Three Hall County teachers will leave this week on a monthlong trip to Tanzania — providing lessons for students and learning about cultures in that part of the world.
Two of the teachers — Kathy Mellette, of North Hall Middle School, and Dawn Hudgins, of Chestatee Academy of Inquiry and Talent Development — have each made one trip to the country.
It is the first time for the third teacher, Michelle Conable of South Hall Middle School.
The trip is part of the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad through the federal Department of Education. It is an immersion program through the University of Georgia College of Education.
Dainess M. Maganda, director of the African languages program, and Lioba Moshi are the leaders of the program at UGA.
Moshi is part of the tribe for which the town they will visit in Tanzania is named. Her family is quite influential, Hudgins and Mellette said.
Both Mellette and Hudgins describe their earlier trips as “a life-changing experience.”
Conable said she went to the beach with Hudgins after her trip and “this woman talked for eight hours straight. I thought, ‘I’ve got to go.’”
Hudgins and Conable are science teaches, and Mellette is the director of the Earhart-Edison Academy at North Hall Middle School.
The program is more about exchanging information about the respective cultures than it is about teaching, the trio agreed.
Hudgins said on her first trip teachers were let out of vehicles on a long street and instructed to move to the other end, talking to vendors along the way. None, of course, spoke the language.
She also said the first trip emphasized to her “how difficult it must be” for Hispanic students who may speak Spanish at home and English, which they likely don’t know or don’t know well, at school.
She explained that one experience was going to a market with instructions to buy food for four people for a week with about $1. Bartering at the market is common, she said.
Many services are available at markets, the women said. “They’ll measure you and make you a dress,” Conable said. “On the street,” Hudgins quickly added.
Mellette pointed out one of her experiences was a monkey that put its hand in the sugar dish. Disconcerting, she said.
The trio also takes, and brings back, illustrations of the culture.
Conable said her students made about 60 “alphabet” books for Tanzania students. The books have one word per page that describes something in Hall County.
All three are veteran teachers.
Mellette has 26 years of experience and is the most experienced traveler. In addition to her previous trip, she has been to many of the European countries and to Mexico. Several of those trips were taking students along.
Hudgins, who has been teaching 20 years, went to Ecuador in 2009, also on a cultural-teaching program.
“I had never been out of the southeastern United States when I went to Ecuador,” she said.
Conable will be on her first trip — and she will have a second adventure, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. She has taught for 11 years.
She is a hiker and marathon runner. The climb will require an additional six days, she said. She will have to take anti-altitude sickness pills to climb the more than 19,000-foot peak.
Conable explained the hikers start toward the summit at midnight and reach the top about 6 a.m. for sunrise.
The base hotel for the trip is near the mountain, Hudgins noted, and she said people at the hotel can see the lamplights of the hikers and watch their progress as they climb. The hotel is the headquarters for many hikers — bringing people from large numbers of countries.
Hudgins said she also visited the Olduvai Gorge, which is a noted archeological site that has provided much understanding of the early human evolution. It is part of the Serengeti Plains, she said.
Hudgins also went into Rwanda — “a totally different place” from Tanzania. She explained that wars in the country created a different atmosphere.
“There are bullet holes in the walls,” she said, and added the people there “didn’t look at us the way the people in Moshi (Tanzania) did.”
Mellette and Hudgins talked about their experience with the Maasai tribe, also known as “the tribe that jumps.” The tribe incorporates jumping in its rituals and dances and is famous through YouTube for the practice.
Mellette said the tribe has been “more and more restricted” from its traditional patterns of migration, and maintaining its culture is more and more difficult.
The tribe drinks milk and blood from cows as part of its diet.
Hudgins said she sat on a bed of a tribe member, and “it was all of these animal skins.”
Mellette said one of her new experiences was looking at stars. “It’s very cool,” she said, because it is the Southern Hemisphere and different from the stars of home.
“Teachers are very well respected there,” Mellette commented. “They may not get paid,” Hudgins chimed in.
Conable ventured that Hall County “kids are going to listen to us better” when they talk about Tanzania and Africa.