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Tanzania Seminar 2013
Few experiences adjust one’s perspective as thoroughly as traveling to another country. Add to that the opportunity to go hunting with an ancient African tribe, visit a traditional home made of cow dung, and craft metal over an open fire, and you have just a few of the eye-openers that 20 Washington College students experienced while traveling this summer on the Tanzania Seminar.
“This is really cool stuff—experiential education at its best,” says Associate Professor of Anthropology Aaron Lampman, the department chair who led this year’s two-week seminar in early June. “They interact with the Maasai quite a bit, and they meet the Iraq tribe and the Hadza, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer groups. They also meet the Datoga, who are among the world’s first metal workers, and they’re still working metal over open fires.”
Developed by Tahir Shad, an associate professor of political science, this is the seminar’s eighth year; Professors Shad and Lampman are sharing biennial leadership of the students. Among those who participated this year were students majoring in anthropology, environmental studies, political science, international studies and education. The program’s home base is Arusha, Tanzania, where the students were introduced to the country’s many cultures, as well as how the government and people are dealing with the economic, environmental and political issues facing them. In a whirlwind two weeks, they visited several local public and private schools, as well as the villages of indigenous Tanzanians. The expedition also included a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro and a safari. The students’ travels were organized with help from a group called People-to-People Safaris, founded by Lekoko Ole Sululu, a Maasai elder and medicine man.
“There are 122 indigenous groups in Tanzania alone, so to meet with four of the major ones was just amazing, because they’re all completely different,” says Amanda Kloetzli ’14, an environmental studies and anthropology double major. Her trip was funded by the Cater Society for her study of the Maasai and their role as pastoralists rather than hunter-gatherers or agriculturalists. “I never thought I would go to Africa. It’s a phenomenal experience. This trip brought up whole new ideas for me.”
One of the trip highlights is a visit to the government-run Natema school that Lampman says always challenges the worldviews of College students when they see that about 2,000 pupils have a mere nine teachers or so. “These children are so wonderful, so happy, but they have almost nothing, many not even shoes,” he says. “They drape themselves all over you, just to get a feel for who these visitors are.” Washington College’s students typically conduct a service project for the Natema school; this year, students raised money before the trip to buy backpacks for each youngster. WC students also visited a private school, as well as a nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues, a coffee plantation and other development initiatives focused on underprivileged people.