A Little Piece of Happiness

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We had three new volunteers come to Tulivu today, Laura, Hannah, and Samantha. Every 3 weeks CCS gets a new group of volunteers and this time three of them were placed at my Kindergarten. It will be great having them there to share the experience. Plus, with other volunteers you have more support and can get more things accomplished.

They really enjoyed their first day!! I was so happy to hear that because I remember how overwhelmed I felt my first day at Tulivu, I wanted to crawl in to the fetal position and forget about it haha. It is a very intimidating experience.

Today we started the school day off with games, as we usually do. We all joined hands in the middle of the dirt playground to sing songs, like ring around the rosy, the wheels on the bus, the hokey pokey, if you're happy and you know it, and one Swahili dance song. We then got the kids to play another game, similar to Fishes and Whales except it involves a lion trying to catch, first the girls and then the boys. I love watching them run around laughing and enjoying themselves. After games it was time to line up to sing their school and national anthems and say their prayers.

When we went in to the classroom the new teachers introduced themselves, we have 7 in total now!! But Mama Mwanga doesn't do a lot of the teaching so their will be 6 of us in the classroom for the most part.

When we split with the Pre-2's we taught them some more English nouns, very similar to yesterday. Not much new to report there. One of my new students, Samueli, had to be told exactly what to write in his work book, letter by letter. He couldn't really do any of the lesson on his own. I love being able to work with my kids individually so that isn't the issue. But I don't know if he is at the right level. The poor boy, I'm not convinced he should have been moved up.

I just have to finish this short update by saying that aAt recess today Shifra was the light of my life. I love that little girl. She kept getting me to spin her around and around, she loved the dizzy feeling :) Her laugh was precious and contagious. I could have hugged her all day long.

It is amazing being with these kids. It is so simple but so rewarding. They make you feel welcome and happy. It gets frustrating at times when they are all pulling at you and demanding your attention but it doesn't even compare to the positive aspects of being here. If I am giving them back half of what they have given me then I am satisfied because they have given me so much love. Often here life is rough and seeing those kids laugh, play and smile is the best. Every little bit counts.

Back at Tulivu!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Today was my first day back at Tulivu Kindergarten since their break began 3 weeks ago. It was an amazing day with the kids and teachers!!! A great way to start my last two weeks at CCS.

I had missed the kids so much so hearing them screaming "teacher, teacher" and seeing them running towards the van as we pulled up to the gate was perfect. It was hugs all around! The kids were all smiles and in such a happy mood. I think the break did them good :)

We didn't play games outside this morning but went straight in to the one room school house. After a little bit of teaching from Mwalimu (teacher) Remini, I was invited to the front of the class. We went over some of the songs I had taught them before the break, The Ants Go Marching, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Mary Had a Little Lamb. They don't usually sing all the words because they cant pronounce all of them. but when they know them they try their best to sing to the tune. Usually you can tell where they can't pick up the English words in the song because it gets significantly quieter and there is lots of mumbling. But it familiarizes them with English while having fun.

Today I introduced 'You are my sunshine' to them. As I went over all the words, speaking them and getting them to repeat, they did really well at saying them. But once I put them in to music it got a little more difficult. They could say all the words individually but putting them together in a sentence and to a tune they lost the ability to pronounce. I'll keep working at it!! Some of them really liked the "I love you" part because they enjoyed the actions :).

Before I knew it, it was time to split up the classes. When the pre-2 class left to go to their porch classroom I was surprised...there were 6 new kids!!! I'm debating whether some of them belong there. Nickson and Irene should have been moved up a while ago though so that is awesome!!

Today in class we learnt some of our nouns. This consisted of introducing English words to them, having them write them down and draw the picture associated with the word. Today we talked about and drew an apple, a jug, a house, and ice cream. These random items were chosen by our teacher Mary haha. We also gathered items around the school yard to show the kids and tell them what they are in English. These items were a hoe, a bucket, a basket, and a pot. Eventually we were calling on individual students to identify the items. They were really good at retaining the words but we will test them tomorrow to see if they remember.

After the lesson it was play time!! The kids went crazy around the yard. Skipping, soccer, and swinging among other things. It was great to watch them having so much fun!

At porridge time I was called in to the teachers office. Mary, such a sweetheart, bought me a Coca Cola and a package of milk and honey crackers. She sat me down for a good chat. It was such a great conversation and so nice to get to know more about her. She asked about where I come from and where in Canada I am located. She wanted to know when I was going home. As I was talking she asked if she could come home with me :). I said if she was ever in Canada to look me up. She asked me if I've enjoyed Tanzania and I assured her that it is a beautiful country. I have loved my time here.

I found out that she has a little girl named Farahja, who is 3 years old. Mary is 23. She really wants to go back to school to further her studies in teaching. She received a certificate to teach nursery school and wants to continue on this track. The only set back is the school fees and whether her family, she has 3 brothers and 2 sisters, will be able to support her financially. Most of her family lives in Dar es Salaam so she doesn't see them often. It was great to hear about her goals and aspirations.

Because I was taking pictures of the kids earlier, I had my camera laid out on the desk. I asked if she wanted her picture taken and, like most people here, she said yes. They love pictures of themselves, probably because it is so rare. I made her smile, with teeth, because most Tanzania adopt a neutral expression for pictures, not really sure why. She loved the picture!! She wants a copy to give her daughter so I'm going to try and go to the print shop in town. I felt like it was a bonding moment for us haha. She was just really open, which hasn't happened since I started at Tulivu. One thing I really felt like I was missing was that connection with the teachers, mostly because we haven't had much opportunity to exchange or discuss. I think getting that opportunity today made me sigh with relief. It felt comforting and welcoming.

After I was done my snack it was time for more music! The kids were awesome. They were shaking their booties, doing a little shakey shakey, and singing their hearts out. Literally at the top of their lungs. It was hilarious and adorable. I got a video of it :) They were full of life today. I hope I have a lot more days like this one before I leave.

I mention all these details about today because in my mind it was one of the most perfect placement days I have had. They may seem trivial but every good moment counts here. The kids were all smiles and bubbly, the teachers were so welcoming and happy to see me, and I felt excited to be back at the school where I started. It was just one of those days you want to remember.

My Last Day at Magareza Nursery School

Friday, May 27, 2011

Today I said goodbye to the kids and teachers of Magareza. When I woke up I could hear the rain coming down and got very disappointed very quickly. This usually means that few of the kids will show up and we will be stuck inside. But lucky me the rain soon let up and the roads were not bad enough to keep the kids home!! We had 63 today and were able to do the art/science project we had planned.

Since it was my last day I had the idea that we should combine the classes for a group activity. I wanted to have them do nature rubbings, something fun and educational. I remember doing them as a kid and it was always so much fun! So we gathered the kids and had them collect leaves in groups. While one group was outside we were inside reading to the others. I read them Canada 123, a book I had purchased at the Toronto airport on the way to Tanzania. It was fun to show them a piece of where I come from. There is a map in class A so I was also able to point out to them how far away Canada is from Tanzania. As I was reading I came to realize just how weird some of the things in the book most look to them, hockey and polar bears are not something you would ever hear of in Africa :)

After they all had their leaves picked out we were ready to start the rubbings!! We split the kids in to two classes, handed out paper and crayons, and got started. The kids found it fascinating to watch the leaves come to life on paper. It was fun to see how proud they were of their drawings. Each had about 4 leaves on their page. I think they really enjoyed the activity!!

Grace helped me pick up all the leaves and throw them outside as the kids were let go for porridge time. Our time together today was precious. She just wanted to hold my hand and go where ever I went. She looked at me and said "Teacher, picture". I bent down to get a picture together and she kissed my cheek and told me she loved me. I must say that she stole my heart. It is just amazing how close you become with some of your kids so quickly. They trust you so fully.

