Mikumi Solar Project – I have embarked on an African adventure to provide solar energy to the VETA college in Mikumi. A team of faculty and students like myself left for Africa twelve days ago. Our journey started at the Halifax International Airport: five eager students, three faculty, and one sensational fanny pack. Any questions I had regarding my safety as I travelled to Africa were answered the second I saw the black pleather fanny pack; it reassured me that everything was going to be ok and this trip would be a success. A day and a half later with stops in Toronto, Zurich, Switzerland, and Nairobi, Kenya, we had finally arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
I have travelled to many different countries in my thirty-one years but this is my first experience in an African country. I had an image in my mind of what to expect based on the North American media I have been exposed to back home. That media is very inaccurate. Dar es Salaam is a very large city and has everything you would ever need or want. It's like most large cities in that it has its very nice parts of town and then some parts of town that you know you should not travel alone in. One thing completely different from home is the driving. I could not imagine ever driving a vehicle here – it's pretty wild. I also learned that I will never complain about the potholes in the Martimes ever again. Potholes here are more like the sites of meteor strikes.
After 2 days and a four to five hour drive, we finally arrived in Mikumi where our work would take place. We were greeted with open arms and the warmest of hearts, like we were old friends reuniting after years of being apart, not strangers meeting for the first time. I was overwhelmed by everyone's kindness and sincerity. It was very refreshing and I couldn't help thinking I wish people were like this at home. Unfortunately the reality at home is that we'd rather pretend to be busy on our smart phones then look a stranger in the eye and say hello and ask them how they're doing, I'm guilty of it myself but it's something I hope to change when I return home. I love it, it's infectious: everyone is saying hello and smiling asking you how you’re doing and how your day went, it is so genuine you can't help walking around with a smile on your face. You’re always being welcomed to a classroom or assembly or even into their homes as we walked through town. As friendly as we Martimers consider ourselves we could learn a lot from the people of Mikumi. We could also learn a lot from the students who are working with us.
These nine students are so motivated and have such a thirst for knowledge. They want to jump in and help wherever they can so that they can learn and gain some hands-on experience. They ask a million incredibly intelligent questions not only about the project but about life and careers and how they can better their futures. They are hard questions to answer but I'm trying my best and my hope is that I have helped in some way. The extra effort I have seen the students put in this past week is not something you get to see very often back home.
I have learned a lot on this trip, about solar power and electricity, about my colleagues, and about Africa but I think the most important things I have learned have come from my new friends here in Mikumi. I am forever grateful to have met you and look forward to the days our paths will cross again.
Student, Mechanical Engineering Technology
NSCC, Waterfront Campus