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Reflecting on Tanzania Trip: Carlos-Xavier Zambrano

Guest blog post by Drury University pre-med student, Carlos-Xavier Zambrano.

Upon hearing I had been accepted into Chocolate University, I was humble and ecstatic for the opportunity.  I understood the significance and meaning of the trip, and expected it to impact me in various ways. Chocolate University is an extremely unique and special program, which teaches students the significance of social entrepreneurship and global responsibility.  Askinosie Chocolate emphasizes these unique features into its company.  It is essential for young students to be exposed to these principles, so that they could ultimately implement them in their future professions.

The days I spent in Tanzania resulted in some of the most memorable and unforgettable moments of my life.  Tanzania has an extremely unique geographical landscape and appearance.  The people would always smile and welcome our presence.  They were excited for our visit and hoped for the best throughout our journey.  It was an amazing spectacle to see them waive and greet us on our many bus rides.  I have never been in the presence of such receptive, friendly, and welcoming individuals.

The school and village kids were beautiful.  Everyone displayed a superior and hopeful demeanor and was grateful for their newly acquired computers.  Immediately after I walked off of the bus and stepped onto the schools grounds, various students greeted me.  We were not visitors to them but family.  Although I had very little knowledge of Swahili and they had their own troubles speaking English, we were able to help each other communicate effectively.  There was not a single aspect of the trip I did not enjoy.  In fact, everything amazed and impacted me somehow.

Our group was able to view beautiful Tanzania on an impressive and unforgettable bike ride.  The beginning of my ride was extremely stressful, because I had to adapt to the uneven roads and crowded streets full with people.  However as I progressed through my ride, it began to feel as if I was riding on my own bike back home.  The individuals walking the streets would greet us and exclaim, “Hujambo,” as we rode past them.  These greetings were very special.

The most meaningful aspect of the trip for me was the discussion our group of guys had with the schoolboys.  This discussion became intense for me.  Throughout the discussion I felt as if I knew who they were. They were extremely open to us and discussed important aspects of their lives.  They told us about their struggles, their lack of hope, and shortcoming of a better future.  However, they remained hopeful and optimistic about their future.  They agreed that the school was better off that day than what it was yesterday.  The boys were ecstatic about their new resources and hoped the computers would assist them to accomplish their goals.  Despite their various limitations, restrictions, disadvantages, and failures, they intended for us to give them advice and inspiration.  We introduced ourselves and provided them with a background of our lives.  I believe they were more of an inspiration to me than what I was to them.  I admit I have encompassed myself with pessimistic views during my personal experiences with adversity.  After the discussion I felt extremely guilty and selfish, because I realized their situation is extensively more difficult than mine is.  The discussion severely impacted me.  I became more humble, thankful, and grateful after the discussion.

The experience has forever changed me.  I do not worry about unimportant stresses or difficulties anymore.  If the school kids are able to demonstrate the sincere level of hope and faith, in which they did, than there is no excuse for me to come across as hopeless.

I was disappointed to leave Tanzania.  I developed several friendships and memories with the school kids.  It was difficult stepping foot onto the bus and driving away from the school on the final day.  During my time at the school I met Lucas, an exceptional student and inspiring individual.  He was well-mannered, friendly, polite, and hospitable.  We discussed topics such as school, football, and family.  We told each other our favorite aspects of our home and the features that we thought should be improved.  I even shared, discussed, and taught topics of Biology to him.  When I arrived home I reflected on the friendships I had made.  I analyzed and considered the several features of the trip.  I reminisced on the conversations I had with the school kids and cried.  The school kids are limited from opportunities, and clearly the odds are against them.  However I remembered that I provided many of the kids with my contact information.  I encouraged them to communicate and write to me, thus I did not completely say goodbye.  I realized that the conclusion of the trip was only the beginning of my Chocolate University journey.  The school kids now have valuable and useful resources.  They still have a significant work to complete and much to prove.  I hope to remain in contact with the many inspiring individuals I met.  I believe they are more of an inspiration to me than I am to them.