Hakuna Matata!

After a year of hard work this summer The International Experience 2015 finally took place. The International Experience is a three-week trip for twenty students who want to change lives by means of participating in a volunteering project. This year they went to Tanzania and Zanzibar from July 10 to July 31.

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Moniek Verlinde and I am 21 years old. I am a fourth-year Business Economics student and I am currently doing a pre-Master in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics. In September 2014 I joined The International Experience to set up this amazing trip. I was the External Affairs and the Promotional Affairs of the International Experience 2015. Therefore, I was responsible for contacting external organizations, the Khaya Volunteer project, sponsoring, fundraising and the promotion activities. Furthermore, I was also responsible for two English workshops, the introduction activity and the cultural activities in Tanzania and Zanzibar.

How it all started

At the beginning of this academic year we found a two-week project on Zanzibar. This program included teaching English to children between the ages four and nineteen, doing maintenance work at different primary schools and organizing a workshop for Tanzanian teachers. The third week we chose to visit the University of Dar es Salaam, Swissport, the National Museum and we went on a two-day safari in Mikumi National Park. In February we searched for students who wanted to join us in this International Experience to Tanzania and Zanzibar. After we had found enough participants for our lovely trip, we organized an introduction activity to get to know each other better. Besides that, we did some fundraising and we searched for sponsors. We organized a successful ParTIE and carwash and luckily we found some sponsors for our volunteering trip; Tigerprints, DTZ, Bruna, Cartec, Paintball strand Ambisio, Café Boekanier and Café Studio. Finally, we followed two workshops from Andrew Cartwright, who is an English teacher at the Language Center, to prepare ourselves for teaching English to children.

After we confirmed the booking of our tickets to Tanzania, the preparations started for all the participants. They needed vaccinations, a mosquito net, malaria pills, deet, anti diarrhoeals, oral rehydration solution, small thin blanket, travel towels, and so on. It felt very strange to buy these items at home to protect yourself in another country with other circumstances. Besides different circumstances, we were aware of the fact that during our time in Ta+nzania, it would be Ramadan. We were not only going to discover another culture, but also their fascinating traditions and celebrations.

We were not only going to discover another culture, but also their fascinating traditions and celebrations

There we go

After all the exams were over, we flew with all nineteen participants on July 10th to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We were all nervous for what was waiting for us, but finally after a flight of fourteen hours we arrived at 3.00 hours in the morning. When we disembarked from the plane we had our first impression of Africa. It was a real culture shock! It was a very small airport and the air in Africa is a lot different than in Europe. The airport customs were a bit slow in comparison to Schiphol, but at least the luggage arrived soon. We should have been picked up by somebody of the transmit airport motel, but unfortunately no one was there to pick us up so we took a taxi to the airport motel. At 5.00 hours in the morning, we could finally check in. However, the lady told us there were only three rooms ready instead of ten! As a committee member, this made me a little concerned about what the upcoming three weeks would bring us. Luckily, after two hours the woman had seven rooms ready. Some of us were lying a bit cozy and others were lying on the ground, but everybody was very tired after a flight of fourteen hours and nobody was complaining about this. It was already a real experience to sleep under a mosquito net, spray yourself with deet and swallow malaria pills in a country that you only just saw in the dark.

When everybody was waking up the next morning, we had our first impression of Africa in daylight. We walked out of the motel and opened the fence of the building. We saw a little market on the road where they were selling fruit and vegetables. We were very curious how they would react to us and some of us bought bananas at this small market. They were very kind and happy that we bought some fruits, but at the same time they seemed to be a little scared.

This first day we spent in the center of Dar es Salaam. We were picked up by a minivan that charged only 21 dollar for a retour ticket for nineteen people. It was a very bumpy ride and the traffic is very dangerous in Tanzania. The ride to the city center was already a real adventure. The most impressive sight was that there was obviously a real contrast between poor and rich. On the road there were many expensive cars and at the side of the road you could see people carrying their bags on their head or cycling with a lot of baggage.

