Most mornings it was an early start with a walk down the hill, over the river and across the maize fields to Uchira Primary School. Along the way there were always lots of children desperate to meet a real live Mzungu (White person), hold my hand and test out their English. Being white does make you the most popular person in the Village! I taught English and a bit of Maths (in Swahili!) at the school. Sometimes I helped the teacher in classes and other times I took the class myself or with other volunteers. Teaching a class of 50 children who couldn’t speak English seemed a daunting idea at first but I soon settled in to it and discovered that knowing a little Swahili can go a long way! Volunteers are an invaluable resource as often teachers were absent or the English teachers didn’t fully understand what they were teaching so volunteers could explain it to them. We also introduced more interactive ways of learning so the lessons were more enjoyable for the children. I spent break time in the staff room eating bagier (sort of Yorkshire puddings), drinking sweet tea and talking to the teachers, who were equally excited about there being Wazungu (white people) in the school, about life in England.
I usually left school about 1pm and headed back to the house where I would help Jenifa finish cooking lunch and we’d have a chat, half in English and half in Swahili, so we’d both improve. Meals generally consisted of beef and sauce with rice, fried bananas or Ugali (which usually needs to be eaten with a “learn to love” attitude) and fruit. I spent most afternoons either painting the Kindergarten or the ward, or helping Freddy (Mr Soap) in the garden. After a long hot day a bucket shower felt like luxury and was always enjoyed! English class ran two nights a week over the summer where there were children and adults all wanting to learn both English and about life in England. I ran the adult and secondary children’s class. We covered a variety of topics and grammar as well as chatting about England and how it differs from Tanzania as well as making some great friends and having a good laugh. It was a great opportunity for us to decide exactly what to teach and how to teach it. After dinner I often walked down to Village Inn and met Gasper, Gerald and Jerald and a few others (who all live in Uchira) for a drink and a bit of a chat followed by my forth walk up the hill of the day! It was always worth the effort as there was no electricity at the house and sitting in candlelight all evening had little appeal!
Saturday nights were my favourite night of the week. They usually consisted of a nice meal in a restaurant in Moshi followed by a few pubs and the dancing the night away at La Liga or Pub Alberto with other volunteers, V2V staff and a few other people we met. Tanzanians are undoubtedly the most amazing dancers and so Jenifa (the best dancer of the Tanzanians), Konyagi (the spirit of Tanzania) and the Bongo flava music kept me dancing until the early hours!Weekends usually meant trips somewhere. Most Saturdays I went into Moshi for shopping, mzungu food and internet. My favourite trip was to Miwaleni springs were I swam and got laughed at by locals because they thought the water was freezing and didn’t understand why people would want to sunbathe! Other trips included Hedaru orphanage, Lake Chala and Marangu where there is a museum about a local tribe.I also spent a week in Zanzibar after my time in Uchira where I went snorkelling, enjoyed vast quantities of fish, went on a spice tour and generally acted like a tourist! Zanzibar is very different from Tanzania. It has an Arabic feel about it and is a great way to end the trip abroad. Through volunteering with V2V I learnt about a totally different culture and way of life. Volunteering with a small charity meant I got the opportunity to work alongside, and make friends with, Tanzanians as well as make a real difference. I loved the chance to learn the language and making a small effort gained me a lot of respect. Tanzania is a beautiful and very welcoming country and has become a huge part of my life. I will definitely return to Uchira in the near future so I can make a bigger difference to the people. When I first considered volunteering with V2V I remember a quote in the handbook. “You can leave Tanzania but Tanzania will never leave you.” This quote perfectly sums up what Tanzania now means to me.