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