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Update from Ciara in Tanzania

  • 4 March 2020

My first month in Dodoma, Tanzania

It’s weird to say I have been here a month already.  It really has flown by.

The day I left the UK, I was filled with nervous excitement, it was sad saying by to my family but once I got through security at the airport, everything was surreal.  It was 19 hours with very little sleep.

Leaving the airport at Dar es Salaam the next day, the humidity hit me like a wave; the heat stuck to you.  I was welcomed by the JVC volunteers based in Dar es Salaam and slept overnight at their house.  It was nice to see friendly faces after so many hours of travelling and eat some food that wasn’t airplane cuisine.

The next morning, I got the coach to Dodoma. On the way to the coach station, I had my first experience riding in a Bajaj, Tanzania’s version of a tuk-tuk, which was a fun but bumpy ride.  The coach station at Dar es Salaam is an experience in itself, a sea of different coloured coaches with and many people trying to direct you to them.  I found where I was meant to be eventually and was on the way to Dodoma on my lovely air-conditioned coach and we drove down the road connecting the 2 cities.  Thankfully the rainy season means there was lots of green sights.  Green on the trees, green on the mountains, some amazing sights to see on my way to my new home for the next few months.

Upon arrival my new housemate and fellow British volunteer, Conor, met me and took me to our house – which thankfully was just across the road from the bus stop – getting to the house was a lovely surprise as it had exceeded my expectations and I later met my new American counterparts.

On Fridays we go out for dinner and eat ‘chips mayai’ essentially a chip omelette and its now the thing I look forward to every week.  Each week we go to a new bar or restaurant to find the best chips mayai in Dodoma.

St Ignatius is a lovely school.  The grounds are so peaceful. I am currently still trying to find my place here, searching the different classes to find my fit, but I am mainly teaching English.  The students bring Ignatius to life, they are always so joyful; it brings a smile to my face every day.  The early mornings are something to get used to the bus comes and collects us at 6:30 but it’s gotten easier each day over the last few weeks; the children are so lively on the bus, it’s hard not to wake up!

My second Friday in Dodoma was my birthday which was extremely bizarre, and a birthday I will never forget.  At school the children in class 3 sang me happy birthday and many pupils gave me birthday notes.  It was very sweet.  That night we went out for pizza, a pizzeria run by an actual Italian, who came to Dodoma 30 years ago and fell in love.  It was a very nice treat and a nice step away from ugali and beans.

We had a family day at Ignatius my second weekend here; all the staff and their respective families got together and celebrated their hard work. Then in the evening we went to St Peter Claver, where the American volunteers work, to watch a dance competition that one of the volunteers had organised.  I did not know what to expect but the whole school of 800 kids was watching and the quality was so good, I was amazed.  In the end 2 students in form 1 (Year 7) the lowest year in the school won the crown!

A big highlight of my first month was Saturday 22nd February. One of the American volunteers, Steven, turned 24.  We went to see his Tanzanian host family in Ihumwa, who were throwing him a party.  They have a little boy who also had his birthday that week, turning 2 and so there was lots of celebration to be had that day.  There was dancing, games and very good food made by Mama.  I felt so much love spread around that day, it made me feel so happy to be here; I will think about how I felt that day if I am ever feeling homesick or doubting my place here.

Before I left home, I was very worried that I would be dreadfully homesick coming here.  I was waiting and waiting for the moment that I would start to miss home.  I have had times where I miss my family, friends, food (especially cheese) and familiarity.  But these are fleeting moments that pass when the next exciting thing comes my way.

My first few weeks in Tanzania, have been exciting and overwhelming, so much has happened in my short time here, but the Tanzanians are very welcoming.  The Jesuit Community and the novices always include the volunteers and there is a real sense of community here.  After mass on Sunday’s we eat lunch together and share our experiences.  It is a very nice life here in Tanzania; there are things I love and things I miss but I look forward to what each new day brings and welcome any challenges to learn from.

Ciara Doherty, a 22-year-old former Stonyhurst pupil, is volunteering in Tanzania with Jesuit Missions. 

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