Mhoroi! (Hello in Shona)

On August 28th, we began our journey halfway around the world! Students were resilient and patient as they trudged through the thirteen-hour flight to Addis Ababa, followed by another four-hour flight to Victoria Falls. By the time we arrived in Victoria Falls, many folks were sporting a new neck pillow and ready for a good sleep.

To our great excitement, Soko, our driver and cherished community member who will travel with us for the next several months greeted us at the airport and welcomed us to Zimbabwe. We loaded up on Big Blue and headed to our first lodge! Big Blue is an overlander truck that TTS has used for many years. It is equipped with seats for 20, a refrigerator, lockers, bins for library books, a small refrigerator and coolers, and enough compartments for all of our duffels, tents, sleeping pads, camp chairs, and our full outdoor kitchen and pantry. Students were astounded at the size of Big Blue! 

Aboard Big Blue, Soko kindly drove us to our first location. There, students moved into two dorm rooms (next to the teacher rooms) and we celebrated being “finally here”! Shortly after our arrival to our lodge, we also met Samukange, our cook and community member who will also travel with us for the next several months. 

For the next two days, we primarily stayed on “campus” (within the gates of our hostel) for a thorough in-continent orientation. Orientation sessions included risk management, intro to academics, self-care, group living, community norms, and more. Students also began their academic classes. Statistics students immediately began collecting funny data on our group – such as what ratio of our group prefers bananas with strawberries to bananas with peanut butter. Meanwhile, Global Studies opened with a study and exploration of the “10 Steps of How to Read the World”. These steps are: 

  1. Always be observing
  2. Everything is interesting (look closer) 
  3. Find the miraculous in the average
  4. Notice the stories going on around you 
  5. Make connections 
  6. Use all of your senses 
  7. Document your findings in a variety of ways 
  8. Consider everything alive 
  9. Create a personal dialogue with your environment 
  10. Trace thoughts back to their origins  

Students explored these steps, the quote associated with them: “Learning doesn’t always happen in a classroom, reading doesn’t always happen in a book,” and discussed the endless ways that we can learn from the world around us. 

Much to the student’s delight, baboons, warthogs, and vervet monkeys darted around the hostel, distracting many an orientation session or class. 

While at the hostel, students also enjoyed hanging out in their dorm rooms or by the pool and sharing delicious meals (breakfast and lunch primarily prepared by the students and teachers, and dinner primarily prepared by Samukange) such as spaghetti bolognese, pork steaks, boiled potatoes, bean salads, yogurt parfait, and sudza with peanut cabbage. Sudza is a dish commonly eaten in many countries throughout Africa. It is a chewy, starchy (and delicious) base that is often served with a stew of some sort, and is typically eaten with one’s hands. Students were eager to try this new food and finished the entire (massive!) portion prepared by Samukange. It was a huge hit. 

By day three in Victoria Falls, it was time for our first true outing! Students greeted the experience with thoughtful curiosity and great enthusiasm. We walked along Victoria falls for several hours, soaking in the views and engaging in place-based science lessons about river ecology taught by Leslie. Highlights of our visit to the falls included getting drizzled on by the mist, watching other tourists swim in the “Devils Pools” (natural pools of water that allow tourists to swim to the edge of the falls), avoiding baboons that were after our snacks, and basking in the joyful realization that this outing was a class! This outing was school! Learning truly does happen everywhere!

After our visit to the falls, we visited the world’s biggest Baobab tree and tried “cream of tartar”, the Baobob tree’s sour fruit. Then, we visited a local market, where students were invited to purchase small tokens to be used throughout the semester as awards to celebrate our group’s great achievements. Students enjoyed browsing the beautiful artisanal goods and talking with local vendors.

To wrap up our week, we had our first “Friday Fun” (a weekly occurrence) where teachers presented a skit of the week in review, and a skit of the week in preview, sharing what exciting outings were to come. Students also received their first ever awards. Each week, we celebrate five students for their individual contributions with specific awards. In a program where so much of our experience is group-oriented, we enjoy taking moments to spotlight students individually. This week, Macy won the Academic Award, Ashelynn the Friendship Award, Marley the Athletic Award, Cora the Comedy Award, and Piper the Culture Award. While these five students were recognized with these awards, each student was also recognized for their essential and positive contributions. 

With our first week behind us, I am thrilled to share that the group is feeling increasingly settled and cohesive. The “vibes” are overwhelmingly positive, the jet lag is fading away, and we are getting into the groove of group living and exploring our surroundings. The group is impressively present, inclusive, and open to new experiences; and the teacher team is filled with gratitude and optimism. 

– Arden