Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Big Move

     Leaving RVCV was hard for me. Two days before I left we had the end of semester teacher's dinner party. I gave a thank you speech and then all the teachers got in a big line and sang to me as they paraded around teasing me with presents. At that point I realized that these teachers have become my family. They brought me in with open arms and we worked together as colleges and as friends. I miss their smiles, I miss playing cards with them in the teacher's office, I miss them trying to make me eat bread and tea everyday.
     RVCV was a great place for me to start exploring Tanzania. It was a place where I made strong connections, with other westerns, with Tanzanians, and most importantly with children. It is a crazy feeling when you love a child. A child from another another country, another family, another culture. I miss those kids as much they drove me up the wall sometimes. I miss their good mornings as I stumbled out of bed half awake. I miss their ability to get me to turn back into a kid. With kids you have to just laugh. You have to appreciated how they look at the world. These kids had their worlds crushed when they lost their families. Yet they are the ones smiling and playing everyday.
      But all things must come to an end. I knew it was time for me to grow and 'get uncomfortable' again. It is important to shake things up, to be scared, to try new things. And that is what I did. I was scared leaving RVCV, getting in the bus to go to Arusha. By myself, with only my belongings, and a hope that my new home would be a good one.
     And here I am. I am now living in Tengeru, 15km outside Arusha center. It just takes a quick pikipiki (motorcycle) ride to a dolla dolla to get into city center. The total of that trip 1,400 shillings or a little under a dollar.
     For the next three and a half months I will be living and teaching at Peace Matunda school/orphanage. Two weeks ago I starting teaching Standard 4 and 5 math in the mornings. In the afternoons I work on either the volunteer program or school development. The school has accomplished so much in a short time but has a way to go. I started developing a disciplinary code to provide more structure for the school. I am also helping to start a teacher to teacher observation program so that they can starting learning from each other. PM is lucky to have so many donations from western countries but the key is showing the teachers how manipulatives work and how differentiating curriculum can help kids learn. That last sentence is a long term goal. It is very complicated coming into a school and trying to help. I am coming into their culture and their school. I cant forget learning goes both ways.

Some new things for me here at Peace Matunda:

  • I hand wash all my cloths. I have already learned that waiting two and a half weeks to do laundry is a BAD idea. My hands are raw after spending 5 hours on laundry the last two days. I now appreciate washing machines.
  • Don't pet Itchy. Itchy is the PM dog and has that name for a reason. After a few flee bites I have learned that even though I miss having a dog...its just not worth it.
  • I can't say I am from the East Coast anymore. At night and in the mornings it is SO COLD. I found myself one night in full sweats, hat, scarf and layers underneath....under 3 blankets...yeah it was 50 degrees.
  • WEAR sunglasses while riding on the back of a pikpiki. No matter if it rains or not the roads are so dusty. I get off the pikipiki and have a line of dirt around my sunglass rims.
  • Instead of ugi time (porridge) for snack at school, Peace Matunda has banana time! I am surrounded by fields and fields of bananas!!!
  • Roosters do not know what time it is....ever.

***Little to no internet here and I am working my butt off so probably will not blog often...this one was for you Dad!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2 Weeks Left!

Sorry for such a delay. No internet for days and a super busy schedule with school closing in less than two weeks!

Here are some updates:

The Little Man
Nuru is the little boy in the red jacket.
Nuru is a little 5 year old boy in preschool here at RVCV. He is a KLR kid which means "Kids Living with Relatives". Nuru walks over 2 miles up and down trails and through coffee fields to come to RVCV every day. Everyday at 4 PM Nuru waits for the kids from school to walk him part of the way home. For over a month now, the kids from school have been forgetting him. He sits and waits and no one comes. The directors at RVCV have asked volunteers to help walk him home. One day Leah, a volunteer, saw Nuru waiting yet again. She asked him if he wanted her to walk him home. Tears filled his eyes and five of us ended up walking him home that day. On the walk home a drunk man tried to take him home with him. I explained that he was with us. No wonder Nuru is scared to walk home alone. He is only 5. He lives with his elderly grandmother, somewhere between 7-10 kids, and his older brother and girlfriend, who do whatever they please in the one room shack. He is a very quiet boy. I pray for the best for him.

Neema and I at the Track and Field Meet. 

Girls in Skirts
I was talking to one of the female teachers the other day and she commented on my jeans that I was wearing to the track meet. She asked why I was not wearing a skirt and I told her frankly I am tired of skirts and its a sporting event! She is a government employed teacher and she said that by law, she must wear a skirt to teach in. What year is it??

Alex (in green) ready to start his 400m.
Everyone runs barefoot.

