Tanzania – Last Day of Safari and Coming Home

Photos by Mrs. Strobel and Jason

Unfortunately, Sunday was our last day on safari. On Sunday, we were at Ngorongoro Crater park; in order to see the best animals, we had to wake up at 4:45 to get to the park before sunrise!

While driving down to the crater, my safari vehicle, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, listened to Regan’s Lion King music to pump ourselves us. Our driver, Ollie or Babakuku (Grandpa Chicken) told us that Pumba means “foolish one” in Swahili, and we already knew that simba means lion. We were so excited as we headed into the crater while watching the sunrise.

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Sunrise at Ngorongoro Crater

The first animals we saw in the crater were different types of birds, from guinea fowl to an awesome secretary bird posing on a tree. We also saw some warthogs, wildebeest, impala, zebras, and more early in the morning. Unfortunately, we also saw a hyena that was sick and struggling to move. We really hope that the hyena did not have to suffer much longer. Luckily, we did see some healthy hyenas.

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Some zebras and wildebeest grazing on the vegetation
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A great capture of a hippo opening its mouth!

We were so excited to see some elephants on Saturday, and today we saw even more! Regan counted 42 elephants.

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A herd of elephants in the distance

One of goals for Sunday was to see cats, and we were so lucky to see approximately 19 lions!

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We were lucky to see a male lion so close to the vehicle!

One of the highlights of the day was seeing 4 black rhinos! Black rhinos are critically endangered animals, and many tourists don’t have the opportunity to see any black rhinos, so we are incredibly lucky to have seen four. Unfortunately, black rhinos are also victims of poaching, so we chose not to post photos to protect them from poaching.

We also had some emergency bathroom issues while in the crater. Also, when we stopped for lunch, a huge bird swooped by and took Ophelia’s chicken!

We are so fortunate to have been able to experience these three amazing days on safari; it was absolutely unreal.

After departing from Ngorongoro Crater, we headed to the Smith Campus of the School of St. Jude, which is the secondary school campus. We stayed there for the night and enjoyed our last dinner cooked by Peter–delicious beef and pasta and veggies.

On Monday, we spent the morning at Cultural Heritage, which includes cultural art exhibitions, shops, and cafes.

The Cultural Heritage Gallery

Our facilitator and one of the interns at the school, Wens (Wenseslaus), wrote us an amazing card that we got to read on the way back from Cultural Heritage. We miss Wens and all of the other St. Jude Staff a lot and are so grateful for how hard they worked and how much they helped us throughout our stay at the school. Our 10 days in Tanzania were a life-changing experience and it is, in a huge part, thanks to everyone we met in Tanzania. We’ll be thinking about all of you. Thank you!

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The card from Wens – thank you so much!

When we got back, we had lunch and then went on a tour of the Smith Campus with Wens and Innocent.

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Group photo with Peter, our chef, and Wens and Innocent, the interns
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Group photo in front of the school with Wens and Innocent, the interns, who took us on a tour of the campus

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No girl allowed in the boys dorms!
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No boy allowed in the girls dorms!

After that, we had a couple hours to pack or socialize before heading to the airport. No one wanted to leave Tanzania, and we were even joking about “accidentally” dropping our passports out the window.

All jokes aside, our journey was very successful; we got through each flight and customs without a problem and arrived at Culver at around 6 PM.

Thank you so much to everyone who followed our blog in the last few days! Also, thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and to everyone that allowed us to go on the trip!

Tanzania – Safari Day 2

We woke up at 5:15 on Saturday and had a great breakfast at the hotel before heading to Lake Manyara, a national park near the edge of the Rift Valley, a little after sunrise. Lake Manyara is a wonderful park with freshwater lakes, forests, as well as open grassland.

Safari is what many regard as the quintessential African experience, and our day at Lake Manyara definitely lived up to our expectations. Regan was especially excited because of our first elephant sighting; later in the day, we were right in front of two elephants crossing the road, which was absolutely incredible. Though we did not get to see the lion or leopard we were hoping for, we saw other amazing animals, including the vervet monkey, lots of zebras, and some groups saw a dik-dik. We also saw a bunch of hippos peeking up from the lake.

Here is Regan’s reflection about the elephants:

Regan Murphy ’18

My goal for this entire trip was to see an elephant and to my excitement, we accomplished this goal. On the first day of our safari, I desperately looked out the window with my binoculars pressed up against my eyes hoping to see an elephant. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any (real) elephants on the first day, but I was hopeful we would see one on day two. The next day rolled around and I listened to Disney’s The Lion King through my headphones on the drive down to Lake Manyara. I was feeling really optimistic and told my car that I had good vibes about this park and was confident we would see an elephant today. About 15 minutes into our drive, our vehicle, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, came to a rolling stop as we approached a large rock. To my surprise, this rock turned out to be a real African Elephant. Mrs. Strobel shouted back to me and said “Regan, elephant, 8 o’clock!!!!” I sprung up from my seat and looked through my binoculars; I finally saw an elephant in its natural habitat and I was in shock. The elephant adjusted its body to a position where you could finally identify that it was an elephant. I wanted to make sure I captured the moment, so I took way more pictures than one person would ever need of an elephant.  Thankfully, this was not the only time we spotted an elephant during this adventure. I kept track of all the elephants we saw today and I recorded 16 elephant spotting’s in Lake Manyara. My favorite ele experience occurred an hour into our drive. We were swerving around one of our cars because they were driving too slow, when we happened to see rocks rustling through the vegetation. Two GIANT elephants leisurely strolled passed our car. They were not even 5 meters from our car when they casually walked down the road and through the bushes in a majestic manner. I took an incredible video of the elephants and was so amazed at the calm nature of these creatures. Erin whispered to the elephants “Do you want a Pringle?” as they passed our car. I will never forget this moment and feel so blessed to have witnessed such a beautiful animal. In total, we saw 58 elephants during our three day safari.

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The elephant from close up!
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Another photo of the elephants
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The zebras!
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Spotting of the vervet monkey!

