We are just finishing up our first full day in Tanzania, and the sixteen of us have been continually astounded by the beauty of our surroundings and the friendliness of the Tanzanians we have encountered. We are staying at the Vijiji Center, which is absolutely stunning. The weather today was sunny and in the upper 80s; we are helping each other stay hydrated and sunscreened (so don't worry, moms and dads).
To begin our first day, Steven Ndosi, a coffee farmer and educator in Arusha, gave us a lesson on the basics of Tanzania. Following lunch, we traveled into Arusha to shop at the local markets and buy kangas (fabric for wrap-around skirts) for the women in the group. In our morning lesson with Mwalimu Ndosi, we learned basic Swahili greetings, introductions, and polite terms, which we were able to put into practice during our trip to Arusha. Through interactions with Vijiji employees and merchants in town, we quickly discovered how central politeness and gratitude are to Tanzanian culture. "Tafadhali" (please), "Karibu" (welcome), and "Asante sana" (thank you very much) can constantly be heard while walking through Tanzanian streets. People always smile and cheerily greet one another as they walk by.
Another important aspect of interactions between Tanzanians is the use of "Nzuri sana" (very fine) in response to greetings that ask, "How are you?". Mwalimu Ndosi continually reminded us that regardless of illness, exhaustion, or sadness, one must always respond to questions of his/her wellbeing with "Nzuri sana". He explained the rationale behind this social rule, stating, "With this climate and these people, there is never a bad day in Africa." This cultural attitude of gratitude for one another, for their shared country, and for the blessings of their lives was evident in the language and the environment of Arusha's streets.
Later in our morning lesson, Mwalimu Ndosi lectured about Tanzania's political history and present political state. This conversation covered topics such as German and British colonial Tanzania, the obtainment of Tanzanian independence from Britain in 1961, the effects of climate change on the economy, the current president's push to transition Tanzania from an agricultural nation to an industrial nation, and the systemic corruption in Tanzania's government, particularly in relation to who can receive a higher education.
Tomorrow, we will have another lesson from Steven Ndosi on Tanzanian tribes and ethnic groups followed by a lecture on community-based conservation and wildlife management areas. In the afternoon, we will visit a coffee farm.