Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A little bird told me....

Word on the street is that Megan and Mitch (and most likely Megan's parents) summited Mt. Kilimanjaro! Congrats are totally in order. Once Megan's home this weekend I'll be able to confirm the gossip. :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Finding Love

I've been thinking a lot lately about the Pre-Unit students Megan and I taught at the orphanage. There are moments when my heart literally aches for them. Due to the circumstances of my departure, I wasn't able to say goodbye to them. I have dreams at night of playing football in the yard with them and wrapping my arms around their tiny little bodies. I can hear their voices shouting in unison, "Sank you teacha!"

Magnus mentioned to us early on that his boss told him before leaving for Tanzania that "Africa will get in your blood." At the point in time when he mentioned this, none of us (Megan, Magnus, Morgan, and I) really felt as if we'd fall head over heels for this crazy continent. Now that I've been home for nearly a month, however, I can feel Africa cursing through my blood. I want to go back. Badly.

The kids at the orphanage provided me with the greatest gift-- the ability to love myself right now. I've always carried a little bit of self-doubt in the back of my mind. It's been a constant friend of mine over the years. Through my students, however, I was able to release the self-doubt and find joy in who I am. Don't worry, I haven't become a narcissist, I've just been taught how to appreciate myself. I can look in the mirror and see the hair Nuru stroked ever so gently. I can place my hands on my hips and feel Esuphat's arms wrapped around me. I can laugh and hear Freddy laughing along with me. I can stand tall and proud and know that there are 17 little kids in Tanzania who believe in me. 17 kids whose hearts I carry within mine.

Thank you Pre-Unit for making my life so wonderful.

On one of my last days, my students performed for a visiting church group. I love how this video truly shows each of my students' unique personalities.

Monday, July 21, 2008



Today, we went on a school fieldtrip to the conservation site where
Mitch had been previously been working. We met with the 80 kids we
were taking and 2 teachers. There was no need to count the number of
kids or keep track of them like a fieldtrip in the U.S., jus start
walking and they all will follow. Once we arrived at the project
site, our host father, Samwell, spoke to the kids about a few plants.
Then, they played around drinking and splashing water on themselves
and each other. They appeared to be having a blast. One student even
recommended that we take them here every Friday. I love conversing
with several of the students, but one in particular really stands out
to me, Wai (pronounced 'why'). He is older and has a wonderful
vocabulary. He asks me all sorts of questions about the U.S. on a
regular basis in addition to the questions about UFO'S, my favorite
foods and how I get to school. I had to repress my laughter when
another student said that her favorite American food was "Coco Puffs."
I'm pretty sure I've never even had those in my life.


Kordula, a friend from Switzerland, arrived to Moshi on Saturday
morning. We walked over to Chagga to rent some bikes for the day.
After some slightly annoying bargaining (where we did not come out on
top), we left the shop with 4 bikes, 3 with working brakes, and 1
where the chain falls off every couple of minutes. Once we got out of
town, the ride was very beautiful. We had a lot of time to see it as
we were always going uphill. We rode through many coffee plantations
and small villages. The route was supposed to get us to the Mwenka
gate of Kilimanjaro National Park, however, I think we turned around a
few kilometers from our goal. Fortunately, I didn't have to pedal
After stopping by Mr. Price Grocery andonce on the way down
returning the bikes, we walked over to Kindoroko Hotel and had a drink
on the rooftop bar where there is supposed to be a wonderful view of
Kilimanjaro (when the clouds are missing).


I woke up nice and early to go to church with Oscar. Service began at 8am and was actually the most punctual event I had attended since arriving in Africa. The “two hour” service lasted until 10:30am. It was fun to attend, even though it was all in Swahili. Much of the time was consumed by singing and dancing. There were only short segments of preaching. I also took sacrament at the front of the church and unlike the grape juice I was used to I drank a tiny glass of “white wine.” I have never tasted any white wine like that before…


I finally had the students write their pen-pal letters:) They were very excited and involved in all of their letters. This was the first activity that I really noticed the difference in academic levels among this class of 46. Some clearly excelled in English, while others copied straight from their workbooks. That part of the class made me very sad and I asked them to rewrite about their own hobbies and use their own names in their letters. After analyzing their looks of confusion, I quickly realized that they were not able to do this activity on their own. Later, I will send the letters to the U.S. and probably make my way to the best smelling place in Moshi – the Patisserie.

