What a journey so far, and it has hardly been a week! The people, the weather, the food –everything has been brilliant and incredibly welcoming, “karibou sana!” It is quite clear we are new to the area, as we have been the focal point of many stares, pictures and endless friendly greetings. However, I am blown away with the amount of kindness and benevolence we have received from the CPAR staff, the school staff, and the local people of Bunda.
The children too, have already reserved a small piece of my heart. In this short amount of time, the young children have genuinely opened up my insight to some Tanzanian culture. They are very curious about us; they enjoy practicing English or even just waving from a distance and smiling from their ears. We were so impressed with their skills when we brought out the soccer ball! The talent, sportsmanship, respect, and organization level they displayed had credited them a much higher level of maturity than their physical age suggested. This is a perception I see through my own eyes, as I compare them to most of the children I have worked with back home.
Why is it that these children seem so “grown up,” and mature, when compared to the image I have for children of the same age range back home? Based on my brief observations as a pedestrian in Bunda, I am making the assumption that the parenting styles are a key source of the difference. I am certainly not suggesting that one form is right or wrong, but I am noticing several differences. For example, children in the Winnipeg are often closely watched by their parents, with fewer responsibilities around the house, whereas the children here are always playing, walking, attending church, and completing chores without the close tuck of a parents’ wing (from what we can see from a distance). Perhaps this earlier onset of responsibility and independence allows these children to excel quicker in competence, maturity and other social skills. I am aware that there are very good reasons behind the parenting styles in each culture, and it is likely that these family dynamics only account for a fraction of the outcome. I am obviously far from the details yet, as this is just the formation of my inference, and I am eager to learn more from these children.
At the end of the day, a few conclusions about these children that I have begun to consider thus far include; they are much better soccer players than any other ten-year-old child I have ever seen, they learned how to use my new camera embarrassingly quicker than I did, and they exhibit a remarkable amount of respect to us and to each other. I am so grateful for the spontaneous soccer game that we played with the children, as it certainly broke through a shyness barrier that may have existed between us and their curiosity. I look forward to our future encounters with them, and I am excited to learn more from them in the days to come, as well as from the secondary students that we will meet tomorrow in the classroom.
One more thank you shout out to everyone from CPAR, our hosts at the guest house, and from the rest of Bunda that have made our first week such a positive experience,