Track and Field Debacle
So I have decided that I am totally going to become that crazy parent that gets kicked out of my children's sporting events. I lost it this weekend after 3 days of Track and Field and Sporting Matches for all the schools in our District.  I will write more about my weekend later- class now!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

4 More Weeks!

I looked up today while getting my lessons ready. Everyday I sit in the teacher's office. I study swahili, get ready for classes, play cards, drink tea, say the swahili hellos and how are you.

Sometimes I forget where I am. I get in such a routine. I forget that I am in Tanzania. I have Tanzanian students, I encounter Tanzanian problems. I still have ringworm (months now), my feet are so hard I call them my permanent 'summer feet.'

Ava and Baraka (teacher and student teacher) playing some sweet music!!
i forget that I am here because I am so comfortable here. Over 400 students, their  siblings in the villages, they all smile and say Jill, Jill! The children, their families, teachers, everyone, though they have nothing have given so much to me. I am so thankful for everyone here.

I am have four more weeks here at RVCV before I move to Arusha. I promise to live every moment and show appreciation to everyone here that has made this feel like home while I am so far away from my own.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Big Announcement!

It is official! I am staying to teach at another school until Christmas time in Arusha! I will be teaching at Peace Matunda School, English and Mathematics for the older standards. And I get paid!! WahoO!! I am so excited to be living in Arusha on the bottom of Mt. Meru. Peace Matunda is also an orphanage. It is much smaller then RVCV with around only 30 kids. It is Tanzanian owned, and funded primary through safaris, Kilimanjaro climbs, and the Cicely Foundation. 

So here is the official invite for everyone to come to TZ and stay with me!! I will be here for over a year total! Come, come!! Safaris, TZ culture…it's awesome!

Here are some pictures from school this last week! We have been inside a lot because of the rain, so here is Std 7 watching a soccer match. In another class I showed the Green Mountain Boys ski videos. It was most of the kids first time to see skiing! Watching them see someone do a flip on skis was hilarious! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Some things I have noticed about the kids...

They prefer playing with only one shoe or no shoes. They are better playing barefoot. So I spend half the class making sure they have their shoes on so they don't get more worms in their feet. Playing without shoes hurts..don't know how they do it.

They play sports with pens and pencils in their pockets because they are so afraid if they leave them in the classroom, someone will steal them. It becomes super dangerous playing with pens in your me.

A company from the US but based in Nairobi came and donated two wind turbines. Which is awesome because now that is the raining season, solar just isn't cutting it! Here are some pictures!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nairobi- My Closest Thing to America

Travel time: 45 minutes on a pikipiki (motorcycle)to Karatu… 3 hours on a NOAH (small crammed bus) from Karatu to Arusha… then around 6 hours to Nairobi depending on how long they want to made you wait at the border. 

My trip!
  • Met an engineer for Serengeti Beer who told me to drink responsibly…. and write a book.
  • Met Tyler at Silver Springs bus stop/ hotel because we thought it sounded the prettiest.  Too expensive, so stayed in a hostel…but still pretty.
  • Friday- Met Mr. Bob Arnot (Tyler's uncle) at the Fairmont Hotel (fanciful). Had a margarita pizza. white wine, and watched slideshows of Bob in the Congo with AK 47's, and terrorist leaders- crazy guy.
  • Tyler and I followed Bob and his film crew to a village outside Nairobi that is sponorsed by Feed My Starving Children. It is the only food these children recieve- a rice meal- three times a day. At night they sleep in their classrooms and share the few mattresses that they have. 

  • Went out Friday night and ate traditional cheap African food. Ugali, mboga, and wynama choma (burnt animal-didnt eat that). Saw an Ethiopian dance for the first time- their 'go-to' dance move is violently shaking their shoulders. Made friends.
  • Saturday- Wandered around Nairobi is search of a bagel…. and success!! This day I ate a bagel egg sandwich, strawberry smoothie (where the strawberries came from, I have no idea), cafe latte, cafe mocha, spring rolls, and ETHIOPIAN FOOD!! My new favorite food EVER! I will call this eating day.

  • Sunday morning I left from Silver Springs, and Tyler flew to Kampala. I am back home at RVCV without experiencing any terrorist attacks! Wahoo!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

So today is a Tanzanian holiday! Yeah! No school! It is called Union Day which commemorates the unification of Zanzibar and Tanganyika with Tanzania.

So what has been happening at RVCV...

RAIN RAIN RAIN! It has rained almost everyday this week. Because I teach gym, life becomes a little more interesting when we have to stay inside. There is no 'rec hall' so we just stay in their classroom. This week I have been playing the highlights of the Champions Cup (soccer) the first few minutes of class on my computer and then indoor games. If anyone knows of any sweet indoor game ideas which don't need supplies, let me know!! (I am starting to exhaust heads up 7 up, 4 corners, limbo etc....)

