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Our time in Tanzania learning Swahili by Lauren (Part 2)

Lauren: Wednesday 29th July - Saturday 1st August.

Wednesday 29th: Early morning was spent learning both how to negate verbs and how to hold a conversation in a market place. Around twelve pm we headed off to the local market to buy ingredients for upcoming meals. I was surprised at the sheer size of the place and how many people had come to sell their produce. Although the market seemed to be split into areas containing fruit, vegetables, and items of clothing respectively, the whole place was full of vibrant colours and smells. We were split into pairs and assigned various food items to buy from the market sellers using our newly learned vocabulary. At first most people were a bit apprehensive at the thought of being left alone in a sea of Swahili speakers, but on the whole people were friendly and seemed to enjoy our attempts to buy food in their language. In the evening we had our first lesson in drumming, dancing, and singing. Each of us was given our own hand-made drum to play, and we were also each given a large wooden stick to use in the dancing. Over the coming weeks we will be taught a tribal song, and will learn how to move using our sticks, eventually being able to perform a traditional dance representing the working labourers’ and farmers’ livelihood. During the first session drumming seemed to be the most popular activity, and although most people struggled at first to understand the choreography, the evening was a lot of fun.

Thursday 30th: After a morning of classes we had an early lunch before heading off to a local primary school; Butiama A. It was so strange to be sitting in a tiny classroom containing around one hundred and fifteen pupils, thinking about Scottish schools with classes of thirty. Everyone wrote a small note in a welcome book - as is customary in Tanzanian schools - and were introduced to two different classes. The children asked us about life in Scotland while we asked about their experiences in Butiama, and it was interesting to see how similar the pupils’ career ambitions were to those of Scottish children. We exchanged performances of songs from our respective countries’, and although “Flower of Scotland” could have been better, we hope that we left the school with a good impression of Scottish people and culture. In the afternoon we were introduced to the process of clay making, being shown how clay is made to start the sculpting stage. Unfortunately,after dinner there was a power cut which meant that we all had to revise for the next day’s exam using only head torches.

Friday 31st: We were all a little nervous on Friday morning, not knowing what to expect in the 9am exam. However, no one found the test as hard as they had expected it to be, and once it was over everyone felt much less pressure. We spent a short time going over our exam, and all of us managed to do pretty well, despite some of us worrying. In the afternoon we got to sculpt our clay pots - with a lot of help from our two teachers - and were told that after a few days drying the pots would be ready for the next stage of the process.

Saturday 1st: After an early breakfast we were drove for three hours to the Sukuma museum, an area dedicated to Tanzanian people and their relationship with a missionary who instead of enforcing colonisation wanted to preserve their traditions. We were taken on a tour of the museum and shown artefacts such as blacksmith tools and medical tools. After a lunch provided by the museum we were able to watch a performance of traditional dances by local dancers and drummers - including our music and movement teacher in Butiama. Part of the performance included a “snake dance” involving two giant pythons that were uncaged, which terrified some members of our group. It was a great experience though, and Saskia even volunteered to hold one of the pythons near the end of the performance.