First Swahili Class and Visit to Village Museum

Tuesday Jan. 17, 2023

Monday morning the students trickled in to the church from their various homes for the first Swahili class. This was significant for several reasons. It was the first time they traveled from their home to town and, secondly, they met their Swahili teachers and launched into what will be a 5-week class that meets every morning for 2 hrs.

Tuesday was yet another day of firsts, as they all came to class using public transport by themselves, having been escorted by their host families the first day. (As an aside, I think this was the first time in our TZ-SST history where all students arrived both days in time for class!) This may sound trivial, but transportation challenges in this sprawling city of 7.5 million people abound. Most students have ~ 1 hour daily commutes with combination of bus rides, bajajis, and walking. These realities are of course the same for our Tanzanian colleagues and, by participating in their routines, we gain a better sense of the patterns in their lives.

Tuesday afternoon we visited Makumbusho Vijijini (Village Museum). This site (maintained by the national museum of Tanzania) contains reconstructions of 25 houses that typify one or more of the 120 tribes in Tanzania. Our tour guide helped us understand how the dwellings matched the available resources, climate patterns, and family structures typical of those areas.

The highlight was an opportunity to watch (and then participate in) drumming and dancing (kupiga ngoma na kucheza). You should have seen our students move! This week we will continue to explore how cultural customs and traits are linked to ecological systems with a visit to the National Museum on Thursday and receive our first university lecture from Dr. Yusuf Lawi of the University of Dar es Salaam history department.

– Ryan