Whenever we plan any educational trip, and this is certainly true for our educational trip to Zanzibar, we strive to create authentic experiences. We've been fortunate to travel quite a bit, and as we've put this company together we've talked to so many other travelers, and we all seem to agree: what makes a great trip is to, as much as possible, leave the pre-packaged behind and actually meet people, and in the process to get a sense of life in another part of the world. We often joke among ourselves that we don't want to take people from one gated community at home to another gated community overseas. Yes, we will do something that our "touristy" - I mean, who would go to Zanzibar and not swim with dolphins in the open ocean - but we also want to share with you a more authentic, and more intimate, experience. One of our favorite activities, and one that our students love, is a traditional cooking class on Pemba. Not only do you get to eat delicious food, but you get to help prepare it. Don't you want to help prepare the octopus curry?
When we lead student trips to Zanzibar we routinely visit primary schools on the island of Pemba. It is always an inspiring but also a humbling experience for our college students, because they meet much younger students who dream of being doctors or teachers or engineers while also facing innumerable challenges. For example, the young Pemban students really enjoy studying computer science but the school doesn't have any computers. On last year's trip a group of amazing Champlain College students (who we'll be talking about in more detail in a later post) decided that they wanted to do something to give back to the folks on Pemba who have been so kind to us. After they returned to Vermont the students formed a group called TechDren (Technology for Children) and they have spent the last year collecting laptops and raising funds to bring computers to Pemba. Next month we'll be bringing over our first shipment of thirty refurbished laptops and solar panels for elementary school students. We're so proud of our students (and we would be even if they weren't our students, naturally) so HLA is setting aside a portion of every person's fee for every educational tour, starting with this summer's educational tour of Zanzibar, to support TechDren's efforts.
When we think about designing our educational tour of Zanzibar we consider what books or articles or films we might share with you, but we also sometimes just arrange to get our of your way. As professors, of course, we want to give you as many intellectual tools as possible to help you dig deeper, but we also want to give you the freedom to explore. For example, on our Zanzibar trip the first part of the trip in Pemba is fairly tightly structured, but once we take the ferry back to Unguja you'll have plenty of time in Stone town to explore the winding narrow streets of one of the world's most interesting cities. Every evening we'll sit down as a group to prep you for the next day's adventures, but also for you to share your discoveries with the rest of the team.
Keep in mind that all Horizons Learning Adventures trips are designed by college professors. This means that we plan the trips like we plan our classes, and that involves a lot of reverse engineering. For example, if i know that in my class on a specific day we're going to looking at a west African carving or reading a Rumi poem or listening to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme then I'm going to devote time to figuring out what intellectual tools I can give the students to make that moment more powerful; essentially, we're reverse engineering the course to make each moment as rich and transformative as possible. We take the same approach with a trip. When we're on Pemba we will witness a spirit possession ceremony. If you just walked up to that ceremony it would you would doubtless find it interesting, but our job as educators is to give you the intellectual tools to take the experience to an entirely different level; to truly understand what we're witnessing. On a HLA trip we'll start long before the plane leaves the ground, discussing articles and short films - and we'll continue while we're overseas in daily debriefs - to make the experience even more unforgettable.
While we here at Horizons Learning Adventures will eventually be expanding to several locations, we're starting with a trip to Zanzibar and it will always be at the heart of our efforts. Yes, the islands are beautiful, almost impossibly beautiful, but it is Zanzibar's cultural and religious diversity that makes it such an extraordinary choice for an international educational trip. Unguja and Pemba, the main islands that make up Zanzibar, are a product of centuries of blending between African, Arabic, Indian, Persian and European traditions - and of an interchange between Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and traditional African beliefs - all leading to an almost unmatched cultural, religious and aesthetic world. Whether you are in your forties and dreaming of that unforgettable adventure or a seventeen year old on her first time overseas, it is our job at HLA to transport you to that world and give you the intellectual tools to understand this new world and live the adventure to its fullest.