We walked over to the eating house together and sat down so she could enjoy a cup of porridge. The kids go crazy in line waiting for food, lots of pushing and shoving. But once they have those cups in their hands they sit down and drink. The noise level drops significantly. Today after porridge the kids got bananas! It was a treat :)

We hung outside for a bit longer and then it was time to say goodbye. Once all the kids were sitting they announced that Teacher Amanda would be leaving Magareza. I am sure it is very hard for them because they see teachers come and go often.I feel horrible that they have to deal with the change constantly. It isn't fair and I wish I was able to stay with them to give them the stability they deserve. Unfortunately a lot of us volunteers have limited amounts of time.

Hadija started crying first. I don't do well with crying, especially when kids cry. I just wanted to cherish their smiles. But soon Grace was in tears and then Ronalda started soon after. I tried to comfort them all in turn. I wanted to wipe all their tears away. Grace, who had been all smiles and full of love was so upset with the change that it broke my heart. Hadija could not stop and all I wanted was to see that grin with the missing teeth one more time. But I held it together and kept my tears at bay.

To show my thanks to the kids I had bought candy for all of us to share. We passed out lollipops and orange drops to all the kids. It was sticky!! Glad I could give them a little yumminess to finish off my time at Magareza. After the candy was passed out I made a speech, at Daniel, our local volunteers, request. He translated. I told the kids of Magareza that I had so much fun teaching them and that it was a great experience for me. I reminded them all that they are very smart, beautiful, and talented children. I told them that I would miss them and always think of them. I would remember my time at Magareza and smile. I finished by telling them that I expected them to study hard and be good. The speech was promptly followed by Prosper, a little boy in class C, asking if I will return. My reply was "I hope so".

To finish off my goodbye Magareza was kind enough to present me with a gift. Much to my surprise I was presented with a beautiful piece of black and yellow fabric. I plan to get it made in to a dress of some sort before I leave Moshi. They wrapped it around my body and thanked me for the time I had given and the teaching I had done.


After class today the other volunteers and I felt that it would be really interesting to see where some of our kids live. We were able to visit the homes of Hadija, Prosper, and Adventi.

We went to Hadija's home first. She lives inside the prison compound. Her house is located in the policing area, where the government provides housing for the police officers. As an officer with a family they were given two rooms in the compound, no matter the size of the family. In their rooms there is Hadija, her parents, and her two brothers. The room that we were invited in to was about 8 feet by 8 feet. Very tiny. It was full to the brim! A couple of love seats, a bed (where Hadija sleeps), a TV stand with a 27' television, and a coffee table. No walking space that is for sure.

We sat down, Hadija found a spot on my lap :), and were introduced to Hadija's mother. With Daniel we were able to tell her that we were Hadija's teachers and that she had a very smart daughter. We thanked her for bringing us in to her home and offered her a bag of rice. After a few minutes it was time to move on. I said my final goodbye to Hadija, hugged her and told her she was a very smart and beautiful girl. The tears started again and I blew her one last kiss. Leaving her house was the hardest moment of the day. I felt choked up, I didn't want to leave her behind. I walked it off as we moved on to Prospers house.

His house is located off the compound. By walking some back roads, and threw the corn fields we got there in about 20 minutes. I can't believe Adventi and Prosper walk to school by themselves everyday!! Could you imagine 5 year olds walking the streets at home by themselves???

Prosper's home was a lot bigger than Hadija's but there were holes in the floors, holes in the walls, and dirt everywhere. We were invited in by his Grandmother and asked to sit. Prosper lives with his Grandparents and his father. It wasn't explained to us where his mother was. He ran to his room to change out of his uniform and then we sat down for a quick chat with the family. Prosper has the most adorable laugh and he is so full of life. He has a crazy amount of energy and never stops running around! He was very entertaining. Before leaving we offered the family rice, it is customary to bring something when visiting in Tanzania. It would be rude to come empty handed.

On to Adventi's house and the end of our journey. He lives about 5 minutes from Prosper off the compound. They are such cute friends! They are always together at school.

Adventi lives behind a small convenience store with his mother. He ran to change out of his uniform and then rejoined the group. He had saved his lollipop and candy for home and unwrapped both to stick in his mouth haha. He is so cute and his mother was very welcoming. We hung out outside the shop and talked but time was short and soon had to move on.

It was so great seeing some of the conditions that our children grow up in. Very eye opening morning.

I wish that I never had to say goodbye but it is life here at CCS and all of us volunteers go through it. I loved spending time at Magareza and am so grateful that I had the chance to meet all of those wonderful kids. I won't forget them and how loved they made me feel. It was a great experience.


Some local CCS volunteers put together a soccer game this afternoon for Giamani, who I had met on home visits a few weeks ago. He loves soccer but because he is bed ridden rarely gets to go to games. So today the game was in his honor. I admit I don't really pay attention to sports but it was a great time with friends and I was so happy they were able to organize that for him. I think he had a really great time. And Laura, one of our volunteers, said that when they dropped him off home she was able to help him walk to his front door!! So awesome!

Until next time! xoxo

In These Few Days.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My time is winding down at Magareza. Tomorrow will be my last day and then it is back to Tulivu on Monday. I am sad to leave them behind, knowing that I will never get to see them grow up. I wish that I could see what they will be like and what they will end up doing with their lives. The unknown for these kids is unsettling and I am trying not to focus on it as tomorrow draws near. It amazes me how you can fall in love with your children in such a short period of time. They are so precious.


In the last few days at Magareza I have been teaching class A subtraction. At first it is a lesson at the blackboard, giving different children an opportunity to come to the front of the class and work on problems, individually and as a group. We used pencils to demonstrate values as we talked out the math problems. Mama Vicki started the lesson today in Kiswahili and Rachel and I finished with English.

After the initial lesson it was time for individual work time in their math books. They were expected to answer the 10 question we wrote on the board. This is where the difficulty set in. They seemed stuck when they had to think it out for themselves. But when I sat with the kids one on one and walked them through the problem they would discover the answer. Time, patience and attention were key. I find that individual attention is the key to success in all of our lessons.

Magareza has a bucket of bottle caps that has been very useful for Math. The kids can see the value of numbers and visualize better the math they are learning. I have started my own collection of bottle caps to take to Tulivu with me for the purpose of making math more accessible to my pre-1 and pre-2 classes there. It is a small collection at the moment but hopefully before I leave in a few weeks I will have enough for all my pre-2 kids at Tulivu! :)


Every day it seems that the kids surprise me. Today Hadija told me she loved me and wanted to be hugged constantly. She is a little sweetheart, and I confess one of my favorites. She is so full of life. She is an attention seeker but I think she just wants to feel accepted and loved. I admire her joie de vivre.

There is also a little girl named Grace who has stolen my heart. She is so quiet and understated but very smart. She seems like one of those old souls who grows up way to quickly. As we worked on lessons this week Grace decided to sit on my knee and kiss my check. I have rarely felt so loved.

The children at Magareza are like sunshine. They have been a blessing in my life and have brought a smile to my face every day. I have shared many precious moments that I hope I never forget. They just want to be acknowledge by you and listened to. There are so many great kids with a load of potential. I pray that in the years to come they are able to discover this potential and put it to good use. I wish that I could witness all that they will be.

I will cherish always the few days I have spent with them.

The Circle of Life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Here is the list of animals that was put together of our safari. Not an exhaustive list but a good idea. There was lots to see!!

Animals Seen in Ngorongoro Crater:

1. Baboons
3. Wilderbeast
4. Thompsons Gazelle
5. Secretary Bird
6. Ostrich
7. Elephant
8. Lions
9. Rhino
10. Hippo
12. Hyena
13. Crested Crane
14. Woodland Kingfisher
15. Serval Cat
16. Waterbuck

Animals in Lake Manyara:

1. Blue Monkey
2. Baboons
3. Impala
4. Mongoose
5. Giraffe
6. DikDik
7. Tawney Eagle
8. Elephant
9. Warthog
10. Flamingo
11. Buffalo
12. Hippo
13. Zebra
14. Wilderbeast

Going to post some pics I gathered today on my picture page. I wish that I had mine to share but since my SD card decided to go in to lock down mode I won't be able to share those till I get home and do some recovery work. One of the girls was nice enough to let me go through her pics and steal some :) They will be available asap!!

