Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 5, 2009

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” –submitted by Ben

Ben and I both awoke at 6 am and were packed by 7 am to leave at 8 am…Mzungu time. Momma Tony came in to get our mattresses. Then we went for breakfast. All we wanted was mzungu porridge – oatmeal. Three of the Form 3 girls came in and gave me pictures they drew and said goodbye. It was very sweet and heart warming. As we went outside to take photos all the Form 1 and Form 2 students came up the road from the classrooms. They sang me songs. Ben took photos of me with them and I videotaped some of the songs and the primary students having their morning run. It was a wonderful goodbye and send off on my safari/journey home.

As we headed down the mountain pass of Ipalamwa we waved goodbye and said kwa kheri to everyone. We picked up the headmaster of the primary school just before nearing Mr Hs house where he joined us for the safari/journey to Iringa. The ride was beautiful. Ben and I were quiet as Momma Tony, Mr. H, Ebrania, and the primary school headmaster talked in Kiswahili. Once in a while they would say what they were talking about but I was content with my own thoughts…

Upon arriving in Iringa we made a quick stop at the Lutheran church hostel where we left our things in our locked rooms. Mohammad then dropped Ben, Advent and I off to go to the bank and wander Iringa for a while. Advent was a great tour guide showing us around. We stopped at Hasty Tasty for Fantas and then said goodbye to Advent. Mohammad took us to the Lutheran hostel where Ben and I retired to our rooms to write in our journals, shower and just settle in for the night. It was a good thing because it started pouring down rain.

It was a good first day’s journey! –Pam

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4, 2009

“God helps those who helps themselves and others.” –submitted by Pam

It is our last day in Ipalamwa or I should say my last day. Ben, Mohammad, Momma Tony, and Harran will return on Monday with four new volunteers. Ben and I have organized our things so we can be packed up and ready tomorrow at 7 am. We’ll have a quick breakfast to be on the road by 8 am. Well that’s Mohammad’s plan. I have mixed feelings about leaving this time. There is no much support needed here and I know I’ve made a difference. I hope I can continue to be of support from home and help them obtain the necessary funding and means for funding. They can’t always rely on volunteers for donations. Everyone is so thankful for all of our support and many here have said they don’t want me to leave and they miss Rich and Cheryl. They are excited for Ben’s return with the new volunteers.

Ben continued working at the student dorms with Ebrania. They finished the window stopped installation. But the window locks were black instead of gold, so at first Ebrania did not want to install them. He gave in and they spent the morning installing on all windows.

I held my last math class with the Form 1s. I could not have done it without the textbook which I had to clean the office to find. The students learn very quickly and we were able to complete all the chapters on algebra.

I spent the rest of the morning taking ‘pichas’ of the primary students, headmaster, Mr. H and some local preschoolers. The primary students then asked for the numbers and ABC cards. So I got the flashcards and played one last time before giving them to headmaster for the Form 1s which was the request of Pastor Alexander.

Ben was back at the student dorms with Ebrania installing the window locks. I being out with them for about an hour taking pictures and talking. The entire school seemed so deserted. The Form 2s were in exams. Form 3s left early to walk to a village 20 kilometers away to get maize and beans. So all that was around were Form 1s. I talked with some teachers for a while and discussed Ben’s and my plan to get world maps for the classrooms. They recommended getting them in Dar so it would be cheaper. Ben and I then played scrabble until the students came to sing. They are all wonderful and Pastor Alexander said very kind words regarding my work teaching. He spoke of my love for “my students’ and it made me realize how much my actions really did match how I feel inside. I wish I had millions of dollars to donate to fix all the problems and worries of the school. I said my goodbyes and they sang me one last song. Then as they dispersed to go to dinner, head girl and a few others came to hug me goodbye. Our final dinner was with Mamma Tony and Mohammad. We had rice, kuku we received from Tom, home-made rolls and pineapple. It was great. I must find Tom in Iringa and thank him before I leave. The rest of the evening was spent by Ben and I finalizing packing to we can be ready at 7 am.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 2009

“Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.”
-Herbert Henry Asquith, submitted by Pam

Harran is in Iringa now. We received a gift from him this afternoon: doorstops, locks and hot chocolate mix. We’ll no longer have to ration our cocoa.
In the moring Pam taught and I worked with Ebrania as usual. Around noon, however, Pam and I got the chance to see the Form 2s start their history exam. Headmaster Titus also shared with us a copy of the math exam that the students took yesterday. Pam was excited because a few of the questions were very similar to ones she went over in class. I hope they were all listening.

Just before dinner a large fire raged across a mountainside below us. I can’t remember if any of my teammates have mentioned them, but I feel I should do here anyway as they have become a commonplace occurrence. Started to either clear land for cultivation or chase game to places where hunters and their dogs can make a kill, these fires dot the mountains and there is rarely a day or night where you can’t spot the flames or smoke of one. To use them for hunting is illegal but farmers will regularly use them to help prepare land, especially so now in the months before the rainy season.

