Monday, September 17, 2007

I am in Seattle.

I arrived in my Seattle home on Sunday at around 2:30PM. It is so strange to be back. Even the drive home from the airport felt very uncomfortable because I am used to such bumpy roads.

Seattle will be an adjustment. Back in Tanzania I talked to everyone. Just random people in the shops or on the streets, I would conversate with anyone. Everyone is so friendly to others because they believe that without others, they would not be who they are and I would have to agree. When I was in the Kilimanjaro airport, waiting to board the plane that was going to take me away from Africa, I talked to as many people as I could in Swahili because I knew that I wouldn't be able to after that moment. I actually made a good friend in one of the little shops that sold traditional African goods. He was impressed with the Swahili I knew seeing that I had only been there for 3 weeks, which is a good sign. I believe his name was Elane K. and he would model the necklaces I had my eye on for me. I should have gotten his picture!

It was actually really hard for me to be at home. Sitting in my room, I couldn't believe I was not at the home-base sitting on my bed on the bottom bunk. I miss Tanzania so much and leaving was so hard for me to do. 11 of us left the home-base on Saturday, which is about 1/2 the group so I'm sure the ones left had a hard time saying goodbye as well. We were all such a big happy family (with our ups and downs of course) and though I do plan on going back to Tanzania when time and money allows, I know that it wouldn't be the same. I became such great friends with not only the volunteers, but the housekeepers and the cooks and the drivers and the laundry ladies and the guards. Everyone. I would always smile and conversate with as much Swahili as I had in me.

I also left a mama back in Tanzania as well. I call her mama Betty and we got to be very close. So close that she calls me her daughter. We've already been emailing each other and in her email she said it was "high time" for me to start thinking about returning. I hadn't even been in Seattle for 24 hours. I love her so much and I am sure that I will see her again in time.

I miss my kids! They were the greatest. Sure, they were hard to control at times, but they are still kids after all. We learned so much from each other. The last day was hard for me because I don't think I would be able to see them again. Me and the other volunteer at my placement, Sarah, brought 16 liters of vanilla ice cream for all 100 and some kids. Most have never had ice cream before so it was a real treat. The smaller ones had too much for their own good, but they finished every last bit of it. I had a tiny goodbye speech that Mr. Masawe (the teacher that runs the school) translated for me. He is such a happy man and I'm going to miss him and his wonderful family as well. He welcomed me to visit whenever I find myself in Tanzania and I am going to have to take him up on his offer. I was lucky to be able to volunteer in Kilimahewa Nursery School because I truly believe that it was the best of all the placements available (after hearing stories from the others).

Well, I am going to try to adjust to my Seattle surroundings. "Polepole" (slowly) as they say in Tanzania. For the meantime, I shall get a photo album ready and a plan on how to continue to support my school back in Tanzania.

I learned so much about others, as well as myself. As mama Betty says, I can now travel the world, no problem. Thanks for the overwhelming support because this experience was AMAZING. I'm more than happy to be able to keep this experience in my memory bank.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The count down.

I can't believe I am leaving soon. It makes me so incredibly sad to leave. I try not to think about it to enjoy the rest of my stay here, but it's hard not to. One volunteer is actually leaving a week early and I've been telling people I'd take her last unused week for her 1/2 seriously, 1/2 not. Well, more 3/4 and 1/4.

I went to Zanzibar for the weekend. It's an island about 50 minutes away via air. It was really pretty but very humid and hot. The Indian Ocean looked so beautiful with the sun reflecting off of its blue green waters. I got to see narrow mazes of streets with neat shops inbetween it all. 90% muslim, so I saw a lot of people almost completely covered. It was really interesting to see what a change culture-wise it was in a neighboring island, not too far way. I was in Zanzibar for only 2 nights and 2 days.

Kathy (another volunteer) needs to use the computer so I better get going before she beats me up. She calls me "trouble" and I say I'm her "mini-me" so it's a pretty healthy relationship. I'll try to say more as soon as time allows.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I went on a safari last weekend to the Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara. It was pretty amazing but SO tiring. It took a 4 hour drive to get there which is long enough for me. And during the safari the road was super bumpy which means a lot of motion sickness going on for me, I was inhaling dust pretty much the whole time (so much that I felt there was a layer of dust coating my insides), and I was under the hot sun that beamed on me through the open roofs of the vehicle. My skin had never been so dark.

On the plus side, I saw crazy animals pretty up close. I got to see lions after they had feasted on their kill. Bellies full and sleeping with their legs up in the air while one lion would stay awake to protect the left overs. An elephant crossed the road right in front of the vehicle I was in. I could have gotten out of the car, walked 5 steps, and be able to touch it's loose, gray wrinkly skin. I was sure that it would turn around and turn the vehicle over on its side, but thank goodness it decided not to. I also saw tons of baboons carefully grooming others.

