Monday, February 7, 2011

Hatari Kubwa

This morning I was informed that campus would be completely safe today. No students would dare to act inappropriately in front of the Minister of Education, a government official, who would be on campus to address their concerns.

This was entirely true... until he left.

A large crowd was gathered by his podium. Once he exited the stage, the police told the crowd to leave. As the students walked away, they thought it might be fun to incite the police officers by throwing empty water bottles and stones at them... not their best move. The police defended themselves and retaliated by bombing the crowd!

I had been innocently eating lunch on the outdoor patio of the cafeteria with two of my American friends. Out of the blue, masses of students start running toward us. I had a feeling they weren't all on their way to class... There were hundreds of students sprinting up a big hill in all different directions. The other American girls whipped out their cameras, but I knew there wouldn't be time for that. Just then a tear gas bomb was launched within 10 feet of where we were eating! It looked like a big gray pokéball (yes, I'm referencing pokémon) about the size of a cantaloupe with dark gas spewing out of a slot. The gas filled up all the air around, and the wind was taking it in our direction. We tripped over tables and chairs as we rushed into the closing doors of the cafeteria. I wasn't sure where to go. We were technically in a “safe area” where the police weren't expected to come. Why were they aiming tear gas bombs at the students eating lunch!? I wasn't sure if it would be safe to run outside, joining the masses, and potentially be followed by the police. I didn't want to get mixed up in any trouble. So we tried to wait out the gas inside the cafeteria. The only problem is that none of the buildings have windows, because they need the breeze to get through the walls. So the tear gas was slowly creeping inside! I begged the cafeteria workers to let us slip into the back kitchen where there was a bit more protection.

We could hear more bombs being shot into this area, attempting to fully disperse the crowds and force them back into the dorms. I was pulled down from view of the window because the cafeteria workers feared being seen by the police. I think they believed that if police saw crowds huddling in the kitchen, they would assume a mob was forming and try to gas us all out.

My heart raced faster than ever before. This was possibly the single most terrifying moment I've ever experienced.

If you think about it, I wasn't really in any danger. What's the worst that could have happened—my eyes might get a little itchy? It's the panic induced by the bombs that cause all the trouble... but, logic aside, I have no problem admitting that I was scared.

We waited until the air was safe to breathe and the crowds were mostly gone. Then I power-walked out of there as fast as I could.

My host family's reaction to this traumatic experience: “Oh, that's normal! ha ha ha Welcome to Tanzania!”

All classes resume tomorrow. The strike is officially over. Please don't be worried... I'm sure that's the worst of it.  


  1. I would be on a plane home at this point. Glad you are braver than I am...

  2. I agree with Jenn! You're such a champ

  3. Its an experience you will never forget!! Did the others snap a photo in time? That would have been great! Haha. Stay safe!

  4. Christina I'm so glad that your OK watch your surroundings & be strong. Try not to panic & think of your next move & you will be one step ahead of any danger. I love you and miss you more than I can say. I love you Grandma VA