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 Café & 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.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Plain rice for Megan.

Plain rice for Megan., originally uploaded by michelletschannen.

I've added pictures to our Flickr site. Click on the picture of Megan to view the other pictures.

Video Update

This is video footage I shot while we were in Dar Es Salaam.

This is video footage I shot when Megan and I were at the beach in DES.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Timeline of Change

The following is the timeline that lead to Megan and I's decision to change placements. I've attempted to write just the facts and leave my emotions for a new post. Keeping my emotions in check has been difficult. In the next few days and weeks I'll probably do a great deal of processing and crying. Luckily Evan's already been very supportive. :)

*Morgan calls to tell us 3 kids at the hospital don't go to the orphanage school.. (We explicitly told the orphanage director we would only test the kids who attended the orphanage school, not every kid in the village.)
*Megan confronts the orphanage director on the issue of extra kids at the hospital.
*Kids at the hospital not given lunch, snacks, or water.

*First group of kids must return to finish testing at hospital. Second group of parents and kids not told to stay home. Orphanage director blames the volunteers for not telling the parents.
*No snack or water for the kids at the hospital.

*I pay $500 US for the Pre-Unit students (my class) to be tested.
*I pay $5 US for all of the Pre-Unit students' medications.
*Former volunteer, D., calls Pastor Harry to inform him she wants to "meet with her friends, Megan and Michelle."
*I am pulled aside by a young, white male who says he's a reporter for a Seattle newspaper and a friend of D.'s. He tells me they found our blog and would like to speak with Megan and I later about our frustrations at the orphanage. I agree to meet with them later at a coffee shop.
*Orphanage director's husband assaults a member of D.'s group outside the hospital while Megan and I are there with the kids.
*Megan, Magnus, Mitch, and I meet with D.'s group. We agree with their frustrations with the orphanage director and discuss what we've seen on the ground the past 5 weeks. We give D. our full support, but explain that we're concerned about our safety. She tells us to finish the testing we're doing at the hospital, "because it's great work you're doing for the kids," and just to play dumb with the orphanage personnel. She reminds us to be conscious of our safety. D. tells us there's going to be a village meeting on Saturday about the situation at hand, but that we shouldn't come due to safety concerns.
*I develop a migraine.

*I develop a sore throat and a runny nose. Run a 100* F fever at night.
*I go to the hospital for the second round of testing on the Pre-Unit students.
*No snacks or water for the kids at the hospital.

*I have a sore throat, am congested, and run a 101* F fever at night.
*I don't go to the hospital because I'm not feeling well.
*Megan says there are approximately 10 kids in group 3 who don't go to school.
*Megan and Belinda pay for 30 kids' meds from the past week. Give to Pastor to hand out.
*No snacks or water for the kids at the hospital.
*D. calls to say that the orphanage director and her husband were arrested on four charges:
1. land issues
2. fraud
3. immigration
4. assault

*D. and group attend village meeting with village chief and community members.
*Megan and I receive text messages from Pastor saying we need to meet with ASAP and not to trust anyone because someone is trying to get us.
*Megan and I meet with Pastor and found out that the man from the international orphans program (whom I originally thought was amazing and really legit) wants to have Megan, Belinda, and I deported because we're on the wrong visa. Our volunteer program has us register under a tourist visa and not the volunteer visa. Pastor claims he can help us because he has a friend who works in immigration.
*Megan and I e-mail the director of our volunteer program about our concerns and fears.
*Megan and I call our parents to discuss the situation. I contemplate leaving.
*I am still sick with a 100* F fever and congestion. I begin to develop a cough.

*Megan goes on a walking safari in Arusha National Park with other volunteers.
*I go to AICC Hospital with our VPGC. Discuss the difficulties at the orphanage with the VPGC. The VPGC finally agrees with us and our frustrations. He apologizes for disregarding our opinions earlier in the summer and asks what he can do to help support us. My malaria test comes back negative and I'm diagnosed with a chest cold. I am put on two antibiotics.
*D. calls saying the orphanage director and her husband were bailed out of jail for $40,000 US by the international orphans foundation guy. The orphanage director and her husband have been banned from the village and must be out by Wednesday, 07/09/08. D. informs us the meeting went well and there was strong community support for her groups cause. She informs us that the international orphans foundation guy stole money from us by telling us that we had to pay for the HIV testing and for the medical care of kids 5 and under. Both are free in TZ. D. asks if Megan or I would be willing to testify in court on Tuesday. I tell her I need to discuss this with Megan.
*Discuss testifying in court with Megan. We both agree not to testify and that we'd prefer to do everything when we were back and safe in the US.
*I decide that I'm too worn down by the stress of the situation at the orphanage and am not mentally, emotionally, or physically strong enough to stay in TZ. Megan decides she is and wants to move to a different placement, outside of Arusha, to protect her safety.
*I call home to arrange my flights.

*Megan and I pack.
*Megan decides which city she plans on relocating to.
*D. informs us that without our testimony, we can't prosecute the international orphans foundation guy. We inform her that we'll give her all of our documentation once Megan is in the US. We tell D. we are in full support of the work she's doing to bring down the orphanage and advocate for the kids.

