Sine Heitmann

From Sine´s blog

My final blog entry as a VSO volunteer teacher at the Jambiani Tourism Training Institute

This is a difficult blog. I feel like that I have to make this last blog entry to sum up my experience of the past two years, but it is so difficult to find the words to adequately describe the emotions and feelings that I have gone through as it has been a rollercoaster, to say the least.

Obviously, when I arrived two years and two weeks ago, I did not quite know what to expect apart from that I knew that I was going to live on a tropical island and teach students that were aiming to improve their employment opportunities within the local tourism industry. Two years later…who changed more? The students that I spent so much time with or me? Take your guess…

Teaching at the school is certainly different than what I have done before. While I’ve always been involved in adult education, the previous education of my students in the UK and here in Zanzibar couldn’t have been more different, as the regular reader of my blog will have noticed in between. While teaching my students here has been far more rewarding as they show much more appreciation for what you teach them, it has also come with a lot of frustrations – sometimes wrongly directed at the students directly when it is not their fault that their education system is not giving them the full opportunities for development. Coupled with living in a developing country and within a very different culture that is influenced so heavily by one version of the Islamic religion and requires the students’ focus on so many other things besides their studies presented further challenges and frustrations to me. However, all frustrations were easily forgotten once a student understood a new thing, improved their skills or just thanked me with a big smile for my effort and work.

I like to think about my students in different groups, not meaning to differentiate between the importance that they have had on my experience and life as a teacher. There are firstly students that I have met while teaching them briefly in a short course or meeting them on a regular basis and exchanging small talk with them when they attended the English short course in the morning or when I met them outside school. I don’t even know all their names, but whenever I would walk through the village, I would get a cheery greeting “Hello, Teacher Sine”. Secondly, there is a small group of five students from the Train-the-Trainer course last year – Yusuf, Yussuf, Ibrahim, Peter and Asya – that I spent a lot of time with over three months and who I still see every now and then, each one of them always being so happy when they meet me.

Thirdly, the new Diploma students – Abass, Ibrahim, Juma, Jeremia, Ritta, Dulla, Bob, Imo, Anuary, Tallib, Mzee, Moh’d, and Dhamiri – that are about to start their course now and who I have seen every day for the past three months but haven’t taught them myself as Katja and my father have spent much more time with them in the classroom. I’m sad that I’m not going to see their development in the next two years, but I’m also a bit relieved that I haven’t got too attached to them because it would mean yet another group of students that I have to sadly say goodbye to but who I don’t want to leave as a teacher. I know that I will visit them and see some of their progress while coming to school as a guest. There are also some students that dropped out of the Diploma but who I will remember fondly when I think of my teaching experience – Amina, Ibrahim, Moh’d, Simba, Rasmus, Ali, Mbaraka, and Hassan.

There are three groups of Diploma students that I will always, always keep in my heart and that will always be on my mind. One group are the graduates from last year – Athumani, Juma, Mwaky, Mzale, Moh’d, Said, Anna and Ummu -, who I spent one year with but who were already students in the school when I arrived. They still made it easy for me to become part of the school and each one of them I got to know so well over their second year of study. It was beautiful to see them on their day of graduation. While I have seen some of them since, I’ve not stayed in contact with others, but through the local bush drum I know of their whereabouts and am always happy to hear news from or about them.

The second group is the current Year 2s – Ali, Abuu, Fredrick, Hilda, Juma, Khamis, Kombo, Moh’d, Msafiri, Theodory, and Yahya – which is somewhat the hardest goodbye as I’m leaving them in the middle of their studies and they have become so used to the school with me there every day. I’m happy that I’m still around to come back to so many familiar faces in the restaurant, but to not have them around me on a regular basis will make me feel that there is always something missing. Their individual characters and different qualities have made the last year so enjoyable and I appreciated having some memorable moments with them.

