TIA: This is Africa

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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It has been over a month since I said goodbye to Moshi.

It feels more like a lifetime. A world away from here. Everyday I think about my experiences in Tanzania with longing and wonder. Did it really happen to me? Did I swim in the Indian Ocean, van surf down Mount Kilimanjaro, get to know great people from around the world? Did I really walk on the rooftop of Africa, see lions up close, kiss giraffes and hold crocodiles? Did I meet and fall in love with some of the greatest kids I'll ever know, did Moshi really feel like home, did volunteering become my way of life, did I truly discover some of the harsh realities people face? Will the lessons stay with me forever or will Africa slowly fade away? If I'm being honest, how much does that scare me? What will happen next and how can I build on what I know now? How can I reflect my memories, the lessons and truths learned, in my life back home? Well...I am still working on it. Here is what I know now.

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People say that this is an experience of a lifetime. And it is, I do not wish to take one moment I had in Moshi for granted. But for me I feel like that phrase falls flat. How can those four little words sum up the last two months of my life. They don't describe what I have felt or seen, they do not encompass all of the quirks, joys, fears, and beauties that have existed for me. I know that I can not sum up Tanzania in four words or less, I guess that is why I have written so much on this blog :). I hope that by reading my posts over the last 2 months, you have learnt something new and now have no need to listen to me sum up my Tanzanian life. You have heard about it, experienced it, and seen it a long with me. Perhaps you have felt some of my happiness, sorrows, and excitement. And maybe you now have the desire to seek the unknown or help where you have never thought you could. It was my hope and reason for documenting my days abroad.

I encourage everyone to leave behind what they know, to experience a new world and reality. It will open you up to all kinds of possibilities you never imagined, for instance teaching 50 kids who don't speak your language or climbing the highest peak in Africa. Yet I know that these trips are not possible for everyone. And for those of you whose lives are going down different paths than my own, there are still many ways to help, because we can all make a difference no matter where we are.

I know that those who sponsored me as I went on this trip made a difference, to me and the people of Moshi, just by opening their hearts and giving what they could from the convenience of our hometown. You do not have to travel abroad to effect change, although it is a great way to see the world through new eyes. Perhaps, think about doing something through your own community (soup kitchen, Non-profits, hospitals, ect...), look at Kiva.org (a great way to help people out of poverty. looking in to this one myself and have heard good things!), or sponsor a child to go to school (it could be less than your days wage for an entire year of education). I believe that every bit counts, even when you can not see it. If a child smiles, if a woman can finally get her business up and running, if you make someone feel cared for. I have recently come to realize that it all matters.

Through CCS, I learnt that every action we take is added to and built on until a combination of good deeds works together to bring about a positive difference. You may not see it now but it is entirely possible that down the road someone has lifted themselves out of poverty, received an education, or come back from a life they thought to be over. In God's eyes we are all worth the effort.

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Coming home has been an interesting change. Life was never perfect in Africa, it is not what you dream it to be or what you conceive in your mind (not in my experience anyways). I do not want my time there to come across as a fairytale, I do not want it sugar coated or made out to be anything more than what it was. Even though, upon reflection, I remember every moment with fondness, there were many difficult times to be had. These, combined with the amazing experiences and happiness that Africa brought in to my life, make up for one complete and worth while journey.

But the journey does not end with my departure from Moshi. It continues, so long as I keep Tanzania in my thoughts. For now I am dealing with a small case of reverse culture shock. I struggle every day to reconcile the person I was while in Africa with the North American side of myself. Can the two personalities co-exist?

In Africa I was able to enjoy a life with few possessions but lots of great moments and people. Home is not devoid of these things, yet there is a selfishness that exists which is hard to overcome. It is a relatively unconscious way of life that most Westerners adopt. I find myself fighting between the extremes of both worlds every day.