*I fly home.
*Megan moves placements.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Longest flight ever

That thirteen hour flight from dubai is horribly long. Watched my favorite new movie, juno, and a classic episode of the office. I'm hoping my lost box of donations made it's way back to jfk (last I heard it was enroute to dubai) and I can pick it up today on my way to dc. I miss megan's company.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Times are changing

I don't have much time to post today. There's been major drama over the past week, thus the need to go private and the lack of updates. Police have been involved at the orphanage. I have a bad chest cold from the stress. Megan and I are leaving Arusha to protect our safety. When I'm back in the States, I'll update everyone. At the moment, we're both safe and doing well.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Good Things

I know that I (Megan) have not updated the blog in a long time and wanted to share the number of fun, uplifting, exciting things that have been going on. I prefer to write in list form. I don't do paragraphs unless it's mandatory, so here goes;
The things I like most
+Clinton. I know he is not the brightest crayon in the box (and by that I mean that he needs individual support academically in all subjects) however, he is can melt my heart away. The other day at the hospital I was carrying a big sack with chocolates, my fleece etc. Little Clinton ran by side to help me carry the bag. I'm always slightly skeptical of some of the kids intentions. Do they want to take something in my bag? Candy and other belongings are hard to resist if they find the opportunity to take it. I let Clinton take the sack knowing the things in the bag were of little value to me and let him run with it - keeping a close eye. From a distance, I saw him take the sack over to the hospital pavillion and put it exactly where I had placed my bag yesterday. First of all, I thought it was amazing he remembered where I kept my belongings the previous day. On top of that, he did not even attempt to look inside, he wanted nothing more than to help me.
+My friends. With the endless amounts of challenges, I have really enjoyed meeting and working with so many people. I love travelling and to make it even better, I like to meet people when I travel. I have worked with people from America, New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Holland and still have 3 1/2 more weeks left. I love talking to them and hearing their travel and life experiences. When there's lots of sitting around and waiting on African time, I am so lucky that I have great people to share that time with.
+My travel companion. Oh, Michelle. Yesterday, a thought occured to me. We have not both been sick or feeling icky at the same time. (I hope I didn't just jinx us). Two days ago my throat hurt, I felt feverish and just downright exhausted. Michelle was at the top of her game taking care of the children in the hospital. Yesterday, Michelle had a migraine and lights out at 8pm while my throat didn't hurt for the first time in 4 days. I think it's a sign we are good travelling companions. One of us is always feeling good and thinking clearly :)
+This opportunity.
+Bottled Water.
+Chocolate that is good in any country.
+Support and postive comments from all of our loved ones back home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Saving Lives

With a restless sleep last night, I awoke this morning to meet my Pre-unit students at Mt. Meru Hospital. I didn't sleep well last night as I was very anxious about determining my students' health status. I tossed and turned all night, dreaming horrible dreams about the kids I've fallen in love with. Luckily, today was nothing like the nightmares I had.

Magnus and I were the first to arrive at the hospital today. Our job was to meet the dalla-dallas from the Village and welcome the children and their parents to the hospital. After sitting around chatting for 30 minutes, the dalla-dallas arrived. Watching 22 kids and various guardians unload from 2 dalla-dallas (the size of a mini-van) was quite amusing. My pre-unit students were estatic to see me and ran with open arms towards me shouting, "Teacher Michelle! Mambo!" A few parents, older siblings, and grandparents shook my hand as well. Magnus and I followed the orphanage director's husband into the hospital with at least 5 or 6 kids on our arms.

The first test the children were receiving was for HIV. Magnus had crowd control in the hallway and I sat in the examining room. In the Village, HIV/AIDS doesn't "exist." There is a huge stigma related to the disorder and parents all signed a waiver stating they didn't want to be present for the HIV testing and didn't want to know the diagnosis. My role in the examining room was to be the stand-in parent. The orphanage director's husband, J., brought the children into the room in pairs. I sat on a chair and left my arms and lap open for comfort. Each kid was different in the amount of comfort they wanted. Some strolled in with big grins on their face. Other wanted my arms wrapped tightly around their little bodies. Some wanted only to hold a few of my fingers. The most scared children came in crying and wrapped their entire bodies around mine while sobbing. Luckily we only had 4 children like that. The HIV test itself was very simple-- a pin prick on the finger to draw blood and it was finished. We hit the jackpot today as NO ONE TESTED POSITIVE! :)

After the HIV test, we hearded the kids and their guardians to the bathroom and adjacent waiting area. Guardians were then required to assist in obtaining stool and urine samples from their children. This was a VERY lengthy process as there were only 2 bathroom stalls available. I also think this was complicated by the fact that the children eat and drink very little and most likely produce very little urine or stool. After the samples were all collected, they were sent to the lab for examination.

The third test completed today was drawing blood to test for malaria and other various blood related disorders. Another volunteer, who's a lab tech in Europe, sat with the children during this test. This was the lengthiest test as the children were already weary of the doctors and many of them were very scared. The kids went in pairs again, unaccompanied by their guardians. It was neat to see the children supporting one another. Often times the pairs of children went in together holding hands and came out with their arms around one another. Those who had finished the test spoke in Kiswahili to the others. I assume they were informing them of the procedure as they were pointing at their forearms and were saying, "kidgo pain" (little pain).

Before our final test of the day, vision, Megan made it to the hospital with bananas and cups. Magnus and I went and purchased 5 bottles of maji (water) and proceeded to give each kid a cup of water and a banana. They were estatic to receive these snacks and ate with gusto. I love feeding these kids as they're often times very hungry, but they also have incredible manners. They're always saying "Thank you, Teacher." and are very conscious about sharing. A few times I caught kids giving their friends a sip of their water or a bite of their banana.

The final test was for vision and wasn't worth our time. It was poorly run and every child came back with normal vision, despite being told by J. that a handful of children were having difficulty reading the chalkboard at school. We've decided to disregard the results of this test as the screening wasn't done properly.

Lunch went well, with each of the kids receiving a plate of pilau (rice with stew) and a cup of water. Once again they ate with incredible manners, patience, and kindness. These kids may not have all of the comforts of Western children and may miss out on some of the great aspects of childhood, but they are the most gracious, kind-hearted, and friendly children I've ever met. Watching them eat their meals and chat with their friends has quickly become my favorite activity.

The day ended with 3 children and their guardians getting the chance to see the general physician and have a physical and counseling session with his team. Only 3 children were able to see the physicians team as the lab was backed up and couldn't produce all of the kids' test results. The remaining children will be seen by the physician's team tomorrow. Brining these children to the hospital today was the best thing we've done since arriving in Tanzania. One of our students, who had appeared lethargic and feverish all day, was diagnosed with urgent malaria and a very high fever. He was immediately put on an anti-malarial medication. The physician informed us that his case of malaria was life-threatening. Knowing that if left untreated malaria is fatal, we realize that we may have saved this little boy's life today. The physician administered the first dose of the perscription at the hospital and informed the mother and us how often he needed to take it and the amount of rest he needed to receive. We were also informed that one of our students had worms and we were able to purchase the appropriate perscription for her as well.