Muhammad thinks the one that caught our eye was started for the latter reason and got out of control. It was by far one of the biggest we’d seen. We watched the flames spread and dance until Momma Tony called us in for dinner.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31, 2009

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” – Moshe Dayan, submitted by Pam

Happy Halloween! Here in Africa there is no celebrating of this very festive American holiday. I hope everyone at home enjoys the holiday being on a Saturday. Ben and I slept in as it is a non-work day. However, the Form 2 students start their government exams on Monday, so they requested I hold one more mathematics class. On Friday evening, one of the students said they’d begin studying at 8 am and requested I teach at that time. So, I headed to class to find them all outside cleaning their desks and chairs, as well as cleaning the room where their exams will be conducted. All writing on desks, chairs, and walls needs to be removed. They do this by taking a piece of glass and scrapping the wood, their version of sand paper. We agreed I would teach at 1 pm to allow them time to finish preparing the exam room. However, on the way back to our volunteer dorm, I met Head Boy Arnold who recommended I teach after morning porridge/tea break at 10:45 am. He was to tell the students to change the time. So I returned to the bench where Ben was working on his tembo carving. At 10:45 am the students were just going to porridge. So I hung out at the bench with Ben and children from the area homes. About 11:45 am I walked to the class to see if students were ready. I was told by a teacher the students were now fetching water and washing their clothes so we would start ‘maths’ at 1:45. I had mentioned lunch break was at 2:30 and he said we would start and then finish after lunch (my gut said we would start after lunch). So Ben, General and I took a walk to the Catholic Church, which is down the mountain. We took the shortcut down, which is very steep. We passed the government clinic and Mr. H.’s home. We made it to the Catholic church in 30 minutes. Now we had 30 minutes to get back for lunch, but now it was going up the mountain. I went up pole pole sana…very slowly! Ben and General were very patient with me and Ben said Akuna matata when I said pole for going pole pole.

We arrived for lunch at 1:10, so not too late. We were both hot and starving. After lunch Ben went back to working on his tembo carving and talking to students and local children. I went to teach at 1:45 pm, to be told the students still weren’t finished washing their clothes so we should start after their lunch. I smiled (laughing inside) and returned to the bench to find Ben and Harran playing scrabble. I then spent an hour or so working with the school cashier, Faraja, to finish organizing the books in the headmasters office. These books were sent to the school, but never organized or put into the library.

Upon finishing, I came out to find a teacher looking for me to start teaching ‘maths’. I spent an hour and a half teaching from 4:45 to 6:15 pm. I never thought I had patience, but this trip taught me to be patient and live with African time.

Ben and I had promised Momma Tony we would teach her how to play scrabble, but we were both very tired after dinner. I had a bad headache that I think was from being dehydrated from the long walk and not drinking enough water in the afternoon. Thus, we went to bed about 8 pm. – Pam

Friday, October 30, 2009

October 30, 2009

“I go to pressurize Momma Tony.”
-Mohammad, submitted by Ben

We all woke up early in the morning as Rich and Cheryl were heading to Dar-es-Salaam and back to their regular lives. It was great to have them here for as long as we did and I know I’m not alone in wishing they could stay longer. Last night we spoke of our experiences here and Rich and Cheryl shared that they had come to know aspects of each others personalities that they had always known were there but never fully appreciated. I believe they have become closer because of this and hope that in the future they make such trips commonplace.

After they left the work continued. Ebrania and I measured and than began construction on window frames. Working with only a few tools it’s amazing how slow the process can be. We spent all day on it and are no where near to being complete.

Pam meanwhile headed to school where she’s been focusing on mathematics. The children have no regular teacher so her lectures and advice are invaluable.

The Form 2s have their government exam soon, so let’s hope they listen well.

After work we played scrabble with Harran. He pretends he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but almost before you’re lulled into a false sense of security he’s tallying points a player with English as their first language couldn’t be ashamed of. I should have suspected something after I discovered he owns his own board.

And as always, dinner leads to heavy eyelids and an irresistible draw to bed. – Ben

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 28, 2009

“Who’s in charge here?”
-Pam, submitted by Ben

We woke up to a sunny morning, the children sweeping the paths outside of our dorm, the roosters doing their daily awakening call and the usual anticipation of what the day may hold.

The morning started with both Pam and I teaching. I went to my favorite Form 1 A and B class and taught English. We reviewed present and past tense and afterwards I gave the students a choice of what they’d like to do. They spent the time asking me questions…everything from Michael Jackson to “where is Bin Laden?” The time I spend with these children and young adults is indescribable. And of course I can’t forget having them chant “If I believe it, I can do it!” and our five minute stretching break.

Pam taught math to the Form 2 students. They are proving to be difficult, but Pam is not giving up. She disciplined them and will go back on Thursday to try once again. I am confident that Pam’s determination to get through to the Form 2 students will pay off at the end.

Both Cheryl and Ben continued on the door project. I am confident it will be completed as a result of Ben’s determination. Cheryl continues to be the cheerleader and encourages everyone to push forward. A moment that I won’t forget is Cheryl checking off the number of pieces of glass cut by Ebrania for the windows. She pushed it forward.

In the afternoon Pam and I helped to bring bricks down to the classrooms. The best part of the experience was singing with the students…Keffa and Lea…”Soon a very soon, we will see the King” and “I am a passerby in this world.”

All in all a great day. It is the volunteers and Ipalamwa students that are making this an incredible experience.

