Hanna Deringer ’20 shares highlights of her first day with her reading buddy, and Christina Halloran ’20 reflects on the warm affection of the Mainsprings community.
The highlight of my first day here in Tanzania was spending time with my reading buddy. After a riveting permaculture lesson with Mr. Max, the group took a small break and then traveled to the school library to meet our reading buddies. When I first met Somida, I was nervous because I wanted her to like me. I could tell she was shy but definitely had a lot to say. She chose the book, Judy Moody and tried to get me to read the entire book to her but we both knew that wasn’t allowed. We compromised and switched off reading each page to each other. Somida flew through every page reading almost perfectly, yet I was not completely sure she understood what was happening in the book, even if she knew how to say the words. I then asked Somida to explain what had happened in each chapter and for the rest of the time we both worked together to try and help her fully understand the book. Though it was only the first session, it was a quite humbling experience. I enjoyed trying to teach Somida reading skills that she could apply in the future but I more enjoyed getting to know such a bright, kind, young girl.
Somida then lead me to the assembly hall where prayer time would soon begin promptly at 6 pm. As we walked along the dusty path to prayer time, Somida told me more and more about herself. We chatted about our favorite things and as we spoke I felt the younger children come up from behind me to hold on to my hands or anything they could attach to. Before I knew it, three preschoolers were latching on to my backpack, my hips and both of my hands. Prayer time was amazing. The girls sang with passion and a true love for each other. I struggled to understand the Swahili but tried my best to hum along with them. After prayer time, we had a fresh dinner with rice, beans and veggies. Shortly after, everyone broke out into song and danced at full volume. As Somida and I bonded even more through music, I thought about how this small building managed to hold an enormously happy and lively spirit inside. We concluded the night with a fun game filled with laughter, joy and more hugs.
After scrubbing clean the cups that previously filled the students’ mid-morning snack of porridge, Addie, Mason, and I stepped out of the kitchen and into the main room of the dining hall to talk with all the young kids. While our job was to help out the cooks, with a moment of pause from work, we decided to interact with the boys and girls in matching uniforms of royal blue tops and red skirts or pants. They immediately ran to us and surrounded us, holding our hands, grabbing our arms, and touching our backpacks, smiling and laughing all the while. I was joyfully overwhelmed by the affection all the children showed towards us and the curiosity that glowed in their faces. A few of them chatted with me, asking me what my name is and asking me about my watch. Before we knew it, the kids were slowly congregating towards the exit to head back to class. Not being able to say goodbye and unable to unhinge their little hands from our hands and arms, we continued walking with the students until we ultimately made it back to the school. As we posed for a picture outside of the classrooms, one of the girls gave me a kiss on my cheek. We finally had to say goodbye to all of our new friends, promising that we’ll see them again at lunch and giving them fist bumps and high fives before leaving.
As my hands and arms were gripped by the little hands of the children, I couldn’t help but smile and be intrigued by their kindness and curiosity. They were not afraid to interact with us strangers at all, rather they were so excited and interested to touch us and talk to us. Every day I become more and more impressed and amazed by all of the compassionate and warm hearted people who don’t think twice about treating us in the best possible manner. I often feel like I am a superstar as all of the children I pass say hi to me and often give me a high five. Thinking about their lives and backgrounds, I find it even more incredible that they are all so kind and welcoming to us. I will never forget the moment I finally had to wrench my arms away from the students as my arms hung through the bars of the window into the classroom. They couldn’t seem to let go and neither could I, despite the fact that we had met just minutes ago. I think the people here at Mainsprings have been my favorite part of this trip so far; they are truly one of a kind and I cannot wait to make more memories with them.