I'm excited to come back to the hospital tomorrow to watch my students interact with their parents and one another. I'm very hopeful that our students will receive the medical treatment they deserve and believe that we'll be able to assist them in obtaining the medication they need.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rainbow in the Storm

Another Monday, more drama surrounding the orphanage. We began the day hopeful that the kids in the baby class (kids 3-5) were going to be having their first round of testing completed at the local hospital. Megan, Magnus, Morgan, and I split into pairs, with Morgan and Magnus heading to the hospital and Megan and I to the Village. On our way to the Village, Megan and I received a call from Morgan informing us that there were a handful of kids who had arrived at the hospital that she didn't know. This was immediately a problem as we had explicitly told the orphanage director and the representative from the hospital that we only had enough funds to test the children who attend the orphanage school, not every child in the Village. We told Morgan to take a headcount and call us back with the number of kids who did not attend the orphanage school. Minutes later we received the news that 3 students who arrived at the hospital did not attend the orphanage school. Megan and I were thus left with the task of confronting the orphanage director on this error.

I'm not a confrontational person and have a tendency to allow people to walk all over me. Despite being very upset and frustrated with the orphanage director, I knew I didn't have it within me to deal with the orphanage director. The task would have to be left up to Megan. When we arrived at school, the kids were playing around and we were notified by our teacher that the kisd would not be having school today as there was going to be a visitor. After the orphanage director greeted us, Megan immediately began questioning her about the extra children at the hospital. She reminded her that we could only pay for the children who attend the orphanage school and asked why there were extra children at the hospital. The orphanage director's response was a look of shock and denied having anything to do with the situation. She placed all of the blame on the secretary, even while Megan reminded her that she had attended the intital meeting where the doctor was present and where it was made known that we would only pay for the children at the school to be tested.

I was really proud of Megan for standing up for us and the children. To ensure that no extra children would be snuck in later in the week, we created a master list of all the children who should be tested. Thinking we were out of the woods, we proceeded to play with the kids. Nearly 20 minutes after Megan's initial confrontation, an older student came to me saying that the orphanage director had requested my presence. I nearly fainted. I'm being brutally honest when I say I don't do confrontation and conflict. I bit the bullet, though, and headed to the orphanage director's hut. The meeting was brief and included one of the new volunteers from Europe. The orphanage director played completely dumb with me and asked me what was going on. I informed her that we were frustrated with hearing different things from different people and not having our requests respected as volunteers. I probably wasn't the best advocate for us, but I let her know that we didn't appreciate having things happen behind our backs as we were being transparent with her and wanted the same from her. She simply nodded and smiled as if there weren't any difficulties at all.

After the meeting, Megan and I stood around playing with the kids until a huge coach bus arrived. This is an incredible feat as the Village is incredibly rural and has very narrow paths. How this bus made it to the school is beyond my imagination. At the sight of it, the kids began screaming and shouting as if they were meeting Santa for the first time. Inside the bus were our guests-- 8 white women from Virginia who were on a missionary trip. Missionary trips are totally not my thing and I knew I was in for an experience when I saw their t-shirts ("born to serve") and heard that Megan was greeted with the phrase, "May God Bless you." A pastor from the Village ushered our kids into the one room schoolhouse and introduced our guests. For the next 45 minutes, the kids performed for our guests by singing and dancing to traditional Tazanian and Biblical songs. Megan and I snuck out when the guests began their Bible session by teaching the kids a lesson about being sinners and using the blood of Jesus to protect them from the bad deeds they do.

The orphanage director was nowhere to be found when we left and so we called Morgan and Magnus to check on the situation at the hospital. Morgan informed us that things were not going well at the hospital and that our help would be greatly appreciated. Megan and I bought some bananas in the Village and headed to Arusha. When we arrived at the hospital, Morgan informed us that we had not been given the adequate number of doctors and counselors that we had been guaranteed and for whom we had paid. She also told us that the kids had not eaten or drank anything all day (by this time it was 1:00 PM) and that the orphanage director had forgotten to send food or money for the kids.

Helping with the kids at the hospital was a surreal experience. On top of the corruption, poverty, and poor politics that are happening in Africa, the horrendous and unsanitary conditions at the best hospital in town make it evident why HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB are ripping through this continent. The hallways and rooms were packed with people. There was no security anywhere. There was blood on the floor in certain areas. People roamed through the building freely, moaning and groaning, obviously in pain. Our poor children were obviously hungry and scared. When Megan and I arrived, they were finishing the HIV tests, which consists of a finger prick to draw blood. I led two children into the room to have their fingers pricked and each of them wept while gripping my body tightly. I nearly cried myself. We then moved to a different area of the hospital to have the kids' vision checked. I'm not sure how accurate this test was as all of the kids were in shock from the HIV test and many of them refused to talk to the doctor. Our little Baracka trembled as the doctor asked him to identify the letters.

Magnus was oru hero today as he bought all of the children two bananas each for a snack. The kids were so famished that they ate the bananas in less than a minute. At 2:00, the doctors decided they were finished for the day (urine, malaria, HIV, and eyes were the only tests completed today) and ushered us all out of the hospital. Having eaten nothing but bananas all day, the representative from an international orphans program (on-site at the hospital to assist us with logistics as he speaks fluent English and Kiswahili.... he's totally wonderful) bought each of the children a plate of pilau. We lined the kids up under a shelter on the hospital's premisis, had each of them use some hand sanitizer, and fed them their lunch. The shelter was absolutely quiet and the kids ate with wonderful manners and patience. Knowing they were probably dehydrated, Megan and I purchased abotu 10 bottles of water to pour into cups for them. They drank these in one big gulp.

