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Our time in Tanzania learning Swahili by Josie (Part 3)

Josie: Sunday 2nd August - Wednesday 5th August.

Sunday 2nd: Today was our first official “free day” complete with scheduled lie in. Most took the opportunity to relax, catch up on sleep and take a breather from the intensive timetable. The clay pots were ready for painting and polishing. We applied a paste made from water and powdered red rock to the pots and then polished them using very smooth stones. After lunch, some of us played a game of full-contact ultimate frisbee followed by rounders for those who had any energy left. After tea, we had our first reflection session around a bonfire where we had the chance to discuss anything that had been bothering us, what we’d enjoyed most so far and any advice we would give to students in following years. I think a lot of us were surprised at how interesting and useful we found the session and appreciated the way in which any concerns were approached.

Monday 3rd: After the usual Monday morning lecture and tutorial we visited a traditional healer at her home just outside of Butiama. We observed as she and her assistants used rattles made from gourds to call on their ancestors as they would in a healing consultation. A few students were a bit unnerved but the atmosphere soon turned more to that of an interview, with us having the opportunity to ask questions about her work such as what ailments she usually treated and her views of western medicine. The visit sparked interesting debate about different people’s beliefs and opinions. Earlier in the day some students visited the local hospital after one member of the group had a bad reaction to a wasp sting. They noted a lot of differences in hospital conditions, particularly in organisation and the amount of patients needing attention but eventually got the treatment they needed. That evening we had our third African drumming and dancing lesson, with Tom conducting us in our African song.

Tuesday 4th: After a morning of tutorials where we went over nationalities, dates and times, we were taught how to wash clothes by our local guide Zawadi. After lunch, most of us went on a walk up to the peak across the valley. The view from the top was beautiful, with Lake Victoria visible in the distance and monkeys scampering over the unusual rock formations. We stayed at the top for a long time admiring the view and listening to music before heading back to Butiama around dusk. Those who stayed behind enjoyed watching the friendly resident monkeys play outside their window.

Wednesday 5th: After a morning lecture, we all went to the weekly market to buy Kanga and Kitenge, traditional fabrics worn by the local people, along with some basins for hand washing clothes. Zawadi knew a local tailor who took our measurements for making skirts, shirts and trousers out of the cloth. The clay pots we had been working on were ready for firing, which took about three hours and was handled by our two pottery teachers. The finishing touch was when we rubbed porridge into the pots to give them their shine. A few of us did some circuits for exercise while others took the opportunity to wash some clothes.