On a personal note: whomever reads this journal and comes to Ipalamwa, please remember it’s about the children and young adults at these schools. Their smiles, determination and gratitude will impact you more than you know. – Rich

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 27, 2009

“I promise myself
To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person I meet.
To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.
To think of only the best, to work only for the best
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of
others as I am about my own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the
greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile
to every living creature I meet.
To give so much time to improving myself that I
have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, to strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words, but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side,
so long as I am true to the best that is in me.”
-Christian D. Larson, submitted by Pam

The day started with Ben and Pamela teaching. Rich and I decided to video Forms 1A and 1B. The children spoke about the challenges of the school – everything from water, textbooks, kitchen supplies, teachers, desks, chairs. A few times my eyes filled up with tears. There is so much that can be done at this school with proper organization. It is my hope to help long after I return to the USA.

We carried bricks for an hour which was great until we stopped and couldn’t start because headmaster was concerned that it was too much. Specifically Rich – didn’t want him to have his heart hurt.

After being told to rest we gave in. Then went for a walk with a few students for Fanta and sugar cane.

Rich and Ben BOTH injured their thumbs trying to cut the sugar cane.

It was an early night. I’m hoping to work to the end. My heart in filled with love for the children of this village. – Cheryl

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25, 2009

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make, which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
-Marian Wright Edelman, submitted by Ben

The day began with breakfast and church. A two and a half hour ceremony full of singing, dancing, and twenty-eight baptisms. The team introduced ourselves and Pam was originally asked by Pastor Jan to preach. However, because of communion and the large amount of baptisms, Pam’s words were postponed until next week.

After the ceremony was over an auction was held. Since some villages are unable to give the church a monetary donation, the give whatever item of value they can part with and the church auctions it off after service. This week there were some pens, a few pencils, and a couple of eggs. A teacher from the secondary school purchased the eggs for Pam. I was unable to tell is she was flattered or terrified that this might constitute as some sort of bride price.

Lunch was with Pastor Jan. We ate goat and what we suspect was pork as chickens wandered in and out of the house to be scared off by Pastor Alexander. “This is Ipalamwa,” he explained, “we live with kuku.”

On the last Sunday of every month the village has a market. We took some time to wander through and look at the assorted goods and products. Pam and Cheryl both bought congas.

After the market it was early evening so we headed back to the school and where we are staying. While villagers played football on the field we sat on the benches in the midst of dozens of children and played scrabble, draft, picture games, and taught them numbers, the English alphabet, and silly songs.

There is so much more here I wish to document, but I find it an impossible task. I forget to log the small details, the minor occurrences, that add up to become the weight of experience. The way Cheryl has an immediate connection to any child, the way Rich does everything he can to provide hope and support, how Pam remembers every detail of her last trip and it’s obvious how much of an impact not only she has had on this place, but also this place has had on her. The way everyone here says hello, how they burst out laughing when we greet them in Kihehe, how you can see mountains forever until the sun sets behind their peaks and the stars pierce the sky at night.

Words are inadequate, pictures only moments, and memory is fragile. But perhaps I am looking too far into the future. Perhaps just to be here is enough. – Ben

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24, 2009

“Akuna matata.” –submitted by Ben

Our first weekend in Ipalamwa. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and was a bit apprehensive. The morning started with a later breakfast and was followed by games with the students…scrabble and draft. We never knew that scrabble could be so popular with teenagers.

Cheryl, Pam and I took a two hour walk with three students…Effie, Liam (our political student) and Fontansta. We saw so many street children. It was incredibly sad. Seeing this firsthand is a heartbreaking experience. I kept on thinking…how do they survive and how do they keep on smiling?

The walk was an opportunity to exchange ideas and take in the beautiful mountains and the serenity. Ben remained determined and continued with his construction.

Walk one was followed by lunch and walk number two. General and Lea took us to get some sugar cane. It was delicious and definitely worth the walk. Did I happen to mention what I thought was going to be a one hour walk turned out to be three hours? Needless to say we got our exercise for the day and were exhausted. Pam might’ve been a bit less exhausted because she stopped by Pastor Jan’s and spent the time catching up.

The day ended up with all of us attending the choir program put on by the students. Once again I was humbled. Words cannot express the hope and enthusiasm these students possess. – Rich

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 23, 2009

“The word impossible does not exist. The word itself says ‘I’m possible.’”
-Audrey Hepburn, submitted by Cheryl

Today is our fourth full day in Ipalamwa. We woke up to a very rainy morning. Pam and I taught in the morning and Ben and Cheryl continued with the door project. Ben and Cheryl discovered the supplies were not arriving, so it was a slow construction day. We are learning to go with the flow. In the afternoon I joined Ben to help out with some construction, but, there wasn’t much to be done. Cheryl taught in the afternoon and talked about NYC and the Empire State Building. However, there was a big misunderstanding in class. Harran thought Cheryl said that the Freedom Tower was going to be 1776 floors. We all know it’s impossible. Harran needed to explain that it’s feet, not floors.

It cleared up in the afternoon and we took a beautiful walk to the general store with Margaret, head girl, Lea, General and Titus. We sat around the table and drank Fantas and Coca Colas and discussed our countries. For me personally this was the best part of the day.

We moved onto the debate which proved to be a great experience. The topic discussed was the impact of a multiparty system on the economy. Pam gave her thoughts and I attempted to explain the multiparty system in the US.

On a personal note: the day began dreary for me, but ended on a highnote. I went to sleep thinking of all the hope I saw in the students eyes. – Rich

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 22, 2009

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We can not change our past…we can not change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you… We are in charge of our attitudes.”
-Charles Swindoll, submitted by Pam

It seems like we have serious momentum. Pamela and Rich continued the seminar series and headmaster and board are very appreciative. There are many projects that need completion and learning project management is essential.

