Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your morals and values are.

Roy Disney

The team woke up for breakfast at 7:30 as usual with a colder weather then the other days, Carlos had a harder time waking up then others but we were all in the team meeting where Edward told us to be more flexible about the activities we had today because of Eid which is the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holiday.

So all of us went to school to find something to do, but then we all realized that there were different reasons why there was no teaching today we decided to do different jobs, Ryan was the only member who got chance to teach, and Eugenio and Eitan went to work in the kitchen while Eric and Mimi got back to filling the tank for the construction of the water tanks of the water project.

Later Carlos realized that he had a living larva inside his foot, so he did his own medical procedure and took it off.

We all had lunch together and then Ryan and Eitan switched jobs with Mimi and Eric, while Carlos and Eugenio went with a nurse of the medical center to check that everything would be all right, and then joined Eric and Mimi in the kitchen.

After all working very hard we came back home for dinner, and Deo a teacher from the secondary school came and talked about the history of Tanzania and his points of view of the political history, after the interesting lecture that we were all pleased we all got ready for bed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Journal by: Eitan Straisfeld

“No more turning away, from the weak and the weary;

No more turning away from the coldness inside.

Just a world that we all must share,

It’s hard enough just to stand and stare.

Is it only a dream that there’ll be no more turning away.”

- On the Turning Away, Pink Floyd

The group woke up to a chilly yet sun-filled morning in Pommern. We ate breakfast together and listened to Mimi’s account of the group’s acitivites from the day before. Me and Eric went off to help Moses with plastering the wall in the kitchen while the rest of the group got ready for the day’s teaching – Mimi went off to teach a divinity class; Ryan went back to his Form 6 literature students and Garza and Carlos went off to teach math and economics, respectively.

We all met again at 10 for tea time and sat with the various teachers, listening to announcements and enjoying some tea and donuts. Working on the kitchen in the later morning was tiring but we were making good progress: the bricks for the wall had been laid and we had begun to smooth out the surface of the wall with the same concrete we’d used to stick the bricks together. Funny how ‘exposed brick’ is a luxury back home but here it’s probably seen as something less appealing.

At lunch we talked about our various work and classes and Garza and Carlos told us they’d be teaching a Spanish class to some teachers in the afternoon. Edward was a little bit skeptical but Carlos and Garza were really looking forward to it. The work rotation changed a little bit in the afternoon: Mimi and Eric went to go haul water from the clinic to the water tank platform while me and Ryan headed back to the kitchen.

It was a long afternoon, but again: productive. We managed to finish the wall near the entrance and smooth the surface – Moses is a tireless worker and it takes everything we’ve got to keep up with him. But he’s a good and patient teacher – never getting angry at your mistakes, only laughing at the Wazungu. We finished up around 4:30 and walked back to the mission house, satisfied in the knowledge of a hard day’s work.

When we got back we learned that Edward had been stung by a bee and we were invited to have dinner at his house. We all relaxed a little and some of us took much needed showers. It turned out that Carlos and Garza’s Spanish lessons had been a big success and they were planning more lessons in the future.

Edward’s wife (Engera) prepared a great meal for us and they were excellent hosts. Carlos found a laser pen earlier in the day that he’d bought in Europe and Edward thought it was very interesting.

After that Mimi and Eric walked back to the mission house while myself, Ryan, Carlos and Garza went to try some Safari beer. It had been a long day and we all looked forward to the trivial pursuit championships that we had planned as our reward for the day’s endeavours. Another educational and enjoyable day in the heart of Tanzania.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Journal by: Mimi Gendreau

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

We started out with breakfast and getting ready for the morning. Eric went with Moses to work on the water project air valve construction. Ryan, Eitan, Carlos, Garza and I walked down to the Secondary School for teaching assignments. Ryan, Eitan and I had assignments in English and Garza in Biology. Carlos started in the carpentry workshop and met many other students during his work. We returned for lunch and everyone exchanged comments about their morning assignments. Then we all went down to the kitchen area to work. Eric and I moved sand to a better position with the help of students. This was a good opportunity to meet students and exchange some information about each other. Eitan, Carlos, Garza and Ryan worked in the kitchen helping to finish the wall with Moses. They also met with students who assisted.

After our construction work, everyone returned to recoup before our meeting with a guest and dinner. I sat out on the front porch reading and saw two teams of oxen pulling wagons walking past the Mission House. What may seem like an outdated mode of transportation in our country is very much in use here in Pommern where a truck and fossil fuel energy is too expensive for the average subsistence farmer. People work very hard in Pommern where motorized transportation and mechanized tools are not easily accessible to the local farmers. I then watched Eitan and a small boy playing soccer with a “ball” made of plastic bags tied together in a bundle. The little boy was so enjoying the game with his makeshift ball showing his wonderful smile. I also noticed how much and quickly we Global Volunteers influence the young children in Pommern because the little boy started using the same expressions that Eitan used in describing plays- “Nice!” It struck me that this little boy was so happy and carefree with a makeshift ball and so often our children at home are not happy even when they have so many manufactured new toys. This is just one of the important values that we can learn and bring home from Pommern.