I also feel a keen sense of lose and detachment. I have lost that connection that comes with having immersed yourself in a new way of living. I miss the people and the pace of life that was Tanzania. I miss its problems, as stupid as that sounds...I rather be able to see it everyday and confront it then sit back and pretend that these things aren't happening in our world. I hate that it is so easily pushed aside here. It makes me feel helpless. (I do believe that every little bit counts, and what I can do from home matters. Yet, having just come from the forth poorest nation in the world, things are a little skewed.) The funny thing is, that when I was there, I felt helpless as well, not having the solutions to problems that are so ingrained in Tanzanian life, that are right in front of me. I guess it will never be perfect and you will always be envious of what you do not possess...in this case my home in Moshi.

It is not just the Tanzanians or their culture that I feel a detachment from. But losing the every day conversations and interactions with my fellow volunteers has been a struggle. Finding like minded people, those that share the same passion as you, is not always easy. When you find it, do not give it up. All of us at CCS had a common goal and a love for Moshi that isn't easy to share with others. When you are pushed together in a confined area you draw on each other. We became like a family, the volunteers and staff. It was a great environment for learning. Sometimes now, when I need to get these things off my chest or reminisce, I no longer have the opportunity to do so. It is not uncommon, when you share life experiences with people, it is them who will best understand. Losing the direct link to this sucked, no other words for it. haha. We do hope to have a CCS reunion soon though!

Despite all of the above I think this might be the biggest frustration:
The tabloids in the supermarket. Is that necessary? Really? When people are dieing from starvation? When Mary can only feed her family one meal every second day? When my kids have no resources available to learn what they need to know? When the people of Uru, Kilimanjaro live in such poverty our minds can not comprehend it, even after we have laid eyes on it? It is disgusting. I like fashion as much as the next girl but this is just ridiculous. Famous people are inconsequential compared to what is really happening, compared to real life. The End.

Despite some of the negatives I have experienced since coming home, I am settling back in to life well. I miss it everyday but I also love my home and the family and friends I came back to. I love being able to share Tanzania with them. It is really the two extremes of both cultures that throw you off because they have such opposing views on life. They can not be reconciled, you just have to fight through the clutter everyday to find your balance.

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Most importantly, I try and remind myself everyday of those kids that I love so much. They were some of my greatest teachers, bringing me to the realization that every laugh, every smile, and every word counts. In retrospect, they taught me to be optimistic through it all. Through being with them, I learned that my reality can change, who I am can be better if I am willing to try and am open to the possibilities. Like them, I seek to better myself through education, without fully understanding the repercussions in my life. I hope that I continue to see these repercussions for years to come, I do not wish to forget.

I suppose it was not just my kids that taught me these lessons. Without the privileges and conveniences that frequent our lives in Canada, Tanzanians often find themselves surviving. They struggle and fight because they know no different. Even in the little things, like washing their clothes by hand or walking every where, there is no break. The determination found in the daily life of Tanzanians that continues to amaze me. We would not be happy with these inconveniences because we know no different. It isn't that they are better or we are better. It is just a difference of circumstances. I wonder every day why God choose to give me this life while he gave others a different struggle to sort through. I try to remind myself of this so as not to give in to the temptations that surround us every day. I will admit that I fail more than I succeed. Big surprise, I am far from perfect. I am so far from it that I can not even imagine it. But of this much I am sure: if they can live as they do I am fully capable of the little efforts it takes to change my perspective and lend a hand. Even if I can not go back for years to come I will try my best not to lose what I have gained from Tanzania.

But more than just the struggles and hardships, I have seen the importance of putting people and relationships before money and possessions, a love for nature and the outdoors, and the need to appreciate the little things (like a sticker on the hand, a bag of rice, indoor plumping, a pencil). Living in another culture lets you absorb all of the good things it has to offer. I am so grateful for the opportunity to see both the good and the bad.

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I sit here feeling like I have many more things to share with you, so much that hasn't been covered, or things that have been said that are completely unnecessary. But I have done my best to share my life with you. I know I can be long winded at times so I thank you for sticking it out with me :)

As for Tanzania, I will go back. I can not see any other way. I fear that it gave me much more than I could have ever given. I will reflect on it with both a joy and a sadness. And when the memories begin to fade I will always have this blog to remind me what my Tanzanian life was truly all about. It was real and it was beautiful.