Many of us slept in tents at a camp site (away from the animals, obviously) and I forgot how much I disliked camping. The bathroom situation was not pretty.

I met a lot of great people too. I would always talk to the people working at the camp site who would call me "Rafiki" (friend). They were super nice.

There's more but I have a Swahili lesson in 5 minutes so I better get going. I have Swahili lessons about 3 times a week and it was great at first, but slowly going down hill.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I am in Africa.

Tanzania is amazing. I absolutely love it here. The people are so nice. They literally greet everyone and I do the same. Everyone is seen as family. They call others mama (mom), baba (dad), dada (sister), kaka (brother) and so on, depending on age. Respect is big here so greeting elders is a must.

I speak a lot of Swahili here (as much as I know, anyway) and Tanzanians love that I speak it to them. I enjoy the language so much that I plan to pursue it when I get back.

I have 3 roomies. A mother and daughter team and a Norwegian. Nice people.

Us volunteers are pretty spoiled at the home base. There's the main house and a smaller house behind it where the volunteers sleep. We get amazing food that the cook makes and an abundance of nice, clean water.

I live in the village of Karanga and every other day or so I go into town (Moshi) where I wander with the other volunteers. It's really fun except for the people who go up to us wanting to sell us things. They really don't take no for an answer. I would say "Hapana asante" (No thank you) or "Pole" (Sorry) but they would still follow us around thinking that MAYBE we'd change our mind. That's the annoying part of it all - no matter what, can't really fit in because of skin color. White = $$$. Other than that though, it's fine.

I started my placement today where I taught about 20 or so children basic math and we also have art time. It was chaos. Very short attention span. They are definitely tough to control. There are some that listen to me but the others don't really. Whenever the head teacher is around though just to look into my class, they are quiet but right when he leaves it's a totally different story. My classroom is actually outside because the actual classroom is getting plastered. I can't see how the children could really concentrate with chicks and roosters running around. I have a chalkboard up front and they have benches and tables which is nice. The kids are quite lovely though and they are fun to play with. I am usually found playing soccer with them during their 30 minute play time. They love to touch my hair and hold my hand.

The people here love my big smile and how I seem happy all of the time which is pretty nice because people here always seem happy themselves. I have been asked quite a few times if I'm Chinese. I found that pretty funny.

Internet is extremely slow here.

I don't take as many pictures as I would like because I would have to ask if I could take their picture since some don't want their pictures taken. Also, I feel weird taking pictures when I'm in Moshi because I'd like to fit in as much as possible - if it's at all possible.

The volunteers are pretty cool. Pretty diverse group. 3 from England, 1 German, 1 Norwegian, 1 Czech, a few from Canada, and rest Americans. Very diverse agewise as well. Nice group.

Basically, I LOVE it here and I shall try to blog it up more often.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Porridge Time

I received information regarding my volunteer placement today. I learned that I am caring for children between the ages of 5 and 7, aiding in the start of their education (English and math mostly). All of the kids are from peasant families and the school the children attend serves as a care center until they are old enough to go to a primary school. Currently there are approximately 80 children and from the notes that I have read from previous volunteers, it sounds like I am caring for around 15! Learning that made me quite nervous, especially since one volunteer didn't earn her respect from the children until the end of the 2nd week! Firm but loving, firm but loving. I have to keep that in mind. I am such a softy. My nerves rose even more when I learned that they may take advantage and then I saw the pictures. Once I saw the children's smiling faces, I got excited more than ever.

That was the moment it hit me. I am actually going to Africa! Not only that, but I am given the opportunity to meet these bright young people. I can't wait to learn their names and their passions. I love art and I am thrilled about doing arts and crafts with them.

Here is a picture of the children eating porridge. They have porridge time daily because a volunteer provides money for the milk and the parents provide the grain. Porridge Time - how great is that?

Thursday, August 9, 2007


I have yet to start packing. I have yet to even buy the backpack that I am to pack my belongings into in order to start packing. Multi-tasking is not a talent of mine, so I choose not to balance packing and finals to save me the stress. I thought it would be quite the wise choice.

Going to Africa has definitely not hit me. I still have to learn my Swahili. Though, I have learned that my Lonely Planet phrasebook is my best friend (sorry Sydney).

My packing strategies will be mapped out in a week or so. Until then, my thoughts are filled with interactions between organisms and their environment + tetraphenylnaphthalene, which is not as enjoyable but it will have to do for now.