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Haverford Alum returns to Tanzania to continue the work of her CPGC internship.

My name is Sarah Derbew, class of 2009 at Haverford College. In the summer of 2007, I received a CPGC Self-Designed International Fellowship to travel to Arusha, Tanzania and spend time at LOHADA (www.lohada.org), an organization that provides housing and school to Tanzanian children. After graduating from Haverford, I was a Haverford House fellow and worked at Parkway NW High School for Peace and Social Justice. In the summer of 2012, I returned to Arusha and resumed work at LOHADA. Below are a few journal entries from my journey.

29 May 2012:

I've been doing paperwork for the 140 students here for the past two days, not that fun but necessary. The sooner I finish, the sooner I can jump rope with the 4-year old students during their school break. I’m staying with my host family from 5 years ago, which is such a comfort.

I live in Moshono, a village 15 minutes from Lohada, so I walked to work alone today. A chicken definitely tried to stare me down. My sense of direction is bad enough in a city; the struggle increases in a village where sometimes a cow is my land marker. Or a banana grove. I stand out with my jeans but I like to be ready to move at all times, firewoman status. On my walk this morning, students gawked at me and tried to figure out if I was one of them. I confused them, with my brown skin color but fast gait and American clothes. Culture dictates that they have to greet me so some of them mumbled the respectful greeting as I smiled broadly (!). Then, I asked them why they were looking at me, which got us into a valuable conversation about what a foreigner is. They defined it as a white person but grouped me in that category. After awhile, they got bored with this stranger who kept speaking Swahili very slowly, so they drifted away. I like to think that they will think twice before labeling people, perhaps naïve but still I hope.

10 June 2012:

I write to on a very gray morning in Arusha, Tanzania. I cannot predict the weather, a sunny morning can swiftly change into a rainy noon, followed by a breezy afternoon. Things have changed a lot since my last entry. My supervisor left for a week and put me in charge of all of the volunteers. I appreciate the trust and authority that I was given and have been working hard to support and lead the volunteers. I gave tours of Arusha to new volunteers, coordinated the purchase of bunk beds, and began typing lessons with the secondary school students. Many of these secondary students were at LOHADA when I came five years ago, and surprisingly they remember me! They have slowly warmed up and we are growing comfortable with each other. Almost every day, we review homework, type, and take photos (I brought 2 cameras to allow them to explore their photographic skills). It is such a blast to rekindle old friendships and create new ones. Some of them have started walking me back home in the evenings, we heard Hindi music on our journey yesterday and started dancing in the road; I hope no one thought we were crazy.

20 June 2012:

I marvel at how little life is valued here. No traffic lights, crazy cars and motorbikes, I play Russian Roulette every time I cross the street. For a culture that values people and has a flexible concept of time, they sure do not have any patience when they're in the city.

But, I spent most of this afternoon chatting with the cook and the guard at LOHADA. If we were in America, none of us would have had such free time to get to know each other. Sometimes the flexibility works. The cook gently encouraged my Swahili as we chatted.

The best part about traveling here alone is that I speak only Swahili with everyone I meet, I have no American friends to tempt me to speak English. It becomes difficult when I become homesick and tired of frantically searching for a meaning in my mental dictionary, but this can also be very rewarding.

Later in the day, students told me about their schoolwork and we played an intense game of cards. As we laughed, and sometimes bent the rules, I knew that this would not be my last trip to Arusha. The students had let me in to their community and I knew not to treat this lightly. I care and respect them all too much to allow this to be the end. And thus, the fundraising for Arusha 2013 begins!

Prof. Anita Isaacs (Political Science) and students cross Founders Green after class.

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