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Here is a list of the animals we saw today:

  • olive baboons
  • silvery cheeked hornbill
  • african elephant
  • yellow billed storks
  • hammerkop
  • impala
  • wildebeest
  • southern ground hornbills
  • cape buffalo
  • spurwing goose
  • oxpeckers
  • greycrown cranes
  • egyptian geese
  • blacksmith lapping
  • thick-knee
  • hippopotamus
  • african jacana
  • glossy ivis
  • sandpiper
  • crowned lapwing
  • vervet monkeys
  • zebra
  • maasai giraffe
  • warthop
  • waterbuck
  • flamingo
  • dik-dik

After driving around the park, everyone participated in the tree top sky walk. Here’s Lily Thorgren’s reflection on the activity:

Lily Thorgren ’21:

“The highlight of my day today was the tree top sky walk. We climbed up stairs onto platforms and then onto shakey bridges. The bridges increasingly got higher and higher. Although I was timid, I went onto each one. It was really exciting to get a new view from new heights. My ultimate favorite time on the bridges was the facial expressions of comedian, Erin Postma.”

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After the tree top walk, we returned to our hotel for a great lunch. Then, we headed towards Ngorongoro Crater, where we stayed for the night. On the way, we stopped at a couple stores to pick up souvenirs and snacks.

At a shop, Tom bought a spear, which was one of his goals for the trip. He bartered a lot on the spear. Later, when we arrived at the hotel, Tom decided to “sacrifice” Jason in order to see a rare black rhino on safari.

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Tom’s “sacrifice”

We had an early night to prepare to wake up extremely early the next morning, as the best sightings often happen very early.

Funny moments of the day:

Erin and Sierra played a practical on Evan.  We had arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater and were admiring the view from the top the crater from a railing.  Evan let Erin use her binoculars and quickly gave them to Sierra to hide them.  “Evan, did you like your binoculars?” Erin asked Evan while looking over the banister.  He quickly started to search for them over the railing before they told him they had taken them.

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There are no binoculars visible in this picture, but they are in Sierra’s hand before the joke.

While taking pictures at the top of the crater, a party from Zimbabwe started taking pictures with the non-black members of our trip.

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The party from Zimbabwe started taking pictures with us.

Day 1 on Safari in Tanzania

Guest blogger: Kaycie Schlichenmaier

Photos by: Mrs. Strobel and Apple Li

On Friday the group was getting rowdy and amped for our safari.

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We split into 4 vehicles:

Mama Dee, Tom, Henry, Ophelia, and Ariana with driver Isaac

Mama Dee's Group

Ms. Raquel (Sophia’s mom), Apple, Ally, Sierra, Grace, and Sophia with driver George (Evan joined on Sunday)

Raquel's group

Mrs. Strobel with Regan, Kaycie, Janelle, Erin, Lily, and Evan (Friday and Saturday) with driver Ollie (we called him Baba Cucu which means grandpa chicken)

Angie's vechile

Papa Jason with Mimi, Regina, Leela, Ben, Diego, Jacob with driver Edwin.

Papa J's car

We made our way to Arusha National Park and at the entrance we saw a fake elephant, which Mama Dee thought was real at first. Once in the park, we saw a herd of buffalo and zebras.

Ele group photo

We continued on for a while and saw a baboons that were playing in the road. After the baboons, the sightings were not too interesting until we reached the giraffes. We found two giraffes very close to the road so we got a really good view of the giraffes. Throughout the entire safari we saw about 300 water buck and Erin was getting very frustrated and overwhelmed with the amount we were seeing.

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colobus monkey

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Here is a list of the animals we identified:

  • black and white colobus
  • baboon
  • blue monkey
  • cape buffalo
  • zebra
  • warthog
  • bushbuck
  • waterbuck
  • maasai giraffe
  • guinea fowl
  • harrier hawk
  • Serval Cat

After the safari we all napped during a 2 hour drive to the Lake Manyara hotel we stayed at. The hotel was absolutely amazing. The view was beautiful and everyone quickly took advantage of the pool. We ate dinner and then got to see a traditional African dance performed in one of the rooms of the hotel. It was incredible how fast their hips can move.

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After everyone went to their rooms, my room had a catastrophe. There was a lizard. Lily tried to catch the lizard but it was too quick and moved out of sight. Without being able to see it, we were all freaking out so Lily decided to call the hotel desk and have them send a security officer. The security officer showed up and searched our room for the lizard. He moved our bed half way across the room and eventually he found it. He moved away to grab his stick to try to catch it and the lizard disappeared again. After 5 minutes of searching, Regan spotted it by the door. Instead of pushing it out the door, the security officer committed man slaughter and wacked it with a stick until it was dead. We all grieved for the rest of the night until we fell asleep ready to wake up at 5:15 the next morning for day two…

Erin Funny Moment of the day… when we sat down for lunch Mama Dee said we saw a tiger to which Erin responded “yeah, because it’s not native to India.” Then we brainstormed the cats native to Tanzania and realized it was the rare Serval Cat (our car never saw it).

 

Day 5 in Tanzania: Last Day at St. Jude

Today was a rather bittersweet day; although we are excited to be leaving tomorrow to go on safari, it also means that it is our last day with the amazing students, interns, and staff that we have met with the school.

This morning, we had the safari briefing with three members of the Safaris-R-Us team, and they told us some guidelines about the adventure. One thing that one of the men told us was that many people will wait 30 or 40 years of their life to experience a safari, so he told us to really treasure the experience and learn as much as we possibly can. We also received some amazing gift bags with safari hats and earrings.

After the briefing was an art class hosted by Mr. Kefis, the primary school art teacher, and the St. Jude students. The Culver team, which was joined by CMA grad Evan Heckman ’06, paired up with St. Jude students who helped us tie dye shirts. It was so much fun and we ended up with a huge variety of results.

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Students hard at work making their tie and dye t-shirts
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A fun group picture in front of all our creations!
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Ally’s polaroid picture of everyone and Diego’s shirt in the background

After the tie and dye, we headed to another amazing lunch of ugali with beans and vegetables. Then it was time to say goodbye to the students that we had all become so close with in days.

