Ellia Chiang ’21 reflects on the powerful meaning of a simple hug, and Mary Blake Zeron ’21 describes her day teaching a Biology class, helping cook lunch, and attending a school assembly.
Hand in hand, Namisi, one of my JBFC friends, and I wandered through the village as she pointed out different sceneries of the school and of the shops. Along the way, we exchanged stories and I learned that many of the girls adored Korean dramas, which was something that I definitely related to. We soon reached and climbed the rocks, which showed a view of the fields and the sparkling lake. I once tried to follow Namisi onto a massive rock, but I ended up sliding back down to the bottom, which earned quite a bit of laughs from the girls and from myself as well.
Later in the day after cooking chapatti (with Lexi, Maggie, Mason, Nathan, and Nikhil) and hand washing our laundry, we headed out of the house to Papa’s Restaurant for a performance led by members of a local tribe. Rachel, another one of my new friends, darted to the trees along the path and presented a small guava to me and we proceeded to walk over to Papa’s with our guavas in our hands as we linked arms together.
Guided by the beat of the Sukuma drummers, the dancers moved in synchrony as they all beamed at us. The elders had bells on their ankles that jingled every time they moved which harmonized with the drums, whistles, and singing. While we watched and clapped, enchanted by their dance, Rachel and Namisi excitedly braided my hair as Selma, a JBFC girl, clutched onto my arm. So, there I sat content, next to Lexi and Selma, watching a beautiful performance in the drizzling rain and gentle breeze. It seemed almost as if the rain had come down as a call from the drummers and dancers. Soon after, the dancers motioned our group to join the dance. We created a circle, each member of the Deerfield community between the dancers and girls of JBFC as we passed around smiles, laughs, and dance moves. After the dance ended, Lexi and I decided to walk over to the dancers and drummers to introduce ourselves and say “asante sane”, which in Swahili means “thank you very much”.
Every night, when we are about to leave the girl’s homes to return back to the guest house, we are always circled and warmly embraced by the girls, who wish us a “good night”. The other day, Selma ran over to me and kissed me on the cheek- she whispered in my ear that she would be thinking of me all night so that she could dream and see me in her sleep.
In my time here so far, I’ve discovered that happiness can be found anywhere. Holding hands. Making friendship bracelets for each other. A smile. Playing kickball and soccer. Braiding hair. Singing songs. Giving a hug. Truthfully, I have never given so many hugs as I have here and I have found out that a hug, as simple as it may be, is powerful in connecting people.
The electronic beep on my watch woke me up at 6 a.m. to start my day. After Christina, Ellia, Mr. Emerson, and I got ready for our morning run, we met Jonas on the front porch for stretches. We started to run as the cooler temperature and slight breeze greeted us, and let me tell you, running in a skirt is not that easy. Contrary to the blasting music coming from my headphones in America, pounding feet and heavy breathing surrounded me in Tanzania; my usual run on Mill Village turned into a dirt road with dust flying up behind us.
After ten minutes, we could see the sunrise to our left— gigantic and bright orange. On our way back, we were greeted by school children. Before we knew it, Ellia, Christina, and I were running hand in hand with the kids. When it was time to say good-bye, we received more hugs than we could count. Back at the guest house, I took a cold shower—one of the many things I have grown to love. A couple of nights ago, I showed Emma, one of my JBFC friends, how to do Punnett Squares in genetics, and the following day, she showed her teacher, Mr. David. I was then invited to Biology class. I had to miss breakfast at Papa’s, so I loaded up on granola bars.
Emma and her best friend, Elizabeth, walked with me to school to make 8 a.m. class. I went into a classroom of about twenty 17 and 18-year-olds expecting to take notes, but Mr. David gave me his textbook and led me to the white board. I taught the class about blood types, red-green colorblindness, and Hemophilia. I stood before the class for over an hour, and when it was time for me to go, two students went to the front of the room to express their thanks. After a couple of class pictures, I made my way to the dining hall to help my community service group.
The first thing I did was cut up kale. The students would form a line outside the kitchen to receive their breakfast porridge, and some would enter the kitchen to get their guava, picked from trees around campus, cut in half. Once my hand started to cramp, I washed what felt like an endless supply of cups. We had lunch with the students and participated in their Friday assembly afterwards. The students grouped in front of the stage by grade sang the African Pledge and Tanzanian Anthem. The Deerfield group was asked to go on stage, and after introducing ourselves, we sang The Fight Song and The Evensong. Fun Friday activities began with an intense basketball game and tennis match.
We headed back to the guest house to get dressed for Village Night, something I was told to look forward to.