Oh. Man. It’s been forever! I really mean it this time and I have absolutely no excuse. I blame my incredible absence on my procrastination. So much happened in the last few months, I put off blogging and I cannot believe it is already the beginning of March. Since I have not updated the Internet world on my activities since approximately December, this is going to be a LONG post.
Touring the village with Suzanne and Jen
After our trip to South Africa, we returned to Moshi just in time to receive our first round of visitors. Our friends Suzanne, Jen, Mirielle and Mike flew all the way to Tanzania to visit us for the holidays and it was wonderful to have them. It made being away from home for Christmas a little easier. We spent three weeks introducing them to life in Moshi, touring EdPowerment’s projects, and even got a chance to visit Zanzibar for the first time. It was so nice to have people from home experience life in Tanzania (and bring goodies for us and the students in their suitcases :) ). In an effort to save time and space, I will just say that Zanzibar, in a word, was incredible. Beautiful beaches, interesting architecture, delicious food, and drinks inside coconut shells.
Students of Kilimahewa
After our visitors left in the beginning of January, the next big event was the start of the Tanzanian school year. The seasons are flipped here, and so is the school year. Instead of having a big break during the months of June, July, and August, Tanzanian schools enjoy a long break during the holiday season and begin their year with the calendar in January. Helping to get Kilimahewa started was a feat this year, since our wonderful head teacher Rebecca was on maternity leave and we added Form 3 this year (similar to Junior year in the United States), but we managed! Kerri and I helped to create a timetable for classes, establish new policies and procedures for behavior and attendance, lead a parent’s meeting, and ensure that classes were fully staffed with teachers. Thanks to a great staff of teachers at Kilimahewa, the school year is off to a great start.
Teacher training with the BCC staff
In addition to our work at Kilimahewa, Kerri and I have been focusing our energies on building our special needs awareness program, Autism Connects Tanzania (www.autismconnectstanzania.org). Throughout the past few months, we have been networking with variety of special needs organizations in Moshi, creating educational materials for distribution, and assisting programs by providing education and training. We have been working especially close with an organization here called Building Caring Communities (BCC). The BCC operates 11 centers in Moshi for students with physical and intellectual disabilities and is supported by a major U.S. non-profit called Mosaic. The centers were originally created as a form of respite for parents and families of students with special needs, but as the organization is becoming more established, they are looking to infuse their centers with more educational activities. The BCC has asked for our help in this venture and over the past few months, Kerri and I have been working with the organization to create schedules and educational activities for their centers. We met with the center workers to introduce our schedule in early February and are holding a second training at the end of March where teachers will come together to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the new program. Teachers will also bring examples of their best activities to share with the group. After the training, Kerri and I will compile their ideas into a book that we will publish and distribute to organizations throughout the Moshi area. It is our hope that this publication will provide educators and caregivers with a much-needed resource for teaching students with special needs in Tanzania.
Alberto speaks to the kids at Kilimahewa
February brought us two more visitors. The first was our friend, Alberto, who I met when I lived in Sydney in 2003. Alberto has been a huge supporter of EdPowerment over the past few years and held a fundraiser for us last spring. He came to visit us in Moshi for two weeks to check out our programs and even got to help with the building of a few toilets a Kilimahewa. He asked to help build them, I swear! Alberto was also a guest speaker at our after school group and talk to the kids about his work as an international lawyer.
Moira opens the new EdPowerment-funded classroom at Samburai Primary
Alberto’s visit coincided exactly with a visit from our third EdPowerment partner in crime from the United States, Moira Madonia. Moira gave up her short spring break from teaching in New Jersey to check in on our programs in Tanzania. The three of us, along with our in-country director Mama Grace, were able to get a ton accomplished during her short visit. We rented an office space in town (yay!), visited most of our sponsored students, sorted through finances, ran in a 5k with the kids at Kilimahewa, met with a lawyer to be sure our business in Tanzania is in line with the law, and met with all of the fabulous people Kerri and I have been networking with here in Moshi. It was great to have the whole EdPowerment team together. We only wish it could happen more often!