Habari za Safari?

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Safari was pretty awesome :)

We saw a ton of animals!! One of the ladies kept a list so I'll share that with you soon.

As an aside. Tonight I had a little incident with my camera. I tried looking at pictures on one of the other girls computers and my memory card screwed up. I believe it wanted to format to the computer and when we refused it locked up. Now all that it says is memory card error and no pictures show up. Thank God for Becca, the other volunteer, because as I got settled in to depression mode she was researching how to help. She figured out that it is a common occurrence with the HP memory cards and that a lot of people still recover their pics through a recovery software or the manufacturer. So I feel reassured that my pictures are still on the card just in hiding. Why do I share this you ask? Well I had planned to do my safari post all in pictures because I felt that it was rather self explanatory but now I can no longer share my pictures with you. I am hoping to jump on one of the other girls computers tomorrow if I can so that you will get the full effect of the safari. Hopefully I can upload some of their pics. Unfortunately I won't have any Kili pics to share until I safely recover my memory card, except for those already posted on FB. Just wanted everyone to know that is why the pictures might be in short supply for now.

We booked our safari through Pristine Trials, the Moshi tour operator that I have been dealing with while here in Tanzania. They made it such a great experience! So much fun and so relaxing after our stressful Kili adventure. I went with other CCS volunteers. We choose the camping option, which really was luxury camping. Our tents were hoisted on platforms to protect from rain and we did not need sleeping bags, there were two cots per tent with sheets and pillows provided. It was a laid back atmosphere with great food (same Pristine Chef that went on Kili with me. David is awesome in the Kitchen!) and friendly faces.

On Friday we left CCS after placement. Our first stop was a Masai village outside of Arusha. We drove for 3 to 4 hours and arrived at our destination. It was a part of the cultural experience, but honestly you could tell that the village, although truly a Masai homestead, was staged for tourists. Even the wives had made jewelry to sell to the tourists at the end of the tour. I think they had done this many times before. Despite the slightly contrived feeling of the visit it was still interesting to see what a Masai village looks like, how it operates, and to experience their cultural dancing and singing. Upon arriving the children came out to greet us and the women and men got ready for the traditional dance. It is common knowledge that you will be asked to dance, and jump, with them. Masai are famous for their jumping, very hard and very high. They wear shoes made out of tires that help with this.

The colors of their outfits are phenomenal. Blues and reds that stand out against the dirt floor and the brown huts. They promptly form a line in front of us and we watch as they begin to sing together. The men make a noise I can't really place, a guttural call that bubbles up from their throats. The women chant along to the rhythm. They are showing us their traditions and quickly ask us to join them in the dance. This dance consists mostly of moving the shoulders, as well as the middle of the body, along to the rhythm. For this you are wearing a traditional Masai necklace. With the shoulder movement you are designed to move this necklace up and down. I felt pretty ridiculous because you don't actually know if you are doing it right but I can tell you that I did it with a huge smile on my face. It was really fun to be a part of! The woman that was holding my hand kept smiling and laughing..don't know if she was laughing with me or at me...

After the dance we were given a tour of one of the Masai huts by Joseph, the Chiefs son. It is pitch black inside, made of sticks and cow dung, usually takes about two weeks to build, and houses the livestock, women, and men of the family. It is very tight quarters. They cook inside the hut so you can imagine the amount of smoke they inhale! Joseph told us about the dedication it takes to be a Masai warrior, you must kill three lions, and about how to seek someone for marriage, you have to have at least 300 head of cattle for a bride price. Once we asked our questions and got our answers we were more than happy to step back outside in to the light and fresh air.

I think some of the Masai men like to joke with the women tourists because they had a couple of us discussing how many cattle it would cost for us to be willing to get married. TK, one of my fellow volunteers, demanded 1500. haha. They actually looked like they were trying to figure out how they could make that happen. When I was asked, my answer was simple; I grew up on a farm and don't need any more cows, thank you anyways. I may have also slipped in that I had someone waiting back home :) It was funny to us and all in good humor. I bet every tourist gets it. It is entertaining to discuss how many cows you are worth! Never thought about myself in terms of cows before haha. Another cultural experience to add to the books :)

The next day was where the Safari part of the trip began. It was time for Ngorongoro Crater!! What an amazingly beautiful place! The crater, which was once a volcano, formed when an eruption caused the volcano to collapse in on it self some 2 to 3 million years ago. The volcano was thought to be relatively the size of Mount Kili and now forms a 610 meter deep volcanic caldera. The beginnings of the human species were thought to have stepped foot there as many as 3 million years ago...There is a lot of history in this crater and it was fascinating to be there experiencing it all first hand.

When you arrive at the entrance you continue for about an hour down some very twisty, narrow mountain roads. After the coffee tour experience I found myself holding my breath numerous times! But seeing the inside of the crater from the top settled me a little bit, it was a sight! Once we reached the Crater floor we were able to appreciate it more fully. The sky was a perfect robins egg blue, contrasted against the lush green on the crater walls that were covered in foliage. This in turn was contrasted by the almost barren, brown grass of the crater floor. The colors of the crater all mixed together was a feast for the eyes. I can not wait to share pictures with you all!! I wish they would serve it enough justice.

The first thing we see in the crater was Zebra's. I couldn't help but automatically think of my niece Hannah and how cute she sounds when she tries and pronounce Zebra and of how much she would want to jump on their backs for a horsey ride :) Their stripes were striking. Very gorgeous animals. We saw hundreds of them in the Crater! They seemed to be everywhere. We also had the pleasure of seeing numerous groups of lions. One of the best parts of the Safari!! The lions were generally sprawled out near the roads, sunbathing. We saw a few young males being lazy and then a group of lionesses with a cub suckling on his mother. It was precious!! He was so tiny and right by our vehicle. Got some awesome lion pictures! They had a thing for laying right under the safari trucks, I think because of the shade. So when we did decide to leave the drivers had to be careful to not run them over! Unfortunately we weren't lucky enough to see any kills or fighting. That would have been pretty amazing.

We also caught some rhinos, pretty far off, but I guess they are very rare to see in the Crater. Next it was a fascination with Elephants. We saw a few old timers wandering the crater floor, which is where they usually come when they know it is the end. There is actually a genuine Elephant graveyard located in the crater. Bones and all. The crater also gave us sightings of an insane amount of wilderbeast, some monkeys, lots of birds, and a hyena.

That night we left the crater satisfied. It was a full day of sighting animals and taking their pictures. We relaxed by the bonfire and headed to bed to rest for another full morning of safari.

Next we were on to Lake Manyara, a Masai name for a tree they traditional use in healing practices. The scenery was still beautiful but not quite as jaw dropping as the day before. There are a lot more trees near the Lake, which stretched out far in to the horizon. When spotting it for the first time you can't help but notice the dominant pick hue in the water. I think there had to be thousands of flamingos!! We also got to check out the Hippo pond, they are the silliest looking creatures. They don't do much but are still great to watch!

In the crater what we saw the most were Giraffes. They were beautiful. Among my favorites of the safari next to the lions and hippos. They could stand so still in the trees you would pass them easily. They are so majestic and glide graceful among the trees as if they have all the time in the world. I didn't realize their spots could be so dark and jagged. really cool.

After lunch we were set to head back to Moshi. It had been such a relaxing weekend but I was sooooo ready to get back in to my placement. I felt so disconnected from CCS and just wanted to be with the kids :) However, we had one more pit stop to make. Camel rides!! Yes it is random and who thought we would do it on Safari, but we did. I thought I would fall off. The jerkiest movement ever! They basically fall to their knees and then stand up so quick. I felt like a kid at the fair getting excited about the pony rides haha. But it was fun!!! And we had a great laugh about it. Camels are the weirdest looking creatures.