After lunch we hung around for another hour waiting to hear when the remaining tests were to be completed. It was fun watching the kids horse around and interact with the few parents who were there (all kids had to be accompanied by a guardian.... the orphans' guardian is the orphanage director and her husband). By request of a few kids, we sang 5 Green and Speckled Frogs to a raptured parental audience. Magnus and Morgan were the tickle monsters. Megan passed her sunglasses around to her adoring fans, Clinton and Freddy. I managed the entrance to the shelter and the choo. It was a spectacular end to a crazy day.

Before leaving this evening, we were told that only one child tested positive for HIV today, Baracka (which we already knew). We also found out that one child had an eye infection. The remaining tests will be completed tomorrow at no additional cost to us since the doctors were slow today. We may not have had everything go as planned today at the hospital, but we're very happy the testing is happening. Tomorrow is another day and we hope things run smoothly and that our children remain healthy.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tanzanian Church

Pastor, H, Mama, Michelle, P., and Megan after church today.

By invitation of Pastor and his family, we attended the morning protion of Pastor's church today. I would not consider myself a very religious person and do not attend church, so I was a tad weary of attending a Protestant church service in Tanzania. I wanted to be respectful of Pastor's beliefs, though, and show my support for the work he does, so I woke early for the 1 1/2 hour dalla-dalla drive to the Village. Megan, Morgan, and I were expecting the dalla-dalla drive to be smooth sailing this morning as it's Sunday and much of Arusha closes down on Sunday's. We were incredibly wrong. There wasn't much traffic today to slow us down, there just weren't very many dalla-dalla's traveling to the Village. What is usually a 5 minute dalla-dalla transfer in Arusha turned into 30 minutes today. Finally, already a half-hour late, we arrived in the Village.

Pastor met us at his favorite tailor shop and walked us to his church. The church is nestled deep within the Village and has a beautiful view of Mt. Meru. As we walked up to the church we could hear the villagers singing a beautiful song in Kiswahili. We were escorted in by an older female villager and shown to a bench on the right side of the church. The Village church is a large log cabin-esque building with a tin roof. Sunlight and the breeze constantly filter through.

The full church serivce at Pastor's church typically lasts 8 hours (from 10-6), but we told Pastor we could only stay from 10-12. The portion of the service we sat through was very unique. Mama and Pastor sat at the front of the church on the left with another Kenyan, female pastor. Pastor's daughter, P., and her cousin, H. sat with a handful of kids on the left side of the church. There was a great deal of singing and dancing, all lead by the older children, including H. When we walked in I didn't even notice H. leading the singing at the front of the church as she looked so grown up in her red top and skirt. Once Megan pointed her out to me and I smiled at her, she grinned a huge grin back at me. Along with the singing and dancing, there were large chunks of time devoted to prayer chanting. This was a little uncomfortable for me, but I bowed my head and listened intently.

The portion of the sermon we heard was led by the Kenyan pastor. Her preaching style was very passionate and loud. She requested a great deal of Amen's and Halleluiah's, which the villagers willingly gave her. I couldn't follow her sermon as it was primarily spoken in Kiswahili with the occasional English. She did mention pregnant women a lot and appeared to be reading a story about Samson. I did pick up on her request that people disregard the people in your life who bring you down and that you should forget about yesterday as it's dead and won't be coming back ever again.

When we left, Mama invited us for lunch on Tuesday. The plan is to come for lunch and to see the updates on the house. It'll be exciting to see how much progress has been made.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Picture Update

Our students with the masks they created on Thursday.

Megan and I at the Arusha Coffee Plantation.

Megan and I at the Arusha Coffee Plantation.

ICTR Update

I'm sitting at the Impala Hotel in Arusha for an hour while Megan, Morgan, and Lindsey talk to a Tanzanite dealer about pruchasing some Tanzanite. While I wait around, I thought I'd find more information regarding the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda court proceedings we witnessed yesterday. If you go to the following link, you can see all of the court reports for the case we sat in on: Nsengimana Case.

A brief synopsis of this case:
Former Vice-Chancellor of the Christ the King College of Nyanza, Priest Hormisdas Nsengimana, a Hutu, is being tried for genocide and crimes against humanit. Nsengimana has pleaded not guilty. Pastor Nsengimana is accused of having killed a Tutsi priest and seven women from the same ethnic group in Southern Rwanda. Ït is believed that Nsengimana, a Hutu extremist, wanted to exterminate the Tutsis. Before the genocide in 1994, Nsengimana did not hide his hatred for the Tutsis, including his own students, fellow priests, and other employees. He has been quoted as saying (at the time of the genocide), "time is over where churches are to be used as refuge for Tutsis." He was also allegedly the spiritual leader of the group "the Dragons" or "the Death Squad." The members of this group were very active during the genocide in the town of Nyanza. Nsengimana is also believed to have said, "When my rifle kills five people, I feel rested."

The witness we heard speak yesterday was a former teacher at Christ the King College and appeared to have been a Hutu supporter. At the time of the 1994 genocide, she was living in an all women's hostel across the street from the university. The prosecutor questioned her on whether she knew about various people, many of who she claimed to know if, but not have any further details. The prosector also asked her about her knowledge of 60 displaced students who stayed at the university of Easter break. Again, she claimed to no nothing about these students, even when a letter (written by Nsengimana) was read aloud to her that specifically stated there were 60 displaced students staying at the university over Easter break. Another large part of the court hearing we heard dealt with questioning this witness on her knowledge of a roadblock placed in front of her hostel. It is alleged that Nsengimana requested this roadblock, and a few others, be placed near the university to catch all Tutsis who were using that road. Once again, the witness claimed to no nothing about the roadblock, even stating to the prosecutor, "I don't understand why you're so obsessed with this roadblock. I don't have any knowledge about a roadblock in front of our hostel." The last portion of the court proceedings we heard dealt with the prosecutor questioning the witness about a pathway near her hostel that lead to the university. It is alleged that this is where Nsengimana murdered a Tutsi priest.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Human Rights