No visit of Moira’s could be complete without a hectic ending, and this time was no exception. The Kilimanjaro Marathon was scheduled the morning Moira was set to return to the United States and we all managed to participate. Before Moira’s visit, the three of us had discussed conducting a fundraiser in Tanzania to help diversify our funding and raise awareness of our work in the local community. We thought the marathon was a great opportunity for us to accomplish both of these goals. Kerri and I organized a group of kids from Kilimahewa to participate in the 5k Fun Run and asked local businesses to sponsor their efforts. We managed to raise enough money for the students to participate and spread the word about Kilimahewa. The kids had a great time at the event and so did we. I think the funniest part of the whole thing was when the European woman at the registration desk (that opened the day before the event) told us that we should have the kids register with their parents on the Internet next year. She had clearly not spent much time in Tanzania…
Safari and mountain guide, Adam Nkinde, talks to the kids about his work
Kerri and I have also continued to work on our after school program throughout the last few months and have spent the beginning of this school year talking about goal and career planning. We have invited guest speakers from the community to come and discuss their career paths to give students an idea of what options are out there for the future. We have found that career planning is not something that is stressed in Tanzania and wanted to provide our students with an opportunity to learn about a variety of career options. So far we have had community developers, a doctor, nurse, a farmer, lawyer, an IT specialist, safari guide, and mountain porter, to name a few. Check out the after school page on our website to learn more!
Annnnnndddd I think that brings us up to date! Kerri and I are spending the next few weeks organizing a workshop for families of students with special needs and a training for the BCC staff. Both events are scheduled for the end of March, so there will be updates to come! We are also planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser near the beginning of June. We'll be sending a link to our fundraising page in the next week, so keep your eyes peeled. Thank you for reading!
Annnnnd, I’m back to writing once a month. I have no excuse, just that I have an aversion to blog writing. Here’s a re-cap of the events of the last few weeks:
Mussa’s birthday was at the beginning of November, and just so happened to fall on the same weekend as the Muslim holiday, Eid. As many of our friends and some roommates are Muslim, we decided to celebrate both with a traditional goat roast. Kerri and I really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into by deciding to have a goat roast at our house. The day started with the delivery of the goat…all alive and cute in the backyard. We tried not to get to friendly with it, as it would be slaughtered just a few hours later. We took a few pictures and left it at that. The grill, more food, and our friendly goat-killer arrived next. Thanks to our friend Adam’s expertise, the goat was killed and skinned without too much drama (though I couldn’t stand to watch) and we managed to have a delicious meal from the poor thing. Our house stunk like goat for a few days, but the event definitely goes down in the record books.
As November carried on, Kerri and I prepared to leave Moshi for a few weeks for a trip to South Africa and a language course in Dar. Since we would miss the last day of school at Kilimahewa before the break (the academic school year in Tanzania is flipped, so the “summer” break happens in December), we had a little celebration with our after school kids. We have been planning a mural design for the gates of the school and interviewing students about their future plans, so we finished up the activity before passing out suckers and dancing to music. The kids insisted that we stay, but we assured them we would be back at the beginning of the following school year. We’ve had such a great time with the kids this year and hope next year’s group is just as successful.
Kerri and I made a trip with Mama Grace to visit a few of our sponsored students at Mrike Secondary School in Rhombo, which is an area outside of Moshi that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. We drove for about three hours to get to the school and were greeted by three smiling faces at the gates. Kerri and I have known two of the students since the first year we came to Tanzania, so it was great to see them doing well. They gave us a tour of campus, introduced us to their teachers, and talked about life at boarding school. They are all doing well in school and seem extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend Mrike. Seeing these students thriving reminded us why our school sponsorship program is so important.
November was full of birthdays, and on the 14th of the month, we celebrated Kerri’s with a pool party! We went to a hotel right outside of Moshi and basked in the sun to celebrate Kerri’s 31 years. I had not been swimming in ages, so I had a ton of fun. We were set to leave for South Africa the next day, so the birthday party was a great way to say goodbye to Moshi and our friends there.
