Our first session of soccer camp was wonderful in so many ways!
Each day in Iringa begins with a round up - picking each person up from their homestay and a quick drive through town to Ruaha - a local university where CIEE is based. There we have our Swahili lesson with Paulo - everyone is soaking up the language and learning survival everyday phrases with excitement. Jina lako ni nani? Jina langu ni Myranda (What is your name? - My name is Myranda) ... Unatoka wapi? Ninatoka Marekani (Where are you from? - I am from America)
After Swahili, we head out into town for an excursion. This week was filled with a lot of great mornings. We took a tour of Neema Craft - a local restaurant, hotel, and craft shop - that provides over 120 jobs to Tanzanians who are physically or mentally disabled. Many are deaf, so there are basic instructions for sign language throughout all of Neema. Here they give life to beautiful hand woven fabrics, jewelry, and carved wooden pieces. I know some family members will see with their own eyes soon!
We also took a little walk through town, exploring the open produce market and the grocery store - where you can find yummy treats like local chips, dates, and unique candies. Moving through town can often bring a rush of sensory stimulation from all the sounds, smells, and new sights to take in - each student carried themselves with such grace and awareness. I think everyone’s beginning to anchor in a bit, feeling more comfortable each day.
Around noon we jump in the van and head out to Ilula, a neighboring town where we host our soccer camps. This week we worked directly with a secondary school - girls aged about 13-17. Our first day we were a little unsure of what to expect, especially not knowing how many girls would show! But we connected with the first 10 who were right on time, introduced ourselves and went through a few fun team building exercises and ice breakers. Who knows blob tag?! Laughter and smiles felt like a good sign that everything was going well. As time went on, we moved into some basic soccer drills to see where the girls’ skill levels were currently. Our group took initiative and helped to lead, demonstrate and encourage as everyone became more familiar.
The amount of people began to multiply and soon we found ourselves about 40 girls strong. Soccer drills morphed into fun games taught by the local Tanzanians as our first session came to a close. We also ended with a big group circle discussion and the local teacher, Madame Maria, helped up to translate.
We thanked the girls for joining us and asked questions like - What makes you a good soccer player? To which they answered, self esteem, discipline, and exercise.
Diving deeper for prompts including - Are there different expectations for boys and girls within society? Answer: Yes, but no matter if I am a boy or a girl - our differences should not prevent us from doing things together.
Each day we create time for reflections and group discussions, giving each person a good amount of time to check-in with themselves and reflect on what this experience is bringing to the surface for them.
The next two days of soccer camp became even more productive and fun! Our students jumped right in, excited to deepen connections and share their love for the game with others.
Right now we are about to fall asleep to the sounds of animals out in the savannah. Our first safari ride was great! Giraffes, zebras, elephants, and buffalo - hopefully tomorrow brings us a lion encounter.
I promise to add pictures tomorrow - service is pretty slow out here in the national park and I wanted to get this update to you somehow!
We are sharing the same full moon tonight! Usiku mwema from us to you’