Combining indigenous and modern wisdoms

Posted by Carrie on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

This morning Allan picked us up and brought us to his office to tell us more about Terrawatu: Bridging indigenous and modern worlds - the idea is “combining indigenous and moder wisdomes and technologies” - in Tanzania, Terrawatu works with the Masai, who know about traditional medicines/indigenous plants which can be used to treat all sorts of illnesses. The plants are collected, and then used in clinics in various places around Arusha. The clinics are staffed by traditional healers. Many in Tanzania cannot afford to go to the doctor, there isn’t any health insurance, and so Terrawatu clinics can treat these people. In addition there are times in which Western/modern medicine does not work, and using natural medicine does. This organization meets many needs, knowledge is shared- partnerships between schools in tanzania, the U.S., and Europe have been created, people in need of health care have a place to go for treatment, indigenous plants are cultivated. Later on in the day, Allan brought us to one of the clinics where we meet its staff, saw the medicine - all lined up in large containers on shelves - and bought some items for ourselves. I was totally impressed with this organization, one about which I’d like to learn more.

We also visited a government secondary school, Ngateu. In Tanzania there are private schools and government schools - talking to Allan, he told me that there are not enough schools in Tanzania, and the teachers also need to teach to the tests children will take after each “level.” We’ve now been to both a private and government school - in both schools we talked with kids between the ages 14 and 18. I asked them many questions about their school, what there classes are like, etc. At first when asking about America, the feedback I receieved was somewhat general/positive - America is a great nation. America has a lot of technology. America is very wealthy. None of these statements was very specific and finally, Dominic asked - do you think there are any problems with America - and a room full of hands were in the air! We have too many wars which affect other countries. We don’t think about other countries. We go into other countries to benefit ourselves and then we leave. This is a very short description of their answers… as I was told would happen, I was also asked questions - some I could answer and others I could not - and I was definitely in the hot seat for a while - which was good for me - although it made me sweat! After talking with the kids, we also talked to the teachers - there were four of them - also received great information and opinions from them. I should say something about the classroom in which we had this discussion. There were roughly 30-40 kids in the room and, after asking if this was a typical class size I was told that a typical size was about 60 - 100 students! What! Good Lord! I will never complain about my class size ever again! We were in a computer room - there were about 20, I’m really not sure - I am not good at estimating numbers -computers in the room- they were a mix of older PCs - some were around 10 years older, others were a little newer. In Tanzania, the power often goes out, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to teach a computer class when the computers constantly went down. Teachers are trying to give their kids computer skills with outdated computers and frustrating electrical conditions. I get frustrated when our server is down for 10 minutes!

Throughout the day - we all talked to Allan to get his opinion on education, culture, etc… it’s been a full day and so far i’ve only told you what i’ve experienced and what i’ve seen, next time, i’ll tell you more about what I’m learning about Tanzania, myself, and my own changing views.

Here’s a little schedule of what i’ve done or will be doing:

1. Went to Kilimanjaro and talked to a guide about the disappearing glacier - this is a huge deal - an incredibly important issue that I’m embarrassed to say that I knew virtually nothing about. I’ll tell you more in the next journal.

2. I had an opportunity to meet and talk to former Black Panther leader (the Kansas City chapter), Pete O’Neal. He’s been in exile here in Tanzania for the last 30 plus years! This was an amazing experience! His story is a long and incredibly interesting - but right now I will tell you he is now directing, with his wife, Charlotte, The United African Alliance Community Center - they are doing amazing work here in Tanzania - helping to educate all people about other cultures, health, computers, language, music, responsibilty, unity, I could go on and on - and I will later! I will be interviewing him tomorrow.

I hope you are all doing well!


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