Hugs and Hospitality in Mainsprings, Tanzania

After nearly missing two out of three of our flights, my group finally arrived at our destination: Mwanza, Tanzania.

After nearly missing two out of three of our flights, my group finally arrived at our destination: Mwanza, Tanzania. We were warmly welcomed by the directors of the Mainsprings School: Mr. Seth, Mr. Ojala, and Mr. Jonas. Upon our arrival, our chaperones, Instructional Services and Engagement Librarian Autumn Sinai, Science Master Greg Hansen P’08 ’11, and Director of Community Service Program Rachel Cantlay P’07 ’09 ’11, took a photo of the group.

After 18 hours of traveling, it was evident in that photo that every single one of us was exhausted. Yet, our journey to the Mainsprings School was not complete yet, as we still had a twohour car ride in front of us. I will never forget the drive through the streets of Mwanza; I was suddenly awake when I rolled down the windows and stuck my head out. I had an unobstructed view of the mesmerizing Tanzania nightlife, the sounds of chatter amidst African music from stores along the streets, and the smell of fresh air punctuated by the aroma of good food. It was a thrilling scene.

Ten minutes into the drive we passed a group of children who waved at me, but I was taken a back and missed the opportunity to wave back. I quickly embraced this Tanzanian hospitality, and in the remaining part of the ride I waved at every single person that made eye contact with me. This trait of hospitality was something that continued when we reached the school. When we arrived, as soon as I got out of the car, I was surprised with hugs from the Mainsprings girls. Even though it was dark and they could not see our faces they hugged all of us and hugged us tight, as if they had known us for many years.

A few days into the trip, we had a meeting with the student council of the girls’ school. Their council was very similar to Lawrenceville, the only difference being that they all varied in ages. In their rigorous schedule, everyone wakes up at around 5:00 AM to do chores and finish up some homework, leaves to go to school at 8:00 AM, and comes back at 4:00 PM to go to sports practice. Some of the girls participated in self-defense training, and they would sometimes compete with other schools. Then, they would practice singing for prayers later that evening. The girls would go to bed very late, past midnight, staying up to sing and dance.

Every single day, we talked to the girls, and they never gave a single complaint about their day. There was not even a trace of negativity that they showed, which was difficult to understand. I realized that they all had a dream that they were determined to make into a reality. It was refreshing to be surrounded by hard working girls who always had a smile on their face. Their generosity underscored what we are taught here at Lawrenceville—to be open-minded, accepting, and respectful. The hospitality that welcomed me at the Mainsprings school brought back the same feeling that I felt when I first arrived on the Lawrenceville campus.

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