South Africa was amazing. We went with our friends Mussa and Adam and had such a good time. The journey started with a 10-hour bus ride to Dar es Salaam to catch our flight. I’m pretty sure I slept the entire way, enjoying the comfort of air-conditioning for the first time since arriving in Tanzania. We flew first to the Johannesburg airport, where we spent six hours overnight waiting for our flight to Cape Town at 5 the next morning. I slept like a champ on the airport benches and woke up ready to finish the last leg of the trip. We were greeted in Cape Town by our airport shuttle and arrived at our hostel on Long Street in one piece.
Cape Town is pretty much like Europe or America in Africa, so it felt like home to Kerri and I. It did not, however, feel like home to Adam and Mussa, who had never left East Africa. We had a great time watching them learn how to use escalators, browse the aisles of the South African Wal-Mart, marvel at the organized roads and sidewalks, and try all sorts of different foods (including sushi…not a hit). We spent the week exploring the sites of Cape Town and had such a fabulous trip. Kerri did a great job writing a detailed re-cap of the vacation, so check her blog out for more stories. For the sake of saving space in an already packed blog entry, here is a list of what we did with some pictures for your enjoyment!
Explored the city and did LOTS of shopping. Traveling with boys who were interested in shopping was great for Kerri and I.
Tasted lots of South African wine…delicious!
Traveled to the World of Birds, a nationally renowned bird sanctuary.
Rented a car and drove around the Cape. Ended up at the Cape of Good Hope, the most South-Western point of the African continent. A baboon jumped in our car and decided that it wanted our bananas and cookies!
Spent a rainy day at Victoria and Albert Harbor and went to the movie theater.
Took a ferry to Robben Island to tour the prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive for 17 years
Ate lots and lots of delicious food that we can’t get in Tanzania (Mexican! Sushi! Indian! Salads! Oh my!)
Climbed Table Mountain – breathtaking. 2 ½ hour hike up the mountain followed by a 4 minute cable car ride down J. The hike was MUCH better!
Laughed a ton, made a bunch of new friends, and enjoyed being out of Tanzania for a bit.
Packing for home was not fun, as we had such a great time on the vacation, but all good things must come to an end. We spent the last morning carefully packing our bags with our South African souvenirs - including a newly purchased hose for Mussa’s house, enough South African brochures to kill a horse, shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, and other things most normal people buy on vacation J. Needless to say, these things are MUCH cheaper in South Africa than they are in Tanzania, and we took full advantage.
Kerri and I are now back in Dar es Salaam to take a Swahili language course for the next two weeks. We’re staying with Mussa’s cousin in an area of Dar called Kariakoo, which is, in a word, insane. It seems like all of the clothes and people of Tanzania descended upon one square mile of space. We’ve been using the last few days to figure our way around the millions of shops and streets, and are feeling much more confident about our surroundings. We are not, however, feeling more confident about the heat. It is absolutely scorching here. I’m quite sure I haven’t stopped sweating since we got off of the plane. We start class on Monday, and can’t really complain too much, since we’ll be spending the next two weeks learning Swahili on the beach. There are worse things in life, we know.
Alright, I think it’s time this blog entry is done. So, until next time…maybe I’ll be writing my blog in Swahili. Thanks again to all who are reading!! Sending love in sombreros from Tanzania!!
I’m back! It only took me two weeks this time. I’m making progress! Before you know it, I’ll be on a weekly schedule like Kerri.
We’ve been pretty busy over the last two weeks and have made some progress on our projects. Here is a brief run-down of the main events:
On a totally non-work related note, we went camping! Andrea, a volunteer from Cross Cultural Solutions, was living with us for about two weeks and to celebrate her departure, we decided to take a camping trip to the hot springs (pictured to the right). They are located about an hour drive from Moshi and seem to be placed in the middle of absolutely nowhere. To get there, you drive for about twenty minutes out of Moshi on the paved road, turn onto a dirt road that eventually morphs into what appears to be a giant field that you are meant to drive through the reach your destination. We navigated the bumps and potholes and eventually made it to the hot springs. We spent the evening sitting around the fire and slept in our tents while it poured overnight. We swam in the springs all morning and had quite an exciting ride back. Our friend Kristen, who drove us all in her van, had to leave early in the morning. So the remaining 9 of us, all of our tents, mats, sleeping bags and luggage were meant to get back to Moshi in a pickup truck. A singular pickup truck. In truly African style the boys managed to secure all of our belongings in the back of the truck and we all made it back to Moshi in one piece. Imagine nine people riding in the back of the truck below.
