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St. Aidan's C.B.S., Tanzanian Trip

St. Aidan's students and their Sinon partners on Safari.

The account of the trip given below is written by Kevin Hogan.

On the 24th of October we left for Tanzania. I had to wake up at around 4AM to get the airport on time and was tired due to being up late the night before doing last-minute packing. At the airport everyone was fairly tired, but we were on time. We got our bags ready, checked in and said bye to our parents who we wouldn’t see for twelve days. The flight to Schipol was about 2 hours and we had some time there before getting on the flight to Kilimanjaro which was a ten hour flight, and a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

When we got off the plane the first thing we noticed was a massive wave of warmth and humidity hit us. We went into the small airport and collected our luggage, then left in a van for the nun’s centre where we were staying. It was night and we couldn’t see much on the long trip to the centre but saw some of the local wildlife. When we reached the centre the nun’s were really friendly and showed us where our rooms were. We were all tired so we went to bed pretty much straight away when we got there. We had to set up mosquito nets and take anti-malaria pills before we wen’t asleep.

Over the next few days we would go to school and do a different activity on each day. We were paired up with students in the school and all of them were really friendly and helpful. We became really close to them in the short time we were there also. Some of the things we did over the days were visiting an orphanage, a remand centre and Food Water Shelter, a self-sustainable village for single mothers to live in.

Food Water Shelter is a ‘village’ based on ‘permaculture’ this means that the village relies entirely on itself to sustain itself and has no impact on the area around it. They used a system of collecting rainwater and purifying it, growing their own crops and raising their own animals. They also had a very effective waste management system which meant no negative effects happened outside the area. The waste was also re-used for compost. All the systems are quite basic and not hi-tech yet extremely effective. FWS was set up as a place for single mothers to get shelter on the condition that they agreed to take care of up to 5 orphans. The houses are also lo-tech yet innovative, there is no air conditioning or vents etc, rather the smart architecture of the roofing cools the air coming into the houses. FWS also tutors some of the young local children in maths & english with help from the volunteers on a weekly basis.

On another day we also visited the SMA fathers, who ran a parish in the tanzanian countryside. This was very interesting as it was very rural and all of the people were traditional Maasai, and lived in the traditional villages which we visited also. The thing that surprised me a bit was they were so open and welcoming, for some reason I expected the Maasai to be private and more wary but they couldn’t have been more friendly, a trait common in Tanzanian people based on my experience. Father John, who was from Belfast and had been in Tanzania for over ten years told us a bit about the Maasai culture and how modern culture and Christianity sometimes collide with the traditional Maasai culture, but many of the Maasai are adapting and he said their culture was constantly changing lately. Many traditions are being discontinued due to modern ways such as education for females, the spread of Christianity etc.

The parish also ran a school and had boarding for some of the students, we stayed overnight once and the priests (who were all from Ireland) told us a lot about what it was like being there for so long and they all agreed that the people of Tanzania are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. We again experienced this first-hand when we played a football match against the school team, they were competitive yet friendly & welcoming. The ‘pitch’ which was really just two goalposts on the massive flat landscape around the area was amazing to play on due to it being sunset, this was a scene I will never forget. You could see as far as the horizon with nothing else in sight but the sun setting.

Another thing I also enjoyed was just being in the local town, Arusha. I was constantly reminded of the completely different attitude people had there. Everyone is much more relaxed and happy in general. People are constantly telling you ‘hakuna mattata’ which is Swahili for ‘no worries’. It’s hard to describe but in Ireland where people are pretty much constantly complaining it was a shock to the system. The different perspective and attitude to everything was huge, and in a lot of ways, even though many of the people were in poverty and technically we have a lot ‘more’ than them, I’d say they were a lot more happy than some people in Ireland. The people there obviously have learned to appreciate the small things which is something I think would be good for everyone.

In Ireland people are generally considered untrustworthy until proven otherwise, the opposite is true in Tanzania. Things are completely different in Ireland though than they are in Tanzania obviously, so you can understand why people would think like this, but being in Tanzania really did show us all how different things can be, for better or worse. Now that I’m back home, to be honest it is easy to get sucked back into your routine and nearly forget about everything that happened, but its good to step back and remember what it was like while we were there. The trip was definitely worth it - all the fundraising, planning and at times stress, definitely paid off. Being exposed to a completely different way of thinking was something that I took away from it, and hope to use later in life.

For all of us it was an amazing trip and we all learnt a lot on it, and got a lot out of it. It was something that I’d say will stand by me for the rest of my life and we all had an amazing time while there, and met some amazing people and experienced some amazing things.

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