Life is full of love and adventure. Go and find it.
Hakuna Matata <3

Saying Goodbye...

Friday, June 10, 2011

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The word goodbye holds so many underlying meanings and emotions. It is not the simple, uncomplicated word that it appears to be at first glance. Goodbyes can be unpleasant, painful affairs. Although, it can offer the hope and excitement of a reunion in the future. Goodbyes contain all of the moments, big and small, that you have shared with that person/place and all of the memories that you will cling to as you move forward in life. Goodbyes are bittersweet, full of the joy and thankfulness these opportunities have given you but also full of the sadness that comes with leaving something wonderful behind.

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I am so grateful for my time spent at Tulivu Kindergarten. My kids have shown me a whole different side to myself that I never knew existed. I never thought that I would be able to stand in front of 50 kids and teach a lesson when they speak Swahili and I speak English. And I sure didn't think that I would fall hopelessly in love with them either.

Before coming here teaching was not something I ever desired to do but I am so glad I was forced in to it. That satisfaction you get when you see understanding dawn on your students face, or they get the answer right for the first time, is a high in itself. You want nothing more but for them to succeed. Helping these kids and making them smile everyday has been the greatest gift.

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Today I did a little less teaching and added a little more play to the mix :) I figured it was my last day and the kids deserved to have some fun, smile and laugh. In the early morning we played games; duck, duck, goose and What Time is it Mr.Lion (instead of wolf). The kids had a lot of fun with it. All of them wanted to be Simba. Next we brought out some bubbles. I don't think I have ever seen kids go so crazy in my life. They were screaming and jumping all over the place. Watching them try to catch the bubbles was hilarious. There was so much life and energy in them today and I couldn't have been happier.

After they went in to the classroom we played some music for them (speakers and ipod provided by some other volunteers). The kids danced along to Waka Waka and Waving Flag. So much fun!! It is so funny when the kids here sing waka waka, 100 percent adorable. They were shaking their little hips and having a good time. We passed out stickers, just because we could, and because the kids love putting them on their hands and face :)

Once porridge was done and cleaned up I passed out some bracelets that I had made for the kids. Fashioned out of three pipe cleaners, they were bright and easily adjustable :)Just a simple thank you to the school, since our resources are pretty limited.

The official goodbye ceremony was at the end of the day. They set up a table at the front of the class, with flowers (fake), table cloths and doilies :) All the kids wore their "goodbye crowns" and us volunteers were each offered a soda with some milk and honey crackers. Mama Mwanga presented me with a flower (also fake), a card and an official letter of thanks and recognition. It was really sweet. A lot of the kids from my Pre II class were asked to say some words, shook my hand, and said a formal goodbye. I almost couldn't get through that part but I was pleasantly surprised with my ability to hold back the tears.

After class I was lucky enough to get to walk four of my kids home, Esta, Jenifa, Shifra, and Gidion. Seeing where they lived made saying goodbye easier, knowing where they are at and who their parents are. Surprisingly to me, none of them had fathers living at home.

Esta lives with her mother and sister in a one room house with no space to maneuver. Jenifa has lots of room to move around and lives with her mother and grandmother only a few minutes from the school. Shifra and Gidion live quite a distance away. Shifra lives with her sister and where her parents are wasn't really explained. When we walked in there was a very cheesy soap opera playing on the television. Shifra ran to change out of her uniform and we sat and talked to her sister for a few minutes. At Gidion's house I met his mother and sisters. It is a two bedroom home with a little bit of space to work with. We were offered soda's and talked until we were finished. Gidion was adorable and told his mother that she could stay and take care of his sisters cause he was going to go to Canada with teacher. Haha. I would have gladly taken him home :)

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I will never forget my kids at Tulivu or Magareza. I hope to hear about them in the future because I will miss them more than anything else. They have affected my life in ways I did not expect. I am so grateful and will take everything that I have learned through my placements home with me. I wouldn't trade my African experience for anything :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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A month ago I wrote a blog about my home visit to Mary and her family. Today I was fortunate enough to see them moved in to their new home. Before they were living in a dingy one room house, with a foam "mattress" acting as a bed and an assortment of pots, dishes, and clothing decorating the floor. Now they are settled in to a two room home with tiled floors (sort of, it is more of just a covering for the cement but definitely a step up), real mattresses, sheets, pillows, and electricity!

