Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
Under a cloudless sky
Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
To know you we shall try.

Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
In the rolling hill abide
Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
With the Master on your side.

Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
Your voices make us strong
Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
We’ll remember every song.

Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
Your courage lifts us up
Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
To you we raise a cup.

Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
Your children bring us cheer
Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
May God keep your pathway clear.

Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
With warmth and patience pure
Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
Of your future we are sure.

Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
So much that we could say
Ipalamwa, Ipalamwa
In our hearts you’ll always stay.



Ellymark, Ellymark
As engaging as can be
Ellymark, Ellymark
Is a Wanderer you see.

The Troubadour was with us
To his voice our hearts do swell
He dances oh so lightly
His name is Fanuel.

Who can cap the DJ?
With ever a sideways glance
He slouches near our doorway
Evan’s presence not by chance.

Macombe towers ‘re us
He heeds our every call
His manner is quite formal
He’s a Statesman to us all.

There’s something about a number
That touches something sore
That Nickson would be mighty
By wearing Number 4.

If you listen closely
And bend an ear aplenty
You may just hear the Whisperer
“I’m the headmaster, Mheni.”

The Princess

The Princess is pretty
The Princess is neat
She’s all about Gigabytes
And no time to eat.

Her speech is quite rapid
Her opinions are many
Of things she’s not sure of
There aren’t very many.

She sleeps in her nest
With no pea to disturb
Just send her an email
With any new blurb.

The kids just adore her
With happy face squeals
They cluster around her
As she kicks up her heels.

The Friendly Neighbor

Friendly Neighbor Roger
An easygoing chap
He takes to bed quite early
And favors a PM nap.

He walks along quite slowly
With a student or two in tow
He helps them with their math
The parts they do not know.

He’s ever the quiet American
But shares a few neat tales
Of places where he’s served
He hasn’t been to Wales.

He tries to keep us focused
On the true Tanzanian way
Just don’t be in a hurry
We’ll get it done some day.

The Talking Machine

Whoever has heard
Of a Talking Machine
Needs to meet Elli
With questions so keen.

She doles out the sweets
And writes stories to tell
She gets right up close
With the kids she is swell.

She makes every point
At least twice or times four
She pounds on the table
And stomps on the floor.

She wants to get right
The email and such
She wants to make sure
Not to get into Dutch.

The Singing Poet

That Bill is our poet
Is an exaggerated thing
About all he’ll confess
Is that he likes to sing.

He seems rather quiet
And stares into space
He likes to observe
And study you face.

He sometimes surprises
Or just goes along
At Saturday prayers
He offered a song.

He likes to take walks
And wander or not
He’ll best be recalled
For the suicide knot.

Queen Bee

Mama Toni, Mama Toni
It’s not hard to see
Why we couldn’t resist
Naming her Queen Bee.

She sits on her stool
So proper and prim
And fixes great meals
Fills our plates to the rim.

She whacked up a chicken
For the Bishop to feast
He ate while he talked
The gizzard not the least.

Each Sunday for church
She lights up the sky
Our darling Queen Bee
Is a rare butterfly.

The Man

Mohamed’s “The Man”
We can’t do without
Throughout the long drive
We saw not a pout.

At the airport he told us
He had a fine figure
And we’d sure know Harran
Since his figure was bigger.

You mush watch him close
For his twinkle and smile
To know when he’s kidding
May take a long while.

He taught us Swahili
And threw in some Hehe
A quite useful phrase
For us is “Kam wene”.

Big Fish

Who would have thought
In a land that’s so dry
That we’d find a Big Fish
Who’s a marvelous guy.

He shuffles along
The red, dusty road
And suffers our questions
Despite his heavy load.

He runs interference
With teachers and all
He’s always right there
When we give him a call.

He’s a teacher with soul
And likes a good laugh
We can always be sure
He’s on the right path.

Goodbye Redux

Up early for the trip to Iringa. Macombe and others show up while we scramble for breakfast—boiled eggs and peanut butter. Evans obviously struggling with the shortness of the visit. He gives each of us a note. This is the inevitable moment. Can we give more? Did we really come for such a short time? We dance around the ritual of packing, of loading the van, of pacing while last details are taken care of. The only way to leave is to leave quickly.

A last chance to say goodbye to Mr. Mheni, Nickson, Macombe, Evans, Ellymark. Mr. Fanuel comes to say farewell. We will miss his guitar, his magic voice, his voicing of the choir. Yasmin has a special moment with Macombe; they walk closely together. He has a future, but not at Ipalamwa. We hope Mr. Mheni can carryout his ambitious plans for the school—a computer lab. We hope he finds a way to start a library. We bemoan the lack of books, the rote learning and the limitations it places on thinking, exercising of the mind, developing the power to reason and question and analyze.

The road to Iringa Town is long and worse than in bad shape. We leave by a different route to avoid a disabled vehicle. Along the way, we pass people returning on foot to the village. We pick up Papa Toni—which explains, in part, the outfit Mama Toni has selected for the hot dusty trip. In Iringa Town, we enjoy lunch at Hasty Tasty Too. At 3 pm Bill and Eloise depart for Ruaha and safari. Yasmin will have two days alone to rest and take in Iringa sights and sounds. Our adventure in service has all but ended. It is all about retracing our steps now, but it is unlikely that we can step into the same footprints. Each of us, in our own way, will have much to think about. Whether we recognize it now or only later, or at some unexpected moment in the weeks ahead, Ipalamwa will have changed our lives in someway.