As you may have seen on Facebook, our friend Paul came to the after-school group at Kilimahewa last week. Paul has faced a lot of challenges throughout his life and talked with the kids about the importance of perseverance and working hard to reach your goals. Paul also happens to be a fabulous dancer and ended the day teaching the kids some of his dance moves. The kids loved every minute of Paul’s visit and are constantly asking us when he’s coming back. We switched gears from “getting to know you” activities this week and have been working with the kids on goal planning. The picture below is from our “trust walk” activity on Thursday where the kids worked on planning, communication, and cooperation.
If you check out Kerri’s blog post from last week, you can read more about her involvement with the Rotary in the United States and our experience with the Rotary Club here in Moshi. We went to a meeting on Thursday and found ourselves at a fancy Rotary dinner on a Friday. The Lieutenant Governor of the East African Rotaries had flown in for the dinner and gave a pretty inspiring speech. Check out the picture to see Kerri and I with him and his wife. It was a pretty cool experience and we are looking forward to networking further with the Moshi Rotary Club.
One of the most exciting parts of this week was our visit to the Sambarai Ward office to distribute information about EdPowerment’s Discovery Scholarship and inform the village leader that we would be providing funds to finish building a primary school in the area. The scholarship contest is seeking to find a student from the Sambarai Ward to sponsor throughout secondary school. In order to be considered for the sponsorship, students have to fill out an application form, provide a teacher recommendation, and come to Kilimahewa in early November to write two essays. As the applications come in, I’ll update you on the process. We’ll also be posting pictures of the building project at the Sambarai Primary School.
As with many things in Tanzania, progress on our residency permits has been slow and complicated. The government here tends to be pretty corrupt and officials are always trying to charge corruption fees to get work done. Our in-country director, Mama Grace, went to the immigration office two weeks ago to try and sort our permits (which already cost $550 a piece for a year) and the immigration officer tried to charge her an additional $300 each to process the applications. Knowing what we know about corruption, we decided to seek the help of some friends with connections. Luckily, we found someone with an in and are getting our permits sorted this week for the regular, insanely high price of $550. I guess it all goes back to who you know…
I’ll end with a story from yesterday. Probably my worst nightmare realized J. I was about to take a shower and found our roommate Swaleh in the bathroom about to clean. He asked if I wanted him to clean later and I said I would shower when he was finished…and I’m glad I did. About five minutes after he started cleaning, Swaleh moved our shampoo to clean the floor and found a GIGANTIC tarantula hanging out on the floor. He, of course, thought it would be hilarious to put the spider on the broom and chase us around the house. As a person with major arachnophobia, I did not find this so humorous. I ran into my room and slammed my door until the spider was safely outside. If I were not experiencing sheer panic, I probably would have taken a picture and posted it. I've found a picture on the internet that I think does that spider justice. I’m praying this was the first and last time I see a tarantula in person.
Oh! I was also burned by a Nairobi fly, which is a bug that leaves a nasty burn on your skin if it touches you. It is totally harmless, but looks absolutely disgusting. The bugs are common this time of year and I was lucky enough to come in contact with one! Sorry for those who are faint of heart, but I attached a picture so you could share my pain ;).
Thanks again for all of you who are keeping up to date on our adventures. Leave a message and let me know what is happening with you all, it’s great to know that people from home are out there!
Until next time….
By now, you may know that Kerri and I have arrived in Tanzania in one piece. We’ve been here for about four weeks and are getting back into the swing of things. I have to admit, I am a terrible blogger. While it was my goal to try and update this on a weekly basis, I have already failed miserably, and it’s only the first month. Hopefully in the coming weeks, I will take after Kerri and be better about updating my blog. For now, bear with me.