Today, we had another three groups go on home visits. Here are there reflections on their experiences:

Xuanchen (Apple) Li ’20

This afternoon Ben, Lily, Mr. Strobel and I went to visit Adinary’s home. He and his mom warmly welcomed us at a bus station and guided us to their rented home. The house was really small with a bed, a couch, a small table, and a few necessities placed on it. It soon became a bit crowded after the four of us, his family, and some neighbors managed to fit in the room. His mom served us hot ginger tea, fried banana (my favorite), and sweet potatoes making us feel welcome and comfortable. As a student who just entered St. Jude this year Adinary still needed a little help from the translator to communicate with us however this did not stop us from having a meaningful conversation. Adunary is a 7 year old boy currently studying in second grade at St. Jude. He in interested in reading and math and wants to become a pilot. While he was a little shy towards us, his mother told us a lot about their lifestyle and her son’s education. She really appreciated that her son passed the admissions test of St. Jude and obtained the opportunity to receive a free education. I was impressed about the way she valued the chance of an education for her children. In fact, she rented the small house near a school bus stop in order to take care of her son and support him. Aside from the conversation, we also bonded with Adinary through playing Uno games. I also shared him my hometown of Shangai through the photos on postcards. Our pleasant visit ended with a group photo outside his home. The visit is definitely unforgettable for all of us.

Jingwei (Ariana) Qin ’21

Ms. Strobel, Kaycie Schlichenmaier and I visited Rosemary’s residence this afternoon. Rosemary is a 3rd-grade student in School of St. Jude. The main goal of this visit is to get a better understanding of the students’ life beyond school.

We picked up Rosemary and one of her relatives at the school bus stop so that she can show us the way to her home. After five minutes of bumpy ride across a busy market, we arrived at her home. Her mother welcomed us passionately and we greeted back with the Swahili we learnt prior to the home visit. She prepared Tanzanian ginger tea, peanuts and bread to welcome us. The food is simple but thoughtful. She even provided us with an opportunity to cool the tea by pouring it back and forth in two cups and an opportunity to rinse our hands.

We brought Rosemary and her family some gifts to thank her for this precious opportunity to visit. We brought her coloring pencils and necessities for her family, including soup, cooking oil, rice and seasonings. Because her house is not electrically powered and there is no window, the interior of the house is always dark. We brought the family a solar powered lamp with the hope that it can help Rosemary do homework. As part of the present, we gave Rosemary a set of Uno cards. We taught the family the rules and played with them as entertainment.

After we spoke to Rosemary’s mother, we learnt that the whole family reside in this one-room mud house. Her family member includes her parents, one older brother named Chris and one younger brother named Musa. They collect water from a tap nearby, cook on a small stove in the room and use an oil lamp and candles to light the room at night. They have to remove the couch we were sitting on and put a mattress on the ground to fit five people sleeping in the room at night.

Rosemary mentioned that her greatest hobby after school is reading story books borrowed from the school library. Unfortunately, because it is Easter holiday during our visit and students weren’t allowed to keep books during holidays, she wasn’t able to show us the book she is reading. Her favorite subject is math and her favorite sport is net ball. She teaches her younger brother after school. She stated that she wakes up at 6:30 am and arrives at the bus station to take school bus at 7:40. Speaking of spirituality and religion, she is Christian and goes to church every Sunday.

Joining School of St. Jude’s for only about one year, Rosemary is still developing her English and is quiet. However, according to Ms. Strobel who visited Rosemary last July during her previous visit to the school, Rosemary’s English and communication skills have already developed drastically and she has become more willing to talk. I believe that this is the magic of education. It helps Rosemary and thousands of other children like her to become confident and it builds a bridge of communication for them and the outside world. Connecting to the story of Felix, the visitor manager, I am amazed again by how powerful education is. Felix’s education ceased at 7th grade because he has too much housework and thus failed the national exam. Therefore, he was only able to do manual labor and his life was hard. He learnt English gradually and after some struggles, miracle happens: he got a job as a bus driver at the school and an office job as visitor manager. With this change in career, his living condition improves. While I am glad for Rosemary can access to education, I am also touched how much they value education and how hard they work given all the resource they have. Although her house is not powered, she still studies, reads and teaches her family at night. She loves her education and she seeks for extra recourses. She is very bright and picks up the card game quickly. Her living condition is not nearly as good as mine but she is eager to knowledge. The visit to the school taught me that a seat in classroom is privilege. The home visit taught me more: everything, even food, a clean bed and light at night should not be taken for granted. The visit gave me a vivid image of the student’s lives; it reminded me that is should be grateful and use my privilege better.

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Mrs. Strobel, Kaycie, and Ariana at Rosemary’s house

Leela Willie ’18

This afternoon I went to the home visit with Jacob, Ophelia, and Sophia’s mom with Felix as our translator to spend time with a St. Jude student and her family. We visited Subira, a 9 year old second grader who lives with her mother, Mary. The commute from the school to her little abode was approximately a 20 minute drive through the bustling city of Arusha. Before this day, I never expected to arrive at a village of make-shift homes behind a store front. Most of these homes consisted of a single room with a bed fit for two, a couch, and tubs stuffed with miscellaneous items. Once we arrived, to her compound we were greeted with tons of joy from her mother, friends, and neighbors. There was not much conversation with her beyond her experience at St. Jude’s and Mary’s experience through motherhood. It was explained that she is a single mother who dropped out of secondary school and moved to Arusha to take a job as a maid to take care of her daughter. Although their living conditions are not the best you could clearly see the excitement and gratitude within the faces of Subira, her family, and neighbors even through Mary and Subira have no electricity nor running water, they are aided and supported by their community and relatives. The simple things in life such as education and the support of one’s community are essential for happiness.

After the home visits, we had Swahili lessons with the interns back on campus. Unfortunately, after that, it was time to say goodbye to all of the incredible interns.

At around 5 PM, we had story time with Felix, the visitor coordinator of the school. Felix told us his incredible story; he is a Maasai man who failed his exam in 7th grade and wasn’t able to go on to secondary school. Forced to go home to tend to the cows, Felix decided he wanted to become a driver. Felix’s goal was to learn English, and he was overjoyed when he received a job at an international company; however, Felix wasn’t able to learn very much English because the boss he drove was not very talkative, and he decided that he would get a job at the School of St. Jude.

Felix tried everything he possibly could to get a job as a driver at St. Jude, going to the school many times but failing to get a job. Because he knew that drivers who knew English would be preferred, Felix even wrote a speech about why he wanted to be a driver, asked a man who knew English to translate for him, and memorized all the English words although he could not speak the language. When Felix finally got a job as a driver, he learned English with the help of the students who drove his bus. He even got into trouble with the Head Driver because he would often go to classrooms or the library when he was not driving students. Because of his relentless persistence and drive, Felix was able to move to an office job–the visitor coordinator. Gemma told us that Felix has six times the salary he was making as a driver. I could tell that the whole team was reflecting about Felix’s incredible story.