Ben and I went with Mohammad to get water. We stopped along the way to see where the children go – it is so steep. I can’t even imagine. We plan to go on the weekend. We then filled up the buckets for us and along the way a child was screaming “mzungu!” waving like crazy. It is those tender moments that touch your soul.

We worked on the dorms and have made great strides. We will continue to work on Saturday for the frames.

At night we gathered by the bench to play scrabble and draft and then we had a ceremony to give the students gifts, and, of course, we did some dancing. They were hysterical laughing at me and Rich.

The conversations along the way have been deep – AIDS, rights, culture, how to succeed, how to get out of poverty. These students have hope and determination and I think our chats help.

Too much to write – it is a wonderful village that needs help and it is my hope people will continue to help and develop it. – Cheryl

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009

“If I believe it, I can do it.” –submitted by Ben

We were all so happy today to start working. Divide and conquer was our mentality. Rich and Pamela went to teach. Ben and I went to do construction on the dormitories.

There was tons to joking about “Mzungu time.” Ben and I were keeping people on schedule. I went by Pamela’s class to hear the words “clash for clunkers” and “female circumcision.” I nearly fell off the step. When I asked Pamela about it she explained that the class was discussing human rights.

I went by Rich’s class and I heard him talking about his job and telling the children “if I believe it, I can do it.” Pamela says “short-term pain for long-term gain.”

I think we are all settling in. Ben and I had a blast of knocking down doors and tearing up the floors. The children came in and helped us.

On a personal note: I feel humbled. The love, hope, and strength of this village warms my heart and the team I am with have become my friends. – Cheryl

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009

“Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected to others. Instead we often contract, fear intimacy, and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely. Our delusion of being separate from one another, of being apart from all that is around us, gives rise to all this despair.”
-Sharon Salzberg, submitted by Rich

Awoke to the very similar sounds to last year at Ipalamwa: the gong/bell for students to wake up at 5:30 am, the roosters, goats, sweeping outside the window, and students talking. After breakfast, we had our conversation with Harran and Mr. Mohani. Then Mr. Mohani took us on a tour of the school grounds explaining the various projects and issues/challenges the school has. Building chairs, bunk beds, making more bricks and filling in the hole from digging the clay dirt for the bricks. We then went to Mr. Mohani’s office to sign the school guest book. Mr. Mohani explained more of the projects/issues/challenges/problems.

We then walked to the soda shop where Ben and Pastor Alexander tried buying some of the supplies for the dorm renovation. We had dinner and played scrabble before turning in for the night. –Pam

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19, 2009

“Oy!” –Cheryl, submitted by Ben

I first awoke to chanting at the first light of day. I must have dozed off again as I next awoke to birds chirping, one sounding like a duck quacking. But I knew it couldn’t have been a duck in Iringa, TZ.

The Lutheran Church ‘innkeeper’ made a wonderful breakfast and everyone was ready to pack up and “hit the road.” However, there were things to do and buy in Iringa before driving to Ipalamwa. Mohammad layed out the morning plan, but I knew from last year not to expect things to go as planned. We left our things in one room and then loaded ourselves into the jeep and headed into downtown Iringa. First stop was the ELCT Iringa Diocese head office to meet the General Secretary and sign the book. Upon arrival, Mohammad learned we first needed to meet the headmaster of the Ipalamwa school and he was still on his way to Iringa so it would be another 30 minutes or so. A quick change of the schedule and we went to Barclay’s Bank for a few of us to get money at the ATM. Then on to “Hasty Tasty” to order our lunch and take-away for dinner. Mohammad then told us Mr. Mohani, head master, was still not in town so we had an hour at the internet café where we all checked e-mail, facebook, etc. for the last time in 2-3 weeks. When Mohammad picked us up, Mr. Mohani was with him. So we went back to the head office. However, upon arriving we learned no one was in the office that day except the Accountant. So, per the usual formalities I learned last year, we were greeted by the Accountant and escorted to his office. We signed the guest book and then went to the market where we met Momma Tony. She was very surprised and happy to see me. I introduced her to Cheryl, Rich, and Ben. We then went to the stationary store for exercise books, pencils, masking tape, and scissors. Cheryl also bought crayons, coloring books, and puzzles for the younger children. Rich stopped at a shop and bought two soccer balls. I was surprised at how much I remembered to get around the area with no one else escorting us. We then went back to “Hasty Tasty” for lunch and everyone enjoyed the lunch and talking to the owner.

Mohammad took us back to the church to wait. He then went back to the shop and told me he would pressurize Momma Tony and Mr. Muhani to hurry up. His plan was to leave at 3:00 pm and it was 2:30 and he hadn’t started loading. We ‘hung out’ and sat outside talking with each other and some of the primary students from the school by the church. One girl came up to Cheryl and I and read questions in English from her exercise book. She was very confident and read very well.

Mohammad pulled in with supplies loaded on top and a number of men in the jeep but no Momma Tony. The men were there to help load our luggage on top and finish loading the supllies. Tom, who was a Form 3 last year, arrived and he explained that he graduated/completed his exams for Form 4. It was good to see him and Mr. Mohani and I owe him a soda for graduating. Once having everything loaded we were ready except no Momma Tony. We drove to the post office and picked her up. We headed out of Iringa and we were stopped by the road construction. We feared it would be hours except some of us said it would be quick and it was. This was 4:30 pm… a little later than Mohammad wanted to avoid driving in the dark. The drive was beautiful and I remembered places from last year. We arrived just at dusk and were immediately welcomed by the students to sing and dance. We then ate dinner and set up our rooms and called it a night. – Pam

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 18, 2009

“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.”
-Buddha, submitted by Ben

Waking up in a strange bed, in a new country, on a foreign continent, wasn’t as disorienting as I expected. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready.

