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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

This Is Tanzania

Region
Africa, Tanzania
Type
Letter

Karibu! Hamjambo marafiki yangu? That means, "Welcome! How are you doing, my friends?" in Kiswahili.

My name is Richard Lupinsky Jr. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Tanzania. I would like to tell you all about my adventures and experiences since I've arrived in this beautiful East African country.

Tanzania is big—bigger, in fact, than the state of Texas. The people here are called Tanzanians and they are wonderfully generous and friendly. Many Tanzanians speak three languages or more. The official language of Tanzania is Kiswahili*, but most people also speak their own tribal language. There are more than 120 tribes in Tanzania, which means there are more than 120 different languages. When I ride my bike through my village, people are always shouting to me, "Habari yako mwalimu?" which means, "How are you, Teacher?" in Kiswahili. Sometimes I will hear "Ligoya!" That's "hello" in the tribal language of Kuguru.

Tanzania is a developing nation; it does not have a lot of money to build many things. In a developing nation, you are likely to see fewer tall buildings than you would see in an industrialized country, like the United States. You see fewer paved roads and sidewalks, fewer shopping malls and sports stadiums, and fewer hospitals. Most people do not have a lot of money, and they live a lifestyle much like the lifestyle of their grandparents and great-grandparents—a traditional way of life. For example, cars are too expensive for most Tanzanians. So, a great many people here walk from place to place or ride a bicycle. For a long journey, many people ride buses or vans called daladalas. They fit as many people inside as possible, and then one more person for good measure. Most villages do not have electricity, so at night people may light a candle or lantern. Villagers often share a well for water, because they don't have pipes bringing water into their homes. At the well, they pump the water out of the ground by hand and carry it back to their homes. You can often see women carrying buckets of water on their heads. A young man brings water to my house in plastic containers on his bicycle.

In Tanzania, most people are farmers. They grow enough food for their families and a little extra to sell at harvest time. The most common food here is corn, called mahindi. Mahindi is sometimes roasted on charcoal and eaten off the cob. But more commonly, people grind it into flour and cook it into a stiff white loaf, called ugali. This is Tanzania's most common food. It is usually eaten every day with beans called maharage, vegetables, and sometimes with meat. The people roll ugali into tiny balls with their hands and dip it into the beans or juices from cooked meats. Tanzanians also eat a lot of white rice, called wali. Most large villages have a variety of fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables available in markets, called sokoni.

Tanzanians are proud of the many famous sites in their country. People come from all over the world to visit these natural wonders. One notable place is called Ngorongoro Crater (pronounced in-GORE-oh-in-GORO-oh). It is actually the basin of an old volcano that collapsed into itself thousands of years ago. The area is a wide and flat plain, and the walls are almost 2,000 feet high. I went on a safari there, along with many of my Peace Corps friends. "Safari" is the Kiswahili word for journey. Have you seen the Disney movie The Lion King? It shows many of the large animals found inside the crater. When we went driving through the crater, we saw roaring simba, endangered white rhinos and black rhinos, and tembo with long trunks. There were also herds of zebras and wildebeests; swimming hippos; twiga reaching up for leaves with their long necks; playful monkeys; and fast ostriches. (Can you guess the names of the animals mentioned in Kiswahili?) Ngorongoro is one of the last places on Earth where you can see huge numbers of large animals living freely. Many other kinds of smaller animals live there. There are long, slithering snakes and scampering lizards. You can see bright-colored birds. And there are huge numbers of insects of different shapes and sizes buzzing, crawling, and flying all around.

Another famous sight is Mount Kilimanjaro. It is the highest mountain in Africa. Every year, many Peace Corps Volunteers climb it with their students. Mount Kilimanjaro is actually a dormant volcano. That means the mountain was formed when a volcano erupted, but the volcano has been quiet for a very long time. The mountain towers over Tanzania at 19,340 feet above sea level. The top of Mount Kilimanjaro is one of only a couple of places in Africa where you can throw a snowball. Unfortunately you have to hurry to throw it, because scientists expect that in about 15 years, the snow and ice will have melted.

The scientists think this is partly because of deforestation around the base of the mountain. Deforestation is the cutting of trees without planting other trees to replace them. Now that the trees are being lost to deforestation, there seems to be less moisture in the air given off by trees. That means fewer clouds around the mountain. And fewer clouds means less snowfall—and more sunlight melting the ice that is there. That's one of the theories as to why the mountain's snow is melting so fast.

I am going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with my father. It will take us six days to climb up, and two days to climb down. Do you think I should throw a snowball at him when we get to the top?

Recently two of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers were married on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar lies off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It was a beautiful place to be married because Zanzibar has many long, white, sandy beaches where you can walk around all by yourself. My friend John, the groom, rode to the wedding ceremony on the back of a donkey. His bride, Emily, was carried on a large, white, cushioned platform carried by four large Tanzanian men. On the beach, next to the wedding ceremony, the local village men beat drums and danced in a circle. The village women came dressed in beautiful outfits and carried baskets filled with flower petals to throw on John and Emily after they were married.

Tanzania is a wonderful country to serve in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Tanzanians are welcoming. They are happy to invite you to share a meal in their home. They are always curious about America. They can't get enough of the stories I tell them about American culture, our foods, and our environment. Tanzanian people are peaceful and loving and they welcome you to come and see all the great things their country has to offer.

*Note: Swahili, the language spoken by people in many parts of eastern Africa, may also be called "Kiswahili," which means "Swahili language." 

About the Author

Richard Lupinsky Jr.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tazania from 2003-2005, Richard Lupinsky Jr. worked primarily in education and literacy projects.

World Wise Speakers

Invite a Peace Corps volunteer into your classroom to share what it's like to live a global life by sharing stories, cultures and knowledge.