Last weekend I had a 'sleepover' in Tarengerie House (all boys house where I live.) They always sleep together anyway but for officially sleepovers we bring all their mattresses out in the living room and eat popcorn and watch movies. We watched Happy Feet first. I never realized this but the main penguin's name is Mambo. Mambo means, "Whats up?" in Swahili. He also dances similar to a local dance here called Kiduku. The mamas in house LOVED the movie. Tanzania and Happy Feet...who knew. The second movie was Material Girls...yes the boys wanted to watch a horrible girly movie. They loved it.

So now I am sitting in Arusha waiting for the shuttle to Nairobi. Last night I made a very last minute plan to meet up with a friend. He flew into South Sudan a few days ago, and the day he landed, war was declared by Sudan. So they flew him back out and went to Nairobi. So because it is a holiday today, and I heard you can get bagels in Nairobi...and Tyler is there haha....I will arrive in Nairobi tonight!

Tyler was planning on staying in South Sudan to visit children he sponsors through an NGO he started. Check it out!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back home!

My Standard 7 class!

 Joshua- in the middle...this is always how happy he is all the time....LOVES LIFE!!

 The sun is bright!! And you are way too close!

 Mwalimu Lucy and the students!

Reggie asked for this picture...

We are so cool we wear jerseys on our heads... 

...or because they are just too big. 

Awali- Kindergarten class 

The twins! 
Jacklina and I rockin' out! 

Kilimanjaro Part 2

Read after post below!!

Day 6: Everything, and I mean everything is wet. I have never slept better in a wet sleeping bag in my life. We woke up with only 3 more hours of hiking! It is amazing how it took us 4 days to get up and 8 hours down! Now that Karen was feeling more alive, I think she filmed the whole day. From ant wars, to monkeys in the jungle. We have it on tape! Karen filmed the whole time she was here so I can't wait to see it all! We did our final sign out for the mountain and walked to the little village. We piled back in the same bus and they sang Kili songs on the way back into Moshi. It was sad to say goodbye to Brian, Bobalu, all the porters. We became such a family on the mountain. I will never ever forget that experience.

We got back to Tengeru (outside Arusha where Peace Matunda is) got a coke, got invited to a wedding (at the same time) and then threw our horrible smelling things all over our room. Excuse me for my language but we smelled like "duck ass" Day 5 and 6 after our down sleeping bags got wet. We showered….oh the glorious shower…had some gin, and then got in a car with Bella and Conelli (he did not have gin-our driver) and headed off for Pangani.

Very African…they told us it takes 3 hours to get to Pangani, 7 hours later we arrived…the same day we got off Kili! We woke up the owner at 1 in the morning and just hope we were next to the ocean, and they had a room. Lucky my sad face got us a room for $30/night. When we woke up we were on the Indian Ocean. We had octopus (hard to get in TZ I guess) in soup. Supposedly it can give you the feeling of having wings…oh boy. So we spent a wonderful 2 days on the beach, got some sunburn, got dry sleep, and then headed back for Peace Matunda. The next day I had to go back to school and Karen had to catch her flight. 

We did it all!! RVCV, Ngorogoro, Kili, Pangani…could't have asked for a better vacation. Thank you so much for coming Karen and experiencing African life!


OK OK, I have been terrible at blogging this month. Blogging is not one of my strong suits but I need to tell you about Kili!!!

So here is what happened:

Karen and I get on a bus to take us to Machame which is the route we choose to climb. Machame is in Moshi, east of Arusha. When we got on the bus it was full of 12 men and 1 white guy. We soon found out 10 of these men were our porters, plus 1 cook, plus 1 of their guides (Bobalu) and the white guy was going to hike with us. His name was Brian and was volunteering as a resident doctor in Moshi for 6 weeks. I think he is in Paris now...lucky duck!

So when we got the the mountain it was me, Karen, Bella (our guide), Bobalu, (the other guide), Brian, and all the porters. Together we were a group of 16, just so three of us could make it to the top!! I felt lazy already. 

Day 1: No signing our lives away. No waivers in Africa! Love it! We starting hiking through what I will call 'jungle zone'. Hiked about 5 hours. It was so green and lush. It rained on us a bit. Unfortunately I speak a bit of Swahili and heard the guides said, "Mvua...kila siku"....that means, "Rain...everyday." Doomed... That night we had fish for dinner!!! They set up a separate dining tent for us every night, with appetizers of nuts or popcorn and hot drinks with dinner and fruit after. I think I gained weight on this trip...really.