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In the last month, since I have last talked about Mary, she has had many health issues to deal with and been in and out of the hospital. This is due to her sickle cell anemia. It was a close call but she is on the mend.

I should also mention, speaking of health, that Upendo has been recently tested for HIV/AIDS. Mary, who has contracted the disease, was breast feeding her until about 6 weeks ago. So there was a huge chance that baby Upendo would get sick as well. But all the tests have come back negative so far!! Very, very good news.

Because of her poor health the children have been living with neighbors and friends of the family. Denis, her 5 year old has been staying with Mama Olivia, a woman who works at Jipe Moyo, one of our CCS placements. We got to go and see him today and bring him to the family's new home. Seeing him again was just what I needed. He has the sweetest spirit and his smile steals your heart. I can not explain the joy that little boy brought me today. Despite everything he has been through in his short life, his smile still reaches his eyes and he trusts without hesitation. Clinging like a little monkey, he loves to be hugged.

Denis is very underdeveloped for his age, as are the other children in the family. Upendo is 11 pounds underweight and her older brother Shedrack, whom I met today, is 14 but appears to be 9 or 10. He has also been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, like his mother, and has not developed at a normal pace.

Denis has been slow to develop mentally as well. He has yet to be enrolled in school, as I have mentioned previously, and therefore is talking very little and does not know what most 5 year olds are expected to know. Yet he still remains very interactive and picks up on things very easily. I know that if he was given the chance he would succeed.

Therefore, my roommate Susan and I have been working with the family to find a school for him to attend. Last Friday, I went to Jipe Moyo (where they orchestrate the home visits) in order to visit the schools in the area of Majengo (the village where Mary lives). Mary wants Denis to attend a local day school and we want nothing more than that as well. He deserves the opportunity to learn and thrive.

We found a school called Saint Louis, about a 15 minute walk from the new house, which makes it easily accessible. It is a private catholic school. Amani, a founder of Jipe Moyo said that it is the school with the best reputation in the area and that it has very good facilities. We met with the administration and were able to discuss Denis's enrollment. He starts July 11 after the current break is over :)

I am so excited for him and hope that he is happy there. He is so smart that I do not doubt his capabilities. However, I do worry about how far behind he is and how that will effect his presence in the classroom. But this little amazing boy who had no chance at education is now on his way to new opportunities. People say that education is one of the keys to development and sustainability. I agree. I am happy that the family has this chance:)

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Since I am leaving in 5 days I had to say goodbye to the family today. I hope that I see them again in the future. Not really a goodbye, just see you later. I would love to visit Tanzania again!


Hope you are all doing well!! See you soon! xoxo

Beautiful Nairobi

Sunday, June 5, 2011

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I will forever remember this weekend as the giraffe kissing-crocodile holding-elephant petting-good time having-totally amazing experience of a lifetime. I think I have to classify Saturday as one of the best days I have had since arriving in Africa almost two months ago. To think I never planned to visit Kenya while I was here! I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to see some of Kenya's beautiful sights, with its skyscrapers, wildlife, and great people. Unforgettable.

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We left CCS behind after placement on Friday to make our way across the border, with the Dar Express bus line, to Kenya. We drove through the Tanzanian country side for four hours, the scenery changing from the lush rainforest to the barren desert. At times, because of the absence of proper roads, I swear we were off roading. Picture a big coach bus zooming through the dirt and dust and that was us. Sleep was not much of an option as I bumped around in my seat.

We reached the border and piled off the bus. First things first, we went to the Tanzanian offices to receive our exit stamp. Simple, done, no questions. Before we knew it we were walking across the Tanzanian border, through no man's land, and in to Kenya. We walked out of one country and in to the next :). We were surrounded by trucks, it felt more like a dusty run-down truck stop than a government run border crossing. Dingy little shops lined the road while goats and chickens wandered here and there. Garbage littered the streets the farther out you looked. The whole experience would not have been complete without Maasai approaching us with jewelry to sell.