So now I am back at CCS :) Thank God!! It has been such an amazing experience this last week and I am so grateful that the staff here gave me the opportunity to climb Kili. I was an exception, since my school was on break I was allowed to take a few days out of that to break as well and have my amazing Kili adventure. I have felt slightly off about this because I have missed my days away from the kids so much but I think of it as one more way I was able to become accustomed to Tanzania. I experienced its natural beauty as few have the chance to do. I don't regret it because it was such a profound experience for me, you really get to know yourself when you are trapped on a mountain forcing yourself to take one more step. I feel like it offered me insights and was a part of my whole learning experience. CCS is not just about the placement, it is about the people, the country, and the culture. Here Kili is a part of the people. Still, I was very glad I did not have to take off any extra time for the Safari, I couldn't have done that so I'm lucky it was on a weekend!! You become so attached to your placement here it is almost like eating and sleeping. You feel alone without it. I have no doubt this will be a part of the struggle when I leave to go back home.

Today with the kids was perfect. I am still at Magareza for those who don't know. They were learning to write their names :) We had them decorate name tags for their desks. It was a really great lesson for them! Some still struggle with a few letters of the alphabet, which was a part of the actvity. To assess where they are lacking. There was one little girl, Sirila, who could not understand the concept of the letters at all. I would show her the S in her name, and she would repeat after me perfectly, but then when asked a few seconds later she would still claim it was a C. Very frustrating that she wasn't actually focusing on the letters. She did not really get it so she has a lot of work to do compared to the others.

At break time it made me so content when Hadija and a couple of the other little girls gathered around me to play hair salon. I had little girls trying to braid and twist my hair for about 20 minutes. They love it! Most of them dont have hair so I think it is really entertaining for them to play with it. I must say I looked pretty stylish when they were finished with me :) haha. It was a precious moment I will always cherish. So simple but it meant a lot to me.

On the Rooftop of Africa.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hey Everyone!!
I know it has been a while since my lat post but I haven't had access to a computer in about a week and a half. Seems weird to think that much time has past... The last week has been crazy full of adventure, starting with my hike up Mount Kilimanjaro and finishing with Safari in Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. This post is going to be dedicated to my experiences on Kili. It was one of the greatest, most difficult things I have ever done and therefore deserves an honorable mention.

Day 1:

We left CCS for Kili Saturday May 14 around 10 am. We had an hour drive up the winding roads of Mount Kili to reach the entrance gate to the Marangu route, which is located at about 1970 meters altitude. There are several paths leading up the mountain to the highest point in Africa. Susan, my roommate who climbed with me, and I choose Marangu because it gives its climbers the best chance of reaching the summit. We had a little bit of paperwork to do, met some of our team (we had two guides, 7 porters and 1 cook), and then we were on our way. The journey started around noon.

The first day of hiking is a trek through the rainforests of Kili. The colors of green and the lush vegetation is amazing, absolutely beautiful. I wanted to capture it all on film but pictures don't do it near enough justice. We stopped briefly for lunch, where a mongoose wanted some of our food. It freaked me out at one point by coming so close. Dumb I know, but they are the ugliest things, weasels with red creppy eyes.

A total of 3 and a half hours for our first hike and we had reached Mandara Hut, where we would spend our first night on the mountain. It is located 2700 meters altitude. The facilities consist of a dining hall, numerous huts (4 small bed spaces per hut with little room to maneuver), and the quarters for the tour teams. The weather at night was already starting to get chilly so we couldn't wait to curl up in our thermal sleeping bags and fall asleep. And that is exactly what we did after eating a hearty supper. It was early to bed to rest our bodies for the next hike.

Day 2:

The second day started us on our journey up to Horombo hut at 3720 meters altitude. The path upwards began in the rainforest, same as the day before, but quickly shifted in to the moorlands, where the view was clear and grass and short trees were the dominant scenery. We kept our pace very slow, pole pole as our guides Adam and Mase kept reminding us. They have both each climbed the mountain at least 70 times so I trusted their judgment! The phrases of choice on this trip for them were pole, pole (slowly, slowly) and twende (lets go). Our guides were adamant about taking our time, letting our bodies adapt, and drinking at least 3 liters of water a day to keep the altitude sickness at bay.

On our way through the moorlands we met up with one of our friends Mark from CCS. He had just been to the summit and was on his way back down. We were hoping we could do the same and willingly took his good wishes! After a few hours it was time for lunch, then back on the trail quickly to continue our progress.

The hike that day seemed surprisingly easy compared to the day before. The first hike felt to me like I was walking up a staircase for 3 and a half hours. But on our way to Horombo I think the excitement was pushing me forward some what. I was in a positive mood that day and couldn't wait to get closer to our goal. I was in a good place and negative thoughts about reaching the top had yet to settle in.

The hill up to Horombo huts was not a little one. It was very steep but once we reached the top, we registered with the park attendants and went to our assigned hut for the night (it had the same set up as Mandara huts). The view from Horombo was one of the best on the mountain. The clouds would surround the huts making you feel like you were in heaven. Or if you are weird like me, kind of made you think back to your childhood and episodes of care bears where they would jump around in the clouds :). I loved seeing the clouds around the mountains edge, especially when you first wake up in the morning. And at night you could see the lights of Moshi below, a very awesome view.

So after dinner it was another early night on Kili. It seemed that the sun, the altitude and the hiking took their toll on us. I was always ready for sleep on Kilimanjaro. I was usually in bed by 8 o'clock if I could help it!

Day 3:

This was acclimatisation day. Not a pleasant day for me. It was early to rise as usual, around 7, to get breakfast in our tummies and our feet moving down the beaten path. For acclimatisation day we were only set to do a short 4 hour hike out to a place called Zebra Rocks. These cliff edges really look like they were painted with the stripes of a zebra. Really cool to see. We moved on shortly after taking in the view to get closer to Mawenzi, one of the other peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro. We rested with Mawenzi at our front and Kibo at our back. If we looked we could see our destination of Uhuru peak far in the distance.

This day for me was the most difficult, minus summit day, because I didn't feel like I was accomplishing much, I wasn't getting any closer to my destination, even if technically it was the right move to do for our bodies. They say that taking the extra day to get use to the altitude increases your chances of summiting exponentially. I felt out of place, very restless, and the altitude was getting to me. I had a splitting headache, nausea, and exhaustion was becoming my new best friend. I didn't want to wait around a day just reading books, sleeping and playing cards, I just wanted to get going.

Day 4:

This was our last hike before summit! We were on our way to Kibo, the last compound on the Marangu route. Kibo rests at 4703 meters altitude. This is where the oxygen levels can start affecting you, and our guides did warn us to take it easy as we got closer to Kibo. A slow steady pace was always the way. The wind was also crazy on this route. Really glad I had packed my windbreaker! It was in our faces and forceful, slightly chilly as well.

Our scenery for our hike to Kibo was the Alpine desert. Very barren with lots of rocks and sand. Very little life out on the plains except for those making their way to Kibo and the peak beyond.

Once we reached Kibo, around 2 in the afternoon, we had a quick bite to eat and then it was time to rest. We would need it to start our final and most challenging hike come midnight. Unfortunately for me, I was to restless and got no shut eye before supper. Just wrote in my journal and read my book. The same thing happened again after supper. I think I got around a half hour of shut eye before we were woken up by our teams at 11pm on May 17. We had a quick cup of tea, half a Mars bar, and some biscuits (tea was a daily occurrence on the mountain and they loved giving us energy boosters like chocolate as we hiked, can't complain about that haha) then we piled on our snow gear and were set. It was the beginning of the end!

Day 5:

This was a day of little sleep, cold, determination, and pain. We started trekking at midnight with the hopes of being high enough to see the sunrise over the mountain in the morning hours. The moonlight showed us the way and I was determined to focus on the feet in front of me and not the daunting task ahead of us. So Mase's feet were my guide throughout the night. The path started and we zigzagged across the mountain, as it was to steep now to go in a straight line to the top.