Before the delicious dinner of pasta and chicken, Evan talked to us more about what to expect while on safari. Finally, we had a great deal of time to reflect on our past couple of days.

On behalf of the whole team: thank you so much to the School of St. Jude! We are so grateful for every single person at the school.

Note: thank you so much for keeping up with our blog! We’ll be going on safari from tomorrow until Sunday and will have limited access to Internet or no Internet. Pictures and reflections will be posted when we get back if Wi-fi is not available.

Tanzania Reflection

After dinner tonight we had a team meeting and asked the group to reflect on their best moments so far in the trip (and explain why) as well as to share some takeaways. Some are short and sweet and others are really poignant and inspiring so I decided to type them up and share them all (no picture on this one because there are so many words but a summary of today is still to come). I have been so proud of Team Tanzania and their willingness to roll with it and dive into the culture. It has been my pleasure to travel with these young ladies and gentleman and share the beautiful country of Tanzania with them.

What have you most enjoyed about this trip and why?

Ben- The countless sights, people, and experiences that I have encountered this trip is astonishing Witnessing a massai boma with arguably the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen blew me away. The continuous smiles from each and every child was joyous. The live rough and difficult lives but have a sense of family and love that can never be taken away from them.

Jacob- I most enjoyed the O’Brien school and how accepting the Maasai were of me there. They really showed me what a truly happy community looks like.

Diego- What I enjoyed the most about Tanzania so far was being included in the Maasai culture when we visited the O’Brien School for the Maasai. They invited all of us into their dance and competition between the men. I enjoyed this because I felt included in their culture after just meeting them.

Kaycie- Catching sheep and goats were the highlights of my trip because they buy and sell livestock for a living. I also entertained the whole Maasai tribe with my sheep wrangling skills. Wein and I caught the sheep by their feet and held the two goats on the bus until they baby one decided to lay down and pee. I was able to five into the culture.

Lily- There’s no better word to use to describe my favorite part of the trip except love. The love of the children, families, and love shown to a group of “over the top” American tourists stepping onto this unknown territory. The love shown towards a group who mispronounces any word of Swahili thrown at them. This type of love can’t be found anywhere else and that’s what’s best about this trip. I LOVE TANZANIA!

Sierra- This trip has been an un-imaginative experience. I have taken pictures with my camera of the landscape but, it cannot compare to the actual view. This trip has been very fun and I am glad I went. Tanzania is an amazing country and I wish everyone could experience this wonderful adventure.

Ariana- While I am enjoying the fascinating scenery of Tanzania. I am also deeply touched by the people here. I learned two things on this trip: Firstly, how drastically education can change one’s life; secondly, how kind people around the world are. One of the staff, Felix, shared his story. In his early years, he wasn’t able to access education because he was a Maasai and there are many housework for him to do. Because he wasn’t able to speak English he could only do manual labor so his life was hard. The kindness of people around the world helped Tanzanian kids to be better educated. I can see that so many people devoted attention into St. Jude. Gemma told us that there was one year in which so many visitors donated stationary that the school didn’t need to go to a stationary store even once. She told us that the interns chose a harsher environment to work in so they can help the kids better. At O’Brien School, Perri told us that one visitor visited the village and a villager told him that they wish for a better education for the kids and the next year they started building. I am surprised by this kind world.

Grace- I really liked Wednesday when we went to the Maasai Boma. They had a really pretty view and when we were walking along the dirt road (I was super happy we got to walk) it was so beautiful. When we turned around there were hills mixed with mountains and it was so beautiful! All along the trail we saw little kids and they were so happy to see us, I played patty cake with one of them. I liked when it started to rain too, I got soaking wet and it was fun.

Apple- I really enjoyed bonding with the students from St. Jude’s School, especially when we taught a girl how to do Culver cheers. I brought the girl to a group of Culver students who were learning Culver cheers when others were playing soccer. I was proud that I helped the little girls to bond with us and have fun that day. Apart from that, I enjoyed visiting the O’Brien school for the Maasai and watch the traditional practices performed by the Maasai villagers. This visit gave me an opportunity to observe a unique culture. The Maasai men also showed us how to start a fire with wood, donkey dung, and a knife. I realized how technology and everyday life are closely related.

Regina- It is so hard to choose my favorite moment from this trip. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed this much in the past month. Frist of all I think it is so amazing to see the power of education and perseverance. I’ve never seen more powerful smiles than the smiles of the kids when you played with them. The smile of a Maasai mom when you wore her jewelry and you hugged her. The smile of that little kid at church that besides the huge tears she was dropping because of the pain of her sickness. She would stop when I hold her hand. The smile of the St. Jude students when they told you what they want to be when they grow up. It’s our smile when we realize that it doesn’t take much to actually smile. The smile of Kaycie when she saw goats. The smile of Erin when the Maasai tried to marry her off. The smile of Ben when he changed his smelly t-shirt because he left it under the rain after doing laundry. The smile of Jacob when he dabs. The smile of Regan when she went on the home visit and got a bracelet that took so much time to make or Mimi’s when the Maasai called Miriam gave her earrings. Diego when he spoke Spanish and Mimi and I said he was good at it (or when he had good dreams because of the Malaria pills). The smile of Ally when she got a letter from a Maasai girl. The smile of Tom when he played soccer (and also when he was crocheting). The smile of Sierra every time she scored playing basketball. Or Lily’s when she gave a kid a white shirt to tie dye. Apple’s when she could finally tell me “Regina, English rule!” after having told her the same at least 8 times a day. Ariana’s when she could wear rain boots or Ophelia’s when I hugged her. Grace’s every time I called her “Gracelyn.” Sophia’s when she could finally untie the knot I made in my Maasai necklace. Henry when the kids called him “bigi.” The mom of the kid that I visited today when I told her she was “beautiful and strong.” The smile of Mrs. Strobel when I finally made it on time to breakfast. Mama Dee’s every time a kid holds her hand. Jason’s when he played scrabble or Raquel’s when I said white kids weren’t as cute. Because it really takes nothing to smile and make others smile.

Regan- This entire trip has been life changing. For my first trip out of the country, I could not have picked a better country to visit. From the stunning views to the welcoming culture, Africa has exceeded my highest expectations. It is amazing how much an education plays a role in one’s life. When we visited the Maasai tribe at the O’Brien school, they held a traditional performance for us. While they were singing and dancing they pulled me into the circle to dance with them. Even though knew nothing about me, they were so accepting and welcoming of me into their culture. I truly could feel a sense of community and peace amongst everyone. The people here are grateful for everything; big or small Africa will always have a special place in my heart.