Re-evaluating our expectations of this trip has allowed Megan and I to redetermine our purpose here. We continue to be frustrated with the lack of support we're receiving and the actions that are taking place at the orphanage, but we've decided that our purpose now is to teach when we can and to document everything else. For the past two nights, when we've come home, we pull out our avocados, bananas, and oranges (bought from two of our students' older sister in the market inthe Village), cheese (imported from Holland), and peanut butter and have a tea time in our bed room as we document the events of the day. When we're at the orphanage we're respectful of the orphanage director's authority and focus all of attention on the kids. We're "free" (open and transparent) with the orphanage director about anything we do (taking Onesmos to the hospital, offerring to pay to have all of the kids tested for HIV, etc) and are giving 110% to our students. While we're working with the kids, though, we tuck in our heads the events that happen which don't settle well with us: no food being served to the kids for lunch, teachers not coming to school, a teacher hitting children in the head, etc. Our hope is to be able to appropriately advocate for these children when we arrive home.

In good news, we've been given permission, after a long discussion with the orphanage director, to have all 85 of the students at the orphanage school to be tested for HIV, TB, and Malaria and to also have a full general physical. This will cost $180 a day for each doctor and and additional $8 per child. The American doctor who will be leading the team of physicians we'll be working with believes we can get this accomplished in 1 week. We start on Monday by taking the baby class (3 and 4 year olds). Children with parents will be accompanied by at least one of their parents. Orphaned children will be accompanied by a volunteer. We're still in need $400. If you're interested in donating to this project, please e-mail or comment. Once we have all of the children tested, the plan is to work with an international orphans NGO (I forget which one, a representative came and spoke with us on Wednesday) to sign the children up for various programs that will allow them access to free or discounted medicine.

Today we missed out on school to attend a session of the Rwandan Genocide Tribunal trials being held by the UN. These trials have been taking place for the past 6 years and are held here in Arusha. Many of the court proceedings are open to the public for free. Anyone with a valid passport can come to the AICC building in Arusha and sit in a room with headphones and listen to the court case as it takes place. The trials take place in multiple languages (French, English, Swahili, etc) thus the need for headphones with translation. Today we heard the testimony of a female witness who appeared to have information about a group of Hutus who murdered 6 Tutsis and a Tutsi pastor in 1994. We only saw the cross examination of this woman as her earlier testimony was held in a closed session. For 3 hours we listened as this woman tried to defend the Hutus she knew as a professor at a college in Rwanda. From the looks of the judges and lawyers faces, as well as the tone of their voices, this woman didn't seem to be very compliant. From what we could gather, she held a great deal of information about these Hutu men, but wasn't being cooperative in sharing this incriminating information.

Moment of the day:
* On Thursday Megan and I had our students decorate paper masks. After each child had decorated their mask, they placed them over their face and played "Heads up 7 Up." They picked up on the game surprisingly well and quickly began to cheat, which is very typical of American students. The grins on their faces during the game were priceless!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Picture Update

Magnus and Barracka on their way to Barrack's house. These two have become an inseparable pair, with Barracka searching for Magnus whenever he's scared or upset.

Our students eating lunch yesterday. Lunch, which sometimes isn't served, was ugali (mashed cassava) and shredded fish. The kids typically scarf down their meals and beg each other for any left over scaps.

While sorting through clothing at the other project, Megan and I attempted to make light of the situation. This is not the project we paid to participate in, but appears to be where the orphanage director wants us to spend the next 4 weeks.

Our hiking group. From left to right: Michelle, Mitch, Jake, Luke, and Jeff. We LOVED hiking with these boys and felt a great sense of camaraderie with them as we were all in friendship pairs. Check out the mud on our legs. At one point, Jeff and I were crawling on all fours up a steep, muddy slope. The chant from the others was, "Who will make it up first?!"

Megan and I at the twin waterfalls in Kilimanjaro National Park. We got close enough to feel their spray and to dip or hands into the cool water.

Megan and I at the first waterfall in Kilimanjaro National Park.

Another day, more annoyances. Things continue to be awkward at the orphanage. The orphanage director is very cold towards Megan, Magnus, Morgan, and I, while being very chummy and friendly with the three new volunteers. While playing with the kids today, a new volunteer asked Megan if she thought the orphanage director was trying to befriend the new volunteers because they're naive to the realities of the financial situation at the orphanage. Megan couldn't have agreed more. We've been put into a really bad place at the orphanage and are obviously not welcome by the orphanage director.

Morgan and Magnus met Pastor in the Village this morning to purchase the windows, cement blocks, and bags of cement for his new house. A big thank you goes out to everyone who donated me money. So far, I have spent $500 assisting Pastor pay to rebuild his house. I will have exact totals tomorrow for what was purchased. Today I spent another $370 of my own money to help pay for the windows. I'm hoping my uncle will come through and have his company (Central State Windows) donate the money for the cost of the windows. While in the Village, Pastor informed Morgan and Margnus that he would no longer be working at the orphanage. He feels frustrated by the situation there and doesn't want to spend the rest of his life fighting her over how to run the orphanage. He was unclear, however, on when he would stop working there.

While preparing for class to start, our teacher (the wonderful teacher Megan and I work with... who was the only teacher that showed up to school today) pulled Megan aside to tell her that she was very sad. She quickly left and Morgan walked into the room with the news that Pastor was leaving and that he thought our teacher might be leaving as well. After our teacher pulled both Megan and I aside later in the day to say we needed to have an important talk tomorrow, we can only assume that she's in support of Pastor and will also be leaving the orphanage.