The team ate a short breakfast and talked about our expectations, our hopes, and the reality of our present position. Pam’s stories offer some insight into what will come, but, at least for me, the village and what we will accomplish there remains a hazy future.

After eating we piled all of our luggage on top of the jeep and hopped in. It’s a long ride to Iringa. We spent it getting to know one another better and taking garbled attempts at speaking Kiswahili.

The highlight of the trip is Mikume Park. There we spotted zebra, gazelle, impala, elephant, and giraffe. Some of the animals are so calm and close to the road that it is our camera clicks that frighten them away.

When we got to Iringa it was already dark. We’ll have to wait till tomorrow to look around.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 17, 2009

“The only way to get what you really want, is to know what you really want. And the only way to know what you really want, is to know yourself. And the only way to know yourself, is to be yourself. And the only way to be yourself is to listen to your heart.”
-Mike Dooley, submitted by Cheryl

How do I begin describing Dar-es-Salaam? The colors, the people, the activity. I guess it began at the airport. Off the plane and down a flight of stairs led me to a throng of people filling out H1N1 health questionnaires, visa applications, and pushing their way through customs. Outside was hot, bright, and crowded. The cab driver spoke of history, freedom, and football.

At the hotel I met Muhammad. He works for Global Volunteers and will be driving the team to Ipalamwa. He took me to an outside café where I met Pam, a fellow team member. This is her second trip and she’s full of past stories and present anticipation. It wasn’t long before we were joined by Rich and Cheryl, a brother and sister traveling duo. They had just got back to mainland Tanzania after a brief visit to Zanzibar. Cheryl has been to Romania with GV but this is Rich’s first volunteer outing. As someone who shares the same condition, I feel we’ll be asking a lot of questions during the upcoming car ride.

As for what’s going through me head: excitement, hesitation, shock, expectation, and jet lag. I can’t wait for Ipalamwa. –Ben

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wednesday, 28 January 2009 – Saturday, 31 January 2009

“Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work” Mark Twain

We got an early start from Pommern. Edward came by to give us all a big hug, and he wasn’t exaggerating. We said sad farewells to him, Mama Tony, and Lemda and took off in the van for Iringa Town. Once there, we did a little shopping, ate lunch at Lulu’s (great milkshakes but bad hamburgers!) and left for the Ruaha Hilltop Lodge. We made record time and arrived about 4 o’clock. After settling in to our bungalows and trying out the hot water, we lounged in the lodge overlook until dinner. Dinner was delicious, lots of fresh bread, meat and a banana dessert.

Wednesday morning we were off early on safari. Mary, Joe, Don and I had one vehicle and Sharon, Matt, Joana, Erin and Ha were in the other, which promptly broke down and had to be replaced with one without an open roof. While we waited for them at the park entrance we saw a lot of storks, crocodiles and hippos.

Finally, all together again, we entered the park and began our adventure. We saw a great number of animals and got some terrific photos of the ordinary and the extraordinary. After lunch we switched vehicles so the other group could enjoy the thrill of standing up to see the animals from a less restricted vantage point.

We returned to the lodge in the late afternoon and again relaxed until dinner. The food was superb and the banana “talt” was especially good.

Thursday morning we had a leisurely breakfast and returned to Iringa Town. We did more shopping in the afternoon and Sharon, Ha and Mary had an adventure while in pursuit of a beer. They met an old lady whose daughter brought them to entertain her. They were led back to the Guest House by some neighborhood boys and overall had quite and exciting time.

Friday morning we left very early, even by Mzungu time, and drove to Dar. Near Morogoro Mohamed had a difference of opinion with a traffic policeman. We were escorted several miles into town to police headquarters, only half joking about spending some time in a Tanzanian jail. Mohamed was vindicated that we had the correct registration for the vehicle and we were allowed to continue the trip. [The young policemen thought that our van should have the white license plate of a commercial vehicle instead of the orange license plate of a private vehicle.

We arrived in Dar to heavy rush hour traffic and eventually got to the Slipway. Our farewell dinner with Haran and Mohamed was both sad and celebratory. We all took turns summing up our stay and thanking Haran, Mohamed and the people of Pommern for our wonderful experience. This has truly been an exceptional team, with all members liking and respecting each other. We go our separate ways: Matt off to Ghana early Saturday, Erin, also off for home Saturday morning, via South Africa. Ha, Sharon Don and I are out Saturday afternoon. Joana will leave Sunday and Joe and Mary will go on another safari and leave for home next Thursday or Friday. Judy and Dave are probably finishing their safari and heading home now, too. What a great group it was!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.” Mark Twain

Much to all our dismay, yesterday was our last full day here in Pommern. In the morning, Sharon, Ha and I went to the Kindergarten. We sang songs, reviewed numbers and practiced flashcards. Then Sharon went to teach English while Ha and I were human jungle gyms for the kids outside. From there I headed to the clinic with the intention of assisting with the outreach clinic. It hadn’t started yet, so I went inside and met Dr. Godlove, Mary and Joana. Dr. Godlove said we weren’t doing the outreach program that day. I stayed with them and we saw quite a few patients.