The bad thing about being blog-challenged is that by the time you face your procrastination, you have so much to catch up on that it’s almost overwhelming to record in words. I am taking on the challenge today, but am warning that this may be an extremely long entry. Here we go…
Since arriving, Kerri and I have been busy re-adjusting to life in Tanzania, getting our feet wet with EdPowerment work, and trying our best to brush up on our Swahili. Adjusting to life here has been surprisingly easy and it felt like home as soon as we got off of the airplane. For a detailed record of what we’ve been up to, I suggest checking out Kerri’s blog. Since I’m way behind, here’s a brief update of our trip thus far:
The Kilimahewa water project has officially been opened! The Kilimahewa community and school are now receiving clean water via solar power for the first time in the history of the community. It was amazing to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony and see the results of two years of work. Kerri and I met with the same community members two years prior to discuss the village’s need for clean water. The process came full circle when they spoke of that meeting and thanked us for keeping our word to help. As we check in with families, we’ll post more pictures and videos about how the project is progressing.
Kerri and I started our after-school program with the kids at Kilimahewa. The goal of the group is to teach students leadership skills, help students with goal planning and provide a fun after-school experience for the kids. When we told them that the group wasn’t going to be like school and that they would have fun, you could see all of the students breathe a collective sigh of relief. We’ve been meeting for about three weeks now and are having a great time. We’ve been working to get to know the kids this first month and will move into leadership skills next week. We just finished our first art project, so I’ll post more pictures soon.
We’ve been spending Mondays and Tuesdays in Arusha meeting with a variety of individuals and organizations about special needs services in the area. We’ve been able to connect with some great people and are planning to host a big teacher training for the special needs units in the area this summer. There is so much potential for growth in special needs education and we are excited to be helping with this part of the project. Updates to follow.
We moved! That’s right, we’ve moved houses already and it’s only been a month! After about two weeks in our first house, we received a letter from the owners informing us that they needed the house to board students starting in November and that we needed to move out. We did a quick search around Moshi and were able to find a great house not far from where we were previously living. Before moving in, we came to clean it up. Kerri and I started in our bathroom with a little bucket of bleach and two sponges. We soon realized that we were going about cleaning the absolute wrong way as we observed our Tanzanian friends in the other bathroom. Apparently the best way to clean a house in Tanzania is to treat it like a big car. We proceeded to throw buckets of soapy water everywhere, followed by a clean water rinse. When the whole house had been sufficiently soaked, we pushed the water out into the yard with squeegees. The result: super clean house! Kerri and I went to work in the afternoon and came home to see that all of our stuff had made it to the new house without us. Best way to move :). We have only lived here for a few nights, but already love it.
As you may have seen on Facebook, Kerri and I took a trip to Dar es Salaam for Mussa’s neice’s wedding. Check out Kerri’s blog for a re-cap of the event. The pictures really speak for themselves. We drove to Dar for the wedding, and it was great to see more of the country. We’ve always stayed around the Moshi-Arusha area for work so having the time to travel a bit has been great. Dar is insanely busy and crowded, but it has a number of beautiful beaches that make up for the insanity of the city.
We just signed up for a Swahili language course in Dar starting at the end of November. While we know the basics of the language and can get around (a little) we really want to have a better command of it to help us with work in the future. The course is a two-week intensive program that meets for about five hours each day. We are very fortunate to have a friend to stay with in the city and are really looking forward to the fact that classes meet across the street from the beach. I think we’ll be practicing by the ocean after class ;).
While much more has happened in the day-to-day, I think that is a pretty good re-cap of the first few weeks of our trip. Kerri and I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and are so appreciative of all of the support we receive from people back home. We couldn’t do the work that we do without it, so thank you to everyone who have helped us along the way. I promise to update this blog more than once a month, for my sake and yours J. So check back for updates!
This mzungu is heading to the market to get supplies for the week, so I’m signing off. Thanks for reading and please keep in touch!
Student Tour, Art Institute of Chicago
I realize it's been awhile since I've posted, but I have good reason! Over the last few months, I have finished graduate school (yay!) and just completed an 8 week internship at the Art Institute of Chicago in the Museum Education Department. I am extremely happy to be finished with school and the internship was a fabulous experience.
The Museum Education internship was an 8 week program that began in early June and ran through the beginning of August. As an intern at the Art Institute, I had the opportunity to participate in a full range of education programs serving all ages, from pre-school children to senior citizens. My main responsibility was designing and executing daily gallery tours for student groups from around the country. I learned a lot in the process and loved the experience of talking with students about art objects they were viewing first-hand. While at the museum, I also assisted in teaching studio art activities, led family gallery tours, participated in research and writing projects, attended weekly museum practices seminars and led gallery talks for adult audiences. If you would like to read more about my experiences as an intern at the Art Institute of Chicago, check out my entries on the intern blog by clicking here.