Knowing that the two people we trusted and fully supported at the orphanage are potentially leaving the organization is really frustrating and disappointing. With 4 more weeks left at the orphanage, Megan and I are in a precarious situation. On the one hand, we don't want to support a corrupt program and continue to work in a situation where we aren't wanted or appreciated. On the other hand, we want to continue teaching our students as we've completely fallen for them and they're starting to show some improvement. We have a meeting on Friday to attend regarding our "positions at the other project." We do not want to be spending the rest of our time at the other project, but both the orphanage director and our VPGC seem to believe this is the best use of our time. We continue to be frustrated with the utter lack of support we're receiving here in Arusha and the fact that we always seem to be in trouble.
In good news, Megan and I taught today! :) Our students continue to enjoy writing in their "All About Me" books. Today they wrote about who their friends were and what they liked to do. It broke my heart when none of them cold think of something they liked to do with their friends, even when it was explained to them in Kiswahili. These kids are missing out on the pleasures of childhood. While we taught, Morgan and Magnus were able to take Onesmus, a 4 year old child, to the hospital to get a sever skin infection examined. Without their help, he never would've seen a doctor as he's a double orphan who lives with 7 siblings, including his pregnant 19 year-old sister, and the orphanage director felt medical attention wasn't necessary. He was put on two antibiotic pills and a cream. We had his head shaved and have all been using gloves when we're around him. Megan, Magnus, and I also got to do our first home visit. We stopped by Barracka's (6 years old) house to meet his mother. Barracka is the only known HIV+ child at Jane's and lives with his 22 year-old HIV+ mother. The father has never been in the picture and Mama Barracka struggles to make ends meet. She dreams of owning a salon someday, but doesn't have the means to buy all of the supplies and pay to rent a facility. Magnus brought a bag of apples, a jump rope, a box of matchbox cars, and 20,000 shillings for Mama Barracka. Both Barracka and his mother were very appreciative. Megan and I are planning on visiting Mama Barracka in a few weeks to have her braid our hair. We plan on paying her 15,000 shillings each, more than she makes in a month.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Health Update

** The Cipro. totally helped kick out my diarrhea. Since being in TZ, I've brushed my teeth with bottled water, drank only bottled water, and have avoided eating any produce that isn't boiled, peeled, or piping hot. I'm also constantly walking around with socks and shoes on, unless I have my chocos on. Thanks for all of the concerns! :)


Many would agree that I enjoy a good political discussion here and there when I'm in the States. While here in Africa, however, I've tried to avoid any discussions pertaining to American politics in order to keep myself safe. I have on occasion shared the Obama love (having a Kenyan father makes Obama incredibly popular here in East Africa) with a few of Pastor's friends, but other than that I've kept mum on my liberal stances. Unfortunately, I can't seem to avoid the politics at the orphanage. Despite my greatest attempts to stay out of the political drama that is enfolding within the orphanage, I always seem to get sucked in. Today was no different.

Without going into too much detail, for awhile now, there have been financial difficulties at the orphanage. This seems to be a common problem across Tanzania. The financial difficulties at the orphanage, however, has a direct impact on the children being served as well as volunteers who donate their time and money. The lack of food for the children, the postponed building of the orphanage center, and the complete lack of resources despite a constant flow of donation money is an obvious red flag. Megan and I have been informed of the financial problems by a few volunteers who have been frustrated with the situation. Pastor has also given us his side of the argument. During our initial, awkward meeting with the orphanage director, she was immediately on the defensive with us and attempted to lay some ground rules down for us in regards to donating items, including money. We were essentially told that everything had to go to the kids, whether our donors (Mama Bertucci, the Mayer family, my parents, etc) had specified a certain project or not. This put me on edge as I believe that the only person I'm responsible to for donations is the person who donated the item. While in this meeting, Megan spoke up and informed the orphanage director that she felt we were the wrong people she needed to address as the specific situation she was referring to did not involve us. Unfortuantely the orphanage director continued to discuss the issue with us along with other political issues they're dealing with within the orphanage.

Since that meeting, we've been trying to lay low by focusing our attention on teaching the kids while they're at school and using our free time (with the orphanage director's approval) to assist Pastor in building his house. We thought we were out of the woods last week as things went really well in the classroom, but I guess good times can't last forever. Yesterday while walking to the dalla-dalla stop, we received a call from Belinda, another volunteer, telling us that the orphanage director didn't want us coming to the orphanage, rather we were to go and sort through clothing at another project. We complied and assissted in packaging 30 boxes for families in the area. It was a quick job, but it had to be done. When we left, the director of the program asked Megan and Belinda to come back the next day (today) to help deliver the boxes. They both agreed.

Last night as I was planning for today's school lessons, Morgan (a volunteer we room with), was pulled aside by our VPGC. He informed her that he had spoken to the orphanage director and that she did not want us (Megan, Magnus, Morgan, and I) coming to the orphanage the next day (today) because we would be utilized better at the other project. Morgan informed our VPGC that she didn't sign up to work at the other project and that she wanted to go and teach the kids. Paraphrasing Morgan, our VPGC told her that we need to stop trying so hard to always be fixing something and that sometimes you just need to do nothing.

When Morgan informed us of this conversation, as she was asked to do so by our VPGC (don't ask me why he refuses to talk to us as a group), we all became very upset. We knew that just yesterday (Monday) a new group of 3 volunteers had arrived to work at the orphanage and were living in our host families homes, a mere week after we were pulled for financial reasons. Our interpretation of the orphanage director's desire to keep us from coming to the orphanage was that she didn't want us talking to the other volunteers about our frustrations and that it was easier to just push us out. Knowing how much I had invested in my classroom, I made the decision last night to go into school today.

Going against the grain and facing confrontation head on is not my strong suit. Thus, making the decision to go to school today wasn't easy. I had nightmares all night, made obvious by my tangle of sleeping bag, stuffies, and blanket. I awoke this morning by myself and headed off to the Village, an hour and a half trip. Simply making it to the Village alone in one piece was a huge accomplishment. I was harrassed on the dulla-dulla when the driver wouldn't give me back the correct amount of change, but I stood my ground until he paid me. I was repeatedly called Mzungu (typically a racist term for white person), yet I ignored each call. I was definitely worried about the orphanage director's reaction when I turned the corner at the school.

