We have been accumulating stories so much faster than I can write about them, but as we enter the last few days of our journey, I want to be sure you all get a post about Tanzania.
We arrived at Kilimanjaro airport the other evening and, after some hard negotiating, claimed a van ride to our hotel. If you ever come here to climb the mountain or visit the waterfalls, look up AMEG Lodge. We’ve even staying in, ahem, budget lodgings throughout our travels. The excess travel money from our volunteers and board that I don’t use on the trip goes into the scholarship fund. Needless to say, I push the limits of my team at times. And yet, you might be surprised how far an enthusiastic and friendly lodgings staff can go to make up for luke-warm water and worn furniture. We have been safe and very welcome everywhere we go.
But AMEG is that surprise needle in a haystack. They don’t take credit cards, but they let us wire the payment from the US, and oh, what we have in return! As I write this, I am sitting beneath the high, timber roof of the restaurant terrace waiting for a day of conferencing with the inestimable Sister Salome. I look out over a beautiful, landscaped compound through which Maribu Storks wander freely, stopping to sip from the pool. The evenings are cool enough to require a sweater, and a light breeze ruffles the flowers on the trees and send candles flickering every evening.
The young men and women who work here are as kind and willing to help as those we met throughout Kenya. Professional in their attentions, it is clear they have been carefully chosen by the manager of this place. Unlike the Kenyans (and this may be because of the to e of the hotel) they share nothing of their private lives.
This part of Tanzania is blessed with temperate weather, fertile banana groves, and ample water, and the natural beauty and proximity of the mountain means that Tanzanians in the Moshi area are well equipped for tourists. Places like our lodge bespeak wealth, ease and adventure, much like the more expensive lodges we drove past in Kenya. Beyond the immediate area, I am told, Tanzania can be semi-arid, though one can hardly complain about a nation that hosts the Serengeti and Masai Mara. We will, perhaps, settle for a nearby waterfall squeezed into the schedule tomorrow.
Politically, the country has its own challenges, slightly different from those of other East African countries. After the World Wars, when countries all over the globe began the difficult (and usually violent) transition to post-colonial independence, Tanzania chose a different path than Kenya. Under the leadership of Nyerere, Tanzania embarked on an ambitious course of nationalization and redistribution of the wealth the government hoped to create. Farms were made communal, Tanzanian identity was prioritized over tribal affiliation, and Swahili replaced other languages in the schools. Tanzanians are still known throughout East Africa for the predominance of Swahili here. My Ugandan colleague recites a saying: Swahili was born in Tanzania, grew up in Kenya, and died in Uganda. Tanzania has proudly avoided the bloodshed and division that have brought so much pain to other East African nations. I am told that this is why the Tanzanian flag bears no red. This itself is a strong defense of Nyerere’s government.
But Tanzania lags behind its neighbors economically and educationally. Primary school classes are in Swahili, but students must take secondary classes in English. The switch is too difficult for many. In this country, we must be careful to check our secondary schools for their determination to support English language learning for those who need it. For the many who do not master English, Tanzania offers little beyond farming and manual labor. It is unclear what will eventually happen to these workers when East African integration becomes a reality.
For now, we work hard in Tanzania to find answers for our students. Today is the last day of school visits before two days of conferencing to reinvigorate our mission and adjust for changes in the past year. And in the meantime, we enjoy the good fortune that has brought us to this place of immense beauty and generous people. Asante Sana, Tanzania.