Back to school

Craft, cuisine & creatures
Welcome to Fantasy Island

Friday was our last day in Tanzania, but for the students at Munguishi Bible College it was the first day of a new academic year. We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet some of the students and get a glimpse of college life. Mike was due to take his first class at 8.30am, so we walked down with him & sat in on the class. We felt rather self-conscious – we certainly stand out in a crowd here – and the students treat guests with great respect, so there was no sitting inconspicuously and quietly observing.

We sat at the front of the class and each student introduced him or herself individually (there was only one female student in that class). They spoke in English, which was obviously a bit of a struggle for some of them. They ranged in ages, but most were married and had children. Their families do not live at the college, & must fend for themselves while their husbands are away studying. If they are farmers, the women do most of the work anyway, we are told. Still it must be a great hardship to be separated for so long. Two of the students had finished year 10 (equivalent) at school, most of them had only finished primary school. Another challenge for them. I was able to take a few photos, and we enjoyed watching Mike talk to the students in Swahili. He & Katie are very aware of their limitations with the language, but we were pretty impressed with how far they have come in such a short time.

Primary school education in Tanzania is in Swahili, but high school is taught in English. So anyone who finishes high school is proficient in English, Swahili, and usually their native tribal language as well. All higher education is in English, as are most of the resources. So for those students who only finished primary school, coming to college is a steep learning curve. If they want to gain a qualification, they have to also learn English & Mike has found himself teaching English, as the only native speaker at the college. We found English much more widely spoken in Kenya, apparently there all schooling is done in English, and we noticed that all the street signs & hoardings were in English.

The class usually goes for two hours, but Mike kept it short for the first day, and we went back to the house. But our student experience was not over. We were back in the church building for the lunchtime chapel service. Not only did we stand out for the usual reasons, but when we arrived the pews were full so we sat in the choir stall, right at the front. No falling asleep during the sermon!! (Not difficult to do since it was all in Swahili & it was stiflingly hot!). We loved the singing. It was all a Capella, in beautiful harmonies, & simple but lovely tunes. In fact we were able to sing along quite well, following the words (but not the meaning) in a hymn book. I videoed some of it, so when I get a chance I’ll post some footage & you can see what I mean. At the end of the service, everyone files out in single file, following the service leaders (and then us since we sat at the front!), still singing, and every person shakes everyone else’s hands. I loved that.

Mike saved the best “treat” till last – lunch in the college dining room. We were lucky because on Fridays there is meat. Otherwise the meal consists of Ugali, a porridge-like concoction made from maize & tasting a bit like wallpaper paste, and beans, which actually were quite tasty, and green veg of some kind, which are\ grown on the college far. Ugali is a staple food & apparently they enjoy it – I suspect it is an acquired taste. The student who sat at our table had a huge serve of it. We had the meat instead of the greens – a small unidentified mouthful of meaty goodness (probably goat). This is served on metal trays. We queued up with everyone else but the students insisted that we sat & they served us. Not one of the tastiest meals we have had while travelling, but certainly one of the more unique.

In the evening we were invited to dinner at the Parks’. Mchungaji Park is the principle of the college; he is a missionary from Korea and has been in East Africa for many years, & in Munguishi for around 6 years. He & Mama Park had just been back to Korea for a break, and they brought back lots of yummy Korean goodies. We had an amazing meal of various Korean & African food – and pizza. Totally made up for lunch!!

We were home fairly early. Even though they lived next door, everyone is very security conscious here, and they avoid being out much after dark. All the doors & gates are padlocked, and there are guards that patrol the college all night. We never felt in any danger, but it was good to know they were there. As it was our last night, we sat & chatted (in the dark – another power cut).
It was a great week, we got to know Mike & Katie a lot better, spent time with the kids, and gained a real insight into the life of a modern day missionary in East Africa.

We headed for the airport early this morning, and said our reluctant goodbyes. Kilimanjaro International Airport is quite small, so the entire checking in process was very painless. (And there was free WI-FI!) Until we got to Nairobi and realised we would have to go through immigration (and therefore buy another visa) just to get our luggage – it had only been booked to Nairobi, even though we were transferring directly to our Air Mauritius flight. Oops. We found the transfer desk & a helpful staff person told us he would try to retrieve our bags, though he warned us they usually have to be collected in person. He left us waiting for some time while we became increasingly anxious. We must have looked troubled, because the airport chaplain (who knew there was such a person?) came & chatted with us. Keith impressed him by saying “Bwana Asifiwe”, and we had a nice chat. Our friend eventually come back with our bags, to our great relief, but then he told us we would have to take our bags to the departure gate and check them in from there. It was all very casual, but we watched as they loaded our bags on to the plane, and finally were able to relax.

So, as I write, I am sitting on the plane & we are nearly in Mauritius. We have passed over some lovely tropical-looking islands with sandy beaches. Really looking forward to our week there.

Africa was incredible, we loved every minute (well, perhaps not the traffic & the dust & the lack of plumbing), we would definitely love to go back one day. We had so many unbelievable experiences! This was certainly the most exotic place I have been. When we said we were planning to go to Africa, most people said “I have always wanted to go there!!” To you I say – go! You will not regret it. But some people were surprised that we would even consider it. To you I say – go! You will not regret it! If your idea of a good holiday includes room-service and hotel swimming pools, then go to Tahiti. But if you want to have unforgettable sights and heart-pounding excitement, have your eyes opened to a different world, and step right out of your comfort zone, then start planning your trip now!

One thought on “Back to school

  1. Shelley I have really enjoyed reading about your adventures. You paint a great picture with your words. If my stars line up in the right order, maybe one day I will get to Africa. I think I need another lifetime to visit all the places I’ve been hearing about. Have a great time in Mauritius.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, here's the place to put them:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.