Monday, June 9, 2008

Arrived in Arusha

I must begin this post with a few appologies:

*Danny and Stacie Courtney-- My biggest appologies for any and all grammatical and punctuation errors found within this blog. It's amazingly crazy how little 30 minutes feels, especially when the keyboard is horribly sticky.
* Naser-- Sorry for continuing to spell your name in correctly. Luckily the version with two -s is more traditional.
* Megan-- Sorry for misrepresenting you at any point in time. I should clarify that the homesickness experienced was mine and not "ours."
* Jake and Mitch-- Future appologies if any of these blog posts are "i-pod worthy."

Onward to Arusha.....

After an incredibly long (approximately 10 1/2 hours) bus ride, we arrived in Arusha. We anticipated this was going to be a long day, but thought we were out of the woods when our bus ran smoothly for the first 6 hours. Upon arriving to Moshi and the base of Kilimanjaro, our bus broke down and we could only drive about 10 minutes before we needed to stop and refill the radiator with water. At about 9:30 PM we arrived in Arusha and were met by the assitant director of Village Orphanage. We gathered our bags and headed to the village.

I haven't had much time to really reflect on the life we're leading, thus a brief synopsis. Megan and I are staying in a traditional Masaai village with the assistant director's family. This man, Pastor, has three children and one wife. The one wife is a critical detail as Masaai men traditionally have multiple wives. Pastor refers to himself as "a modern Masaai man." We are living in the mud hut (corrugated steel roof) of Pastor and his wife. Our room is the extra bedroom they keep for volunteers and is approximately 10 ft by 7 ft and contains one shelf and a bed that's just over twin size. Luckily Megan and I are skinny, so we both slept comfortably last night, head to foot. There is no electricity or running water. We use our head lamps at night and use the village toilet (literally a hole in the ground that is encased with wood for privacy.... we've yet to attempt #2). We haven't bathed yet, but will be using boiling water poured in a bucket to sponge bathe ourselves.

Two of Pastor's kids are attending school at a boarding school 200 KM away. Pastor had to discontinue building his modern, brick home because he used his money to send his kids to a better school. His youngest daughter, P., lives with us. She, along with her two cousins (their father and mother died) live in a different mud hut in our village. Pastor's mother also lives in a mud hut in our village. There is also a mud hut for cooking (about 4 ft by 4 ft), a mud hut for the family's cow, and a fenced in pen for the family's goat. There are also chickens wandering around the village.

The orphange we're volunteering at, is actually not an orphanage. We are simply working at the village pre-primary school (2-7 year olds). All of the local kids (many who are orphans) come to school when they choose to and when we're there to teach them. There are two local teachers, but supposedly they're not very reliable. Essentially we'll be making lesson plans on our own and attempting to teach these children the skills we believe they need. Their primary language is Swahili, but they all appear to know basic English. The school is very primative, with wooden benches and wooden tables for the kids to work on. They're provided a pencil and an old notebook to complete their work in. The chalkboard is an old piece of wood that was painted black.

According to the other volunteer we met, HIV/AIDS is extremely stigmatizing in our village. Approximately 50% or more of the village adults are believed to be HIV+, but many do not know or unwilling to find out. Many find out they have AIDS when they are near death. HIV/AIDS testing is not done in this area and there is no HIV/AIDS prevention work going on in our village as the Masaai people do not want anything to do with the disease. The mantra of our village, in regards to HIV/AIDS, is "don't ask, don't tell." The volunteer we met today used her own money to have all of the village's kids tested a month ago. Only one child's test came back as positive. In order to fully test, however, three tests have to be completed. I'm most likely going to use the financial donations to pay for the final two tests to be completed by the American doctor in Arusha.

Pictures to come in the following days. Keep the comments coming!

Shout outs:
* Melissa-- Thanks for all of your wonderful encouragement. I totally felt the hug and have used your words to help me out when I was really feeling homesick.
*Naser-- Always good to hear from you. Swahili is a pretty fun language. It's very phonetic. You might try picking it up, especially with your Arabic skills.


Mitch said...

Hi Girls!

Wanted to let you know I am keeping up with these wonderful posts and wish you the best of luck! What an awesome adventure - you are both very lucky!

Megan- miss yah ;)

Jenna! said...


Really glad you made it to Arusha after that forever long bus ride!! :] Anyway we all miss you at home and the family gives you there best wishes! and sends tons and tons of love! We can't wait to see you when you get back! Keeping filling up those memory sticks so we all can see the amazing pictures you've taken!! love & miss you lots!

Dad,Mom,Jess,Jenna,Megan,Tyler,Logan,Olivia,Mommom,Poppop,Papa...(Basically everyone!)

P.S. (Jess really wants a shout out! soo please give her one she misses you!)

Love Jenna

LifeTrek Coaching said...

You two are learning a lot about the realities of life; what a tough situation! Glad you are rolling with the disappointments and finding ways to contribute. Let us know if you want us to send you more bars! Love you. Bob & Megan

sMITCHe said...

Jake actually lost his ipod in Dar, so he'll have to join the rest of us.