However, there is one group of ten students who I will never forget and each one of these students has a very special place in my heart. I started my placement with them, and from the very first day at school, I saw their faces every day. Whenever I was in school, most of them were there. Even if some of them were not in school, I was in school. I spent two years, many weeks, many days, many hours with them, trying to teach them everything that I knew and encouraging them to learn more. I went through the best and worst moments with them, each one of them knows me so well and I have become so close to each and every one of them that I cannot describe how much these students mean to them. Just these ten students have made every single second of the last two years worth it, and on the day that they graduated I felt like a proud big sister sharing the excitement of the day that we had worked towards together. I met them as a part of the school, but when they left the school, I felt like a piece of me was leaving with me. Abdul, Anna, Bojo, Kassu, Halim, Lau, Victor, Rose, Hamidi, and Mwalim – words cannot describe how much I love you guys and how much our time together meant to me. I will never forget you in my life and I can only hope that I have made a small contribution to your life and that you will keep me in your heart as well. Don’t forget, Sine says “You snooze, you loose” :)

Of course, throughout the years there were not only the students that have influenced my experience. I have seen many volunteers of the school and the clinic come and go – Nareena, David, Cherrie, Pierre, Loryn, Nilsa, Greg, Ishwar, Jacqui, Adam, Chantal, Barbara, Katja and my father, Claus. Each one of them has spent a various amount of time with me, and while there have been challenges and soap operas, I’ve overall enjoyed meeting and spending time with each one of them, sharing the exciting times and frustrations with the students and/or life in Jambiani. In addition, the employees of the compound have made me feel so welcome and happy – Afuwa, Rehema, Moh’d, Suleiman mkubwa, Suleiman mdogo. They are also probably the sole reason that my Swahili is by now somewhat decent.

The people that kept me sane outside the compound!!! First and foremost: Toni, my dearest friend who spent so many hours chatting and gossiping with me, keeping me grounded and sane when I got completely lost in this culture and village, and who brought the most beautiful daughter Aziza into this world (by far your best achievement!!!). The three from the “Fantastic/Fabulous Four” team – Fran aka Mama Garden, Saul aka Baba Scuba and Luke aka Baba Kipara (or should I dare to say Baba Konyagi???) I will always remember my birthday party, Christmas and the leaving party, among other partying antics. How many Fridays and Saturdays did we spend in Dhow, Jambo, Demani or Coral Rock to then spend the following day hanging at Coral Rock or Ndame? Hans, my friend and new boss, who always cheered me up with his jokes and who is giving me the opportunity to stay on this island. And of course, the fellow VSO volunteers that have had similar experience to me – who I did not see very often but kept in touch with so that we could keep up-to-date with our developments.

I feel like giving an Oscar-style thank you speech, but it is not easy to put into other words how I feel about ending these two years. And I have to mention two more, because without them, I would not be here. Pat and Alastair must be two of the most amazing people I have met in my life, as they have built up this project to give so much to the people of Jambiani and Zanzibar. Their energy and dedication to this place is so admiring and incomparable, and there hasn’t been a day that I wasn’t thankful to them for giving me this opportunity. I feel sad and guilty about leaving them as I wish that I could continue my work with them and support them in this project, but they know that it is time for me to move on. But I’m happy that they have given me a home for two years and a place to come back and visit in the future. Thank you, Mama Pat and Ali Baba, for having allowed me to be part of your work and life for such a long time, and just like my ten special students, you two will always have a special part in my heart!

graduation-sine-01I have one more week to go before I pack up my things and move on to a new adventure. After 7 years of teaching tourism, I will finally work full-time in tourism (ha, what an irony!). I’m looking forward to my new job as I know that I will be learning new things and keep on developing myself. I’m also looking forward to my new life in Zanzibar as a different chapter starts. I’ve never been afraid of changing my life, and many of you know, that it’s been easy for me to move from one city to another or one country to another. I do not know what the future holds and how long I’m going to stay here, but I’m excited to have a new challenge ahead. As much as it feels like saying goodbye, it is not really a goodbye. And as often as I have started a new chapter in my life, it always feels different, yet exciting.

Thank you for reading until the end of this sentimental and emotional blog entry. And thank you if you have read the previous blogs and shared my experience with me.