Going through Kenyan customs was fast and easy. 25 dollars US got us our Kenyan visas. Stampeded and inspected, they handed back our passports. We were officially in the country. Back on the bus we went. 2 more hours saw us in the city of Nairobi.

I would describe Nairobi as the African New York. The city lights caught my attention immediately. Moshi does not have street lights so the glow of the city caught us all by surprise. Hundreds of people lined the streets, out for a night on the town. The city was alive, it hummed with excitement.

When we stopped on the side of the street, at the Dar booking office, there was a taxi from our hostel waiting to pick us up. We piled in to the car, anticipating the end of our journey. Our taxi driver was extremely nice but as the city lights faded and we turned on to a dirt road after 15 minutes of driving, we all started to feel a little weird. It was one of those situations, as a woman traveller, where you start to think "where is he taking us and how fast can I run". haha. Completely unfounded worries, but when you are with someone you don't know in a foreign country you can not navigate your mind wanders.

Needless to say, we reached our hostel safe and sound. It was about 20 minutes outside the city down a dirt road, with many other hotels surrounding it. It was beautiful with nice gardens, great staff, and plenty of space. It was like a hotel with dorm style bedrooms. We bunked with a 16 year old from Atlanta Georgia who is in the city helping to restore and stock a library. I couldn't imagine leaving home at 16 to do something so selfless! Really nice kid.

The hostel had rooms upstairs and down stairs hosted a large foyer, a living room with cathedral ceilings and a TV, a fully stocked kitchen, free internet, a dining room and laundry services. They were so helpful and accommodating. They were even great enough to hire a car for us for Saturday.

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We woke up at 8 o'clock Saturday morning to shower and eat breakfast before heading in to the city.

First thing on our list was the elephant orphanage. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was set up in Nairobi to rescue, take care of, and rehabilitate orphaned elephants and rhinos. The most common reasons for orphaned elephants are as follows:
1. Increase in population and development. Most elephants are orphaned because of humans. The development of Kenya is taking away from the elephants natural habitat and forcing them out of their homes.
2. Poaching. Still a huge problem in Kenya, poaching is the second biggest cause of orphaned elephants.
3. Accidental deaths. This includes elephants falling down water wells, where the Sheldrick Trust has found some of the orphans we were able to see on Saturday.

The best time to see the elephants is during their feeding, between 11 and 12 in the morning. The youngest elephants are feed first. They were beyond adorable! The watching area is a big dirt field, with a tiny rope separating the tourists from the wildlife. We got to pet the littlest one, who was only a few months old. He had a blanket on his back to keep warm and followed one of the workers around like a puppy dog.

Next it was time for the older orphans to be feed. Out went the little ones, running to keep up with the group and in came the bigger elephants ready for some grub. They get fed out of a bottle with a formula specifically designed to help them reintegrate in to the wild later in life. I didn't catch what exactly was in this formula because the crowd was pretty excited and loud. So it was hard to here all of the explanations given by the workers.

We stayed and watched the elephants for a half hour. It was so cool to see them in their environment, interacting with each other. Next we went on to the Giraffe Center, about 10 minutes away. This was one of the best experiences I've had in the last two months!

In the center there is a balcony area so that you are face level with the giraffes and a ground floor where you can see the giraffes and really take in the height and immensity of these beautiful creatures. From the balcony, seeing them face to face, was unbelievable. If you put a pellet of food between your lips you can even get a kiss!! Let me say that it is weird but fascinating haha. Getting a kiss from a giraffe is a must in your lifetime. Fly to Nairobi and do it! :)Their tongues are rough and obviously a little slobbery but their saliva is a natural anti-septic.