Dinner at Eight: Dress: Formal

Another “formal” affair. Mr. Mheni escorts us to Form 4 classroom. Students seated as if for class. There is no measure of the number. A mix of third and first form students. Many familiar faces. We are seated in front, with Mr. Mheni presiding.

After the students sing the school song—the work “Ipalamwa” rings out followed by a high soprano refrain—we are seated. Mheni offers a few words, then we are asked to speak. Yasmin gives a from-the-heart thank you, very gracious, very warm. Eloise, although earlier indicating she would only offer a few words, having said her goodbyes in class and fearing the emotional impact of the evening, spoke sincerely of the gift to us all.

Bill noted the faith of the students and the strength the students received from their faith in God. He then read a Poem for Ipalamwa, which expressed his impression and sense of Ipalamwa, the students, staff and villagers. Mr. Mheni then gave students a chance to speak.

Each thanked us for coming, and each asked our forgiveness for errors they may have made. Yasmin and Eloise assured them there were no errors, no need for forgiveness. My sense is that the request for forgiveness is a part of Tanzanian culture. The request is sincere but calls for no response. It is a formality like the thanks given by each student to Mr. Mheni for the opportunity to speak.

Then the choir sang; Mr. Fanuel sang with others a song for the GV volunteers. All was warm and friendly. We then worked the crowd, sharing handshakes with every student and tight hugs with students who had reached out to us personally. The evening ended.

We made our way back with students and staff; more goodbyes. Evans, Macombe and Ellymark flirted by our door some time; Yasmin, full of energy and delight took many photos, and all were swept up in the moment that will last.

This is our last full day in Ipalamwa. Our morning meeting was with Mohamed since Harran has gone back to Iringa on business. Yasmin had no classes today, but Bill and I did.
My classes consisted of a quick review of some material we had studied last week. I followed this with some words of farewell for the students in Form 1 and Form 3, which are the classes I’ve taught. This was very difficult for me because I knew this was the last time I’d have an opportunity to connect with them. I spoke to them about their sacrifice, determination, drive and hope for the future. I will always remember the smile on their faces and the light in their eyes. If I don’t see them again before I leave tomorrow morning, I’ve said what I wanted and need to say.
I am glad that the day to depart is tomorrow. Leaving is difficult for me, and I have been preparing for it for several days. Deep inside I just want it to be over. I hope that when we leave in the morning we don’t encounter any sad faces on the path that leads down to the school. I don’t want to feel sad any more.
I’m not sure what to expect tonight at our final meeting with the students, staff members and possible some community members. I’m thinking it may include some of the wonderful singing we’ve been hearing for the past two weeks. At any rate, the wait is not long. We have been summoned down to the celebration.

Thought For The Day:
“The grand essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.” (Alan K. Chalmers)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rain, rain, rain…you came during the day to wash away the dirt and at night you fall on our roof to help us sleep.
We gathered for breakfast and Harran had one last Ipalamwa meeting with us before he had to travel to Iringa. As always we shared stories and we laughed and laughed. A silent moment took place in my mind s I looked around the room at these wonderful people I have been with for the last few weeks. I realized a part of them has weaved itself in my being. I felt very fortunate to have met all of them as well as the others who live in this special place. However, it is not yet time to think about leaving as this day has been designated to painting a gift for the students. In one of the classrooms we painted, we decided to paint a tree on one of the walls. (The tree the students and we stared at every day.)
The “Singing Poet” (Bill) went to church to share one last service with the villagers and say goodbye for all of us. The “Talking Machine” (Eloise) took a day of rest in order to have all here energy for her last class on Monday and get better as she was not feeling well. I went to sketch the tree on the wall.
It felt so nice to create this piece of inspiration and memory for the students we came to love. We hoped that the addition to their classroom would always remind them of the importance of learning and challenge them, as well as, continue to be the amazing people they are.
I spent all morning sketching and I was even able to begin a little painting before lunch. Mama Toni cooked another great meal and during our meal we decided to paint some more and then join the villagers at the market. This market only happened one Sunday of every month. We were excited to take part in the monthly event.
When entering the classroom to continue painting, we found that the paint was missing. Searching and searching for the paint we, sadly, found out later in the day that someone had taken it. Because of this terrible act the students will be left with an unfinished wall. This is very sad and disappointing.
Instead of completing our surprise we went to the market and were welcomed with big smiles from man of the students and villagers. The market was full of colors and amazing sounds—music, voices, footsteps, laughs, etc.
In the afternoon, before dinner, or dear, dear friend Mohammed came back. Eloise and I were so happy we ran to greet him. It is just not the same without Harran, Mohammed and Roger. (Whom we found out was continuing his travels, as he was feeling better.)
We ate and after dinner while Mr. Mheni was trying to come to say hello and we were trying to make it back to our rooms, we were surprised to find out that the outer area of the dining area was flooded!
Mohammed, of course, jumped right in and saved the day as always. He and two students (one was Titus) jumped into the water and placed big cement blocks down for us to walk on and be safe from the muddy water. They are so kind! As the water tried to capture us in its grip, the grip of the people and their kindness won [smile].
The night came to an end by us all saying “lala salama” through our speaker system. Soon it will be our last night in Ipalamwa.

