I am completely alone for a moment, watching the van I came in careen down the dirt road. The sky is overcast and threatening rain, banana trees swaying in the breeze, and I wish I had brought my jacket. What do I do now?
As if answering my question, the children spot me and come running. All the sudden I am overwhelmed with chattering Swahili and a group hug of twenty tiny students, brightening the gloomy day with their bright red school uniforms. Twende, Twende, they yell at me, tugging my skirt and pulling me behind the school for morning songs. Oh yeah, I’m not alone- I’m in Tanzania, and I’m having the time of my life.
While this year’s UGA students explored the Serengeti, I was in Moshi visiting the Upendo Children’s Center and Kindergarten. I first arrived in Tanzania in 2010 as a UGA Study Abroad Maymester student, and I instantly fell in love with the country and its people. I always knew I would come back, but little did I know it would be so soon! This time, however, I have left the structure of study abroad to experience Tanzania a little deeper. What I have realized is how well studying abroad prepared me for this next step. Whether its bargaining in the market, playing with children or practicing Swahili, everything seems a little more familiar and yet no less life changing.
The best thing about study abroad is that you come back changed. You leave for a new place, meet new people, push yourself to the limit and come back, a little stronger and a little wiser than when you left. And when you are standing in a schoolyard feeling a little alone, hakuna matata. It will only take a second to remember- you are in Tanzania and at this point, it’s practically home.
Written by Rachel Bonds
Rachel graduated from UGA in 2012 with a double major in African Studies and International Affairs. She has traveled to Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Tanzania, twice! She will be attending Stanford University in September to get her Master’s in African Studies, and travel to Tanzania as much as humanely possible.
The climbers left today- Maymester students Jake McBride, Brenna Beech and Morgan Ivey, and Service Learning students Brooke Butler and Meredith McKay. They will be taking six days to go up and down Mount Kilimanjaro on the Marangu route. Wishing them luck, health and stamina! Maymester student, Kathryn Leigh, will be flying home tonight, and Service Learning student, Will Austin, will be heading to Arusha tomorrow to do CURO research for 40 days. Service Learning student, Jessica Ard, and former Maymester student, Rachel Bonds, will be staying here in town one more week to work on some projects with Dr. Moshi.
This morning we got up at 6am and jumped in the Land Rovers to go for an early morning drive. The sunrise in the Serengeti was amazing, and a giant group of wildebeests were on the move- the biggest migration line we’ve seen yet! After coming back to camp for breakfast, we went to see some Maasai cave paintings and musical rocks.
Just some elephants crossing the road . . .
Service Learning and Maymester group looking over Serengeti National Park.
Today the eight students left Ngorongoro, and headed to Serengeti National Park. On the way, we stopped at a Maasai boma, toured their place, and learned how they live. After that, we arrived at Oldupai Gorge, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world, where the Leakey’s found many human fossils and stone tools. Eventually we got to the Park gate, ate lunch, and climbed a granite rock that overlooked the Park. On the long drive through grassy plains, we began to spot a few animals. All of the sudden, we came upon a leopard sleeping in a tree right next to the road! Everyone was so excited. Finally we made it to our tented camp in the wilderness, where we will stay for the next three days.
The Service Learning students finished up some business at a primary school this morning, and got to climb in a huge, old tree that is on the school’s property. Also, the four Maymester students returned from their trip today! They had a great time in Dar and Zanzibar, and came back with lots of stories.