When I arrived at school, it was raining and no one was there except for Pastor and a handful of children. I collected the supplies I needed and went into the classroom to play with the kids. The teachers arrived an hour later (already an hour later for school) as did the new volunteers and the orphanage director. I taught for 2 hours before break time. During break time I had tea with the other volunteers and saw the orphanage director. She was not pleased to see me. She tends to be very passive aggressive and simply said to me, "Why didn't you go to the other project?" I informed her that I was here for the kids (her words from our first meeting) and that I didn't want to leave their teacher without the lesson plans I assured her I would have. The orphanage director scoffed at me and left the room.

For the 45 minute break a man from an international orphans program discussed the ways in which his program is going to assist the orphanage in becoming a more reputable program. Everything he said was wonderful, but it just felt as if it was arriving 10 minutes too late. Elsa, a volunteer who's been here for 10 weeks and leaves on Monday, asked all of the hard questions as she's been dealing with the difficulties at the orphanage much longer than the rest. The man was very helpful, yet the orphanage director continued to be icy to Elsa and I. After the meeting, Elsa and I went back to our class and finished teaching for the day. I meant to talk to the orphanage director one on one to ask her about the other project situation (supposedly there's going to be a meeting on Friday about our position at the other project), but she had left early.

I do NOT want to be involved in the politics at the orphanage and don't want to spend the next 5 weeks working at the other project. I also don't want to spend 5 weeks feeling like I'm constantly walking on egg shells regarding the teaching I want to do. I came here to assist the children at the orphanage and would like to continue doing that until Megan's parents arrive at the end of July. If the orphanage director is going to be cold towards me and continue to make it difficult for me to teach my class and work with our teacher (the WONDERFUL Tanzanian teacher of my class), I'm going to be very physically and emotionally drained. I'm also frustrated with the lack of support from our VPGC. He seems to believe that the orphanage director can do no wrong and can't seem to understand why we're frustrated with the situation at the orphanage. All in all, it's making for a very frustrating and annoying trip.

The More Boys I Meet (the more I love my dog)

No, I do not have a dog. Yes, I did use the title of a Carrie Underwood song for my blog title. The longer I am in Africa the more I am cheated for money or asked for money or personal belongings by African men. It's safe to say that white women are an easy target. For example, the dala-dala ride cost 100 shillings extra just to get to the internet cafe because we were white. The man collecting the money wouldn't stop laughing even as we continued to hold our hands out to receive our appropriate change that we never got. It was only the equivalent of appx. 8 cents - but when people try to cheat you everyday, it gets old fast.

My day started when Michelle quickly exited the hostel to teach the kids at school. I was so proud of her for not letting the politics of everything get in the way. We'll see what's to come of that. I waited for Belinda and we headed off to another project where we packed up boxes of donations to take to an orphanage. It wasn't frustrating at all when we arrived and half of the boxes we had packed yesterday were un-packed. Nor was it frustrating when it took us 3 hours to deliver these boxes to an orphanage 20 minutes away. Did I mention the fact that the man in charge of delivering the donations asked me to pay for the "petrol?" Please refer to the title of the blog.

Once we arrived at the orphanage, things went smoothly. The orphanage was very, clean and organized (many of the things I have been missing about America). We took in the donation boxes and passed each children their own teddy bear. Danny and Stacie - I took a picture of the boy in his Purdue Sweatshirt. The kids, as always, were the best part of my day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Picture Update

Megan and I in hour 3 of our 7 hour hike in Kilimanjaro National Park.

Sweet, sweet Musa-Luca. His father is currently dying of AIDS and skin cancer. He is bed-ridden and will most likely die this summer. When completing a school project, Musa-Luca commented that he wanted to grow up and become a doctor. May all of his dreams come true.


I'm still dealing with the bad case of diarrhea. Unfortunately I have no idea what the cause is and thus can't avoid certain things. After attempting to control things with Pepto, I took out the big guns and took my first dose of Ciprofloxacin, the medicine percribed by Dr. G. for Traveller's Diarrhea. I took the pill about 2 hours ago and am still feeling the queasy stomach. I haven't felt the need to puke and am knocking on wood that it never happens. The plan for the rest of the day is to go back to the hostel to eat lunch and nap. If I'm not feeling better tomorrow, I'm going to take the day off and give my body time to rest. My hope is that I just need a day of rest and relaxation and I'll be good to go.

*Naser- A few common Kiswahili words Megan and I use frequently in the classroom are: "sikiliza" (listen), "andika" (write), "kaa chini" (sit down), "chora" (draw), and "inzuri sana" (very good). Test those out on your younger siblings the next time you're helping with some homework. PS-- When do you leave for Greece?
*Dad- Thanks for the DMB reference. Did you get the CD's I mailed home? Hopefully you've been listening to your favorites. I miss you.
*Mom- I had bug spray on. The mosquitos are nearly non-existent in this part of Tanzania due to the higher elevation and cooler weather. I was wearing bug spray during our hike (I was even carrying some with me), but a random bug (it felt pretty big) landed on the crack of skin on my back between my jacket and my pants and bit me. Megan's been watching it for me and I've been putting Benadryl cream on it. It itches a bit and is a little tender to touch (you can barely see the bite). I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Visit to Moshi

We're currently sitting in an internet cafe in Moshi with our friends, Jake and Mitch. We met the boys here in Moshi on Friday and have spent the entire weekend here. The bus ride to Moshi began in Arusha on Friday around 2 PM. After being told we would be charged 2,000 shillings (a little less than $2 US), Megan and I were forced to pay 2,500 shillings when we refused to give up our bags (to be placed out of our sight) in order to accommodate another passenger. I'm usually very willing to make space for others on public transportation, but in the case of a mini-bus, making space for others means cramming five people into a bench built to hold three. If our mini-bus had crashed at any point, which is totally possibly, I have no idea how we would've gotten out. Every space of the bus was filled. Kids were sitting on strangers' laps, strangers were sitting shoulder to shoulder with their bags at their feet, there was absolutely no leg room. The other bizarre aspect of riding a mini-bus is that there is no air conditioning and the windows are kept closed the entire time. With nearly 40 people on a bus built to hold at most 25 and absolutely no air flow, the stench and heat produced inside could have killed a puppy. It was the longest bus ride of my life.