You can't touch their faces, like you would pet a horse, because they don't like it and will headbutt you. Other than that they are gentle and peaceful animals. Eating out of your palm, there lips feel firm and fuzzy. When we went to ground level to feed the giraffes I was a little hesitant at first. You have these huge animals reaching down out of the sky to eat from your palm. You just see them diving towards you and you automatically want to dart out of the way. But if you stay you get to interact with a wild animal in a way that few people ever get to do :).

As we left the giraffe center our driver told us about a park not far away that housed crocodiles. We could enter the park for about 10 dollars so we were all for it. The crocodiles were scary and amazing. The guide was really knowledgeable. He kept a stick with him to point out parts of the crocodile, and poke them from time to time. He did this to show us how they attack. If you ever come across a crocodile always stand on the side that their tail is curving towards. When they attack they wipe their tails around and turn their jaw for the kill. Witnessing their fast reflexes I knew that I never ever want to encounter a croc in real life. How did the crocodile hunter do it?!? They can break your bones and sever limbs with their teeth. Their tails can knock off your head if you are unlucky enough to be in range.

The crocs make a low hissing noise in their throats when they get angry. It is like a rumble. The oldest croc they had in their facility was 40 years old. The youngest were around 2 years old. These ones we got to hold. Now I can officially say I've held a crocodile :) Although the guide was helping with holding the neck! Wasn't looking to lose a finger on this trip. Their bellies are so soft and squishy but their backs are hard as rock and scaly. A very interesting contrast.

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One place that we all really wanted to be able to see on our trip was Kibera, one of the biggest slums in East Africa. It is 20 km wide and houses 800,000 people. This is about the distance from Keswick to Fredericton. Imagine the entire population of New Brunswick squeezed in to this tiny space.

As we approached the slums our driver warned us to lock our doors, just in case. With the windows rolled down slightly the stench of garbage, feces, and death filled my nostrils. My eyes weren't really connecting with my brain or my heart at that moment. I couldn't really believe what we were seeing. Most of the buildings were tin lean-tos, two walls and a roof. The tin was rusted and run down. There may have been a few feet between each house. Within the slums themselves there are no roads so we were just seeing the outskirts of Kibera. Cars are not a possession they have the luxury to own. Most residents walk to the city to work, 18 km total.

Garbage lined the streets, a permanent fixture as we drove along. Dogs roamed, eating it here and there. Children dug through it to discover what treasures it held for them.

I was numb to what I was seeing. I was astonished. I am heart broken. It was the worst poverty I have ever witnessed. There is currently a government run project in place to clean up the slums and raise the quality of life. I hope to learn more about it in the future.

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We eat lunch/supper at a place called Savannah. Slouchy couches and great food. Just what we needed after a long day. The rest of the evening we walked around the heart of the city, blending in to the noise and the atmosphere. We went in to a few shoe shops and souvenir stores, but didn't buy much.

As we walked it was impossible to watch your step because you were to busy watching the cars. They rarely stopped for you, traffic was crazy and fast. We came to one very hectic intersection and as we were crossing the road Jennica, one of my friends here at CCS, fell in to a man hole. Yes, a man hole. One second she was level with me and the next second I was looking down at her, trying to help her up. She was out of there in a flash, trying not to cry and limping across the street. Thank God nothing was broken! But I think it scared her pretty bad at the time, being in an unknown city, with hundreds of people all around you, and bleeding on the street. Not Ideal. Becca, another friend, ever resourceful, pulled out her first aid kit to attend to Jennica's leg. She didn't have everything she needed but we worked with what we had. We can now say that we taped a pad (to keep the blood contained) to Jennica's leg in the middle of Nairobi. Random! But she is doing better now, just a little bruised and scratched up.

At night we were going to go out but, after Jennica cleaned her wounds in a shopping mall (haven't seen one of these in a while, kind of felt like home) bathroom, we decided to change plans a bit. There just happened to be a movie theater by the bathrooms and the Hangover II was playing. Really funny but still like the first one better :)

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Sunday morning we woke up bright and early at 4:45 in the morning. We had found out that the Dar Express left for Moshi at 6:30 in the morning so we wanted to make sure that we got tickets. Easier planned then accomplished.

