We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Zeeshan Shad is volunteering as a teacher in Zanzibar. This post was written after his first few weeks in-country.
The last couple weeks have been incredible; My day typically starts around 5am with the call to prayer blaring into my room, its really a helpful tool for making me get out of bed every morning and get going. I arrive at the Zanzibar commercial school around 7am every morning, and I’m greeted with a giant assembly of all of the students that’s complete with speeches from all members of the staff as well as a prayer before the students physically enter the school. That’s become a part of my everyday life here and it has been a completely foreign concept to see. When I was in school the first thing anyone would do was to go inside and find your friends, not gather outside of the school and get 20 minutes worth of speeches and prayers. That’s been an incredibly interesting part of my day-to-day life, and it’s only added to the cultural diversity that Zanzibar has to offer.
So far it’s been a pretty amazing experience but it’s also had its ups and downs. The language barrier between the students and I is definitely something that has been hard to deal with. I’ve found it to be a lot easier when I repeat myself a couple of times or try to look for another way to phrase things to try and make it easier on the students. Even with this minor hiccup, the students have seemed to take a liking to me and enjoy having me in their classes and I enjoy being there.
I think the best days that I’ve had so far are the days that end with me having conversations with some of my students about music or TV. They’ve introduced me to a genre of music called Bongo Flavor which to me seems like traditional African music mixed with some kind of Latin influence, its pretty interesting to say the least. It’s the little things like the students sharing their music tastes with me that make this such an incredible experience as well as the fact that everyone that I’ve met in Zanzibar is so eager to connect with you on a 1-1 level and learn everything about you, while sharing their own beliefs and way of life. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of weeks have to offer!