Matt and Joe continued digging the foundation, which wasn’t quite enough, for the kitchen at the Secondary School.

Don taught chemistry in the morning and joined Mickey in the computer center entering the Form VI grades into the computer. In the afternoon, Mickey met with Mama Lenny, probably for the last sewing lesson on the electric sewing machine. Joana met her friend at the Internet café, who gave her a beautiful trio of baskets as a parting gift.

We all had dinner at the secondary school which was wonderful because we all got to say our Thank Yous and Goodbyes. Mary gave Dr. Godlove a big hug and there may have been some moist eyes.

After our feast, Matt, Joana, Ha and I met up with our friends Charles, Ezra, Malaki, and Richard to give them the cards we had made for them. It was a nice evening, but very hard to say goodbye to the people who have been our “family” for the past couple of weeks. I know we will never forget them.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday, 26 January 2009

“What is this juice and all this joy?” Gerard M Hopkins

What a great weekend we had. Saturday was the Form VI graduation. I felt like I was truly there for my relatives. Ezra and Malaki both did not have family present so Matt and I fought the paparazzi to get pictures of them while they were receiving their diplomas. I stood on a metal chair and took pictures of Charles, Ezra, Malaki, Tina, Irene, Harry, and Rashid receiving their diplomas.

During the graduation ceremony, there was dancing, singing, dramas, and of course, speeches. The two little boys, Ibrahim and Yasef, that helped us move bricks were there. They sure do love to dance.

After the awards were given out, there was food and drink for the graduates and invited guests. There was also a bit of dancing. Matt had a chance to put some of what he learned in African dance class in Massachusetts to use in Africa! Matt and I danced until the end, even through the sprinkles.

Yesterday morning, Joe, Mary, and Joana went to the Catholic Mass. Don, Mickey, Matt, and I went to the Lutheran Service. It was a full house. Sharon gave a wonderful sermon in English that Pastor Sagga translated into Swahili for the congregation.

After the service, Matt went for a run and I did a bit of Yoga with Ezra and Malaki. Later Mary, Joana, Erin, Matt, and Charles joined us. Charles showed us some of his karate moves too.

At 1p.m. we headed over to Edward’s house. His daughter Kinte graduated Saturday and he invited us over to celebrate with his family. Mama Kinte cooked a delicious meal consisting of rice, pork, greens, plantains – both fried and boiled – and chapatti. There was also soda, pineapple, and mango.

Edward had a surprise for us after lunch. He had obtained a glass of homebrew and a glass of bamboo juice for us to smell and look at. Some of the brave even tasted the two by dipping their fingers in them.

Edward then took Sharon, Mary, Joe, Mickey, and Don for a walk around Pommern. It turns out that Pommern is bigger than we thought.

Erin, Matt, Joana, and I went to the waterfalls with Charles and company. It was nice to spend time with them and a good day to be outside.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday, 23 January 2009

“Anyone who has not made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein

Yesterday, after a breakfast of porridge, French Toast, and bananas, Haran had a summation meeting because Dave and Judy will be leaving early today. Haran was surprisingly awake considering he didn’t get to bed until 2:00 a.m. due to his work in Iringa Town. Edward visited us and invited us to his house on Sunday to celebrate his daughter’s graduation from the Pommern Secondary School.

Judy, Mary, and Joana worked at the clinic. The work was as difficult as pulling teeth – which was what they did. Erin, Matt, Dave, and Joe continued their construction work. They moved bricks, cleaned, and painted. Dave coached soccer in the late afternoon. Ha worked in the kindergarten in the morning and spent some time at the clinic in the afternoon. Sharon worked at the kindergarten and taught seminarians.

After lunch all but Mickey and I went with Mama Toni to observe a funeral. Unfortunately, it was over before they walked very far. Mickey typed a gazillion grades into the computer in the morning and worked with Mama Lenny in the afternoon with the sewing class. I taught four form IV chemistry students how to balance equations. After tea, I helped a student named Christopher learn how to type on the computer. He improved from 1 word per minute to 4 wpm. In the afternoon, I fixed the EXCEL programs that Mickey was typing to have the proper formats. This is the first time the grades were put on the computer. Next year they can copy the programs and put in new names and grades. I then prepared for my last meeting with the Form III chemistry students.

After dinner we had Mama Toni and Mohamed take group pictures of us out on the front steps. After the generator died prematurely (surprise), we said our fond farewells to Dave and Judy. They left at 6:02 a.m. Obviously, they were not on African time!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday, 22 January 2009

“You gotta play the hand that’s dealt ya” —The Chief
Mary Kernan

Yesterday we woke up all proud to be Americans, after watching the inauguration of our 44th President, Barak Obama.

Ha had left her notebook at the neighboring village clinic so she and Joana had Mohamed drive them there and then walked home. Don helped type the Form V roster into the computer. Mickey continued to type the exams. Erin and Sharon went to the kindergarten, Sharon was asked to give English lessons to some Seminarians.

Judy and Mary had another eventful day at the clinic. They shared their worm story during lunch (we had noodles). Everyday they come with new tales. The wrecking crew of Dave, Matt and I actually got to start building the new kitchen. It will take 45 days to complete. We agreed that digging the foundation was much more difficult than previous days.

