Life in Tanzania Q&A


Now that I’m finished with the bulk of planning for this school year, I finally have some time to answer your questions about my life in Tanzania. If this post only brings up more questions, or if you want to see photos of something in particular, let me know! I live here now, so some things that are really crazy and weird and different are starting to seem normal, so I may not think to take pictures. Or maybe I just didn’t explain something very well. So ask away!

Piki Piki KuKu
Piki Piki (aka. Chickens on Wheels)

What are your favorite Swahili words?

Hmm. This depends a lot on what you mean by “favorite.” Some words are just fun to hear and say like “chuggla buggla” (mixed up) or “pili pili hoho” (green pepper). Other words are really useful for when I don’t understand something, or don’t know what else to say, like “nzuri” (good) or “sawa” (okay), or “asante” (thank you). Or “si jui” (I don’t know)!

How do you get to and from school?

There are several options for getting to and from school. 99% of the time, I plan on riding my bicycle. That in and of itself is an adventure–riding in Dar es Salaam is kind of like taking cyclocross and mixing it with insane traffic (like in the movie “Premium Rush”). But adventure or not, it is so much fun! I love riding here! The other options all involve using some form of public transportation. There are bajaji’s (the little three-wheeled vehicles), piki piki’s (motorcycles), or dala dala’s (busses), all of which I am so excited to be able to use now! Last week, Lucy came over to teach me some of the vocabulary I needed to know in order to use the various options for transportation. After my morning with Lucy, I now know some of the important stops on the bus routes, how to ask to get off of the bus, how to give directions to a piki piki or bajaji driver, and how to negotiate the price. I was thrilled when I was able to use two bajaji’s and a piki piki to get from my house to school, to the beach, and back again yesterday–all in imperfect Swahili!

Piki Piki
Piki Piki Driver Relaxing

What is the typical day for Abby?

For the last two weeks, my days have consisted of (in no particular order): Going to the duka and genge to buy fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, and other small food items. I’ve been intentionally only buying one item at a time, so that I can go back the next day and practice more Swahili with every trip! Going to school almost every day to get my classroom set up and get materials that I need for preparation. Riding my bicycle somewhere. Hanging out with new friends and co-workers. Sleeping. Preparing for the school year. On Tuesday, all of this will change when teacher training starts, and then school.

Preparing for the School Year

When did you say you will start teaching?  

Teacher training starts on Tuesday, August 20th. Classes start on Wednesday, August 28th.

What kind of preparations do have to make to begin? 

I’m mostly done now (thus the delay in this e-mail), but I’ve spent the last two weeks designing a yearly overview, where I have a basic outline of what I’m doing for each class on each day. It’s still very much a draft, but it’s at least there for each of my three classes (English 12, English 11, English 10). So I’ve been reading or re-reading the books I’ll be teaching for each class, designing essay prompts, and generally planning the units of study for the year. I’ve also had to spend some time studying the Cambridge educational system, as it is somewhat different from the U.S. System. From what I’ve discovered, it seems to compare best to the AP classes back in the U.S.

Do you have your own classroom?

Yes. It is on the first floor of the secondary building at HOPAC and has two windows looking out towards the Indian Ocean.

Ice Cream Bicycle!

How many hours a day will you be teaching?

School starts at 7:30 each morning and ends at 2:30. I don’t have a daily schedule yet. I know that English 11 and 12 each meet three days a week for 90 minutes, almost like a college class. English 10 meets every day for 45 minutes. And last I heard, I might also be teaching some primary level swim lessons and assisting with a service learning class. I probably also have a prep period, at least on some days.

When teaching English what opportunities do you have for presenting the gospel? 

Great question! One of the reasons I am absolutely thrilled about teaching at HOPAC is the opportunities I will have for sharing the Gospel and teaching about worldviews. I’ve always dreamed of changing the world. Teaching at HOPAC gives me a unique chance to do just that. Not because I’m doing anything dramatic or special, but because of the exponential potential found in HOPAC’s student body. Here, students from over 40 different countries come together. Here, when students graduate, Lord-willing, they leave with a heart overflowing with love for Jesus Christ, a mind that seeks truth, and hands to serve. Then those students return to their varying home countries to make a difference. 40 countries. There is no way I could go to 40 countries, learn 40 languages, and build relationships with all those people in a single lifetime. But because of HOPAC, I don’t have to. Here, I pray that I can live and teach and love in such a way that, through me, God can reach my students, and through them, He can change the world! English is an interesting subject because, in reality, you’re doing two things: (1) Reading stories, and (2) Communicating. Stories are not formed in a bubble. They all teach something. They all give us a picture of how that particular author views the world. Some authors write from a Christian worldview. Most do not. But either way it creates an opportunity to compare and contrast how ideas have consequences, how stories reflect life, and how we can learn from the mistakes of the characters in the stories. Communication, then, gives us the means of sharing our own stories and views of the world.

Is it a Christian School affiliated with any church or particular denomination? 

It is not. HOPAC (Haven of Peace Academy) is a Christian school founded in 1994 by five missionary families.

Mbezi Chapel

Where are the other teachers from and are they all Christians?

I do believe that all other teachers are Christians. They come from all over the world. There are a number of teachers from Tanzania and other African countries. There are teachers from Europe, Asia, and the U.S. So far, I’ve met teachers from Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, and the U.K.

The area you live in, are the houses or apartments close together? Do you live in a more populated area, like busy area or what?  

I live in the Mbezi Beach area of Dar es Salaam, which, by U.S. standards, would probably be considered a suburb. It takes about 45 minutes to get downtown (in good traffic), but is still a very populated area. There are houses (and a few apartment buildings) all around us, as well as a little stand-alone stores (dukas), and “strip malls” of dukas, plus fundi’s (craftsmen–shoe repair, sewing, bicycle repair, etc.) and genges (fruit/vegetable stands), and the occasional supermarket (oversized dukas where you can get a wider selection of foods, cleaning supplies, etc.). It is a relatively safe area of town and is much less busy than other parts of Dar.

I think the thing that bugs me is that I don’t know how to send you anything, how much it would cost or even if it can be done? 

It can be done, but it is pretty expensive to send anything larger than a letter. My address here is: Abigail Snyder, c/o Amy Ellis, PO Box 105696, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, East Africa. If you want to send a package, it can get expensive quickly. Mom just mailed a box full of things that I forgot at home (oops!) that cost $60 to send (yikes!!!). There are a few things you can do to minimize the cost, however, so if you are interested in sending a package, contact me or my mom to get the official “Care Package Guidelines” list.

Thanks for sharing in my life with me!

A few closing thoughts, courtesy of Ann Voskamp: 

“You are where you are for such a time as this – not to gain anything — but to risk everything.

You are where you are for such a time as this — not to make an impression — but to make a difference.”

(Read the rest: A Holy Experience)

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