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.