In the morning we had our first Kiswahili lesson taught by our program guide and mwalimu (teacher) Steven. With much laughter and singing we became familiar with basic greetings and introductions. Later that day we drove into the city of Arusha. Our drivers took us around the city before stopping at the market.
The market was abounding with people and vendors selling every type of fruit, vegetable, grain, or meat you could think of. It seemed to go on forever as mwalimu Steven led us through the market stopping to point out some traditional Tanzania foods and to quiz us on vegetables and fruits familiar to us.
Thursday, January 8
Once again we began our day with fresh fruit and a delicious breakfast before our lecture with mwalimu Steven on the ethnic and tribal groups of Tanzania. About 130 tribes exist within Tanzania each with its own language and unique set of values and perceptions on life. Mwalimu Steven stressed the point that despite the number and diversity of tribes, tribalism does not affect relationships. Here it matters more that people see each other first as Tanzanian brothers and sisters and second as members of a specific tribe.
Later in the day we visited a local coffee farm. The owner spoke to us about his farm and showed us how they process and roast the coffee. We all sat down to enjoy a refreshing cup of coffee and bought some coffee to bring home. Maybe you will get to enjoy a cup as well!
We have been well taken care of here at Vijiji, and we are greatful for the kindness and hospitality shown us by mwalimu Steven and all our hosts here at Vijiji. Tomorrow we will leaving Vijiji Center and heading to Maasailand and our first boma stay.
It will be a different side of Tanzania we will be experiencing. In Maasailand, we will be challenging ourselves to be fully immersed within their daily lives and culture. With the help of our Maasai guides, we will be able to interact and communicate with the Maasai in a unique and more personal way.
As I mentioned in the last post, the Maasai have been experiencing rapid culture change, and it will be one of our goals to fully understand and interpret the forces and pressures facilitating this change. In particular, wildlife conservation and the creation of national parks has been one of the major forces of this culture change.
From my vantage point, the challenge has been to find a balance between successful conservation and honoring and providing a means of support to compensate for the change the Maasai are experiencing due to conservation. During our boma stays we will be able to gain insights into the minds of those experiencing this change; information that will surely be thought provoking.
We have such a great time staying here at Vijiji and getting to know mwalimu Steven. He has given us so much information, background, and questions to consider to take with us into Maasailand. There is so much more to come!