Erin- I enjoyed the people here the most. Everyone was so welcoming and were willing to share everything: their stories, their belongings, or their customs. When we went to the O’Brien school for the Maasai, they showed us their rituals and customs through dancing, singing, and jewelry. Then even welcomed me in with a marriage proposal. Later in the week, we visited a student’s home. Despite the fact they had almost nothing, they gave us food and water, in addition to their hospitality. Overall, I wish people in the states were welcoming and selfless like they are here. If the world was like this, I think there would finally be world peace.

Ally- My favorite part of this trip was hanging out with and getting to know more about the students of St. Jude and the O’Brien School. Even though I only got to spend a short time with them, I feel like I was able to make a strong connection/bond. It was incredible how although we live half the globe apart, we were still able to find similarities and converse about shared hobbies.

Ophelia- For this trip I really enjoyed the walking in the mud. Although my shoes were all messed up and full of mud, this is still the part that I enjoyed the most in the trip. The funniest moment on the mud walk was when we were almost to the bus. I figured out that the bottoms of my shoes are all covered in mud and the mud layer is almost an inch thick. Also, this walk reminds me of my experience at summer camp in the city in China which is even poorer than any of the homes I visited here. Therefore, I really appreciated this walk in the mud.

Sophia- My favorite part was visiting the Maasai and bonding with all of the children. Their family reminded me of my own and looking into the children’s eyes was like looking into the eyes of my little cousins. I remembered how I would do anything for my family and through this I bonded with theirs. I am so grateful to have had this experience and be able to relive it every time I visit my own home. I will always remember how much family means to me and how much it means to those who live in Tanzania.

Mimi- I think that my favorite thing about the trip was the whole concept of realization and inspiration. On one hand we were able to see and live the reality of many people and children in Tanzania. We heard about their struggles every day to have a dignified life/a better life for themselves. We were able to see how little they have but how much they value it. They appreciate everything they have and even what they don’t have and that is part of what makes this experience so inspiring. The children and the people interacting with us showed us that with persistence, determination, and passion everything is possible. Like Mr. Hawkins said, “however hard life might seem, where there is life there is hope.” So my biggest takeaway from the trip is to challenge myself every day to connect with nature and the people surrounding me. I want to be able to connect with my community and any individual as any Tanzanian does it. They have the ability to touch your heart so deeply and move everything inside you: mind, body, and spirit. I can say I brought Culver with me but I am returning with even more Culver. Connections, experiences, and challenges plus amazing people that made this trip the best learning experience someone can have. Gratefulness and appreciation should be the reality of not the few but of all.

Henry- The best thing that happened in this GPS trip is the home visit. When I visited the family, they gave all the love to our group. They put their best food out and welcomed us into their house even though they do not have much to give. I am so happy when I see them give everything else to others and welcome them. This taught me that you don’t need everything to be happy. The family that we visited are extremely poor and they are still very happy. Some people have everything they ask for but they are still unhappy. This trip to Africa has made great memories for life.

Tom- My favorite part of the trip has been playing soccer with the kids especially at the O’Brien school. Neither the sun, the heat, not the dehydration could stop the playing. The love for soccer and the passion for the game overcame language, culture, and race. We kept running with or without shoes. We kept playing even with the pain caused by the rocks. Later I learned from Perri how important football is to the boys. The traditional Maasai culture inflict heavy pressure on young boys to be more man-like at home. Such social expectation and pressure have great psychological effects making teenage rape very common. The soccer pitch, although it is just a hard rocky field, is a haven providing a relief where the kids can forget everything and be themselves playing the beautiful game. I realized how powerful sports are bringing people together and every kid in the world deserves the right to play soccer.

Leela- This afternoon I went to the home visit with Jacob, Ophelia, and Sophia’s mom with Felix as our translator to spend time with a St. Jude student and her family. We visited Subira, a 9 year old second grader who lives with her mother, Mary. The commute from the school to her little abode was approximately a 20 minute drive through the bustling city of Arusha. Before this day, I never expected to arrive at a village of make-shift homes behind a store front. Most of these homes consisted of a single room with a bed fit for two, a couch, and tubs stuffed with miscellaneous items. Once we arrived, to her compound we were greeted with tons of joy from her mother, friends, and neighbors. There was not much conversation with her beyond her experience at St. Jude’s and Mary’s experience through motherhood. It was explained that she is a single mother who dropped out of secondary school and moved to Arusha to take a job as a maid to take care of her daughter. Although their living conditions are not the best you could clearly see the excitement and gratitude within the faces of Subira, her family, and neighbors even through Mary and Subira have no electricity nor running water, they are aided and supported by their community and relatives. The simple things in life such as education and the support of one’s community are essential for happiness.

Janelle- I’ve loved every minute of the trip—every day has been a whirlwind of emotions, from exhilarating to truly heartbreaking. Everything was absolutely amazing and I don’t think I could describe my favorite part about the experience because I truly cherished every moment. I know that when I return to the United States, I will not be the same person I was.

My favorite moments:

I absolutely loved every minute of Monday. We watched the video about St. Jude that morning, and the most memorable line from the video was when the Maasai student said: “I think education is the weapon for liberation.” That’s something I will never forget and will always think about. Later that day was the O’brien school visit, when we met up with Perry. First of all, it was amazing to see a Culver student doing something so amazing. The visit with Perry and talking with Gemma and Felix really made me think about my aspirations for the future, and how hard I need to be willing to work to achieve them—but that it is possible. Another thing that really resonated with me was when Gemma told us about how the students will learn English and help their families by teaching them, and when she told us that the 80% of the children see improvements in family by secondary school. She also said that students living in poverty often have much more drive and determination that we do. This statement was reinforced throughout my interactions with all the students. Every single student I spoke to—and there were many—absolutely loved studying and loved their education because they knew how fortunate they were. This is definitely something I will remember in the years to come; I often complain about school because I sometimes take my education for granted. Another one of my favorite parts was how tolerant of other cultures everyone was. Despite their pride in their own culture, they were willing to even invite us into their homes and let us participate in their ceremonies. One thing I reflected on was that in the US, many individuals have been ostracized for having different political viewpoints. I truly admired this aspect of Tanzanian culture and hope to encourage my community in the US to be less xenophobic and more accepting of differences. Of course they are not perfect in this aspect, but how willing they were to give to us and invite us into their homes really touched me. In addition, the students (my partners Ess and Doris) were so helpful in teaching me drumming and tie and dye. I asked Doris to sign my shirt and that will definitely be one of my most meaningful tokens from the trip. I also appreciated the importance of hospitality in cultures. Despite the fact that the families did not have anything compared to what we have, they still offered us food and gave us a beautiful present.

