For many of our WorldTeach volunteers, staying in shape while serving abroad is a priority both as a way of developing a daily routine in a new home as well as a great way to relieve stress and unwind after a challenging day of teaching and straining to understand a foreign language. WorldTeach volunteer Matt Mills shares below the adventures of his daily running routine in Mzumbe, Tanzania.
For anyone who may or may not be aware, running is a very big constant in my life and has been for many many years. Even back at home when I’m at my busiest, I always found time to run on a regular basis- almost everyday. When I came to Tanzania, I wasn’t sure of what my living situation would be like, or if my new home would have anywhere that might be suitable to keep up my regular habit of running. Fortunately, when I arrived at Mzumbe I was quite surprised and incredibly pleased with all of the beautiful grounds that I could explore and run on.
As I have described in words and pictures from previous posts, Mzumbe is quite an expansive campus, surrounded by many green fields and mountains. Once I step out my door, I have a multitude of running options to choose from. After a first few weeks of exploring the trails (which included getting a little lost every now and then), I found an area of trails behind the school campus that I decided to stick to for my regular runs.
Just about every day I run at the same time in the evening, usually between 5 and 6 P.M. At this time of day, the sun is setting and it’s a lot cooler than it is during the midday when it’s really hot. Also it’s really quiet and peaceful along the trails, and there aren’t many people walking out in the fields. Most days when it’s clear out, I get to observe a pretty spectacular sunset on my run, which sometimes causes me to stop for a minute to take it all in. The trails that I run around are all dirt paths that surround farm fields of various crops. The dirt paths are a nice alternative to concrete, but unfortunately can make runs a bit dirty. I think my socks are permanently brown and my running shoes can speak for themselves. The farm fields that the trails border are surrounded by the Uluguru mountains, and running along the trails you get some really spectacular views of the green mountains that overlook Mzumbe. They are especially beautiful when the light from the setting sun hits them in the evening.
Since I do run just about every day, the Mzumbe community never fails to greet me hello as I run by the students, a fellow teacher or a neighbor. Even the kids get excited when I run past them, stopping their activity to wave and shout “Hello Matthew!” It’s a pretty cool experience. Also every now and then a student will come to my door and ask to join me on my run. Of course I’m willing to always have the company, and it’s always fun to get to know some of the students personally. I had been interested to possibly start a running club at Mzumbe, but since most students prefer playing soccer or studying in the evening, I couldn’t get enough students interested. Of course since the way of life here is Pole Pole, most Tanzanians would rather be relaxing than going out for an evening run anyway.
As it was back in the U.S., running has stayed a constant in my daily life here at Mzumbe. When I run here, it’s one of my favorite times of the day to unwind, relax, reflect and appreciate the beautiful surroundings I’m lucky enough to have around me. Of course the health benefits are great, too, and I have to admit it’s kept me in great shape mentally and physically. I know when I return home I’ll have to get used to running in the concrete jungle again, so for now I’ll enjoy the deserted, serene and uninterrupted trails of Tanzania as much as possible.