Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Play time

Jill sent skipping ropes with me last week and the kids loved them. I had to actually pry one out of the hands of one of the directors!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Proud, Loud and Women Power

Women Power
Dutifully taught the English and vocabulary lessons to prepare the kids for their usual Friday prep tests - as well as a non-teacher could. The kids blow me away, insisting that I tell them if the word is "continuous present" or "past tense". I am not sure if they detect the beads of stress sweat that trickle down my back as I battle flashbacks of Phonics classes from yesteryear. Didn't like it then - like it even less now. But the kids, intensely clutching their shrinking pencils and hovering over their notebooks want their answers. I tell them how smart they are -- and that even kids who speak English as a first language would find the lesson challenging. They respond with a collective smirk.

After an hour and a half we took a vocabulary break in which the kids could ask about any words they wanted to learn the meaning of, and or how to spell. The list came fast and furious - aMAZing (they love this word and enthusiastically offered up synonyms -- fantastico? incredible? goodi?) and intimidating. The discussion about intimidating lead to discussing bullying (all tenses of course). They used both words in sentences until I begged for mercy.

Some of the kids speak so softly I can barely hear them. I am constantly urging them to speak louder. Today I switched to say "speak prouder". I reminded them that God gave them a voice - and to use it. I shared with them that when my girls were little we used to start our day by raising our arms in a cheer of "women power", which prompted Phillipo to ask "what about the men power?" I explained that most men already know they have power and girls have it too, but sometimes it's a secret until they learn how to use it. Cheering helps remind them that they have it too -- and to use it!

Took a few moments out of their busy day to share a Canada book with them that illustrated some of the animals we had talked about -- polar bears, beavers, moose and Canada geese. They are intrigued by an animal who can chop trees down with its teeth, "Will it kill me Teacher?" "Do you eat them?"

Oliver walked me over to her new house that is tucked in a laneway behind Good Hope. She was clearly proud of her new home with the indoor toilet and shower but complained that the chickens kept eating the seeds in her garden so -- no garden!

Later in the afternoon they had to show me that they were using their new found vocabulary. One of the boys had a girl in a playful headlock. "Teacher, she was bullying me with her women power."
"Teacher, he was trying to intimidate me."
"Teacher, you are an AMAZING teacher."
"No I'm not"
"No, but you try hard" "Yes, Teacher, you try your bestest"  *smile*

Gill and I took the dala dala to the town centre for coffee at the Kilimanjaro Coffee House, They say Moshi is small and it was proven today; I ran into our house mate Tanya sitting outside the Naka Mat grocery store. While I was still gushing over that, Jill walked out! I made all the introductions and I couldn't help but be reminded just how similar life in this town can be to the life in a small town I grew up in. Familiar faces every day.

Dinner was an eclectic mix of samosas, oranges, nuts and cookies -- and wine. We shared it all with our house mates as we sat under the stars, being cooled by the evening breeze.

And I couldn't help but wonder how it is I could find myself in such a wondrous place. Life is wondrous indeed.

Some of the kids in class A

Joyce sewing in the shop

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spice and everything nice - almost

Music teacher explaining the recording they are about to hear

After an insomniatic night listening to howling dogs, rooters that didn't know it was the middle of the night and the footsteps of the security guard on the gravel below, I was wondering if I was going to be able to make it through a whole day. My driver Zawadi (Gill's recommendation) picked me up promptly at 9:30 to drive to Good Hope. He is a pleasant man, with a wide permanent smile and kind eyes and gladly shares about his life on the drive in. As he maneuvered the rocky, makeshift roads I asked him if he got alot of flat tires. "No" he grinned, "not since I got new tires". He dropped me by the bank machine on the way in and reluctantly took the 10,000 Tanzanian shillings I offered. "Too much Lyn. But thank you very much". (It wasn't too much!)

Today was a teaching day -- too, to, two; fast, faster, fastest; past and present tenses. I showed them pictures of fairies, knights and unicorns as promised from the day before. We discussed vocabulary, They told me words they wanted to know and/or how to spell... clever, intimidating, eager, beaver (I can explain)... I noticed Julius sitting clearly off to the side, head hung with what looked to me an angry expression. I kept trying to draw him in and get him to participate but he just shook his head.
During the first break I asked him if he was okay and he didn't respond. I asked him if he was mad and I put my hand on his shoulder. He looked up at me and said, "teacher, I am not mad - I am sad. I am sad because my sister is dead".  I was dumbstruck and immediately felt foolish for the grief I had given him in class. She had passed away just two days prior. I told him I was so sorry for his loss and pain -- that I knew it must be very hard for him and his family. He simply said that it was and "thank you teacher for your kindness".

Jill sent me with three skipping ropes and I didn't make it inside without them being plucked. The giggles erupted immediately and the biggest kid of all was Oliver, Good Hope's director. I finally had to scold her into sharing with the kids.  :)

The kids at Good Hope had worked with a music teacher to record a rap song and on this day, they heard it for the first time. The music teacher had Julius stand at the front of the class to perform the rap portion of the song for his classmates. He was incredible. I was blown away by his ability to do that being as shy as he is - not to mention the loss he had just suffered.