For the first 5 hours I was set. Pumped up and ready to go. I was excited and felt healthy. The moon was so bright and beautiful and it wasn't even to cold. A fresh sheet of snow had fallen as we had rested at Kibo, and it caught the light of the moon perfectly. We walked at a very slow pace making steady progress. We stopped often to rest up and drink enough water. I jammed out to my MP3 player at this point, needing the motivation and soundtrack :) Think I listened to everything possible...country to rock to oldies. They all helped me push forward. By keeping my mind off of the long hours that remained I was able to keep negative thoughts at bay. One of the owners of Pristine Trails, the tour company we have dealt with here in Moshi, Musa had suggested this approach. He told me that one of the secrets is to not think about it. If you drink your water and keep your mind occupied you should reach the peak. So the music helped, as well as thinking of things back home. Focusing on all of you and what might be happening and what has happened. Of course my mind always wandered back to the mountain and the exhaustion that was creeping in, but I tried my best to not think about it and stay positive. I even had to resort to making up my own little story at one point :) It was like reading a book in my head but it made the hours pass better than if I had kept my mind on the steepness and longevity of our hike.

After the first 5 hours the climbing started to get to me, as well as the altitude. We were close to the summit of Gilman's point but had a few hours to go yet. This is when my migraine kicked in and my head started to feel like it would explode. The nausea wasn't as distracting and painful but it was still there. The exhaustion from having not slept crept in at this point as well. The MP3 player went away and I just focused on one step at a time. I just kept following Mase until the sun began to rise.

Around 6 o'clock in the morning the Tanzanian sun showed itself on the horizon. We were almost at the summit but I insisted we sit down on some of the rocks to watch the beauty of it and get some pictures. So glad I did that. It is not something you would want to miss! It was bright and colorful, oranges and pinks and purples reflecting off the snow. Mawenzi stood proud in the distance as we looked out over Kilimanjaro, with Kibo camp a tiny speck below us.

After the sunrise we continued for about an hour before we reached Gilman's point. I got there alone, as Susan had to take a break and my guides encouraged me to continue. Getting to this point, you felt like you were at the highest point of Kili even though you had a few 100 meters to go. We had reached the ice cap, it was like having a brief encounter with a Canadian winter while in Africa :)

I guess I had not fully paid attention to where Gilman's point rested in relation to Uhuru peak, my mind was getting fuzzy, my body didn't want to keep up the pace, and I felt like the task of climbing was pretty much over. When Susan, Adam, and Mase reached Gilman's, at 5685 meters altitude, I was informed that it was another hour and a half, at least, to the highest point at Uhuru peak. Right then and there I almost backed down. I didn't think I could stay awake, let alone walk for another few hours.

But we continued on after a short break for tea. Couldn't give up now after climbing for days. I needed to finish what I had started. The sun was up now and it was easier to see our footing. Also, now we could see just how high up we were. It was unreal. I was actually a little nervous for the climb down since I'm not the greatest with heights. But that was a ways away yet. First, Uhuru and the rooftop of Africa.

We continued along the summit edge, going up and down and all around the rocks, crevasses, and cliffs for about two hours. Soon the exhaustion had reached the point where I could barely keep my eyes open. It was a struggle. I couldn't really register much except moving my feet slowly but surely. My head was literally nodding and my eyes kept shutting as I walked behind Mase. This continued until I saw Uhuru in front of me at 5895 meters altitude. The sign stood in contrast with the snow straight ahead. A beautiful savior of a sign!! haha. I think the adrenaline gave me a little pick me up then. Although the altitude headache stayed on full force.

Uhuru peak on Mount Kilimanjaro has to be one of the most beautiful things I ever have and will ever see. The glaciers were breathtaking, the craters and valleys unreal. The colors captured me, with the bright blues against the crisp white of the snow and the dark grey of the rock and cliff edges. I can not wait to share pictures of it. I only wish that I had been slightly more coherent at this moment. The journey really gets to you. So we spent about 15-20 minutes taking it all in, getting our pictures, and then turned around and continued back the way we had come. I wish more than anything that I could get back there, without all of the effort and pain, to take it all in when I am at my best, so my mind could register it all. Still one of the greatest moments of my life so far!

Our trek back to Kibo took a lot less than the 9 and a half hours it took us to reach Uhuru. After about 3 hours, around 12:30 pm, we were on the ground at Kibo thanking God we were still standing haha. We had a quick bite to eat and a cat nap for about an hour before continuing down to Horombo hut. They try and get you out of the highest altitude zone as quick as possible so that it doesn't affect you more than it already has.

We stayed that night at Horombo. My muscles were killing me!! Coming down the mountain screwed up my knees pretty bad and all I wanted was a good ice pack, which didn't happen. We attempted what Adam called Kili skiing, where we basically ran/glided down the sand of the mountain peak to reach Kibo camp (it is sand until you reach the ice cap). We had our ski poles so we were all set (used them for support on that last hike)! It was doing that, that killed the legs. The pressure from running down such a steep hill. But we made it quickly!!

Day 6:

The last day on the mountain!! We were ecstatic to get back to Moshi, out of the camping, unclean (fyi didn't shower on the mountain because where water was available it was ice cold so we decided to smell instead, which is how most hikers do it haha), hiking mode. We started at Horombo at 8 in the morning, reached Mandara for lunch around 11:30 then kept going until the entrance gate. We were officially done before 2 pm. By the time walking down hill was over, blisters had popped on the soles of my feet, my ankles were wrecked, and my leg muscles screamed (I limped around like a moron for two days haha). But we had made it home safe and sound!! Plus we had the experience of a lifetime! It was priceless!

I can not fully explain the beauty and hardship of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is something everyone should experience for themselves to get the full effect :) But if you don't have that opportunity I hope that the little ramblings I gave you here helped you experience it to some extent.

I'll write about Safari tomorrow! And hopefully will have pictures then too!

Take Care xoxo

Rainy days, Kili prep, and Home Visits.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The rain has caused some disturbance here in Moshi. Not as many kids have come to school these last two days and the mud is just ridiculous! It is like you have an entire backyard stuck to the bottom of your shoes. Because many of the kids of Magareza must walk a long distance to school (I have learned since my last post that a lot of the kids are actually from out side the prison) they will not show up when it rains. The mud is so slippery, there is no traction most of the time.

Yesterday we had approximately 20 kids out of the 106 enrolled at Magareza. Today maybe about 50. We did have enough to divide up the classes today, I stayed with class A, the oldest kids. For most of the day we had swahili class. They reviewed their vowel sounds. It was a lot of repetition. After break and porridge the kids were asked to draw pictures of the family. Some of them were really good drawers. I was really impressed by a little girl named Grace, she drew each person and colored them in with such care. She is very intelligent.


After lunch today Susan and I went with Edward, from Pristine Trails, our tour company, to rent our gear for Kili. It took about an hour. I got really excited!! It seemed ironic to me that I don't own nearly as much warm clothing living in Canada but here I am in Africa trying on down jackets, gaters, and snow pants. I am going to get everything packed tonight to make sure I am all set. We start this Saturday at 10 am!


Right after picking up our gear we were scheduled to do home visits with Amani, a local volunteer. He has been participating in home visits for the past four years, two days a week. He is also a founder of two of the schools here in Moshi, which CCS places volunteers in. These schools are Mtoto Rau and Jipe Moyo. He is only 24 years old.

We met him at CCS and walked the 40 minutes to a village outside the town center for our first stop. We entered the home of Giamani, a 40 year old man who suffers from AIDS and neuro-syphilis. He currently lives with his mother, who takes care of him as he is unable to get out of bed. He can sit up but has lost the function of his legs. Their house is one room, with two beds. There was clothes laying everywhere, but there wasn't any room for much else. There were six of us in there at the time of the visit, as well as her adorable great-grandchild, and that was a tight squeeze. We sat on the beds since there was no place to stand and talk.