Friday evening the boys met us at the bus station and took us to a local bakery. We then headed back to their house to meet their host family. Their family is considerably richer than Pastor Harry's, which was made obvious by the porcelain choo, electricity, and running water. Their family was very sweet and allowed us to watch as they cleaned a freshly killed chicken.

After meeting Jake and Mitch's family, we headed out to dinner with their friends Luke and Jeff. Jeff volunteers with Jake and Mitch at their conservation project and Luke is a Peace Corps volunteer who teaches in Morogorro. We had an enjoyable Western dinner (pizza) with great conversation. It was nice to be surrounded by people with similar interests and a belief in bettering the world around them. When we got to our hotel that night, Megan and I both commented on how much we enjoyed talking to smart, humble, genuine people.

Saturday was our big adventure. We went with all of the boys and their "brother," Oscar, to hike in Kilimanjaro Park. Our destination was the twin waterfalls. Unfortunately it had recently rained and much of the park and surrounding village was completely mud-filled. Our dalla-dalla could only take us halfway up the village before fishtailing, forcing us to hike an additional 1 1/2 miles to the start of our hike. The hike itself was very enjoyable, despite the mud. Actually, the mud might have enhanced the experience. We all fell multiple times, myself a few more times than everyone else, because we hadn't thought to bring our hiking poles. By the end of our trip, we were covered in mud, leaving our shoes and hands unrecognizable. I was bit by a few bugs and caught a few thorns in my hand, but I'm no worse for the wear. I am a bit sore today, though.

After hiking for nearly 5 hours, we made it to the twin waterfalls. My words can't do them justice and I'll attempt to post some pictures when we arrive back in Arusha. The entire hike gave me a greater appreciation for nature and a stronger desire to do my part to help conserve the planet. I never expected Tanzania to be this beautiful. There are probably hundreds of surprisingly beautiful places across the planet that I don't know about. That alone encourages me to remain as eco-conscious as I can. If I can do my part to preserve these majestic corners of the world, I'll have spread their beauty.

The hike ended up taking a total of 7 hours, with no food other than bars and nuts. By the end of the day we were both exhausted and hungry. We ended the day at a local restaurant called, "Golden Showers." Famished, we ate fish, chips, veggies, and chipate (a local bread product similar to a tortilla). All in all it was a wonderful weekend with wonderful people. Megan and I feel really blessed to have met Mitch and Jake and look forward to other excursions with Mitch (Jake heads back to Chicago in a week).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Potty Talk

Emotionally I'm doing well, but I've come down with my first case of diarrhea. Attempting to relieve myself in the choo [pronounced cho (as in hoe)- o (as in oh my goodness)], which is simply a hole in the ground you squat over, is not the easiest of feats. It's also fairly disgusting. I never realized how wonderful traditional toilets were until today. I visited the choo at school three times and each time it became increasingly difficult. To make matters worse, it rained all morning and all of my clothes were soaked when I arrived in Ngaramtoni. I'm sure my hiking boots will never pass an inspection by the US Health Department. 4 Pepto's later, I'm still feeling slightly rumbly in my tummy, but am hoping for the best. Of course, Megan's stomach is made of steal and she's working on the opposite problem. We've decided that we need to combine forces to create the ultimate stool.

We had another great day at school today. The kids are dedicated learners and are particularly thankful for everything we teach them. After each lesson, they shout in unison, "Thank you, Teacher!"

Today we split into our English groups. Megan's group worked on writing their names and singing the ABC's. Offhand, I heard our teacher correct Megan's version of the ABC song. The Swahili version is fairly similar with Z being pronounced as "zed" and sung to a different tune. Megan reports that her group of students, about 7, have no letter concepts and a very difficult time spelling their names. My students continued working on the short -e and short -u sounds. The students used the flashcards I created and sorted the words according to the vowel sound they produced. I also wrote the words on the board and had the students practice sounding them out. We finished by drawing pictures for each of the short -e words. When I collected their homework from yesterday, those who completed it smiled proudly, while the few who forget looked extremely embarassed. I reassured those students that I wasn't upset, but they still appologized profusely, "Sorry, Teacher. Teacher, I do more."

We finished the day by creating "All About Me" books, my mother in-law's idea. Megan begane the lesson by reading the book, "Whoever You Are," a wonderful story about diversity. We discussed with the kids the things that make us the same and different from one another. Sweet Nuru shared with us what love means, "I would hug someone if they're hurt and tell them they are ok." The kids were enthralled with the book. As I sat back listening to Megan, I looked at all of their faces and their eyes were glued to the book and every now and then they would chuckle as our teacher translated the book into English.

After Megan read the book, we created the kid's personal books. The kids were in awe that we had created books of paper just for them. Our teacher pulled me aside as the kids chattered away in Swahili and said, "They're saying, 'It's like a real book!' They are very happy to have this book." We had the kids write and design their covers (Title: All About Me. Author: Musa, picture of Musa). Each kid numbered their pages and we then had them fill in the first page. I wrote on the chalkboard "My name is Michelle. I have 6 people in my family." The kids copied this onto their first page and wrote their own names and how many people they have in their family. We then had them draw each family member and label them. At the end of the period, each kid came to the front and read their book.

Megan and I are really proud of the kids. Their really working hard and are being challenged more than I think they have ever been. When we've left each day this week, our teacher always says, "The kids, they are so tired." Today we even had a few with tears of exhaustion in their eyes and one who was nearly asleep at his desk. I'm happy their working so hard, but I don't want them to over-exert themselves. We may have to scale back a bit.

Moment of the day:
* Seeing all of the girls' drawings of themselves. In Tanzania, it's required by the government that students wear their hair shaved. Thus, all of our students have short hair. All of the girls in our class drew themselves with long, flowing black hair that flipped at the ends.