Thoughts For The Day:

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” (Hugo)

“Silence equals nonexistence. If I do not raise my voice, it’s like I never existed.” (Margaret Cho)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Anticipation and Anxiety
A day of contrasts. Last night a “sample” of the rainy season: showers, some heavy, and an occasional burst of wind. This morning, clouds and more showers. Suddenly, weather raises her head over the plateau that is Ipalamwa secondary school. We paint, plan a gift, partake of lunch, and part our ways for the afternoon—the day now mild and bright. Eloise stays “home” to rest; Bill and Yasmin take off with Macombe for a walk, leaving the road and bushwhacking along a garden of beans, corn and potatoes. Macombe explains our presence to enquiring villagers in the fields. Back on the well-worn track, the hikers walk up and then down into the lush green valley, a valley garden along a stream. The soil rich and dark, soil replenished during the rainy season when the valley floods and villagers tend fields on the slopes.
We learn today of naming customs: grandfather, father after first name, and then family name. Evan Charles—two Christian English names; Macombe has the customary, it seems, mix of African and biblical names in his family. Tonight, we await the service—anticipation. Again, no certain time it begins.
Anxiety is present: what will Monday hold? The celebration? Then a week of separation before reuniting in Iringa for the drive to Dar es Salaam. The group will drop to 3 when Harran leaves for Iringa on Sunday and we await Mohammed’s arrival Sunday night.
End of adventure thoughts swirl in our heads. Have we done enough? Can we give back in proportion to what we have received? And when we are gone, how much do we take away? And how much of value do we leave? We all need to reflect. There will be time, but reflection now while still in Ipalamwa may bring different thoughts than when we are propelled back into our vastly different paced culture, over mechanized, computerized, electrified culture.
The student service was full of energy. The hymns and songs filled the newly painted classroom. Nevertheless, this week’s service seemed less electric. Maybe it was because of the anticipation gendered from last Saturday. Maybe it was the emptying of the room as Form 2 students left to study. Yasmin and Eloise were escorted to the service by their friends from the dorm. Bill sent ahead and was given a place with friends from Form 1, Ladiza, Rosemary and Faunista. Immediately, the girls asked Bill to sing, to put his name in the book. When the Form 2 students left, Bill found his way up front and signed up. Almost immediately, before he could finish the biscuit offered by Ladiza, his name was called and he gave the group a rendition of “Jacob’s Ladder,” a traditional American spiritual. He even got some of the high-pitched screams as he reached high on the third line: “Master, we are here to serve you.” And we are here to serve. Let this, if nothing else were our gift to the students, teachers and villagers of Ipalamwa.

Thought For The Day
“As you serve others, so shall you serve me…”

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Yesterday we found out during our morning meeting that there would be no classes on Saturday. This means we will teach only one more day—Monday. One activity that remains to be finished is painting. Aside from this, Bill and Yasmin and I hope to be with the students for Saturday night worship. We will also attend Sunday church service.
With only one day of teaching remaining, I realized the end of our time in Ipalamwa is very close. I thought about our time here most of the day as I was in bed resting rather than in the classroom teaching. I thought about the obstacles our team has had to overcome. Roger’s illness on Wednesday made it necessary for Harran and Mohammed to drive him to Iringa for treatment. On Thursday night I was very sick with a stomach problem from midnight until about 2:00 am. Yasmin and Mama Toni helped me through this as Harran started back from Iringa Town to deal with this new health situation. Roger seems to have gotten past his crisis but will not be returning to our group. I was able to recover without medical treatment. Fortunately, Bill and Yasmin have not had major health issues in Ipalamwa.
There was a little rain during the day. It was the first rain since we have seen here. The rain came in periods of 5 minutes or so and then it would stop. It really id not affect the ground much.
In the evening we had a very good meeting with Harran. We reflected on our original goals and summarized how we felt we had accomplished them. I left with a good feeling, but immediately after the meeting there was serious accident involving two girl students. For some reason the girls were running out of their dormitory and two of them fell and were injured. Harran, Papa Toni and several other adults were frantically rendering first aid. The girls were transported to an emergency clinic in a neighboring village. They returned shortly before we went to bed. We were pleased to know that the girls had received treatment and would be okay, although they were still very shaken and in much pain.
As I saw this event unfold, I thought to myself: I want to go home. I was once again reminded of how difficult life is here and how fortunate we are to live in the United States. This made me not want to encounter more hardships and I just wanted to return home to the comfortable life I live.
Shortly after we all retired for the night, it started to rain again. It was a little steadier than it had been during the day. The sound of the rain on the tin roof was quite loud. As I lay in bed listening to the rain, it brought some much-needed comfort.

