Friday marked our first week of Swahili classes completed – time seems to be flying by. After Swahili class students took their first weekly quiz on the history readings that were assigned. After our quiz, we walked to the bus stand to get our first daladala to the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM). We ate a quick, delicious lunch of rice/beans/bananas/fruit/chips/chicken in the UDSM cafeteria before receiving a lecture by Dr. Yusufu Lawi, a history professor at the university.
Dr. Lawi’s research area is in Environmental History and he provided a thought provoking introduction to how various tribes in Tanzania view nature. Using the Iraqw tribe from northern TZ as a case study, Professor Lawi emphasized how various rituals, totems, and taboos are important cultural elements that tie these groups to their land. Sometimes these practices may inadvertently protect the resources on which they depend (like taboos on cutting trees in certain forests to avoid disrupting the spirits that live there). The lecture ended with multiple questions about the challenges facing society today where traditional views of nature are supplanted with scientific ones. Can we merge our scientific understanding with traditional knowledge that fosters respect and conservation?
On Saturday most of the group (Eva attended a wedding with her host mother) met at the harbor to take a ferry to Kigamboni, the peninsula just across the waterfront. We piled into a daladala for the short trip to Kipepeo (Butterfly) Beach. The weather was stunning, with rolling dark clouds and the occasional sprinkle. It was a restful and peace-filled end to the students’ first full week in Dar. Sunday students will be with their host families and participate in the family happenings as they unfold. We are so thankful for the wonderful hospitality the students are receiving from their families.
– Ryan for the entire team