The volunteering project

The second day was the day were we all were waiting for. Finally we traveled by ferry to Zanzibar, where we would be doing our volunteer work. When we arrived on Zanzibar we were picked up by a guy and a South-African couple from Khaya Project. They brought us by bus to our volunteer house. Everybody was very excited about how the house would look like. After a ten minute drive, we drove into a small street in the Chukwani Area where our volunteer house was located. It was a very big house with four rooms, three bathrooms, a big living room and we even had our own kitchen! We had two ladies who did the cleaning and the cooking. We actually felt very spoiled by that. The first night we had a day off and we talked about our first impressions while hanging our mosquito nets above our beds.


The first day of our project on Zanzibar we had an excursion through Stonetown, the capital of Zanzibar. We went there by a dala dala, which is local transport. Stonetown has really nice tourist stores and a beautiful little harbor. We spend a while in a small cozy coffee house and in the afternoon we took Swahili lessons at our volunteer house. Swahili is the primary language on Zanzibar. The Swahili lessons made it a bit easier to communicate with the children. In the evening we were preparing for our first lessons. The nineteen of us were divided over four different schools.
On Tuesday, it was our first day to teach the children from the four schools. I was divided in the group that had to teach the children from Khaya Academy. I had to teach children between the ages of twelve and nineteen. This was not what I was expecting beforehand. However, because of Ramadan this school was closed and children from other schools who had no class for English came to Khaya Academy to learn English. We used some of the lessons which Andrew had taught us and we also hung some papers with English words in the class, which we were repeating with the children. During the other days we made use of some schoolbooks. I was really enjoying teaching these children, since they were really motivated to learn.

In the second week I also taught children at the Step-Up Academy. We taught the children mathematics, English and Dutch. These children were between ten and twelve years old. Some of the classes I taught alone and that was a good learning lesson. It is hard to deal with children who are very fast in comparison to children who are not that fast. Besides, a lot of the children do not have books and pencils, so they have to borrow from each other. Therefore, I brought some pencils and booklets from home to divide amongst the schools and the children. Some days we were doing maintenance work at the schools. We painted the schools with different figures like animals, numbers, alphabets, shapes, fruits etc. We also made the playground for the children more useful to play. It was amazing to see the children play on these playgrounds.


African sunset

Nearby our volunteer house there was a little beach. Most of the time we were lucky enough to be the only ones at this stunning beach. A couple of days we spent our afternoon on this beach to see the sunset. It was really amazing to see the sunset on the beaches on Zanzibar. One evening we made a campfire on the beach, which was really great, and some of us went skinny dipping!

In the weekends we also had some spare time. In our first weekend on Zanzibar we visited Prison Island by boat. On Prison Island we saw tortoises and had the opportunity to do some amazing snorkeling. In the North of Zanzibar there is a stunning beach called Nungwi beach, where we relaxed and snorkeled. In our second weekend we did a Spice tour, which was a tour along all the different types of trees. We also had the opportunity to eat a lot of fruits which are not available in Europe. On our last Saturday on Zanzibar we went to Jozani Forest, where red colobus monkeys are living, a species which can only be found on Zanzibar.

One evening we made a campfire on the beach and some of us went skinny dipping!

The end is near

After two weeks we returned to Dar es Salaam by ferry. Back there we visited the University of Dar es Salaam and the company Swissport. It was a nice experience to see how different those organizations are from those in Europe, even though they were much more organized than most of the small companies in Tanzania. Besides that, there was also another big contrast, because the people who could afford to study or work at Swissport had a lot more opportunities than most of the people living in Tanzania. The average income in Tanzania is only a dollar a day!

After these visits we went to Mikumi National Park for a two-day safari. After a six hour drive by bus we arrived at Mikumi National Park for our first game drive. We were very lucky, because we have seen lions, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, elephants, a crocodile a hippo, and many different birds. The most impressive moment was when a group of elephants came real close to our minivan and that we shared this experience with all 19 of us! We stayed at TanSwiss lodge, where we had a nice three-course dinner. It was actually the first and only day that we had a warm shower. The second game drive we did not see as many animals as the first day, but it was still fun. After the last game drive we drove back to Dar es Salaam, and spent our last day in Tanzania visiting the National Museum. We ended this last day with a lovely comprehensive luxurious dinner with a beautiful view. After this dinner we went to the airport to fly back to Amsterdam, marking the end of the three most remarkable weeks of my life!


Kwaheri!  (Goodbye in Swahili)

Text by: Moniek Verlinde