Thought For The Day:

“Foot falls echo in the memory down the passage which we did not take towards the door we never opened into the rose garden.” (Eliot)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Painted Funeral

Last night, we learned, an elderly man in the village died. Harran left before lunch to help dig the grave in the graveyard nearly. The man was seventy-eight. We would have liked to observe the funeral today but felt it better to stay away. This sad news did not stay the African sky. After a clear moonlit night, the morning broke with warm sunshine. To the east great billows of clouds rose into the sky. The bottoms were feint at the horizon then blossomed into solid puffs of white, all against a light blue sky. This was an Ipalamwa moment—a moment to share here and at home. Yes. Africa—Tanzania—is that serene. There is time here to sit, observe and look into yourself—if you only take the time.
In the afternoon, Eloise, Roger and Bill go to paint Mr. Mheni’s office. They work with two Form 3 students, Jeffery and Yusophu. Jeffery and Yusophu have been on other work crews with Bill and Roger. Not much is said, but there is a sense of brotherhood from the work together. Whether the work is good or bad, necessary or convenient, it is the work that has been requested. Does it directly benefit the students? Probably not, but we did not come here to judge decisions, seven if the decisions seem self-motivated. This is all learning about Tanzania; learning about a private Lutheran School, isolated from any social services, and free to adopt its own code and rules, its own social structure, its own decisions about use of available resources.
Apart from the death and the afternoon funeral, a catholic funeral that ran longer than Harran expected, it was a quiet day until five o’clock when Bill found Roger in acute pain and barely able to talk. As the pain loosened its grip, Bill and Harran persuaded Roger to go to Iringa tonight. Mohammed tells Bill he is ready to drive as soon as we decide what is best for Roger. Roger is reluctant to go, but as the pain continues, he agrees he should go. We will miss Roger and pray for his safety and recovery. We should end this day here, on a prayer and a moment of quiet reflection. We will carry on, more mindful than ever of the precarious life in Ipalamwa, the faith of people who are so far removed from the support systems we take for granted.

Thought For The Day:

“Serving others is reward enough”.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Today we were all back together as a team. Harran was back in Ipalamwa after being away from Sunday morning through Monday night. So it was back to business as usual. We had breakfast, read our thought for the day and our journal and proceeded with our teaching through late morning. Shortly before lunch we joined the headmaster, staff, students and parents from the elementary school to celebrate the graduation ceremony and the festivities that followed. We sat through speeches, singing and dancing and later we were invited to the dinner honoring the students graduating from the primary school with hope of entering Form 1 in the secondary school in January. The students seemed proud. They enjoyed the music and the food as they were surrounded by the invited guests including our GV team.
An interesting observation was that children and adults alike either sat or stood throughout the very lengthy service. Our team members were unable to understand that was being said, but Mr. Kikoti and Mr. Macombe would translate for us. Some of what was being said dealt with school problems, school rules, etc. We were surprised to find that this had a place during the celebration. Perhaps it is one of the best opportunities to speak to the entire community about such a topic.
The dinner was quite nice. The menu included rice, beans, cooked spinach and chicken. Bananas were also served. Music played the entire time. Students stood up and danced. When our team members left the room where we were seated for dinner, I made another interesting observation. All the adults and children who were not a part of the invited guests were in the school courtyard standing around and eating. I saw rice on their plates. I am not certain if any of these people had gotten anything other than rice for their meal.
One last observation I would like to record is one that I have been making for days. Even among extreme poverty, there are different levels. Some of the children I saw today must be among the poorest of the poor. And yet they smile and play and interact. I can’t help but wonder what their future holds.

Thoughts For The Day:

“Go to the people. Learn from them, live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves.” (Lao Tzu)

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” (Emerson)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Now we are into our second week, and still meeting new people. The schedule is posted but my motto is “go with the flow.” Like this morning, we toured the Primary School with Mr. Kwaya, the headmaster and Mr. Joseph. This is a school with an enrollment of 400 students and 9 teachers. We visited first with the teachers in a “faculty” room, then individual classrooms. The staff was sitting behind piles of student notebooks, which they were correcting. Inside the classrooms students stood at attention responding in unison to Mr. Kwaya’s directions, their faces expressing sheer joy. I was very surprised to see them quickly volunteer when I asked, “What is your favorite subject?” Otherwise, they would hide their faces in their hands.
It was interesting comparing the two schools. In the primary school there were posters on the wall, CPR chart, parts of the body. Also, some books in the rooms. The most interesting teaching aid was small broken twigs and rocks used for counting.
At noon I went to Form 3 math. This class is new for me, but I do know some of the students from activities during the weekend. Because Mr. Evans did not show up, I engaged the students in conversation. From this discussion, I got a vague idea as to what they were doing in math, so I proceeded without a book on my own. My most creative idea was playing Hangman using geometric forms. Finally, at 12:35, Mr. Evans arrived.
In the afternoon, Mr. Mheni took us on a walk to another village. Along the way we met many local people. All seemed very happy to se us. On the way back Mr. Mheni treated us to cokes at a sit down restaurant. I was amazed that the proprietor could make change. We all appreciated Mr. Mheni’s genuine hospitality. Spending the afternoon with Mr. Mheni helped me to get to know him better and to learn more about this area and the school.
Personal observation: I have yet to see one behavior problem inside or outside the classroom.

