Student News

Tanzania #11 — Dancing in the Circle

Christina Kopp – March 15, 2014

Katherine Chen’ 15 reflects on the community she has discovered:

One of the most fascinating girls I have met so far on this trip is Pili, a 17 year old girl who lives in the dorms but does not attend the day school. Pili, instead, makes and sells her own soaps. She dreams of one day being able to sustain herself financially by making luxury soaps for Tanzania hotels and stores. I talked to her yesterday, while working with the refuge group, and she helped our group a lot in talking with the matrons, as she spoke English while the matrons we were working with did not. She also taught us useful Swahili words and helped us learned the names of some of the children as they sat in the dining hall.

Pili is also a talented hip-hop/breakdancer and this afternoon during our down time at the girls dining hall, she showed us some of her moves. She can isolate certain parts of her body and the movements are mesmerizing. We told her it was amazing, and she shakes off the compliment and tells me to dance for her. So I showed her the only bit of dance choreography I know- a beginner’s hip hop dance piece. Despite my obvious flaws she still asked me to teach it to her, and showed honest interest in learning it. Her caring and friendly qualities are something so common among all of the JBFC children.  Although we must seem very different to the children, they are always introducing themselves saying ‘welcome’ and ‘I love you’ to us.

After dinner and prayer night with the girls, a dance party was held in the dining hall. The dance parties here are unlike like those of Deerfield. They play mostly African pop music, from a single small portable speaker, and dance together as one group holding hands. In some parts of the dance people formed a circle around someone break dancing or just someone with exceptional moves, and of course Pili was in the circle for a while. There were also so many other girls who were great at dancing and the girls would cheer and hug them after they moved out of the circle.

At one point during the dance, Pili came up behind me and placed her hands around my eyes. After I turned around, laughing, to discover who it was, Pili pushed me into the circle saying, ‘Go on. You can dance!’.  At first I resisted as I knew I could not dance especially when compared to these girls. However, Pili’s convincing smile and continuous persistence led me to take a risk and dance in the middle of the circle. Despite looking silly dancing in front of everyone, I had so much fun as the girls cheered me on. Afterwards, as I left the circle, Pili came up and gave me a hug, and other girls came up to hold my hand and dance. Although I have only be here for four days, I feel completely apart of the JBFC community.

Every night, it takes forever to leave the girls. We all exchange hugs and smiles, as we tell each other ‘goodnight’ and ‘I love you’, even with girls we may have not met yet. For a community with not very much at all, they are the happiest people I have come across, and it surprises me everyday how welcoming and loving a group of people can be.