Everything from the trip is something I will take with me the rest of my life, and I wish I could express everything that I have learned in words. I wish I could personally say thank you to everyone I have met.

Mama Dee- My favorite thing here was seeing the boarding school and the nuns that run it. I am used to the Ursala nuns and it was very interesting to talk to the women here. I also enjoyed my home visit.

Sophia’s Mom (Raquel)- I enjoyed the opportunity to disconnect and reinforce what is truly important in life. The people in Tanzania have very few possessions yet have a grasp of things (ie family, friendship, community that are priceless. I hope that on long and challenging days I can meditate and draw on their core values and incorporate them into life. Again thank you for allowing me to be a part of this GPS journey and experience and a part of the “Culver Bubble.”

Key takeaways from this trip…

Ben- This whole journey has been surreal and I continuously think how think how lucky I am to be able to witness these amazing people.

Jacob- Traveling to developing countries has always shown me that money is not the key to happiness and that these financially “poor” people are more spiritually and emotionally rich than anyone from America I know.

Diego- A takeaway from this trip is to not take anything I have for granted because the people we met are so nice and welcoming and have nothing.

Kaycie- Some lessons I have learned on the trip is that I should be grateful for everything we have. I also learned that I should take advantage of the education I am provided. Compared to the people here, I have everything I need and more. I am so grateful for this experience and the people I have met on this eye-opening journey. My true identity is a Maasai sheep wrangler.

Lily- A key lesson learned on this trip is to not take what you have for granted. Although many Tanzanians have little to nothing, they find a way to always be happy. This inspired me.

Ariana- These ideas changed the way I think a lot. I appreciate my own education even more. The gratitude helps me feel better when I am stressed about school. The kindness of people makes me optimistic and hopeful. It encouraged me to use my privilege and help people.

Apple- On the day before safari, the personal experience shared by our visitor’s coordinator, Felix strongly impressed me. Starting as a Maasai boy who only received primary school education and did not speak English, worked his way to the head guide of St. Jude’s visitor’s center. Felix’s success did not come right away- after failures followed by failures. Felix remained positive and overcame all of the obstacles in his way. His story showed strong determination and incredible passions. I hope I can learn from his success story.

Regan- I will take away the memories and friendships from my trip in Africa. This whole experience has been extremely humbling and surreal. I will never forget the beauty of Africa.

Grace- My key takeaway was that money can’t buy happiness. I have heard this before but it didn’t really come up as something that made sense to me until now. I always thought that money could buy you things like a dog and dogs make me happy so therefore money does make you happy but now I realize that it wasn’t the dog but the dogs’ love that made me happy and money can’t buy love.

Erin- In addition to all the souvenirs and inside jokes I will be taking back with me I will be taking back the idea of how lucky I am. I complain a lot and I think now my view will change. I realize now how lucky I am to have a good education, good health, and even electricity. Seeing how happy everyone here was with what little they have completely changed my mindset.

Ally- One particular moment that was most memorable for me was when I received a note from one of the students at the O’Brien school. During our visit at the school, I got a chance to meet and talk to Catherine, who was 16 years old, just like me. Right before we left, Catherine wrote a note for me and in it and she explained how I was happy that we became friends and she shared her hardships which she endured through hope and God. Reading her note made me regret the times I complained about the trivial tasks I had troubles with. She inspired me to never lose hope and keep pushing during hard times and always remember to be thankful. Overall, this trip taught me that I should never take anything for granted, especially education and family/friends. In the future, I hope to put my advantages to use to help those who need love and education.

Ophelia- My take away for this trip is the appreciation towards education. At first in my own imagination I thought that a county as poor as Tanzania would not appreciate education. However, during the home stay the girl I visited kept telling me that being accepted into St. Jude is the most exciting thing in her life. Also she told me the process of being selected. After that I really feel like being able to get a good education is really what I have to appreciate.

Mama Dee- I am so honored to come with the Culver GPS trip to Tanzania. What I learned from my trip is you shouldn’t take anything for granted. The people here are full of love.

Day 4: Mudslide in Tanzania!

Guest Blogger: Erin Postma

We started out this morning with a meeting with the School of St. Jude founder, Gemma Sisia.  She answered all of our questions and we got a lot of insight on her life and why she started the school.  She also gave us a lot of advice on how to be happy and successful in our future lives.  She told us to follow our passion, rather than focusing on making money, even if your parents do not agree.  Sorry, Mom!  We spent about an hour listening to her Australian accent.

After our meeting with Gemma, we started the long bus ride to the Maasai Boma.  St. Jude had put together a team of Maasai that worked at the school to help out with the trip.  People like Felix, Frankie, and Francis all helped translate and explain Maasai culture.  On the bus ride there, Sierra, Janelle, and I started out playing chopsticks and I Spy.  We taught Francis how to play chopsticks and I Spy, which was a lot of fun.  After that, we played a new game we created called “Guess that CGA Leadership Position.”  Mrs. Strobel was super proud.

After finishing our boxed lunches and giving Francis most of our bananas, Felix set out to buy a goat for a gift for the family we visited.  We pulled into the goat market, but Felix would not let us get the goat because if they see wzungu, they charge wzungu prices.  He bartered and got 2 goats, a mom and a baby.  Kaycie and I sat with them on the bus.  They really liked Janelle, too, much to her dismay. The goat peed on Janelle’s jacket and shoes.Kaycie and goat

We arrived at the Boma with thunder rumbling in the distance.  The obstinate goats would not go to the Boma, so Jason dragged them there.  Upon arriving at the Boma, it started pouring rain, so we huddled inside one of the new building the family had built.  The rain quickly stopped, so we went outside again and Felix explained how Maasai chose their wives.  After going in the chief’s hut, Felix explained a little bit of Maasai medicine.  They boiled cow’s feet with some bark and fed it to the children as soon as they started feeling bad.  It is kind of like Maasai AirBorne.  The thunder was slowly becoming louder, so we had to walk back to the bus.  Because the path to the Boma was so muddy, the bus had to park far away after it dropped us off near the Boma so we did not get stuck after the rain.  We said goodbye to the children and embarked on our trek back to the bus.