This might be my last post – unless I decide to squeeze one more in. My parents will be here on Thursday and therefore I will head back to Arusha to meet with them. Our plan is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, go on safari in the Serengeti and relax in Zanzibar for the final days :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...

Yesterday, Izzy, Mitch and I were invited to eat dinner at Mr. Masam’s, a blind teacher at our school. We walked to his house from the school. His sister-in-law’s daughter walks him to and from school everyday and she escorted us to his house as well. He has a beautiful family; 3 daughters and 1 son. His wife, sister and daughter’s were preparing the meal and we sat around the table conversing. Mr. Masam left the table and returned with a stack of about 10 self-help books that were written all in English. These books could obviously not be for him seeing as they were not written in Brail or Swahili. Izzy asked if he had read the books and he replied, “No, these are not for me. These are for all of my visitors.” By “visitors,” I can only assume that he meant stressed-out, westerners. It was pretty funny that he had bought a stack of self-help books that he never planned to read, but thought that we could benefit from them. If you knew Mr. Masam, he is probably right. There doesn’t seem to be anything that could bother him, yet he is still fairly productive everyday (compared to other Africans). I really enjoy his company.

I personally also enjoyed the visit to his house because he wanted me to assess his youngest daughter, Aichi, who has been diagnosed as a “slow learner.” She is absolutely lovely. When she was 3 years old, she suffered from seizures and acquired brain injury at that point in her life. Aichi is now 9 and doing pretty well in school, despite her injury’s. She is also on a very common medication to control seizures and has been seizure-free for 5 years  After learning laws and requirements to support all special needs students in the school systems in the United States, I was so sad that Aichi would receive none of those. Mr. Masam asked me the most difficult questions to answer as a speech pathologist including, “How long will she be a slow learner?” “When will she get better?” and “What can I do in the schools here?” At home, I could easily answer the last question; however, it was the most difficult question in Africa. I learned that there are only 3 types of special needs students in Tanzania which include the Blind, Deaf and Mentally Impaired. Therefore, she could receive no special services or attention with her diagnosis. If she did not complete a test on time, she could be penalized.

For dinner, we had chicken, cucumbers & tomatoes, avocado, bananas & rice. It was basically a feast. The 3 children walked us back to the main road as it was getting dark and we stayed in for the night…after stopping by the local shop to get some chocolate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I’m going to try to write a super-fast update on my life here for the last week.

Last Tuesday, Mitch and I headed off to Moshi. It was the nicest mini-bus experience in Africa, thus far. Mitch and I actually had the 4 back seats to ourselves and our bags. There were not even attempts to cram others in. Samwell picked us up at the bus station and we dropped the bags off at the house before walking over to Mwereni School. It’s only a 10 minute walk from the host family – a nice change from the hour and a half commute via dala-dala I previously had in Arusha. We talked to the head master and some other teachers to discuss how we would be most useful for the next 3 weeks. Oh yeah, we were also served Ndizi Stew. Basically, it’s some hot beefy stuff and plantains. Not my favorite.

Friday - Picked up Belinda, Anika, Maaike, Rochelle, Michelle and Malerie from the Bus Station. Izzy also moved in with the host family. We walked to the Kilimanjaro Crane Hotel for dinner for the rest of the evening. My favorite parts were all the miscommunications between multiple English speakers because of the accents and different phrases we use.

Saturday - Started our hike to the falls again with Oscar and Penina. They are my new host brother and sister. It wasn’t near as muddy as last time, even though some people still took a few falls. Our dala-dala made it all the way up to the beginning of the hike which cut out over an hour from the last time we hiked it. I enjoyed the hike just as much the second time as I did the first and still think the scenery is beautiful. I never pictured Tanzania to look like this. At the falls, I thought I was in the Amazon. Especially because we saw Colobus monkey’s at the twin falls. The best part of the hike would not have happened without the help of Anika. She had taken a picture of a cow on the way to the falls. On the way back we passed by the hut of the owner’s of the cow who demanded that we pay them money. (This was translated by Oscar). She was ranting at us for a couple minutes and then we decided just to keep walking…fast. She followed us for about 10 minutes before she laid off. Later, we were sitting and enjoying (or not enjoying) banana beer. Much to my surprise, the old woman shows up at the same place. She could put our hiking skills to shame!