Amani was our translator and helped explain Giamani's situation to us. He is on medication for AIDS. I never knew this before but the government of Tanzania provides medication to AIDS patients free of charge. This is medication taken once AIDS takes hold, not while the patient is suffering from HIV. We were able to see the meds he has been taking. Since he can't leave his bed (altough Amani takes him to soccer games every once in a while because he loves sports and use to play when he was able), his sister makes hospital visits for him. They can not afford the cab fare to taxi Giamani to the hospital every month. She gives updates on his condition to the doctors and they in turn provide the medication. She is the sole provider for the family, as she is his only sibling. Amani told us that she works at a saloon to help make ends meet.

Watching Giamani and being in his house was not easy. You could notice his struggle clearly in the way that he held his body, how he sat up and positioned his legs. But he smiled when Amani engaged him. He is a brave soul. His wife (unofficially Amani said) and son abandoned him when he contracted the virus, not an uncommon practice here. His son is 11 but he hasn't seen him in 5 years, since he left Arusha to come to Moshi to live with his mother.

After giving our thanks to Giamani and his mother we continued walking. After about 15 minutes we came to our second house. This was the home of Mary and her children. She has four boys, two who are in school. The younger children are Denis, who is five, and Upendo, who is a year and a half. It was when she gave birth to Upendo that she contracted HIV/AIDS. She suffered severe blood loss and needed a transfusion but the blood was tainted with the virus. To make the situation even worse, she has been breast feeding Upendo. They do not have enough money to feed him otherwise since she can not work, her husband has passed away, and her family has refused to support her, forcing her in to isolation. Again we witnessed the abandonment that comes from having HIV/AIDS.

Mary is only 35 years old with such a huge burden on her shoulders. Not only does she suffer from HIV/AIDS but she also has to deal with a disease called sickle cell anemia. It causes her a lot of pain. She has suffered from a wound on her ankle for about 5 years now, I believe it is a result of the disease, however the treatment and cause of it was hard to understand. She says that the wound is most painful when she tries to sleep at night. Unfortunately, her oldest son has contracted the disease as well. He also suffers from an enlarged heart and has problems with liver function.

The house that they live in is one room with a foam mattress on the floor. Trust me, after sitting on it for a few minutes I know that there is no way it could be comfortable with 4 or 5 people sleeping on it together. They have little else. We gave her rice as a gift and I offered some candies to her and the kids. I was fortunate to have put them in my bag earlier that day!

Right now her son Denis could be going to nursery school but the family can not afford it. One of her sons is currently being sponsored to go to school but Denis has yet to be sponsored. When I asked Amani about it he said that she is waiting for luck, it is all she has to lean on. I asked how much it would cost for a year of nursery school...the answer shocked me. A total of 36,000 shillings would be sufficient to start Denis's schooling. That is about 24 dollars. To us that is a dinner out or a new shirt, to them it is the opportunity for education and a future. The injustice of the situation is unreal. That little boy deserves an education just like anybody else. I know that his mother would love to give that to him but she can barely afford to feed her children let alone pay school fees.

Mary told us while we were there that visitors make her feel comforted and loved. She feels consoled when people show that they care. I was so happy I could be a part of that as hard as it is to acknowledge that there are people in this world that live in such hopeless conditions. It overwhelmed me at that moment to hear her say those things to us. Who am I really but a spectator in her home? I know nothing of what she suffers or feels. I can not begin to understand. Yet she welcomed us with open arms to help us understand the differences between our two worlds. She is so strong to keep going everyday. It must take a lot of will power.

Coming out of these home visits you get a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach. I don't know if you've ever had that feeling where you are just off kilter emotionally, you can't really pin down how you feel. Maybe it is a mixture of emotions just throwing you every which way. There is a sadness and disbelief accompanied by a strong desire to do something.

I have not fully processed the day yet but it was a full one. I hope to do more home visits after Kili. Until then I'm sure that Giamani, Mary and her kids will pass through my mind often.

This may be my last post before Mount Kili...Wish me luck, send positive vibes and prayers my way!

Tutaonana!! xoxo

The Sun will Come out Tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Keep in mind that this post does contain some information that may upset some people. FGM is not an easy issue to discuss but it is something that all women and men out there should be aware of. Education leads to change.


Yesterday afternoon we visited the Network Against Female Genital Mutilation (NAFGM). As you can probably imagine, it wasn't the most pleasant hour of my life. However, it was an hour I do not regret. Very informative and eye opening. The atrocities of FGM had never really crossed my mind up to this point. I knew that it was practiced but without any details it is easy to pass over in your mind. I am so glad that I can no longer sweep it aside and forget about the pain these women, girls, and children suffer. Being in that place, trapped where you believe FGM is ok, must be such a dark place.

We entered a tiny office space consisting of three rooms, on the third floor of a downtown building. The five of us who went sat down in front of Francis' desk, the man who gave us the presentation on FGM. He introduced himself and dove right in. He spoke about NAFGM's efforts to educate citizens, and stop FGM, in two different regions of Tanzania, one of them being Kilimanjaro.

In Kilimanjaro it is the Masai tribe that is known for FGM. It is very prevalent in the villages, with almost all women participating in the practice (according to an independent study). It is encouraged by most members of the community. The fathers want their children to have FGM because women with the mutilation recieve a better bridal price. The mothers believe it will make their daughters better wives. And the potential husbands believe that it will allow for better control over their future bride.

The community believes that FGM allows for better cleanliness. This is a VERY misconceived notion. Many, many years ago fungal infections in the vaginal region were more common, as water was not readily available in the rural areas, and so getting cleaned up wasn't as easy. They believed that removing some of the female genitals would thus rid them of this problem of infection. WRONG. What they remove is actually there to protect against dirt and bacteria...this is a major factor NAFGM is focusing on.

It is the elderly women in the communities, most of the time, that perform the mutilation. We were unfortunate enough to be shown some of the tools previous practicers of FGM have used. When they left the practice, because of NAFGM's encouragement, they donated their tools to the cause, to show people the truth. Most of them were very dull knives in different shapes and sizes. Ouch, to say the VERY least.

The girls/women/children that this is happening to often don't have a choice. NAFGM is working on giving them their opportunity to choose. Most of the time they are brought up with the idea of FGM, they know it will please the village, they do not know any different, they do not have the ability to out run it, or they are to young to say no. Now that the women and girls are becoming more educated about their options concerning FGM, the villages have begun performing FGM on children at younger and younger ages. This way they can not stand up and say no, there is no protest. This is one way they are trying to outrun the change that is coming. It is horrible.

Francis took the time to show us the three different types of FGM. If you are interested in knowing more you can probably find resources online, I won't go in to much detail here. The first is the most common, where the clitoris of the woman is cut. This is done mainly to prevent the pleasure of the woman. When men use to go to war they wanted a way to make sure their woman could not commit adultery. They believed that the clitoris controlled sexual desire, so without it the woman would be faithful. Again not scientifically accurate, thus the need for education in the villages. The second form of mutilation includes the cutting of the clitoris along with the removal of a part of the labia. This allows more bacteria to get inside, even though they believe the opposite. Again, another way to control the woman and keep her "clean". The third is the most horrible. Mostly practiced in Ethiopia and Somalia, it includes the steps outlined in the second form of mutilation as well as having the woman completely sown up, except for the tiniest of holes to allow for urination....I cringed seeing this. I think I literally ached and there wasn't even a possibility of that happening to me. Keep in mind there is no pain killers! The most common form of mutilation in Tanzania is the first. A lot of complications, especially during pregnancy, and with female bodily functions, arise after the mutilation, as you can well imagine.

After detailing the types and consequences of FGM, Francis put on a video to give us an idea of what this really was. He warned us going in and we had heard from other volunteers that they had to leave the room at this point. The Inter-African Committee put together a video to show the absurdity that is FGM. We saw a video of a child, a toddler really, I would guess 2 years old, who was undergoing FGM. First, the "doctor" started by cutting tribal marks in to the little girls chest. Secondly, he performed FGM. The child wailed and was being held down to endure the torture. I watched but I could not hold myself together. It was the most horrifying thing, I can not imagine what possesses people...The poor child, I wish she did not have to go through something so traumatizing.