Thought For The Day:
“Whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition: to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.” (Emerson)

Monday, October 22, 2007

It is beautiful how one can be taken from their home, placed in a new environment and feel at home. This weekend took a hold of us all; the love of Ipalamwa continued to encircle us, hold us tight and fill our hearts with joy. If I was given the power to stop time in a moment or a feeling it would have been this weekend (especially Saturday night). The quite well behaved students came alive as they shot their amazing energy across the room and through our bodies lifting our souls off of the ground. We were experiencing magic, something that could only be felt, not captured in a photo or expressed by words. Not only did the students and local share their prayers, songs, and dances with us, they presented us with a great big surprise—a celebration. Again, the space around us was filled with their magical voices and warm love.
The four of us were given a special gift to treasure forever—a piece of love from Ipalamwa. “Asante sana! Asante sana!”
As the students and local were opening up to us and sharing more and more of their village, we began to connect with them as individuals. Since the day had been filled with us all being a unit this got me thinking…
Our individuality is everything, everything that we have in this work to offer and share. There are those who hold it for security, those that repress it for they believe it is bothersome and those that are blessed in the twinkle of the morning star for they nurture individuality and ride it in grace, love and wit, through life’s amazing and unique journey. The people of Ipalamwa have found this secret and that is why their community is so strong. May we only add more sparks to the light that already shines here?
--the human contribution of BBC news has left us. We have a new housemate, our friend “the man” (Mohammed)
--nicknames have started to be annointed; Talking Machine (Eloise by Mr. Evans); Singing Poet (Bill) and Queen Bee (Mama Toni)….
--classes were surprisingly dispirited for the students had to do their chores
--the kids loved our games—Boogle, puzzle, cards (Uno), Scrabble…
--we learned a new sport, net ball, which is basketball yet without bouncing the ball for it is hard to bounce a ball on the ground.
--Eloise waited for 30 minutes outside the door for me even though the key was around her nick, right under her nose.
--we all have adventured to a part of the waterhole, except Mohammed.
--Bill sang by himself in front of the student body “This land is our land” with such enthusiasm and passion
--as a group we introduced ourselves and sang “This land is our land”, followed by a wonder speech from Bill thanking the congregation
--we learned about the kanga, which is worn by the women. The women wear it as a covering skirt when wearing pants or shorts. It can also be worn as a decorative hat and the children wear it as a dress once wrapped around their necks to have it the perfect length.
--Mr. Mheni so eloquently fixed a young man’s collar so he would look presentable in front of the congregation (we all let out a warm laugh).
--all the students washed their clothes on Saturday—the back of the dorms were filled with shoes drying and a section of the field near the coffee house had beautiful colors spread all about to receive the sun.
--we got a glimpse of the local sports bar when the students took us to another part of the village (the alcohol is made with corn or sorghum).
--the students are so kind buying and trying to buy us bananas, sugar cane and crackers. They have hearts of gold.
--Ladiza and I enjoyed doing the Julie Andrews kick from the Sound of Music (the kick she does in front of the gates singing “I have confidence in me”).
--Eloise had Mosu (one of the boy students) be personal translator while she greeted the villagers. We saw many of the villagers that had attended church and the celebration.
--Roger went with Mosu down to another waterhole and got to experience the boys washing their clothes—we are all surprised how white their shirts are—unbelievable.
--the iron they use is an iron my great, great grandmother would have used. The charcoal actually goes in the iron.

Thought For The Day:
“No man is an island entire of self; every man is a piece of the continent” (John Donne)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

“A rear view mirror tells us where we have been, not where we are going…”
Broken Window
Today the window broke
The ladies gave a shout
The ball flew fast and free
And took the window out.

We staggered into breakfast
The oatmeal was quite fine
We talked about our work
Under the towering pine.

Some firmer plans were made
After a few days rest
They let us teach for now
So the digging will be our best.

After early class, the brain trust took Yasmin and Bill down the hill to the water project. It is a short way, but steep and slippery. At the spring, students and villagers drew the murky water and emptied it into 20-liter containers to carry up the daunting hill. It is a feat of human strength and determination. The project is overwhelming, presenting unique engineering challenges. Near the spring, the vegetation is quite tropical. The project brings together three springs through a series of trenches to direct the water to a small reservoir to be created by daming the water flow. The faith of the people that they can complete this project using elementary tools is inspiring. They have no expectancy of deliverance by a generous donor. They are not demanding quick results. We cannot comprehend the patience to let time pass slowly, to see progress just creep along; and to endure the daily or more trips down the hill for water. Yet, the people must know the change the completed project will bring and the great improvement in their lives. We are eager to help but feel inadequate in the extreme as we, Yasmin and Bill, survey the project from the reservoir and watch the brain trust discuss how to proceed.
We are in Ipalamwa now. Yes, are here. We are into our life in Ipalamwa. We do not need to stare, we do not need to wonder; we have a sense of the place and the environment. The area around the school and the plateau is peaceful beyond our imagination. The views to the west are restful. The occasional singing is vibrant and transcending. Yet, the people live in a zone that bespeaks strength, ambition and enjoyment of life. The students have hope for rewarding careers.
Important moments today: all got to teach; Roger and Bill helped with a trench—hand dug with heavy hoes and shovels—to the proposed site of the holding tank. Form 4 exams are over; students saying goodbye to friends; songs given in farewell. The exams leave under armed guard. Yasmin and Eloise get invited by the girls to walk to see the trench and then are asked to come again in the evening to the dormitory. The girls want to learn an American song. Bill may be volunteered if the girls agree. The girls also want our girls to sing with them. Again, Bill may be volunteered. Roger takes off after dinner to help his math students prepare. The girls retire early. Bill stays on to pick a song to teach; a quiet night, peace in the Southern Highlands after an eventful satisfying day. May our other days bring peace of mind, a sense of fulfillment and a feeling of grace bestowed.