Judy and Erin were out for a walk and saw a vervet monkey. It was our first animal in Pommern. They also met 4 people from Sweden. We invited them to the Mission House after dinner. They were impressed with our luxurious running water, flush toilets, lights (sometimes!). Home sweet home!

Joe (Union Steward of the work crew!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

“Do what you can – your impact may be much greater than you can imagine.”
Judy Garshelis

Yesterday was a good day, all in all.

At the secondary school the Jerusalem dorm came down.
Maybe that was symbolic and a little profound.
Bet ten years is all that a building can stand,
So we tore it down with a few tools and our hands.

In the computer lab the printer and mice were cleaned for the first time,
And now they seem to work again, pretty much just fine.

The graduation (“leaving “) certificates were examined and organized,
But could it be that 75% weren’t really registered? – Surprise!

Down at the K-school, kids ate porridge and sang row-row your boat.
They didn’t know what a boat was, but nobody spoke.

At the clinic there was a beaten woman and a student with a panic attack,
Also an apparent case of malaria – the symptoms were fever, headache and a pain in the back.

The outreach clinic gave kids a dewormer and vitamin A;
Their mothers, meanwhile, got meds to keep births at bay.

While here in East Africa we did our small bit to help moms, dads, boys, and girls,
Across the globe, a progeny of E. Africa took an oath to lead the free world.

And thanks to Haran, the kind gentleman,
We watched it on CNN from Pommern.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday, 19 January 2009

“The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.” Sharon Bronsted

On Saturday, the secondary school had a number of religious ceremonies. There were ceremonies for each of the religious groups. The Catholics had their ceremony early in the morning, the Lutherans later, as well as the Moslems. All the ceremonies were very active with lots of songs and dances.

Yesterday was a wonderfully relaxing day. In the morning several of us went to religious services. Don, Mickey, Matt, Dave, Judy and Sharon went to the Lutheran service. They saw Haran and Mama Toni there…who arrive late! Haran had them all introduce themselves to the congregation.

I went to the Catholic Mass with Joe and Mary. The singing and dancing was wonderful. The Italian priest, Father Paolo, said mass in Kiswahili – impressive.

After we returned from the religious services, all of us – except Matt who wasn’t feeling well – got ready to go for our walk with Charles, and Salome. We went to the secondary school and met John and Irene who also went with us. We walked for about a mile and arrived at an area with three little waterfalls. It was very nice. Dave did some yoga while the rest of us chatted. We got in a group picture and were mad at Matt for not coming.

At about 5 o’clock the football (soccer) match between form V and Form VI was underway with Dave as the referee. From the start Form V with their red jerseys and pre-game huddle, was looking more organized than Form VI. The crowd would sometimes hit/harass the linesman when it didn’t agree with the call the linesman made. They were wasting their energy though because Dave didn’t necessarily pay attention to the linesman. The players were very respectful of Dave’s decisions and Dave was respectful that the game is played a little different here.

Matt, Joana, and I talked with our new friends Charles, Ezra, and Malaki during the game. Perhaps we will join them for movie night next Friday at the secondary school. But today Ezra and Maliki will show me how to use their cell phones to get on the Internet as I am low tech.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday, 16 January 2009

“Wait to worry” Joe Kernan

Yesterday, after a great report from Judy, this is a hard act to follow. The day starts following breakfast and all of us getting ready for our assignments, which are same as yesterday. The Demo Brick Crew reported with their same dirty clothes as worn before. Judy and I met with Dr. Godlove. We found out he is raising 7 children – 3 of his own and 4 whose parents have died. First we made hospital rounds and next the out patient clinic. There were a couple of interesting cases, which included plyergia (a vitamin deficiency). Also there were babies with fevers bundled up in winter coats and hats. Most interesting was the industrial accident with a severe laceration of the right great toe very near the rail bed. Judy and I thought for a few moments that we were going to have to suture! Fortunately, Dr. Godlove appeared and sutured the nail to itself. It was an excellent job, done in a very dark room. Then Dr. Godlove left, taking the vaccines to a neighborhood village. The gas had run out on the refrigerator where the vaccines were stored.

Judy, one of the nurses named Lulu, and I were left to run the clinic. We saw eight patients. After the clinic, we went to the Young Child Immunization Clinic. As soon as a couple of the young children saw Judy’s white coat, they started crying loudly. I am smart! My lab coat has smiley faces on it. We saw 28 kids from 6 months to 6 years old. Next in the O.B. clinic there were 4 ladies. We were busy for four and a half hours.

In the afternoon, Judy and I visited the Demo Brick Crew, which was now joined by Joana. They are taking down a building previously built by GVers. They are taking it down brick by brick. I am glad it is not by me! Joana joined the crew after working in the morning with Sharon at the kindergarten. So now, Ha, who the guys are calling Hawk, won’t be the only women on the crew. Don taught the chemistry teacher a new method of balancing redox reactions. The students were a little slow. Mickey and Erin did their presentations in English class. Afterwards they had a chance to tour the teacher’s (Edward’s) house. It was an up scale house for Pommern. After lunch Ha (Hawk), Judy, and Joana went with Mama Toni to see a lady about getting skirts made from material that they bought here. Judy got lost and had to ask for help to get home. Erin witnessed a chicken feet up with feathers on in a pot of hot water in the store. Matt learned from Edward that he (Matt) cannot get married here in Pommern because he does not have 3 cows, 3 goats, 2 blankets, and 2 sheets for the dowry.