We arrived at the booking office at 5:50, 10 minutes before they open. We were the first in line but they still made it beyond difficult for us. First, we had to wait for the people going to Dar es Salaam to purchase their tickets, then they told us there were only 6 tickets available to Moshi, then they told us 'sorry' those tickets have been sold. How they got sold in the few minutes we had been standing was impossible. We knew they were just trying to box us out because we were foreigners and it left an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I would like to think that if I encountered a foreigner in my home country, whether richer than me or poorer than me, I would treat them with some respect. We were not feeling welcome at all. But keep in mind that this was our first bad experience with the people in Kenya. Everyone else was so welcoming and nice!!

So after getting the run around for a few minutes they decided to show us another bus station that maybe could help us out. But no, they were sold out of Moshi tickets as well. We called our home manager, Deo, to see if he could help but there wasn't much he could do from a distance.

We decided the best thing to do was return to the Dar Express office to negotiate. There wasn't anyone currently on the bus and we figured there were still tickets available but they just wanted to scare the Muzungu's in to giving them more money. And unfortunately I think we were right. There is this misconception that all foreigners are rich but they don't understand that where I come from I am not made of money. Yes, in Africa my money is worth more but it isn't like I have unlimited funds to work with. It is a very frustrating aspect of the culture here to be classified and judged without question.

When we returned to the Dar office they were still not budging. They brought a driver to us who was offering to drive us in a minibus (aka. dala dala) back to Moshi for 200 dollars. TaChyla, an amazing incredibly funny human being I have met through CCS, laughed in his face. We were not having anything to do with that. We asked them one more time and they settled to give us the tickets for $3500 Kenyan shillings. Twice what the ticket is actually worth and twice what we had payed to get to Nairobi. But what could we do? I didn't want to be stranded in the city. So we took the offer and rushed to the bus before they could give us any more trouble.

I felt so cheated and frustrated. This was the first time in my life that I really felt signaled out for my race and nationality. I got a taste for it and I didn't like it. I am thankful that I do not have to deal with it on a daily bases and feel bad for those that do. It makes you feel yucky, for lack of a better word. You feel angry and annoyed and disappointed. I wish I didn't have to give in to them, to prove a point, but from past stories I have heard I wasn't willing to give up my seat home. A few of my friends had encountered the same problem in Dar es Salaam and had to ride a dala dala back to Moshi. 8 hours packed like sardines in to a minibus. Not for me!!

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My experience in Nairobi was unforgettable and I am soooooo glad for the chance to see another side of Africa. i plan on revisiting Kenya in the future. I still have to see the rest of it!!

ps. Just found out this afternoon that there was explosion in the city of Nairobi Sunday after we left. It was around the bus area, don't think it was a bomb on a bus though. Don't really know many details but so happy we were out of the city. It is all over the news here. A lot of people were injured so we are feeling pretty grateful at the moment.


Take Care everyone! See you in a week :)

Ninakupenda

Thursday, June 2, 2011

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I did a craft with my kids at Tulivu today. It was really fun and I think they really enjoyed it! We usually do songs and games in the morning because there are not a lot of resources to work with. Most days it is just me and my imagination to keep the kids entertained and learning. But since I don't have much time left with the little ones I have decided that now is the time to pull out the big guns.

I spent time last night cutting hearts out of red and pink construction paper. Then I wrote I Love You (ninakupenda) on each heart. Because I have been teaching them "you are my sunshine", I wanted to stay on that affection track haha. We got to sing the song again today and they love the "i love you" actions.

I gave each kid a heart and let them decorate it with stickers and crayons. A lot of them drew pictures of random things: people, suns, houses, cars, chickens...It was so much fun going through them afterwards and smiling at all the drawings they came up with. They absolutely love stickers!!

I had them all lift up their hearts at the end to show them off for a picture :) I will share that on my blog once I get back from Kenya on Sunday. They kept saying "I love you, I love you" over and over again. It was so cute.