Saturday night – Salzburg CafĂ© & Glacier Bar with a treehouse

Sunday – Mosied around a painting market & ate at Chrisberger’s before the girls went back to Arusha

Monday – Back at school. I am scheduled to teach English and P.E. classes and Mitch teaches Math and P.E. When I write P.E., I mean watching 75% of the students play Soccer and having the other 25% (all girls) playing with my hair and asking about my freckles. I have really enjoyed working with all ages. In Arusha, I loved the little ones and watching how they interacted. This is definitely a different experience because they are older, but it’s just as much fun. It is so fun to analyze their personalities as they interact.

Monday night – I played Go-Fish with Penina and Irene (both 11years old). I made them play it with me in Swahili so I could practice my numbers and learn 2 new words –“Neimda Semaki!”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Video Update

This is video footage I shot while Megan and I rode the bus from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha. Near Moshi, we were able to get our first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I looked forward to hiking this with Megan and her family, but unfortunately won't be able to do so. I'm expecting to hear an amazing story about the Courtney Family's summit, however, pictures included.

This video footage was shot as we rode on the bus past Mt. Kilimanjaro on our way from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha. After nearly 8 hours on the bus, it began to break down near Moshi, extending our trip by an additional 4 hours. It was the longest bus ride Megan or I had ever been on.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Giving Thanks

The Four M's: Michelle, Morgan, Megan, and Magnus. Our friend Texas Lindsey said it best when she said that tough times breed strong friendships. The four of us worked diligently at the orphanage and became the best of friends. It's a group of people I will forever call family and plan on traveling around the world to visit and volunteer with. Knock, knock.... knock.

Besides Megan, my other roomate in the hostel was Morgan. The three of us were very compatible roomates and fed off each other's energy. Here, Morgan and I ham it up with the glasses we found while sorting clothes.
Mitch and Jake, friends from Wisconsin, were great travel companions for Megan and I. Here, Megan and Mitch pose near one of the twin waterfalls during our hike in Moshi.
My dear, Esuphat, always ready with a beautiful smile and warm hug.

Despite all of the frustrations and difficulties Megan and I endured in Arusha, I had a really great time. Each day, after I finished journaling, I made an attempt to write down the things I was thankful for. The following is my complete list of things I was thankful for while in Tanzania (written directly as I wrote it in my journal.... in order from arrival to departure):

*Dad's sleeping bag.
*E-mails from home.
*My health.
*Y. helping Megan and I with our cell phones.
*Drinking Propel.
*The boys walking behind us in town.
*Yummy fish dinner.
*Internet and phone card time.
*Overall friendliness of others.
*Subsiding homesickness.
*Good food.
*Beautiful beach and weather.
*Friendly conversations with Pastor and his Kenyan guests.
*A comfortable bed and good night's sleep.
*Calls from Evan.
*Pastor's family's love and support.
*Bob and Mr. Courtney's help in dealing with the volunteer program.
*VPGC's support.
*Hot shower and a good meal for dinner.
*Evan's love.
*Friendly roomates.
*Sunny weather.
*Internet cafe that allowed me to post pictures.
*Video of the kids singing.
*Evan's continued growth and independence.
*Beautiful weather.--- Being able to see Mt. Meru.
*Hugs from Esuphat.
*Friendly conversations with friends in the evening.
*Good food for lunch at the Cinema.
*Getting to work intently with the kids.
*The sun coming out and the temperature warming up.
*Jake and Mitch's companionship.
*Good hiking gear.
*This opportunity.
*Beauty in nature.
*3 1/2 hour nap.
*Diarrhea being gone.
*Caring friends.
*Evan's laughter.
*Great, funny friends.
*My health.
*Evan's phone calls.
*Megan, Morgan, and Magnus.
*My health.
*Hugs from the kids.
*Time to read my book.
*Phone call from Evan yesterday.