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Sierra with two of the Maasai children

We walked back to the bus.  Janelle, Kaycie, and I led the pack with Felix catching up to us later.  The mud was slippery and sticky after it began to rain more.  The mud was sticking to the soles of our shoes, making it heavy and slippery to walk.  Kaycie tried to kick the mud off her shoes by flinging one foot in front of her, but while she did the the other foot slid out in front of her, causing her to wipe out on her side, leaving her pants and coat covered in mud.  Of course, then I was doubled over from laughing so hard and walking that I feel right on my knees.  It is true what they say, karma is a jerk.

We got to the bus and we were all muddy, wet, and tired.  We went to the coffee store which had a little shop next to it.  We got iced coffee and teas, which are way better here than in the States.  Then we went to the little shop that was near the coffee shop. The store was a craft store that employed handicapped people to make crafts and sell them.  Things like jewelry, hand blown glass, paintings, and clothes littered the shelves.

After the coffee run, we went to the fabric store and the grocery store.  We went to the fabric store first.  We nearly bought the whole store.  Pillows, notebooks, cloth, skirts, dresses, aprons, scarves, and Tom’s sarong filled our brown paper bags as we continued to go to the register after realizing there was more in the store we wanted to buy.  I think Sierra went up to the register 4 different times.  Following the fabric store, we went to the grocery store and stocked up on pop, candy, and coffee beans.  The bus ride home was filled with coffee-fueled energy and our rendition of “Jambo Bwana.”  All of the native Tanzanians (and Gina) cringed at our singing.

Back at the school, we had rice and beef, my favorite meal so far.  After dinner, we all rushed to wash ourselves and our mud-caked clothes.  I showered with my clothes on. After showering, our night was filled with Euchre, Uno, and Dominoes.  We are excited to see what the rest of our trip will bring!

Guest Blogger: Leela Willie

My overall takeaway from today was that children who live in poverty are gifted and more likely to succeed in school. From my experiences with the St. Jude students, I’ve noticed that they are highly determined and passionate for their education. Unlike how we Culver students complain about our stress and the unfair options we have, our condition is in no comparison to what Tanzanian children face when attempting to earn an education.

This morning we met Gemma Sisia, the founder of the School of St. Jude. At a young age, Gemma spent three years away from her home, in Australia, to teach in Uganda. She discovered that she would build a school in Africa where children would receive a free education. After a $10 donation and a generous gift from her father-in-law of two acres of land, the School of St. Jude was established in 2002 with three students and one teacher.

Learning from Gemma, education is not easily accessible in this country. Because there are fewer secondary schools only 25% in the nation pass the grade 7 national exam. Classes are taught in the English language in government secondary schools (form 1-6 which compares to American 9-12), many people struggle in school because their classes are taught in Swahili during their primary years of school. Once a child reaches secondary school, they must pass another round of academic exams in order to enter the next grade. If a child fails the exam, they are done with their education.  According to the WHO, Tanzania and Liberia are countries with the least number of medical doctors. Hearing this today, definitely encouraged me to focus on my dreams of becoming an OB/GYN. I’ve always dreamt of building a women’s health clinic in my family’s hometown of Monrovia, Liberia, and after hearing Gemma’s story today, I hopefully will follow in her footsteps.

After our session with Gemma, we travelled South of Arusha to visit a Maasai family. Because this was the first time this family has received “Mzungu” (colloquial term for white people) visitors and it’s standard practice, we bought two female goats from a market as a gift for the family. It was a worth the trip of having the two smelly goats on the tight bus with us to see their joy (even though the little one peed on the bus).

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Jason holding the mama and baby goat!
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Two of the Maasai huts. In Maasai culture, men are allowed to have many wives and each man owns a hut while each wife has one hut.
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The Maasai children jumping during a traditional song

While at the Maasai Boma, I met Dora, a 17-year old girl who is one of fifty children and in Form 5 (similar to 11th grade). Being a part of such an enormous family and remote community, it was amazing to discover that she spoke English. Living in a community ostracized from the main towns, this young woman has passed all of her challenging exams, and still manages to teach what has learned in school to her family. She explained that her commute to school every day consisted of long, early-morning walks through her village and hours of bus rides, just reach school on time. We had a well-rounded conversation. She questioned me with so many wonders about America–our education, our housing, whether or not people use machines to cook or do laundry. It was amazing to see.

Dora and Leela

With rainy weather on the horizon we quickly said our goodbyes and walked back towards the bus.  We discovered why the bus cannot drive on the muddy pathway, where it was wet it turned into clay on our feet adding extra pounds (and in some case inches) to our shoes.

After our muddy trip from the Massai Boma, we ventured to the Shanga Coffee Lodge, where disabled citizens of Tanzania craft and sell clothes and jewelry. Being such a charitable person, I bought at least one of every item from the bracelets down to the dresses. I went bananas when we ventured on our shopping trip. Although, I am very keen when it comes to shopping for clothes, I had no restriction when it came to spending my money on a plethora of African crafts and clothes. While the majority of our team returned with two bags of souvenirs, I dragged my feet back to my room with four bags and a large African-print pillow! Going on through my mind while raiding the stores, I convinced myself that all of my money was being spent for a good cause…and it was!

 

Note: We don’t have any pictures of the Shanga Lodge, but here is the link to a website. It’s a store with beautiful items that supports individuals that are often marginalized and ostracized, and I would really recommend the store should you ever find yourself in Arusha. – Janelle

Guest Blogger: Ben Brummell

After an exciting but exhausting day, the group settled down for a relaxing and delicious meal. You could tell everyone was reflecting upon the sights and wonders of the day. As the trip has progressed, we have come to cherish these interactive and insightful times to bring the team closer together, with plenty of games and discussion. We continue to embrace and soak in all that presents itself and look forward to the days ahead.


We’ll have some more busy days ahead and will be leaving for safari Friday morning, so get ready for some amazing pictures!

Day 3 in Tanzania

Photos by Mrs. Strobel, Sophia Moore, Ally Kim, Regan Murphy, Isaac and Wens

Today was another very eventful day.