I am going to hang them off the beams in the one room school house. That will be a project for after placement next week. I can't wait to decorate the classroom with the kids art :)

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I gave the Pre II's a math test today, similar to the worksheets I gave them yesterday. Most of them did great which made me so happy but there are 3 kids that need a lot of work. They didn't really understand the concept of the value of a number at all. I want to work on addition and subtraction with them next week so we will have to keep that in mind.

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Leaving for Kenya tomorrow after placement! Taking the Dar Express to Nairobi and going to the elephant orphange, the giraffe center, and Kibera, the largest slums in East Africa. I'm really excited!!

Talk to you all soon! xoxo

Salama na Upendo

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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How am I so blessed to have three amazing days with my kids in a row??? I do not know. They are so precious. They want to learn and be loved. And I have not been able to stop myself from falling in love with them all. Even those that get under my skin haha. My heart has grown so much because of these little Tanzanians. They will never know the impact that they have had on me no matter how much I try and show them.

I feel like another week and a half with them is not enough. Today as they sang their national anthem and said their prayers I was amazed to think that next week is my last with them. I feel like I have so much left to teach them. If I could stay to see them through life then maybe I would be satisfied. But I know that extending for another week, or month or year would never be enough. A lot of CCS volunteers decide to extend their programs once the end draws near. I think it is because there is always more to do, you never feel finished here. There is always more to learn, see, and teach. It is hard to leave and be satisfied because you just want to know that they will be ok and well taken care of.

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I was able to continue with my teaching of "You are My Sunshine" to the school today. The more we sing it the better they get. They could actually sing the tune with most of the words today :) Not that all the kids got it but a lot of them did, especially the older ones. Even after the morning, some of my pre-2' were singing it during Math class. They also kept pointing at the sky saying Jua (sun) and drew suns on their papers. I want to get the song translated so that I know they understand exactly what it means to be someone's sunshine.

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My Math lesson went extremely well today. I wrote out 15 work sheets by hand last night(there are photocopiers in town but could not get to one), 10 questions each. Each question contained a specific number of shapes, which they had to count, to find the right number value out of three different choices listed. They had to circle the correct answer. I wanted to make sure that they all understood the value of numbers before we introduce addition and subtraction to them, which Mary said they hadn't been learning. I know they are ready because they all got 10 out of 10. SO PROUD!!

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One downer for the day: some of kids weren't allowed to eat again for the second day in a row. It was harder to deal with today. Yesterday I went with those whose parents could afford the food fees, to help them with the porridge. But today I stayed behind in the classroom with those whose parents can not afford to pay for the porridge at school. There is probably about 10 of the kids who were called out of class to receive a meal. The rest were left with me. I felt horrible for them. I'm sure they are aware of what is happening because they use to participate in porridge every day and now aren't allowed. Mama Mwanga told me yesterday that it is to teach the parents a lesson that they can not expect things for free. She hopes the kids will go home to their parents and complain so the parents will pay their fees.

I wanted to distract them, and myself, from the realities of life. We sang songs like the hokey pokey, head, shoulders, knees, and toes, and Old McDonald had a farm. I was dieing to do something a little more entertaining but since the school has absolutely no supplies (ie. reading books or inside games) and the kids weren't allowed outside I was all we had to work with. So I tried my best. It broke my heart. I kept a big smile on my face.

How unfair is it that these little ones are deprived like that? I wanted to tell Mama Mwanga that I didn't think it was right when we could easily pay for it. It makes me think about their home lives and what they must be like for them if their parents can't even afford the basic necessities like food. Do they have food at home or do they go without there as well? How often are they hungry? Or am I just jumping to the worst conclusions?

This is one change since the break that I am really not happy with. However, there have been other, more positive, changes. The kids are given a longer recess time which I am really enjoying. The break between lessons increases their attention spans. Plus it is great getting to watch them play and have fun. I've also noticed that the office is in much better order. It use to take at least 20 minutes just to get the children's work books all in order and handed out. It seems they have become more organized and efficient in this area of the school and I am very thankful for that. I was planning on mentioning something once the break was over and I got back to the school. I was going to spend a day after class but now I don't have too :)



Thanks for reading xoxo