Student News

Tanzania #3: Misconceptions and Gratitude

Paulina Baltazar – March 14, 2018

Samara Cummings ’20 and Liv Mikesell ’20 share their first day experience being paired with a “reading buddy” at JBFC/Mainsprings. Samara comes to realize the similarities she shares with her buddy, while Liv considers the word “ambition” and looks forward to her second day at the girls school. 

Reading Buddies
Samara Cummings ’20

As soon as she heard that we were paired to be reading buddies, Bella grabbed my hand and whisked me away to an aisle of books in the school’s library. She browsed the shelf of books and stumbled upon one of my favorite series, Junie B. Jones. We sat together in the bare corner of the library, began to read about mischievous Junie, and alternated the role of the narrator of each page. I read nervously and stumbled over words and punctuation, while Bella calmly read to me and asked questions when she did not understand certain phrases.

Every few pages, she would stop and say “Can I ask you a question?” And she proceeded to ask me about my family, my home and my favorite activities. She told me that she is in the seventh grade and that she likes to swim, eat potato chips, and watch movies. We ended our session singing in harmony to the song “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana (one of her favorite movies) and completely forgot about Junie B. Jones. Bella then took it upon herself to introduce me to her friend, Beyte. I asked them about what they do after school. Beyte laughed and said that as soon as school ends, Bella goes right to bed! We laughed, knowing the common feeling of exhaustion from a hard day at school all too well.

I realized then that I too, was affected by the ideology that we are different from those who do not share similar backgrounds and culture. Although it is important to acknowledge our differences, that emphasis on our differences almost blinded me from seeing that Bella and Beyte are just like any other kid. I have come to the conclusion that our distance has left too much room for imagination, generalizations, and ignorance. But as Bella and I sat together in the corner of the library, shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye, and just talked, we diminished any misconceptions, and saw each other for who we really are.

A tour of campus

Liv Mikesell ’20

While walking back from our first reading buddies meeting and trekking through the fresh mud that was created from the heavy rain that had fallen just a few hours before, my reading buddy, Bahati, asked “What is your ambition?” It took me a second to process what she had just asked, and I even pressed her to repeat what she said. After the clarification, and another few seconds of thought, I realized that she had just asked me what I wanted to do with my life, or what I want my future to look like. I responded with my answer, a person of business, and then proceeded to ask her that same question and she responded with a “designer.” Again, I used the word that she had, ambition. I thought about that the rest of the way to the Prayer meeting we were about to have, and the thought even crossed my mind as we were eating dinner later that night. I can’t quite pinpoint why this has provoked me so much, but I cannot seem to get the words of this young, 13-year-old girl who I had just met out of my head. I think it might have been that word choice of ambition, because it transcends the norm of “what do you want to be?” or “what do you want to do?” But this question, and the way she phrased it, resonated with me, and I think it will for a long time.

After that short walk from the school library to the dining hall, we prepared for the nightly prayer meeting. Bahati grabbed me by the wrist and took me to a table where we sat together eagerly waiting for the meeting to begin. It started with one of the older girls saying a set of recitations, all in Swahili, and the other girls repeating exactly what she had said. Every single person, except for us, knew exactly what to say and when to say it. The girls spoke in perfect unison. Next, we all stood up and clapped to the beat of a song that was being sang by some of the girls. Each voice had a uniqueness to it and all together they harmonized and it made the song all the more beautiful. I wanted to sing along, but not knowing any of the lyrics, I just watched and clapped. I took in all of the girls singing the song while they clapped as well. While I was not completely sure what they were saying, I loved the cultural aspect. I stood there and realized how thankful I was to be a part of this moment, and how grateful I was to take part in something so meaningful to these girls.

Following the prayer meeting was dinner. For dinner we had rice, beans, and kale – a JBFC staple. We were able to talk more with the girls we had just met while meeting some of their peers. Ranging in age from 4-17, the girls were all so welcoming and friendly towards us. They asked us many questions and genuinely wanted to get to know us. After dinner, we said goodbye for the night. Each girl gave us a hug and wished us sweet dreams. I replied “goodnight”, and “I can’t wait for tomorrow.”