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.

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.