Francis told us that originally, when NAFGM was established in Tanzania in 1998, 35% of people (not sure if the statistic was for the entire population or just the rural communities, sorry!) practiced FGM. This has since been reduced to 25%. A positive to focus on. I think that as the younger, more educated generation takes control the practice will be used less and less. One can hope!

This post was not for the light of heart. But remember that if we do not educate ourselves then the problem will never be fixed. Ignoring the issue only adds to the troubles. We can not help children, like the one I saw in that video, by tuning out the facts. These woman will only be able to see the sunshine if education wins out. That is why it is important that people like you and me stand up, and help them stand beside us.

Thank you for reading and learning along with me.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I started my placement at Magareza yesterday. It is just a temporary placement while Tulivu is on break. I found out that the school is just on break for two weeks. So I should have three weeks left with them before my time is up!

Magareza is the school at the prison in Moshi. It is for the children of the guards and inmates. When you first drive in through the gates the road is lined with massive trees, until you reach the inside of the compound where the inmates and guards are housed. It appears to be a little community within the prison, with houses, children walking to school, and the mothers doing the chores. The only difference is guards walking around with guns and prisoners working in orange jumpsuits. Usually the prisoners are farming, cutting grass, or cleaning up, from what I have seen.

You drive through the prison grounds for about 5 minutes until you reach the nursery school (there is also a primary school located on the grounds). It is a very big compound compared to Tulivu, I think you could probably fit 4 Tulivu's within the walls of Magareza. They are very lucky with the amount of space they have.

The kids were soooo welcoming when I arrived yesterday, running towards me, screaming teacher over and over again. They wanted to hold my hand, climb on top of me, and hug me. I find at Magareza the children like to maul you a little more than the kids at my other school. Kids at Tulivu are very affectionate and love to be around you, hold your hand, recieve hugs, and call for teacher. But the kids at Magareza love to pet you, touch your hair, and be picked up more. They are more hands on. Kids at Tulivu do that in smaller measures. It was overwhelming in a good way. They were so sweet.

For the first 45 minutes we played around the yard. We had fun with Duck, Duck, Goose and Ring Around the Rosey. Some kids were on the swing set and slide, while others drew pictures in the dirt. At one point I knelt down to talk to some kids on their level. Within seconds the kids had pounced on the opportunity and were petting my face and playing with my hair. It was one of those moments in life when things just get so clear. It brought tears to my eyes that they treated me this way, as if I was precious to them. It was a beautiful thing.

After morning recess they lined up, sang their national anthem, and then entered the classrooms. Magareza is divided in to classes A, B, and C. The oldest being in A and the youngest in C. Since there weren't enough teachers, on my first day classes B and C were combined. I stayed with this group. The teacher, Chelsea Ku (the name was hard to catch so this is how I am writing it for now until I find out different ...), called on kids to come up one at a time and write the numbers 1 through 20. Then the kids had to take turns reciting these numbers. After about an hour of numbers the kids had a break for porridge. This is something most of the schools provide, as long as they can afford it. Each kid gets a cup full of porridge and sits on the floor of the eating room until finished. After porridge yesterday we continued to play outside until Baba John came and picked me up.

Today I was in class C with one of the new volunteers, Keira. We helped the kids with their numbers up to ten. After break, where they were served rice and beans (very fortunate to have this as most schools are to poor to provide it, it most likely only happens once in a while), we colored pictures with the kids. The crayons were sparse so they only got one each and had to trade colors if they wanted to switch.

Magareza is full of very special, kind children. I've enjoyed my last few days there. I do miss my class at Tulivu though. It is such a learning experience. I have been put on the spot so many times here.

These are some things I do on a daily bases with my kids at Tulivu:
- Reading books. Reading English to kids who don't really understand what you are saying isn't easy. You want to share the pictures with all of them so that they at least get an idea of what you are saying, so while you are at the back of the class showing the book you lose the attention of the kids at the front. It is a chore to keep 50 kids engaged all at once.
- Singing. I taught them the Ants Go Marching and it was a hit. They really like the actions I taught them. This presents challenges because you try and get the kids to say the song themselves but they can only get a limited amount of words. They are still learning and having fun though.
- Teach ABC's, 123's, Shapes, Colors, Animals...Communication is obviously the biggest challenge here, along with the kids memorizing but not really knowing what they are saying. I try and mix up how I teach this every day but with an extreme lack of supplies it isn't easy.
- Play games. I taught the kids at Tulivu the game What Time is it Mr.Lion (aka. What time is it Mr.Wolf) last week. The swahili/english divided made it not go smoothly but the kids did catch on. It was fun to watch them get the idea behind the game! They really love to play tug-of-war, ring around the rosey, and red rover red rover.

I get to have so much fun with these kids. I wish that I could be more prepared everyday, it would put me in my comfort zone. But I guess that isn't the point. A lot of the time you are thinking on your feet, standing in front of the class, trying to entertain 50 kids ages 3-6. It is an experience!

Kwaheri! Until Next Time! xoxo


Thursday, May 5, 2011

My last day and a half has been about decisions. One being to climb Kili or not to climb Kili. The second being what do I want my new placement to be...

I'll start with the placement question since some of you might be wondering what I'm talking about. Yesterday Mama Sara took me in to the office to inform me that Tulivu Kindergarten will be closing temporarily. My teacher, Mama Mwanga had not informed me of this but I have learnt that communication is sometimes lacking in Tanzania. When I asked her about it today she said that it should only be for two weeks. In that case, I will have a temporary placement with another CCS partner program. I have a few placements in mind but have not made my final decision as of yet. I have to tell Sara this afternoon so I do have to make up my mind quickly. I am not the best decision maker...I take forever!

I don't know how I feel about this turn of events. I have been frustrated and challenged often at Tulivu, but that is a part of the learning and growing process, in my mind. I did not want to give up on it. So I am glad I will have the opportunity to return if everything works out that way. Those kids deserve some stability. And it makes me sad to think my kids won't have a school for two weeks or more...at least I assume they won't go to another school in the meantime.

I want to take a second out and discuss the kids in Moshi. My experiences with the children have been very similar to my friends in other schools around the town, so I am going to generalize the population. The children always have rhymes and songs to learn their numbers, letters, shapes, and animals. Often the children memorize these rhymes without really understanding what they are saying. You will recite your number rhyme but then if you ask a child the value of two, to show you the number, they probably won't be able to do it unless they do it in order: 1, 2, 3, ect.. There is a link missing there, between the rhymes and the meanings. But they are very smart kids who want to learn, for the most part they are eager to understand the lessons.
Also, the children in Moshi tend to be fairly violent towards each other. Yesterday I think I had 5 kids crying before it was even 8 o'clock. My theory is that the corporal punishment used in schools teaches them to be aggressive to those who are not doing what they want or who make them angry. They also fight over who is allowed to hold my hand, which is something I don't like but they crave the attention. Someday I feel like I'm saying Acha (stop) or Hapanna (No) constantly. That isn't to say that they aren't sweet kids! Quite the opposite. They show so much love towards me and accept me without really knowing me. They respect me and are such beautiful spirits. But it is something most of us have noticed while teaching here and it was a surprising phenomenon.

So changing placements for a bit....Then I also had to decide about Kilimanjaro. I've been thinking about it for the last week or so because Susan, my roommate, extended her time in Moshi in order to climb. It inspired me and I knew if I was going to climb I would want to do it with someone from my group. I went back and forth a lot yesterday and last night I finally decided it is what I want to do. I realized I would regret not taking the opportunity. This is the only time I will have the chance to do something like this. I am here now and I have the ability. I want to take the challenge. I am excited but also a little scared.
It is going to be pretty expensive, about $1600 when all is said and done. I think we will be going up Marangu route starting next Saturday.