Thought For The Day
“The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merely to grasp the world, but to change it.” (Colin Wilson)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Although I gave been gone from my home for one week and the actual journey began then, today is the first day that I felt I had finally arrived. The flights, the ground travel and all the distance we covered ended on Monday evening. Then we began to meet people and plan and interact with the local people in Ipalamwa. We even observed and assisted in the class rooms yesterday. But today I went into full gear.
My classes are English classes, and the students are so eager to learn. Perhaps it is because they realize that whether they ever reach college or university level classes, language is something they can always use. At any rate, it is certainly great to teach students that are so eager and courteous and well behaved. The teacher I am working with is equally enthusiastic. He has indicated that he is hoping to use the strategies I am using after I leave.
Bill, Roger and Yasmin have also started teaching. Their classes are in civics, mathematics and computers. Yasmin’s schedule seems to be fairly well set. Bill and Roger are still working out these scheduling problems. I suspect by Monday everything will fall into place.
About noon today I had the opportunity to visit the clinic that is connected to our rooms and dining area. The young doctor, or clinician, as he explained to me, spent some time talking to me and showing me his office and work spaces. I was shocked at some of the things he told me. The clinic gets no funds from any source other than what the patients can afford to pay. There is no money for medicine or supplies. He and the nurse might not get a salary for months at a time. And yet he stays and hopes for an improvement in the current situation. The high I was feeling from my teaching experience was partially gone due to the medical situation in the village.
When evening came we were once again headed for Mama Toni’s kitchen to help with last minute details in preparation for dinner. When all was ready, we ate as if we had not had any food all day, or at least I did. And I think Mohammed did also. I’m not sure about the others. I was too busy eating to notice. The beg treat tonight was homemade doughnuts. Delicious.
After dinner we had a very brief meeting to discuss tomorrow’s activities. We played Boogle for a short period of time; but it was not a late night. We are headed for another long day tomorrow and rest and sleep are a must. And now, I am of to sleep.

Thought For The Day:

“I encourage you to ride this strange wind that is blowing through you; to ride it to wherever it will carry you. The work is changing in front of your eyes. Move forward, all dreams continue in the beyond.” (Y. Nestlen)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The 5:30 am bell rang for the students to get up and fetch water from the spring. Next was the sound of the school rooster crowing. I arose later for another good breakfast make by Mama Toni. After breakfast, a meeting, then observations in the classrooms.
First I visited Mr. Evans Form 1 Math class. The students sat on benches in a plain room, except for a chalkboard. Mr. Evans wrote on the board and students copied into their notebooks. The students were quiet and attentive. Some students arrived late, but sat down without disturbance. During the class some students participated by going to the board. Teachers move from class to class while the students remain in the room. I also observed a geography class.
After class, I met with Mr. Evans to discuss what he wanted me to do. Some other teachers joined in with the planning too. Most of the teachers are young men who seem very receptive to us being in their class room. The teachers were very cordial and friendly so it made this new experience painless.
After lunch, I went to Mr. Evans’ Form 1 math class. The topic I was to teach involved the slope of the line. I tried to ask questions, but got few responses. Writing, graphing and talking without books, graph paper, or desks presents some unique challenges. The class was all boys, then 20 minutes into my lesson, the girls arrived—who knows why. Some seem to grasp the concept but all need practice. Mr. Evans helped reinforce my lesson. It as a start.
Later in the evening, I watch Mr. Harran played soccer with Form 1 and 3. They had a referee and everything. While standing there, a student began talking to me. He then took me on a tour of his dorm, the church, and other places.
Another good dinner, conversation and laughs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

There is such beauty in our dreams being pleasantly disrupted by the sounds of nature and shortly there after the human contributions of BBC news.
As we opened our doors the warm smiles slowly started appearing, both the familiar and unfamiliar. Roger and I, while walking, started unfolding some of the important elements of Ipalamwa—the classrooms, the students and the path that connected them to one another, as well as, opened the door for us to explore. Before joining the others for breakfast we got another opportunity to see and feel what lay in the hearts of the children. The singing in the distance grew stronger and stronger. All of a sudden, the unbridled energy was surrounding the grounds and capturing every mind, heart and set of eyes available. The children’s excitement clearly defines what learning is—a gift to celebrate the human mind.
When approaching the kitchen and dining area we were welcomed by not only Mama Toni’s beautiful smile, yet also the aroma of her amazing cooking. Her cooking continues to impress and satisfy us. Directly after the morning feast, “the boss”, Harran, started our day focusing on our goals. This one exercise was the 1st example of the unique and important team building day we were about to encounter. We were presented with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the different skills and strengths of each individual and what they were about to bring to this experience. The room started changing, we started growing. We had color on the walls and we were, second by second, getting closer.
Then Harran and Mr. Mheni began our first journey to share what this hilltop village had to offer. We visited the students’ dorms and got a glimpse of how the students’ personalities came alive with their personal belongings decorating their rooms. Each room surprisingly fit 30 -40 students. Since it was exam time we saw groups of students studying at the coffee shop run by the pastor’s wife, in the dorms and outside. We continued along the path (the same path that Roger and I had adventured on that morning) and Mr. Hammerton (also know as Mr. Tanganyika) joined us. What a pleasure it was to hear him speak of the history of Ipalamwa. His mother and father helped bring the 1st church here in 1949-50, which created the foundation of Ipalamwa. His whole family because of their talents and determination to continue to make a difference will always be a big part of the village.
During our short travel on the path we also saw some very important projects that we will be involved in—the raising of the pigs, the production of corn and the water project. The children walk everyday once or twice a day carrying water from afar for themselves and their fellow students to have water. Water is such an important part of our life and very necessary to survive. Yet it is also very important for the children to focus on school and keep healthy bodies. That is why it is wonderful to see the passion in Mr. Hammerton’s eyes when explaining the importance of the project.
We circled back to the rooms and began our Swahili lesson with our friend, Mohamed. We had a great time learning greetings, introductions, animals and human body parts. After our lesson, Harran and Mr. Mheni joined us to share the subjects we were to reach and give us time to start diving into our own knowledge to prepare the lessons. The room again was filled with something new, ideas, ideas, and excitement…
A few hours later we again found ourselves coloring the room with laughter and great conversation, something happened, we were no longer us and teammates but friends. We played uno (“moja”) into the night as if nothing mattered, except for the joy galloping around the room.
Then the night ended with a star gaze and sharing the activity of brushing our teeth while our shadows danced on the walls. We went to sleep embracing the day to come.