The evening ended well with a lively discussion with Edward about customs.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday, 15 January 2009

An old Chinese proverb says – you can move a kitchen, one brick at a time, but it will go faster if you have a good wheelbarrow. Dave Garshelis

Yesterday we had pancakes, porridge, bananas, bread and butter or jelly and coffee or tea for breakfast. After breakfast, we went to our assigned jobs. Mary and I went to the clinic. Dr. Godlove wasn’t there yet. The staff were washing the floors because a patient died in the hospital the night before. Mary I I gave boxes of gloves, tongue blades, otoscope, masks, hand sanitizer to the clinic staff. They were very appreciative.

Dr. Godlove arrived around 9:30 a.m. We made hospital rounds with him and saw a patient with shingles, another with hypertension, a young man with abdominal pains. Afterwards, we saw patients in the outpatient clinic. We saw an 11-month with vomiting for a day, a woman with T.B. who came for her meds, an elderly man with insomnia, etc.

We went back to the Mission House at 12:30 p.m. Turk, Matt, Ha, and Joe knocked down a kitchen wall the secondary school in the morning. The first tool to try to knock it down was a stick until it broke. Jo played and sang with students in kindergarten. Erin and Mickey observed an English class at the secondary school. Don typed our journal as no one was in the chemistry class. Mickey later taught some student and the instructed how to an electric sewing machine that they had brought here. Sharon learned about the needs of Tanzania people and the pastor by talking to the pastor and walking around.

We had spaghetti and sauce, potatoes, bread for lunch.

After lunch, Mary, Joana, and I walked through the village and tock pictures, talked with local people and bought a few items. Sharon and Don were done for the day, so Sharon painted with watercolor and Don worked on chemistry lessons. Erin and Mickey went back to secondary school, went over lesson plans. The four demolition workers went back to work. Turk felt some frustration because he felt they could get a lot done but there wasn’t enough tools such as hammers and a wheelbarrow, etc.

At 4:20 p.m., Turk coached some secondary students in soccer. There were cows grazing next to the soccer filed. The students were eager to learn and did everything Turk said. The choir showed up and had practice near the field. They sang and danced. It was amazing! By the end of practice there were at least 20 kids on the field.

Two older students, ages 30 and 36, came over to Sharon and I and talked to us. Practice ended a little after 6 p.m.

After dinner, we had our meeting with Haran and he announced that they were going to purchase a wheelbarrow and other tools for the kitchen demolition and rebuilding project. We got our work assignments for tomorrow. The day ended with everyone in an “upbeat” mood.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” Clifton Fadiman

Yesterday was a very busy day. We began with our morning meeting. We wrote our goals and the characteristics of an effective team.

Next, we went to the clinic where Dr. Godlove showed us the equipment and rooms. Judy and Mary had lots of questions and seem eager to get to work.

We went to the Secondary School where we met Aidan, the acting headmaster, and Edward the school counselor. They took us on a tour of the school, classrooms, dormitories, kitchen and health clinic. We ended in the faculty room where Edward explained the school system and answered questions. We walked back to the Mission House by way of the soccer field.

After lunch, Mohamed gave us a Kiswahili lesson. He gave us some basic phrases and numbers and translated some necessary phrases like elephant poop.

Our next foray took us to the kindergarten building and met some people learning English. We then went to the primary school where we met with Barabas, the headmaster. He answered more questions about the school system and welcomed us to his school.

We walked across half of Pommern to the Catholic Church, greeting people along the way with intrepid volunteers trying out their new Kiswahili phrases. At the Catholic Church we saw the Kindergarten, an Internet outpost and the nursery where they grow seedling for reforestation. Joana met a girl her own age and they were instant friends.

On the way back to the Mission House it started to rain so we hurried home. Haran had given us a good tour of the village and helpful information about places to buy snacks and drinks.
After dinner we got our work assignments. Joana will go to the kindergarten; Erin and I will work in the English department at the secondary school. Judy and Mary will be at the clinic, Don will teach chemistry with Reuben at the secondary school. Ha, Hoe, Dave and Matt will demolish the kitchen at the secondary school. Sharon will work with Pastor Sagga.

It was a very eventful day.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

“Well, there were no black mambos, but I am going to mambo back” Matt Lampasona

Morning came at 10 to 7 on my clock that had been set months ago at home – so we must have 11 or 12 hours of difference in time. After the group of Swedes ate, it was our turn to have French toast and a round pancake like ball – with honey and various local jams.

We headed for our “business affairs” – signing up for the Safari, Internet connections, and the marked for our food for the week. Our first stop was at the Hasty Tasty Too – where we ordered our lunch for 1 p.m. After dodging rain drops at the market while we bought flip-flops, cloth, coconuts, bug spray and other fun essentials. We ate our Hasty Tasty lunch and great milkshakes and headed out for Pommern around 4 p.m. We were all anxious to get to Pommern and see where we would be working.

The trip to Pommern was lovely through lush forests and farms. The homes and fields on this country road were so much better than those we saw in the low lands.

Tra-Tra we arrived at our dorm house and each got our rooms except Joe and Mary who are going around from room to room to keep us company. Here we are staying in a big, thick walled, high ceilinged German missionary parsonage built in the ’30s or ‘40s

And here we are ready to go in this fascinating community.