Wish me luck!! xoxo

Our Day in Arusha.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We missed placement today in order to go to Arusha to visit the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The drive was about an hour and a half in a packed van with 13 other people.

When you drive in to the ICTR compound the security was pretty basic, the guards look under the van to make sure there isn't anything out of the ordinary. You go through the standard metal detectors upon entrance to the building. You can't bring anything in to the court room with you. No cell phones or cameras.

The first trial we sat in on was debating the defenses' sequence of its witnesses. The two witnesses to be called are under protective custody and must be brought from the safe houses to the tribunal, therefore time must be given to make the transfer arrangements. The accused in this trial is being convicted of genocide in the first few weeks of April 1994. However, he claims to have been at the French Embassy at this time and not guilty of the crimes they are accusing him of. The witnesses are supposed to support his alibi of being at the embassy. Unfortunately, the court went to a closed session at this time to protect the identity of the witness. The public was made to leave the room. If information on where the witness worked, lived, and other personal information is leaked their life could be endangered.


We left to do some shopping at the Masai market and returned to see another court session. This was a different trial, a different situation, a different accused. A witness was present in the room this time, although we weren't able to see them for safety reasons. In this circumstance the witness was being questioned by the prosecutors to determine the location of the accused at a specific time in April 1994. It was speculated that the accused was involved in a massacre at one of the churches at this time. The witness was claiming to have seen him at the convent, about an hour away, around the time of the massacres...The prosecutors were really focusing on the distance between the church and the convent, and how long it would take to get from one to the other. We were separated from the court by a glass pane. To remove the witness from the court room a curtain was pulled across the screen to protect his identity.


To see The Tribunals in person is surreal. You are sitting listening to court jargon but the information they were providing was very interesting and informative. To be in the same room of those accused of genocide...to think of the tragedy that happened in Rwanda... it is upsetting, unthinkable and fascinating. You feel removed from your emotions and the situation while you are going through the motions. I hope I get to go back again during my stay in Tanzania.

My Weekend in Zanzibar

Monday, May 2, 2011

We left Moshi for Zanzibar at 1:30 on Friday...really that ended up being closer to 2:00 on Tanzanian time :) We got to the airport and flew out at 3:30, taking an hour to land in Zanzibar and then almost and hour and a half drive to the hotel. As we drove, looking out the window you saw palm trees, huts and cows everywhere. The sky was a beautiful bright blue and we caught glimpses of the Indian Ocean the farther we drove.

We stayed at the Amman Bungalows, I roomed with my roomies from home, Iren and Susan. Erinn and Corrine opted for the more expensive option, which overlooked the ocean. The rooms were clean and sparse, with mosquito nets. Nothing special but not a dive :)

First things first, we ran to the room to drop off our bags and immediately headed to the outdoor bar to catch the sunset over the water. It was stunning. I took lots of pictures! I will share them asap. We had a beer and then headed to supper at Langi Langi. I had their Margarita pizza, which reminded me of home. We talked for a few hours then headed to the beach to dip our feet in the Indian Ocean for the first time :)

Saturday we took a boat out to do some snorkeling. There were about 15 of us on board. The ride took about an hour and a half, most of which I spent laying under the relentless sun of Zanzibar...no matter what people tell you, you never seem to put on enough sunscreen. My back and shoulders got the worst of it. Hoping the pain goes away in a few days. The snorkeling and coral reef were great. The water was the perfect temperature, not to mention the most gorgeous blue and aqua you will ever see, and there were plenty of fish to watch!

After lots of time swimming around we went on the beach for lunch..They caught fish so I just enjoyed the rice and fruit that went with it :) We made our way back to the hotel, where I again got to much sun :)

We relaxed and got ready for supper. Another relaxing evening. A few of the girls went to a party down the beach but my back was in pain so I had to opt out. Got a good nights sleep though :)

Sunday we checked out around 9 am. We had a day packed with sightseeing. First we stopped at a spice farm. It was really cool to see where all the spices originate from :) Mr.Spice, as he is nicknamed, cut an aloe plant right at the beginning and Erinn and I proceeded to rub the Aloe plant on our backs haha. He showed us so many plants and trees, I can't remember all the spices but there are a few that stuck out in my mind. There was the most amazing lemon grass, ginger root, the plant that lends the scent to Channel No.5, an orange tree (they are green here!) and a cinnamon tree (you peel the bark off to get the cinnamon, but the leaves of the tree smell really bad). When we came to the coconut tree we had quite the performance. One of the workers climbed the tree, with the assistance of some rope tied around his feet, singing and jumping his way to the top. He sang at the top of his lungs and threw some coconuts to the ground. Once he made his way to the bottom he cut the coconut and we got to taste the milk inside. It was pretty good!

After that we went to lunch at the Mercury restaurant (named after Freddie Mercury who lived in Zanzibar). The pasta there was delicious. The temperature was so hot by that point that we were all in a sweat, and not really looking forward to more walking, especially since we were all burnt to some degree. But we moved forward and had a walk tour of Stone Town, named for the material used in its buildings. It reminded me of my time in France. It had that medieval, historical feeling about it. The cobblestone streets were all very narrow, with the buildings rising above you. The were not all uniform, the details on the railings, windows, and doors were very unique and intricate but all of them had the white stone that makes the area stand out. We visited the House of Wonders first. It was the Sultans home and the first building to have electricity on the island. This is where the museum of Zanzibar's history is located. The house is shockingly beautiful and massive!! (a fortress was built beside the house to specifically protect it) We walked through with our guide giving us brief explanations. The history of the slave trade is horrific and interesting. It was the biggest concentration of slave trading in East Africa and catered mostly to Europe and the Arab world. The Arabs gave Zanzibar its name, meaning the place of black people, and began the slave trade on the island. The slave trade lasted for many years, the last freed slave having passed away in 1985!

These are all little bits and pieces of its history, to remember it all in one day, with that heat, was impossible :) We visited some of the dungeons where they kept the slaves. It was pitch dark (they added light for tourists). One room house up to 50 men and the larger room (still VERY small) housed 75 women and children. They slept on the upper level made of stone and the path way was their toilet, where feces were able to drain out. They would keep them there for 2 to 3 days waiting for auction. This is over my head and having been in those cells I still can't grasp the concept that people had lived like that in such confined areas. They also showed us the chains that were used in the cells. It was a long chain, with neck holes evenly spaced, so you were always no more than a foot away from those around you. We also visited the Anglican church, which use to be used for the selling of slaves (it wasn't a church at that time). In this building there was a place where slaves were designated to stand, while being whipped, to determine their value. The slaved value depended on how much they cried during their beating.

There is so much more I could say but the history I have is all bits and pieces. I would love to pick up a book on the slave trade so that I could really understand it instead of giving you all these small mixture of facts...There was a beautiful monument built in 1997 at the slave trading site to commemorate those who suffered. It was haunting, and used one of the authentic chains to display how slaves were treated.

After taking in this tour we were headed for the airport. This presented a few obstacles. First, when we got there they told us Susan wasn't booked on the plane. About 20 minutes of talking got that one figured out, Thank God! Then the boarding time came and went without any plane to speak of. It is a VERY small airport so you can see if your plane has arrived or not :) An hour later it shows up. We were worried about our connecting flight. On the way to Zanzibar it is direct but on the way back we had a stop over in Dar es Salaam, had to get off the plane, run to pick up our boarding passes and catch the plane to Kili. Luckly there were a lot of us connecting so they had delayed our second flight as well. We got in to Kili airport 2 hours late but safe and sound. By that point we were all exhausted and happy to be back in the cooler air of Kilimanjaro. I don't think I have ever experienced the sun like it was in Zanzibar! It was incredible, I don't know if I could ever do that for more than two days haha.

I will try adding soem pictures so the descriptions I've written here make a bit more sense :) Sorry if its jumbled, at the internet cafe and have limited time so I'm just trying to spit it all out haha!

Love from Moshi xoxo