Journey to Tanzania–Part 1

Hello world! I have recently returned from my very first study abroad experience, and finding the right words to sum up the trip is still impossible. At the very least, I can concede that it was life changing. The OU classes themselves that I took were hardly the source of education that I derived the most from; I learned the most about the country and cultures of Tanzania from living amongst and interacting with the people.

I was right to be excited about the homestay aspect of the journey, because it was truly the highlight of my stay in the beautiful East African country. I stayed with a beautiful little family in their beautiful little home, and was truly accepted there. My host mama Joyce was an absolute inspiration to me; her story and strength is unforgettable. 12 years ago, Joyce’s husband died in a tragic public transportation accident along with 22 other passengers. After his death, her husband’s family took everything away from her, including their home and property and all of their belongings. At the time, she had an infant son James and was pregnant with her daughter Victoria (my host siblings). 12 short years ago, she had to begin her life anew with absolutely nothing to her name but her small son and unborn daughter.

However, Joyce hardly sees this road bump in her life as a tragedy. As a strong, hardworking African woman she simply kept surviving, and now by many standards, is thriving. She teaches Swahili at a local government school, as well as at the MS Training Center for Development and Cooperation, which is where we took our basic Swahili course and OU classes. She also tutors orphans at a local organization run by some American friends of hers, and recently picked up two part time jobs at Universities in Arusha teaching Swahili. She does this all while taking care of her two children, now 11 and 14, as well as her younger niece and her housemaid and housemaid’s toddler.

Not only does she work those jobs and run a household, my mama Joyce is also successfully furthering her education to make her community a better place to live. She has her bachelors degree in Cooperation and Development and is currently working on her Masters proposal for Governance and Leadership. Once she receives her Masters degree, she plans on starting work toward her Ph.D.

I couldn’t be more proud of this woman who I fondly call my mama! Over the past month she taught me so much about the world and about her country and community, I could never thank her enough. She has many lifetimes of wisdom, more than it seems I could ever learn, but I would love to try. We are going to keep in touch via e-mail, but I know I will return to Tanzania and visit my family there one day to continue to learn all that I can.

My next post will concern everything (at least a short summary of everything) that my host mama and my stay in Tanzania taught me; I just thought that my lovely mama Joyce deserved a post all to herself because she’s so amazing and I will cherish her and her knowledge dearly for the rest of my life. Salama!!