Though the St. Jude students are on Easter break, they came to the school today to meet us. In the morning, we introduced ourselves to each other and enjoyed several icebreaker activities where we got to meet several students from St. Jude. One of these activities was the Inside/Outside Circle activity, which is something we commonly do at Culver; we had a circle of St. Jude students facing outwards and a circle of Culver students facing inwards, and we were able to talk to different students.

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The circle activity

We also split up into pairs and made a five-count handshake with our St. Jude’s pairs.

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After the team activity, we had a delicious tea break with ginger tea and bread, and then headed to play volleyball, soccer, basketball, or UNO.

Another highlight was the African drum lesson; St. Jude students taught us some skills on the drums as well as taught us their school song and the Tanzanian national anthem. It was amazing to see how willing the students were to share their culture with us.

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Then, for lunch, we had a unique dish called ugali, which is mashed maize, along with delicious greens.

After lunch, the students took us on a tour of the Moivaro Boarding Campus or the primary school boarding campus. My partner, Ess, was so happy to show me her own dorm room where eight students live. The students also had various animals that they take care of–chickens, fish, and bunnies.

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The St. Jude’s multipurpose building where the students have lunch and assemblies.
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Group photo with the Culver and St. Jude students!

After parting from the students, we had one of the most poignant experiences of the trip: visits to the homes of young St. Jude’s students.

Reflection by Ally Kim ’20

Jason, Mimi, Erin, Wens (our translator) and I had the opportunity to go on a home visit to one of the students at the School of St Jude. Her name was Eva Valentine Shirima, and she just began attending the School of St Jude this past January as a first grader. When we reached Eva’s mud/wood house, her mother, aunt, and neighbors welcomed us by saying karibu and offering us fried bananas with salad (you may think that this is an odd combination, but trust me they were amazing), peanuts, and ginger tea. While eating, we got to learn more about Eva and her family. When we asked how Eva heard about the school, one of her neighbors explained that her younger sister graduated from the School of St Jude. When she met Eva’s mother, she suggested that Eva also applies so that she can receive quality education. My favorite part was listening about the family’s reaction when Eva was accepted to the School of St Jude. They told us that they were overexcited to hear that Eva passed the interview and the exams. Apparently, they all cheered and celebrated when Eva received her school uniform. Hearing about the family’s gratefulness for Eva’s education at St Jude made me realize how much hope the School of St Jude brought to the families, and it inspired me to support the school mission and values even more.

After the meal, we presented Eva’s family with the gifts organized from the school. In Tanzania, families like to receive practical gifts that can be used daily in the house, so we presented them with items like soap, rice, Vaseline, etc., but we also added an UNO card game. Before our departure, we played a round of UNO with the family to teach them the rules. Overall, Eva was the sweetest girl ever, and although she was extremely shy at first, she began to joke around with peanuts once she got to know more about us. Her mother was so caring, and it was incredible to see how even the neighbors all loved Eva and wanted the best for her. I am so thankful that I got this opportunity to visit Eva’s house because now I know more about the families of Arusha and what impacts the School of St Jude has for the students’ families. I hope the best for Eva and her family’s  future, and I am so glad that Eva received this opportunity to study at St Jude.

Eva's home visit group

Reflection by Sierra Grant ’20

Today was quite an experience. Upon walking into a family’s home in Arusha they were very welcoming. Mwanaidi is in third grade at St. Jude. Her family was very kind and welcoming and even the neighbors were welcoming. They all greeted us with a song. Mwanaidi was very shy but, a very sweet girl. One thing I learned about the community around her is that everyone is sharing. No matter how much or little a family had they are also willing to share with each other. We came into the home and they gave us Tanzanian sweet potatoes, nuts, and ginger tea. It was all very good. As we entered we also gifted them a basket full of items that would help the family and found out that they would share with their neighbors as well. We asked the family, “What is your favorite part of Tanzania?” they replied and said the love and peace. It made me think that they will do anything for their community and support one another. This home visit showed me that community and family is everything and the love and support of everyone can make a difference. The family even asked us questions about Culver and where we are all from and when Mama Dee (a dorm mom in Tower) told them she was like our mom, the family thought she was actually my mom and was wondering how she could be my mom if I am black and she is white which we all found very funny. As we were talking about Culver one of the neighbors asked how she could come to our school because she thought it was amazing. I found that question to be very interesting because Culver is a once and a life time opportunity and this girl wanted to be a part of it. Towards the end Mwanaidi had a gift but was very indecisive on who to give it to. The gift was a black bracelet with green, yellow, and blue writing of Tanzania. After our visit we took a picture with the family and then took a picture of the family and will send it to them when we can. I am very glad I went to this home visit because it showed me the life of a student in Arusha and also the life of a family. I learned that the mother wakes up at five in the morning every day and when Mwanaidi is at school she is selling vegetables. This was a great experience and I hope to come back one day and contribute.

Mwanaidi's familyMwanaidi's neighbors and family

Reflection by me (Janelle Li ’19)

Saidi, a second grader at St. Jude, was looking very sharp as he waited for us at the bus station dressed in his uniform. When we got to the house, I noticed that there were many people waiting for us–we learned that Saidi’s mother, his aunt, his mother’s best friend, and his family’s landlord were all waiting in the house. It was really admirable to see how tight-knit of a community this was and how everyone was so incredibly proud of Saidi.

There were so many people and the house was so small that there was not enough room for all the hosts to sit. Though the family is struggling financially, they quickly offered us delicious ginger tea, sweet potato, and peanuts. When I was busy sipping my tea, Saidi’s mother’s friend even asked me why I was not eating the sweet potato. This made me reflect upon the value of hospitality in African culture; even though they had very little, they were still amazing hosts and really treasured the ability to be a good host.

It was touching to see how compassionate Saidi’s family was. When we gave our gift basket to the family, Saidi’s mother told us: “Thank you, we love you so much.” Upon leaving, the family even presented us with a wrapped gift of a beautiful African wrap skirt.

Throughout the visit, we chatted with Saidi and his family about their lives and Saidi’s experiences at school. The family was so willing to answer any questions we had. I am so grateful for the experience; it was truly indescribable and I hope that one day, I can visit Saidi and his wonderful family again.

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I really hope our experiences today inspires you to cherish what you have. Though I always complain about school, every St. Jude student truly loves their education and loves studying because they know how incredible of an opportunity they have been given.


After the home visits, we had a great deal of time to reflect on the visits and our days in general, and shared our takeaways from the trip with the group.

Finally, we had a blast during family game night!

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