A mile high in Bangata

Hello all! It has been about a week in a half since I arrived in Tanzania and already so much has happened. Our first few days were spent camping at Ndarawkwai private reserve (kind of like a small national park), getting acquainted with the  flora and fauna as we walked through the beautiful savanna with our program director, some hilarious and wonderful Maasai warriors, and a few other Tanzanians from all over the country, all of who are working with SIT. Listing all of the animals we saw would take up the remaining time on my internet cafe computer, but highlights included fighting impalas, a crested eagle, a bushbaby, giraffes, and a hammerkopf bird eating a frog. Since our orientation in Ndarawkwai we have relocated to Arusha, a large city by Tanzanian standards, and then a nearby village called Bangata.

Bangata is a beautiful village situated on a mountain about a mile above sea level. Needless to say, at that elevation my walk to school is quite exhausting as I go over hills, across rivers, through banana tree fields, and over dusty roads, all while being passed by incredibly fit farmers and school children. At my homestay, I live with my mama and three sisters ages approximately 10, 6, and 1. My  baba (father) works as a hotel manager in Arusha and so far I’ve only seen him for a total of ten minutes last Sunday. Fortunately, most social interactions with kids are universal and I have developed a tight bond with my sisters. After Kiswahili lessons and lectures at school I help my mama make dinner by candlelight in the outdoor kitchen, picking up new carrot chopping skills (and some minor knife wounds) along the way. Although my family is among the households with electricity in the village, the government in Arusha  has routinely turned off the power about every other day, so we make do with candles. The language barrier limits our conversation, but we all laugh when my one-year-old sister Furaha (meaning happiness) giggles after touching my strange  mzungu (foreign) hair. I am eager to learn more Kiswahili so I can communicate better with my family, but until then, I will take things pole pole (slowly) as most people do here in Tanzania and enjoy the quiet moments with my family as we drink mama’s delicious homemade chai.

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