Living the Tanzanian dream

I could easily say this vacation was one of the best experiences I ever had. This summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to Tanzania. My excitement even before the trip was evident by my constant babbling. After a 25 hour journey of four connecting flights, I finally arrived in Africa. Let me just be honest here and say that the first night was horrendous; not only was I extremely jet- lagged, but I also had no idea how use a mosquito net. As a result, by 4:30 a.m., my bed was a mosquito nest.

After enduring a blood-sucking night, I found myself the next day in the Tanzanian countryside. Interestingly enough, the culture was very similar to Brazil’s. The people were very touchy and greeted everyone with hugs. The food was familiar too: rice, beans and bananas. And of course, both countries shared a passion for soccer.

I joined Global Leadership Adventures, a community service group, that had the aim of helping out the Korona Primary School. The school had no electricity and motorcycles were always driving in and out. One of our goals was to build a natural fence, which would keep motorcycles from entering and provide a safer environment for the children. Our days would start with three hours of fence work. Then, we would teach English at designated classrooms.

The school was not in the best shape. Each cracked, wooden desk seated three children, and while classrooms had blackboards, chalk had to be sparingly used. One of the most memorable parts of the trip was the time the kids chose to draw a picture of Obama. It pretty much looked like a picture of a saggy rabbit.

After teaching we would go outside for recess. As a Brazilian, play time means soccer time. I was quickly nicknamed Neymar because I played soccer everyday with the kids. One thing that caught my attention was how the boys and girls would not play together. If a girl attempted to engage in a game, she would be kicked out or even shoved away. As a proud feminist, I refused to accept that, and said that if we could not play together, we would not play at all. It took a while for the boys to get used to the idea, but soon, the boys and girls were playing like old friends.

Despite not being the best soccer player, I was happy my tricks were able to make the kids’ days a little bit better. Moreover, what moved me was how happy the kids were when they played soccer. Although their ball was made out of various pieces of cloth wrapped tightly, that’s how they went about their play; they were just happy.

During those few weeks, as cliché as it sounds, I learned how to live a simple life. The place we were residing in experienced a water crisis, which meant bucket showers: one bucket per person, for a week. There were a few days when we couldn’t even shower. It was the first time in my life I had been in a position to be truly grateful for water.