**Quick note. Everyday the porters left after us because they had to clean up camp. They then passed us during the day and by the time we reached the next camp, everything was set up again and snacks awaited us. Luxury I tell you!

Day 2: I will call this day, a nice hike in New England. The trail was more rock faces and short shrubs...think top of Mansfield. We only hiked 3.5 hours this day to "The Caves." The Caves were just one little cave but it WAS A CAVE! So it was only day 2 and I woke up that night PUKING! I blame a questionable egg. Karen had similarly problems...because of the egg! I thought my climb was doomed, puking on night of day two. Thank you Momma Theresa (trail name for Karen) who had every medicine possible for the trip to make me feel better.

Day 3: A tiny bit of sun. We passed these girls from Norway I think, without sunscreen so of course Mother Theresa saved them with our extra sunscreen. Brian also received some serious blister thingys from her as well. Brian and I would have been out of luck with Karen!! Day three we traveled to Lava Tower and then descended back down a bit because of the elevation. Lava tower was a large rock (kinda like pride rock from Lion King but straight up.) What I REALLY remember about Lava Rock and all the subsequent camps was PANYA MNENE....this means fat mice. Oh man were they the fattest little mice I have every seen!! Their bellies drug against the ground while waddling to steal your food. I don't like mice, and glutinous mice...ugh, detest even more!! 

Day 4: We awoke to a beautiful view of Mt Meru when the sun rose and we began day 4. We left the lovely bathrooms behind (white tile....fabulous) to start climbing to the top. We climbed up a rock face for about an hour (probably the most technical part of it all.) Once we were finished the rock face we found out one of the porters (not our group's) fell off and broke his face. We saw him later WALKING DOWN with a bandaged face. No healthcare coverage and he probably won't get paid, extremely sad. So we continued walking for 5 more hours. Had dinner at 'base camp to summit" and slept for about 3 woken up at 10 30pm, left camp at 11 30pm and started what I call DEATH WALK.

Day 5: I would say death walk because after 6 hours of hiking that day, and few hours rest, we walked another 7 hours in the dark to the summit. I thought Karen turned into a zombie...dragging her feet like there was lead in them, every step. BUT she didn't stop! We saw one of the coolest things I have ever seen and did not realize even existed...a MOON-BOW!! It was incredible. Too bad we were all too tired, frozen, and mentally drunk to take a picture. We got to the summit just as the sun came up. Karen through ashes of her friend that passed, cried. I cried the second I made it. Ryan was here. Ryan was at that very spot, admiring what I think is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The closest thing to what I picture Antarctica to be like. We took pictures, until I couldn't move my finger enough to push the button and twenty minutes later, starting descending. I remember Brian saying he felt like it was the worst hang over of his life. I remember Karen not speaking at all, and I was SOOOOOO excited to see snow I started a serious snowball war mid-hike. On the way down I RAN. Two hours later we returned to base camp. Took a 1 hour nap, ate, and hiked ANOTHER 3 hours hiking in a day and a half... 18 hours. Forgot to mention the last three hours down it POURED and we walked down in a river. The rain soaked through 4 layers!!! I started singing to the guide to stay san.

OK I am late for school but will finish Day 6/ Pangani later!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

18 days of awesome!

So much has happened since Karen arrived in March so here is the breakdown...bullet points might be the easiest way to do this..
  • Karen arrived into Kilimanjaro airport and quickly learned of how people here will rip you off if your white. After $250 went into someone's pocket (not the government's), she was let into Tanzania.
  • I met up with Karen in Karatu the next night and realized I forgot to explain the currency, so when she took out money- 10,000tsh which the driver said was, "A very big bill" I explain that yes it is the largest bill but only worth $7. So to take out $7 she probably spent $5 in fees. Ah!
  • The next day we took a taxi back up into the hills of Rifty Valley. Karen spent three days here playing non-stop with the kids. She even helped teach preschool the very important letters Y and Z.
  • We then left for the Ngorogoro Crater with Dottie for the day. We were so close to a young male lion we could have touched it. It was a beautiful day!
  • That night we drove to Peace Matunda in Tangaru outside of Arusha. Peace Matunda is the orphanage and school that we climbed Kilimanjaro with. So we had one day to spend with the kids there...they are all amazing. The orphanage is TZ owned and much younger. It has a fun spirit. We roasted marshmallows and had a dance party.
Must go to school but more later!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Quick Picture Update!

Karen and I at RVCV!
Ngorogoro Crater!
Day 1- Kilimanjaro
Made it!
Why we made it...
Pangani on the Indian Ocean to rest after Kili.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Karen Made it Here!