Jerome McDonnell and I, post-interview.
When I wasn't going to class, writing papers, or leading gallery tours, I managed to squeeze in some time to work on EdPowerment and prepare for my trip to Tanzania. One of the more exciting things I got to do for EdPowerment this summer was speak about our work on NPR. Chicago's NPR has a weekly segment on their Worldview program called Global Activism that features individuals from Chicago doing work to better the world. I was nominated by my boyfriend through WBEZ's website and got a call in late July from the show's producer to discuss details. After talking with the producer on a Tuesday, I found myself in the studio two days later talking about EdPowerment on live radio. I must say, I was incredibly nervous the day of the interview. However, the host, Jerome McDonnell, made me feel super comfortable and the interview went off without a hitch. If you're interested in listening to the program, click this link. The segment lasts for about 15 minutes, so get ready!
Not only are things progressing for EdPowerment, but things are also moving forward with my trip. Since I last wrote, I have purchased my ticket, received a Tanzanian visa, worked out paying my bills and student loans while I'm gone, and am in the process of packing. Packing to live for a year in Tanzania is proving to be quite difficult. I haven't actually started cramming my belongings into bags yet, but I have a feeling it will require some creative folding and shoving.
I am set to leave the United State on September 8th and will arrive in Tanzania the following day. Kerri and I both arranged our travels through STA and I was amazed to find out that we will be flying into Tanzania on the same airplane from Ethiopia. Kerri will be arriving in Ethiopia at 5 a.m. on the morning of September 9th from Bangkok and I will arrive three hours later via Washington D.C.. I imagine there will be constant chatter coming from our section of the airplane on our way to Kilimanjaro :).
I have two and a half weeks left of summer here in the U.S. before I leave and have been spending in with friends and family. While I am ecstatic to live and work in Tanzania for the year, I know I will miss everyone in the United States while I'm gone. Luckily, Skype will keep everyone a click away!
Stay posted for more updates!
I have officially finished student teaching and the spring semester of my last year in graduate school. (YAY!). BUT. I still have two classes to take this summer. Otherwise, I think I would be traveling the world with Kerri :). My classes end on July 29th and I will spend the month of August tying up loose ends and visiting with friends and family before heading to Tanzania to meet Kerri in September. I cannot believe it's nearly June and the trip I've been dreaming about for the last year is almost here!
Turns out, I need to get there first. I am still in need of an airline ticket, which might sound last minute, but I need to wait until fares are published for the summer of 2012 before purchasing. If I bought my ticket now and planned to change my date of return when I arrived in Tanzania, I would have to pay a fee to the airline, which I am trying to avoid. Saving to live for a whole year without working is hard enough, I don't want to give any more of my money to the airline. Unless of course, that money is going towards a flight to Zanzibar, or somewhere else beautiful and beach-y.
After I purchase my ticket, I will send my passport off to the Tanzanian embassy in New York to receive a travel visa. The passport will be accompanied by a letter from Mama Grace, EdPowerment's in-country director, that vouches for us for the year. We have never had trouble getting visas before, so we're hoping this time is no different.
Outside of the official preparation for actually traveling to, and gaining admittance into Tanzania, I still have a lot on my to-do list. As graduate school slows down and I have time to actually think about leaving the country for a year, I realize I have a lot to do! Not only do I need to pack enough clothes to get me through a boiling hot "winter", the monsoons of the rainy season, and a temperate "summer", but I also need to move out of my apartment, store and organize my belongings (in my parent's basement...thank you mom and dad), and say goodbye to family and friends. I still have a few months to accomplish everything, but I feel like I should get on it.
Regardless of the work that will go into preparing for this trip, I am ecstatic that it is happening. I am so glad that Kerri and I are fortunate enough to have the time and resources to dedicate a year of our lives to build up a program that is so important to the both of us. It's going to be an amazing journey.
Check back for more updates as I get on leavingtheunitedstatesfortanzaniaforayear.