Gill and I took Oliver and Nelson, the local teacher to a local spot for a platter of beans, rice, meat and greens and banana and water melon. It only cost us 2,000 TZS each ($1.40 CAD). I couldn't finish all of the food on the platter and I felt ashamed at the waste.

Zawadi was uncharacteristically late picking us up --- he had a flat tire! I jinxed him!

Dinner with our housemates at an authentic ? Thai restaurant was delicious - hot spicy ginger beef -m eaten in the open Tanzanian air with interesting people - doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Day of Surprises

We were too excited for any jet lag to show. We donned our modest clothing - Jill in a skirt and me in my MC Hammer baggy Kili pants (or should I say pantaloons) - and went downstairs to greet the day. We followed the sound of playful chatter to the outdoor dining area where a small group were congregated, partaking in the coffee, tea and toast and eggs. We were somewhat tentative - a little shy, not knowing the lay of the land  or the routine. Arriving in a new place in the middle of the night robs you of your bearings - but nothing that isn't solved by a day of wandering and exploring.

Pleasant surprise! While Jill and I were talking in the hallway, a door opened and Spela appeared - a woman from Slovenia and fellow volunteer from  last year. We all cheered exclaiming the coincidence and good fortune. It did seem somewhat serendipitous!

Had a full day at Good Hope; about ten familiar faces and many new ones including some wonderful young local teachers - Nelson, Scholar and Yvone. Sadly (for me ) there have been changes and only one (Oliver) of the three original founding mamas remain. I did have another surreal but wonderful experience and that was meeting my new virtual friend Gill in the flesh at long last. And from first glance, she was a familiar friend.

On my first day I mostly observed... a few things had changed in the Tanzania I remembered : a few new pigs crated out back, a new materials room, and new faces. But some things are exactly the same... little Rosie (toddler) roaming the yard; the concrete classroom and well worn blackboard; the spark of hope and resilience  the eyes and on the faces of the kids; and the great need and desire for education.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Safety Net

Snuggled under the mosquito net

Stepped off the plane into the hot moist air that is Moshi. Jill and I paused on the tarmac, taking it all in, a little overcome with sheer excitement and disbelief at our good fortune to be back on Tanzania soil.

We had the smiles and good wishes of friendly faces to greet us and drive us to our bed and breakfast. With the power outage all over the neighborhood - not an unusual occurrence - finding our accommodation was not easy.

We unpacked by candlelight and solar lanterns until the lights came back on and then snuggled under our mosquito nets, drifting to sleep to the chorus of barking dogs and the muffled voices beneath our window.

Familiarity is a comfort all its own and every bit a safety net as the one I am sleeping under.

Friday, October 24, 2014


"We are all getting so excited to see you next week. Just wanted to officially say welcome."
Yup - we're going back to Tanzania. In just a few days Jill and I will once again be shrouded in the hot humid air of Moshi with the taste of burnt dust on our lips. And our hearts will open wide.

Tanzania is like that; it opens its arms and cradles you; invites and welcomes you; changes you.

I struggled with my motive to return. I wasn't so naive to think that I was really needed, that life in Moshi wouldn't go on without me. I considered how better spent my airfare could be - the impact of $1200 on the tiny informal organization of Good Hope. I even thought how exciting it would be to use that money to bring someone from Good Hope here to Canada. Jill announced she was going back to reconnect with her mamas at the women's empowerment group of Mkombozi. We talked it over; debated the reasons to go - and not go. And in the end we couldn't resist.

Good Hope doesn't need me. But I need Good Hope. I'm going back for a heart-full.

So thank you Gill for your kind words. We're almost on our way and I can't wait to meet you. I only hope you live up to your virtual Skype version.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reaching Out

Had an email from Betsy, the volunteer from Chicago who now lives in Moshi. She had some disturbing news. Hamidu's school sponsor suddenly pulled out. I could hear the desperation in her words...

"I think you all may remember Hamidu, the one who wanted to be a tour guide. Well sadly for some unknown reason his sponsor has decided to drop out leaving Hamidu and his family in a very tough unexpected situation. Hamidu (quiet Hamidu) is just about to finish his 6 month pre-entrance course to Tropical Institute in Arusha this month and then immediately starts his year-long Tour Guide course. I said quiet Hamidu, not anymore, he's blossomed in the last 6 months into a confident young man.  
Can any of you find him a sponsor? Since this is a fast one year course the entire amount of money needs to come now, because there is a school fee payment schedule and there several field trips that happen on "unscheduled" times that need immediate prepayment throughout the year.  
The total cost is 4,630,000, which also includes a mandatory driving course to get a Class C driver's license (mandatory for safari guides) and textbooks."

The Tanzanian shillings translate roughly into $2800. I don't usually fundraise through my blog but this young man is special to me and I can't stop feeling that I have to do everything I can to help him raise himself out of poverty. He will make it with our help. And I know what you are thinking ... he is only one of many who deserve the same. And you are right. But one is still one.

If you have an extra $5 you could spare, I would be honoured if you would consider contributing to his educational fund. You can donate here, and if you can't, that's okay too. I really don't have a right to ask anything of anyone. If you donate, please also send off an email to Good Hope with "Hamidu" in the subject line telling them the amount that you donated to his fund.

Assante sana!