Devin Cannady's Greetings from Africa: A Princetonian's Summer Abroad
Greetings from Africa: A Princetonian’s Summer Abroad
Hello and welcome to the second post in this five-part series involving my studies, stories, and appreciations that I have been gathering during my time here in Africa. I have now completed three of the eight weeks that I will be spending here, which means 60 percent of my first semester grade is already finalized (three 10-percent tests and three 10-percetn essays) and more importantly, next week is my Swahili 105 final examination! Time has passed like a whirlwind so far. The fact that in my fourth week I will be taking a final that will cover what usually takes 12 weeks to be taught is quite daunting. However, my immersion in the Tanzanian culture and the constant challenge to converse with the locals has provided me with a calming sense of confidence in the last week before my final. My colleagues and I have put our knowledge of Kiswahili in the classroom to good use outside of it, as we each help teach English to local workers who have no other means to learn. This is done twice a week alongside the students in the Princeton Global Seminar course. To accompany our commitment of teaching English, we also visit an orphanage not too far away from the hotel multiple times a week. As I have stated before, the ultimate reason for being a part of this program was to fulfill my language requirement and provide myself with more flexibility during my sophomore year. But, I have found that these out-of-class aspects of being in Tanzania have helped me learn Swahili at a greater rate, as well as being able to appreciate the things I have taken for granted back in the states.
Although it is not the central focus of our time here, the program director has made an effort to help us become more educated on the history of Tanzania by taking trips to some historical sites. Our first stop as a group was to Bagamoyo, which provided us with information regarding the city’s importance to the spread of Christianity in East Africa, as well as its function as a major slave-trading port in the late 1800’s. Here, we discovered that Bagamoyo had the first Roman Catholic Church to be established in East Africa, as well as Central Africa, which led me to purchase my own Bible (written in Swahili of course). As for the rest of our time there, we took a tour of a slave-trading port where slaves would come to Tanzania and be stored before being shipped off to East Asia and other areas of the world.
A more relaxing side to our educational aspect of the trip includes the time that our group spent on a trip to the island of Zanzibar. Yes, we did make this trip educational as well, but the majority of the information we learned here was interactive and fun for the group as a whole. For example, we posed for selfies with red colobus monkeys, a species near extinction that can only be found in Zanzibar. Although the monkeys were a good time, the greatest learning aspect in Zanzibar came from taste-testing their most profitable good for trading: spices. We learned the process that goes into growing and cultivating the spices, as well as the uses of these spices before sampling them. Our group enjoyed walking around and becoming more knowledgeable about the many spices that they provided, but this still was not the best part of our trip. Three weeks of being in a new environment called for some quality time spent on the luxurious beaches of the beautiful island of Zanzibar with fellow Princetonians; you couldn’t ask for anything better! We went snorkeling, jet skiing, and had long conversations about our experiences in Tanzania so far.
I mentioned that our work within the community, and this time spent with the locals, may be even more beneficial than visiting historical sites in regards to understanding this area and the people that live in it. When teaching English, I see first-hand how passionate people here are about wanting to make their lives better, and to do that they know that English is essential in making that happen. The resources to achieve this dream are lacking tremendously, so it gives me a sense of pride to be able to be that resource for the people who are willing to take the step to better their situation. I listen to individuals who tell me how lucky I am to be living in America and they ask me how great it feels to be able to go to school at Princeton and what life is like here. Honestly, I have never really thought about the freedom that I was born into and the luxuries that I have that people all over the world would do anything to have. It took me a while to answer their questions and later that night when I laid my head to my pillow I really took the time to be thankful for the things I had previously assumed were a given. I thought not only about being educated at a great institution such as Princeton, but simply being educated at all. I thought about basketball, and the opportunity to be doing something I love every day. I thought about having a family who has provided me with shelter over my head and food to eat on a daily basis. These things seemed to be “givens” to me, and I have realized that they are all blessings that many people are somewhere dreaming about. This held to be true at the orphanage that we volunteer at as well. The orphanage houses roughly 40 kids from ages 2 through 18 who have been separated from their families for one reason or another. The younger kids run to cling to me the moment I walk through the gates to feel a loving embrace from someone, and the older kids look for a friend to kick the soccer ball around with - although I am slowly working on turning them into basketball players. These interactions are the ones that have truly touched my heart.
Since we now have basketball on our minds, I will give all of the Princeton men’s basketball fans an update on something very important to them. Some might ask, “If Devin is studying abroad, doing volunteer work, and swimming in the Indian Ocean, then how is he improving his game over these eight weeks?” Rest assured, roughly a mile from where we have been living is a local gym to lift weights and work on improving my strength for the time being. For basketball workouts, I go play at the outdoor courts of the university where roughly 50 college students crowd around to watch on weeknights. It is humbling to play with the students and after games hear them ask others if I play professionally, or where I’m from and why I’m here. It’s safe to assume that the majority of the people here don’t have the training or facilities to work on the skills of the game in the same way that we do in the states, but it is apparent that what they lack in skill they make up with athleticism. Playing against those who play the game differently than the way we do in the U.S. has made me think the game through in ways I haven’t before. My communication skills and leadership have both grown (both in English and Swahili) because I have to orchestrate everyone to be in the right spots on the court.
So you can see that these first three weeks have consisted of many different aspects to learn about the people here, as well as myself, and each one has been instrumental in my growing process. I’ll leave you with a note to my coaches, teammates, and fans: if you hear me yelling on the court this upcoming season in a language you don’t understand, don’t mind me, it’s habit.
Until next time,