Hello to all in the USA. My flight was uneventful - which is great. My connecting flight gave me an hour in Amsterdam. My first night in KIA lodge was great. Moody picked me up and drove me to Karatu the next day. It was about a four hour drive - because we stopped for photos all along the way. Jill came after school to Karatu and spent the night and we traveled to RVCV the next day by car on the rough road - but we made it. We were welcomed by volunteers and children. Mama to Jill is all kept hearing. That was the easiest way for Jill to explain our connection. We were able to put the volleyball net up the first day. Today I watched the play in one of Jill's classes - Standard Six. I have worked in the Pre-K yesterday and today, the Letters Yy and Zz. It is supposed to be the rainy season - but like us they said the weather is all mixed, dry so far. Tomorrow we will leave around 6:30am for safari in the crater, then onto PeaceMatuda to get ready for the Kili climb. We are both very excited and Jill has been taking me on one-two hour training walks through the coffee fields and to the small villages of some of her students. She is known everywhere! Through the valleys you can hear small voices yelling Jill, Jill, Jill. they can see her walking on another hillside and she returns a greeting to each and everyone of them. So, Mom, Carla, Kathy, and Bob - I made it - this is just the first time the internet has been up for days. Thank you all that gave donations - they all made it here safe and sound. Karen :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Maasai are coming! Wanakuja!!

So on Wednesday a school from the Ngorogoro Crater came to play us in soccer and netball. These kids live on the rim of the crater and are all Maasai. The school does not have a car so they rented one for the day and fit 37 people into a safari car!! So when someone asks many Maasai fit in a car...37 is the answer. Also, because most of them have never ridden in a car, a bunch puked on the way here...poor kids. Their girls netball team is super strong and we lost but our boys won the soccer game 9-0! Here are some pictures:

The spectators!
Jojo going for it!
Netball team warming up!

Hello Hello!

This week was a VERY busy week at school. Every week my classes participate in a different sport. The only four sports recognized in TZ are basketball, soccer, volleyball and netball. I decided this week to bring back what I love most....Track and Field. So the first day we divided each class into four teams and competed in the 100m, 200m, hurdles (aka buckets) and long jump (a jumprope as the line). The second day of classes we did the 400m, 50m, shotput (small soccer ball because their arms are just so tiny I felt bad using the real shotput) and high jump. The school made high jump posts with nails to hold the pole and then...truely African style...found a long stick to use as the bar. We took old mattress cushions for the landing. Each team had a paper with the four events and they wrote 1st- 2nd- and 3rd place.

After one of the classes, one of the boys said to me..."Mwalimu (in a serious tone), michezo leo...safi sana", and then walked away. It means, "Teacher, Sports today....very good." I love these kids!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy St. Patty's Day!

How Kristen described St. Patty's Day to the kids here- Like Christmas for Irish but instead of a tree-shamrock.

Carolyn- We celebrate lephrans because they look like me. (red head)

Brett- In Preschool they seriously questioned where you find pots of gold. At the end of rainbow...but really can we go there?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012


1. Still a vegetarian....going on 4 months! It is easy when at school I am always surrounded by chickens and their baby chicks. So cute!

2. I taught my first class in the POURING African rains. Under a tin roof, I tried to play indoor games like Heads Up Seven Up and Egg Scramble but gave up after not even being able to hear myself. Its a great way to drown out the kids...pun not intended..

3. Well I have officially been here too long. I had my first soccer dream.

4. Speaking of soccer, yesterday I played my first game with the big kids...the men's team. I was petrified. But they were all nice and I actually got a shot on goal. It didn't make it in but it was still a shot!

5. I made English muffins for the first time this week-Africa style. I must say it is easier to make them in the States. With only powdered milk, no cornmeal, and an oven that does what it wants...well... they were eatable.

6. I was looking through one of the science books at school and found out that they teach evolution. But they also have religion class... the controversy continues...dun dun daaa. The pastor, or religion teacher only shows up to class once and awhile so who knows what they are actually learning.

7. It is officially official! Karen Comegys is coming to hike Kilimanjaro with me! She will be arriving in 2 weeks to visit the orphanage, go on safari, and then start climbing April 1st. I cannot wait!

8. Thursday is Clubs after school and yesterday I went to watch Drama Club. Drama club is when two students go up in front of about 50 students in the field and make up a skit. Kids only 9 or 10 years old, and they are the end of the skits they are normally in a dance off... here are pictures...

9. The dentists are here.."Dickson show me your clean!" (They brought sunglasses-everyone loves dentist here.)

10. Rainy season means less Internet...sorry for any delayed responses and less blogging!!