Thought For The Day:
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” (Jackie Robinson”)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


We who have come so far, and have so far to go. Can three days bring a change? Can we grasp the leap from our high tech world to subsistence farming? Can we possibly assimilate the change from Dubai to Dar es Salaam to Iringa to Ipalamwa?
Today Mohamed pulled us and rocked us and, some would say, massaged us, into a world we can not have known. A world of hand worked fields; a land of clustered dwellings carved from the red earth; a land of colorfully clad beautiful women; a land of strong grave men; a land of curious, friendly perfect children; a land dry with the heat, cooled by a highland breeze, a breeze that rustles the towering bamboo, that brushes softly the spend stalks of corn. Are there many cars in Ipalamwa.
Along the way, lovely sweeping landscapes, herded cattle and goats, buckets of onions and tomatoes neatly crowned, and neatly furrowed fields. The villages are randomly arranged, the markets busy with work, the mosques, white and gleaming in the sun.
Up and up we climb, urging Mohamed forward, swerving and swaying with him to avoid the on coming lorry. Up and up we climb, and then drop down through a heavily rutted road to wonder at the well tended fields alive with crops and brushed by the setting sun.
Up, up, up we climb, and there we are told on that hill is Ipalamwa—a long way off it still seems. At last we see the beginning of Ipalamwa and dancing, smiling children, returning gaily from school, eager to greet us with waves and chatter. Can we really have arrived? We see a church, handsome buildings and on a rise a field, full with soccer and before us, the student body, lifting voices in song.
Yes, we have arrived and are duly introduced to the teaching staff and then presented to the students, all closely examining the quartet from GV, the four fresh faces finding new strength from the vision of uniformed students. But the greeting is not complete—we are regaled with songs and forceful dances. Our applause is vigorous but cannot measure up to the students’ performance. Are there many cars in Ipalamwa?
Thoughts For The Day:
“Live well the life you have been given…”

“Never before has man had such a great capacity to control his environment, to end hunger, poverty and disease to banish illiteracy and human miser. We have the power to make the best generation of mankind in the history of the world.” (John F. Kennedy)

Monday, October 15, 2007

With a decent nights rest behind us, we met Harran and Mohamed at the Slipway for breakfast and we practiced our Swahili words. Shortly, we found ourselves in front of the hotel helping Mohamed load our luggage, and off we went for our day’s trip to Iringa. And what trip it was!
The city of Dar es Salaam was busy, as were all the other smaller towns we passed on our way. Some people were dressed in Sunday clothes for church; many rode bicycles with loads on their backs or behind them; others were walking along the sides of the road. It was clear that all were busy with what is probably a typical Sunday for them.
On our way we had stops to “check the tires.” A little thinking will help you figure this out. We also stopped for a delicious lunch consisting of white rice or pasta, a beef and carrot dish, baked chicken, a banana dist and spinach. It was a delicious lunch.
After lunch we entered Mikumi National Park. I knew that I really was in Africa when we began seeing elephants, giraffes, impala, and baboons either in small groups or along the road. This was very exciting for me. These animals live free and share their habitat with the people of Tanzania.
When we finally arrived in Iringa, we went to the Iringa Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church where we were guests for dinner and our overnight.
Our day was long and tiring, but filled with new insights and new friends and most importantly the knowledge that this is only the beginning and that, when we reach Ipalamwa tomorrow, we will embark on an incredible journey in the hope of making a difference.

