Noah '16, Tanzania, 4/25/2016
So far we have spent a week and a half at JBFC and, as impossible as it may sound, each day seems hotter than the last. Although the weather is difficult to put into words, it is something like taking a hot shower in a sauna on the sun.
Throughout the week, we have been learning about the incredible permaculture system that JBFC has implemented on their campus so that we can assist in providing the same resource for a local church. John, the pastor at the church, worked with JBFC to start the project after attending one of their permaculture seminars. Given the heat, I was moderately concerned when I was told that we would be digging the crop beds for the upcoming permaculture project.
Up to this point, our service projects had involved cooking meals and reading buddies with the girls.
This being my fourth GIS trip, however, I am aware that physical labor is often part of the cultural experience.
Today seemed to be the day that they would put our able bodied group to work.
We started bright and early and, accompanied by a few JBFC students as well as multiple members of the church, we embarked on the short journey to the designated plot of land, picked up our hoes, and got to work.
Sylvester, a promising young student, shared his wisdom of permaculture with us as he taught us how to use an A frame, the appropriate spacing for the beds, and proper digging technique. A couple hours into the digging, the blistering sun was still there to match the blisters on my hands, but I pushed through as I considered the incredible difference that our group was making in the lives of both the church members as well as the entire village of Kitongo.
Shortly after my realization, I looked to my side and noticed a girl half my age digging twice as fast as me.
Though the feeling of accomplishment remained the same, my pride in my digging abilities took a major blow.
Soon we were finished, but, like every day so far, tired and eager for a meal.
Maddie celebrates her birthday in Tanzania! Happy Birthday, Maddie!
Steamboat Mountain School Students with their reading buddies at JBFC
Coco '16, Tanzania, 4/15/2015
Following a gruesome 48 hours of draining travel, I expected to arrive at JBFC and want to do nothing other than rest, but upon leaving the airport in Mwanza, I understood that this certainly would not be the case. Initially, I was captivated by the beauty belonging to the alien landscapes, but it didn't take long for me to realize that Tanzania's true beauty is elsewhere. In the people, I saw an unparalleled embrace for all kinds, stranger and acquaintance alike. As we drove past them on the streets, we received welcoming gestures from all who noticed us. In fact, I was so entranced by the amicable pedestrians that I felt disappointed to reach a stretch of road where no one walked. Among all, I was most impressed with the vibrant positivity which radiated throughout the town plazas. Given the circumstances in which locals were living, it was hard not to notice. The water was not clean. The homes were not intact. The clothes they wore were tattered. Yet the smiles unchanging on their faces gave me reason to believe they were some of the happiest people I had ever encountered. This observation held true, and was reinforced upon meeting the girls at JBFC. The girls were quick to make us feel at home and their enthusiasm was so strong that it was close to overwhelming. Here, too, I saw signs of previous hardship, but all of that was irrelevant to them. The bonds which held them together were cemented steadfast by true love and appreciation. All that the girls do shows us something more about who they really were and who they aspire to be. I was blown away by their ability to memorize things about us, while I stood lost, forgetful, and uncertain. They liked to laugh, learn, sing (which they did wonderfully), socialize, and mess with our minds by telling us playful lies. Bit by bit, I am memorizing the many names and faces, but hopefully for now they can forgive me for my sluggishness! My time at JBFC has been short, but it has been more than enough too keep me excited for the days to come, and I'm sure the others would agree!
Nicole '17, Tanzania, 4/15/2016
We've only been at JBFC for a week and I can already tell leaving the girls will be very difficult. The relationships that I've made in only four days are incredible. Every day the people here continue to surprise me with their high spirits, laughter, and compassion for each of us. I came to Tanzania expecting to fall in love with the girls at JBFC, but I didn't expect to also fall in love with the villagers, workers, and other students. The people here are genuinely kind and happy to show us their culture and provide a glimpse inside their lives.
Since my previous GIS trips have been to Spanish speaking countries, I have never been on a trip where I couldn't communicate with people I meet. I'm having a blast while figuring out ways to communicate and bond while using little to no words. I love making the local people laugh as I try to tell a story with massive hand gestures and the three Swahili words I know. Today while working in the kitchen I tried talking with the chefs. I introduced myself in Swahili to a woman named Deborah and I guess because of that she thought I knew much more than I did. She started going on and on in Swahili about who knows what. My eyes bugged out of my head as I tried to say, "hapana sijui Swahili" (no I don't know Swahili). She laughed and slowed down her words and used hand gestures. I could understand what she was saying by the tone of her voice and the way her face lifted with something happy and fell with something sad. She may not understand me, I know I don't fully understand her, but we are still connecting and sharing an experience. I can tell talking to her and other people means something to them as well as me since they give me long goodbye hugs when I leave to go to bed. The people here give those nice long hugs as if you are saying goodbye forever and need to share all the love in the moment, even though in reality you are going to see them again the next day. Out of all the hugs I have received while here, not one has been a shabby American side hug. I know going back home will be very different since I'm getting used to the affectionate ways of Tanzania and back home we don't show affection as much, but I hope to return and continue spreading the love like they do here in order to keep these happy emotions inside of me alive.
Icebreaker photo: More icebreakers with the girls of JBFC