Just prior to our Serengeti Safari, we were informed that the U.S. Department of State decided to upgrade the travel advisory in Tanzania from a level three to a level four. The reason why is still a mystery since Tanzania has not been reporting their COVID case load, from the beginning. Per SIT’s guidelines, this means that, unfortunately, we have to relocate the program. Now, where to relocate is the million dollar question. Originally, SIT had in mind to move us to Uganda. However, following some student input, it was decided that Kilifi, Kenya, would be the best option due to its coastal ecology being similar to that of Zanzibar, which is where we were scheduled to spend the second half of our Tanzania program. They gave us two weeks to complete the transition. What this meant in the short-term was that we would have to up our Swahili learning intensity if we were to secure the credits before departure.
With one week of intensive Swahili (4.5 hours a day plus homework) already under our belts, we were left with one more week to prepare for our exam. That meant adding on an extra hour every day. It sounds a lot worse than it actually was, our walimu (teachers) were excellent and made learning fun. They also made it a point to get us out into the community to practice Swahili in real world situations, which helped a lot. One such excursion entailed a trip to the market.
Now, if you are a local living in Tanzania, chances are that you don’t shop at one of the few supermarkets they have, those are for tourists and are overpriced, accordingly. Instead, you get all of your shopping done at markets like the one pictured above. The photo does not adequately capture the true scale of the market. In reality, these markets can encapsulate several football fields with little to no space between any two of the hundreds of stalls present. It’s intense! For this excursion in particular, we had a specific list of food items already in mind given to us by our walimu. Thankfully, we knew how much to pay for each item, ahead of time, because those venders take every opportunity to overcharge a mzungu, not that I blame them. Negotiations were slow as our walimu insisted that we only use Swahili, but the venders were very gracious, which negated a lot of the pressure.
Once we returned to our B&B our group, designated the Guac group, we used the items we purchased at the market to… you guessed it, make guacamole! It turned out pretty good, too, if I do say so myself.
The following day, we had our Swahili exam. Everyone passed with flying colors thanks to our excellent walimu. Shoutout to Mama Beatrice, Mama Ni, and Mama Helen for putting up with us mzungus. Now with our Swahili credits secured, we set our sites to the Kenyan Coast!