Thought For The Day:
“Do not go where the path may lead to, instead go to where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Emerson)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I arrived at Dar, Tanzania, with Eloise, a fellow Team member Saturday afternoon. Because we didn’t have our visa yet we had to wait in line. The government officials seemed to have no system for all these tourists, yet, after awhile, our names were called, passports returned, and we sailed out the door.
Outside, the heat made me wish I had cooler clothes. Mohamed had arrived to transport us to the hotel. Yasmin, another Team member was there too, so lots of introductions. Bill, a volunteer from Maine, was on my last flight from Dubai. We all piled into an SUV and drove off to the Slipway Hotel.
It was short drive, maybe 20 minutes long. The traffic was moving nicely and there seemed to be driving rules! I was surprised to see most of the signs in English. The public buses are minivans with people crammed in, riding for a few cents. The area looked dry and dusty.
At the Slipway, Harran, our team leader, met us. He gave us about 6 words in Swahili to practice.
At 5:30 we all met at the local restaurant for pizza. We all introduced ourselves and told why we were here. We are a small group but dedicated to making a difference.
Now the journey begins.

Thought For The Day:

“Life is not measured by the
number of breaths we take
but by the number of moments
that takes our breath away.” (Anonymous)

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” (Confucius)

Friday, January 26, 2007

The gift of life and the people that fill it. Today was a very special day for various reasons and was filled with reflection and discovery! We are at the point that our senses and self have been stimulated for many days now, in such a way that we will never be the same and we do not have the option to turn back—hallelujah!
This morning (unlike the others) was quiet and sad for we were all worried about “the Friendly Neighbor,” Roger. Not only were a few pieces of or beautiful growing puzzle missing, we were uncertain if they had made it to Iringa, if Roger had seen a doctor and if Roger was really pain free. However, we knew Harran, Mohammed and Papa Toni would do anything and everything for Roger.
As soon as the clock hit breakfast time Mama Toni’s phone rang and Harran spoke with Eloise explaining Roger’s current state and what the current plan was. We felt somewhat at ease but the morning conversation still was slow and quite subdued for our minds all gathered around one idea: Please let Roger be okay. Throughout the day we heard from Harran updating us on Roger. Roger, please know we are thinking of you.
One of the reasons today was such a special day was the fact that I was celebrating the 30 years I have walked the earth. I do not even know how to explain the amazing colors everyone painted on my life today. It began with the clock hitting 12 am and feeling nothing but warmth inside knowing that the jump to the next yar was taking place in this beautiful country of Tanzania with great people surrounding me. Every year is a new beginning so starting this next year in this peaceful place was very special.
When I woke Eloise wished me happy birthday and I was surprised she knew. Yet it made my day as I was just going to celebrate it inside—wow, am I glad I did not.
Outside of us worrying about Roger the morning was as the others—admiring students for their dedication and desire to learn, as well as providing them with some new information to go conquer the world.
After lunch Bill and I traveled across the land and soaked up the beauty around us. The landscape here is unbelievable in what it has to offer. I felt as if we were walking through a painting with wonderful surprises behind every corner, hill and personality we encountered. Once again our feet had taken us to a place in which we were given a new perspective of our Ipalamwa hilltop. As we looked back our hearts beat an extra beat for we were a part of this special place.
On our journey we saw many things and many villagers who we connected with, with an exchange of a smile or wave and the words, “Kam wene”. One of our favorite characters became this young lady who was so happy while carrying maize on her head that she was swinging her arms and singing on the way to her home.
On our return I thought our 3-hour trip was going to be the highlight of the day and moment I would treasure forever. However, the beauty of the day had only started unfolding. Mama Toni, Eloise and Lace were busy cooking Eloise’s famous rice pudding (well, at least that is what we were told). Later in the evening I was to find out that the wonderful hearts surrounding me had planned a celebration for my birthday. The rice pudding was not the only dessert. Dessert also included Mama Toni’s delicious donuts, which is what she and Eloise and Lace were actually making in the kitchen when we returned. Surprisingly, I had no idea (yet Bill did [smile])
Before we sat down for dinner with Mr. Fanuel and Mr. Nickson I had a great chat with one of the students, Enoch. Every time we encounter a student or group of students we get to see a new side of their individual personality. They are so warm, excited to share and converse with us. While Enoch and I were discussing the beauty of Ipalamwa, Eloise and I were dragged away to the forest (that I had not yet seen) to take photos with some of the girl students—a photo shot we will always remember.
Dinner was filled with laughs and then it was time for Eloise’s rice pudding. Mama Toni and Eloise went to get the rice pudding and came back singing with the others in the room, Happy Birthday. I felt I was dreaming.
The lights from the candles were like stars glistening the room. I was so happy tears of joy started welling slowly and I knew I was awake. Then a few minutes later there came magical voices that I had come to love. Their voices again captured our hearts and galloped in the moonlight. Amold, Abed, Icesta, Titus, Editha and Eliza with Mr. Fanuel on the guitar filled our dining room with many colors. I seriously felt as if I was having an outer body experience when they were singing. This day of celebration was truly very powerful and the most magical birthday I have ever had. I will have the memory implanted on my mind and heart forever. Thank you to all for creating and sharing such a special moment in my life. “Asante sana.”
There are two things that will always bring back the memory of this unique day. The last song “Mungu Unaweza” (Lord, we are able) and the moon. Bill first saw the moon’s glow and while he was still telling us to look, I ran and ran trying to reach a point where my eyes could completely capture its beauty. I stopped and stared into its body. The moon had decided to shine its full light on us to show us its appreciation for life and what we are experiencing (hopefully Roger also got to enjoy the moon’s light).

Thought For The Day:

“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around use, it goes on equal distance into the world within” (William Smith)