Our guest for the evening was Barnabas who is a district coordinator of the primary school. He discussed the education system in Tanzania. We asked him many questions about the curriculum, uniforms, teaching in English and the challenges of education in Tanzania. He also asked many questions about each of our countries’ educational systems and other challenging issues. It was a very interesting discussion particularly because we have an international team allowing a discussion about 4 different countries: Tanzania, Mexico, USA and Canada. We may have a consensus that Canada has very few problems which is why everyone is so nice in Canada and we should consider moving there! J

We had another great dinner by Mama Tony and our nightly meeting with Edward. Everyone reported on their day and all expressed that they were pleased with their work and experiences. Another wonderful day in Pommern!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Journal by: Eric Noyes

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. Henry Ellis

Having finished our first week together and working in and around the community of Pommern, we had our first weekend. Saturday morning after breakfast Carlos, Garza, Ryan and Eitan went with Mohamed and Edward in the Jeep to Iringa for the day to buy more provisions and to do some personal shopping. Mimi and Eric remained at the Mission House to explore some of the area. They visited the Roman Catholic church and met two Italian people from Florence who were part of a service organization from Sicily and staying at the Catholic church for two months. Saturday they were joining many local people boarding the back of a big truck to ride to another village for a wedding. Eric and Mimi continued walking along minor roads and trails, eventually returning to the main road south of the main village and walking back to the Mission House after about three hours. Along the way they met friendly adults, excited children, and a friend from their visit three years ago.

After a quiet afternoon reading and napping, they welcomed the Iringa shoppers back at about 4:30 PM and heard about their trip. Unfortunately the trip included encountering the aftermath of a motorcycle accident in which the rider died, which saddened everyone after their otherwise most excellent Iringa trip. At 5:00 PM Eric and Mimi accompanied Edward to a meeting of the Water Project Task Force at the church. They spoke briefly to thank everyone for their generosity and welcoming spirit, and for their hard work to move the Project towards completion. They gave the Task Force a “Friendship Book” album filled with messages of encouragement from Water Project supporters back home to the teachers, students and community members. The Task Force at this point anticipates the Project will be finished in late November 2011.

On Sunday we all went to the Lutheran church service next to the Mission House. The congregation’s voices were beautiful as they sang several hymns during the service. We were invited up to the front of the church to introduce ourselves and were warmly welcomed as we tried our almost nonexistent Kiswahili knowledge. After lunch we went to a monthly village market where people were buying and selling all sorts of things – clothes, shoes, pots and pans, small useful things, onions, “maandasi” (fried corn flour dumplings, like donuts) and other street food. Before dinner Mimi and Eric joined the regular Trivial Pursuit tournament. Eric and Garza were happy to assist Ryan to increase his losing streak! The day concluded with some good discussion on upcoming assignments for our volunteer work as we prepare for new challenges this week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Journal by: Carlos Alvarez

“Happiness is only real when shared.” Alexander Supertramp

We woke up early as usual, it was a chilly morning and the warming sun was slowly coming up. We had an energizing breakfast before our corresponding duties. Eric, Mimi, and Ryan where going to the secondary school like the day before and Eitan, Eugenio and Carlos where going to work in the new kitchen with Moses. We had a brief meeting and those who where going to the lessons parted with Edward and the kitchen boys with Moses. Eric and Mimi went to second form, where Eric used his skills and talents to involve those shy students to participate and talk out loud in front of his classmates. Ryan, the now appointed teacher of his class, taught them some music and even got some of the students to sing, while the substituted teacher laid back and enjoyed his lucky break.

Meanwhile, Moses minions, did as they were told, feeling naïve towards the mixing of cement, brick placing, and the difficult art of plastering. After a couple of hours at work, we all went to the teachers meeting, where we had the traditional doughnuts and tea. Few announcements were shared and it was a short meeting, so we finished our respective drinks and headed off to our previous assignments. The morning chores tired us out, so we headed back to the house to have the ever delicious lunch prepared by MamaTony. Everyone was very quiet during meal time, as hunger was definitely our priority.

After lunch the two full of energy younglings went for a two and a half hour nap while the others went to finish the kitchen work. The four elders were doing all the hard work while the youngsters enjoyed their soft pillow. At around four o’clock we waited for Edward as he was taking us to the football field where the much expected match between Pommern against an adjacent village was going to be held. We took the short walk to the field where we saw a good amount of students waiting eagerly on the sidelines for the match to start.

Eugenio and Carlos, who where going to play for Pommern’s team, went with their fellow teammates to settle their positions and the game strategy. Eric, Mimi, Eitan and Ryan went to the sideline bench as they waited for the kickoff. Finally the referee called both teams onto the field, they formed a straight line and started running towards the middle of the field. The green Pommern soldiers lined up next to their red opponents. The whistle blew, and it was game time. It was a very close first half, but Pommern got a penalty and managed to jump ahead one nil. Eugenio was substituted by Edward, our team leader, who swore only to play 15 minutes and gave all he had in him. Haran, the second headmaster also went in, and was named MVP after a very satirical chant and dance around the ball. Unfortunately the opposing team managed to score once, and in the last and remaining five minutes they scored the winning goal. It was an excellent football match, and as good sportsmen every player shook hands with his teammates as well as his opponents. Carlos and Eugenio where exhausted and had red clay coming out of their ears by the end of the match, so they took a shower before meeting the others for supper.

Pastor Saga and his wife joined us for dinner, and even though we were all very tired, we used up our fifth wind to concentrate on the so interesting topics Pastor Saga was more than open to share with us. After a very productive and long day, we were thankful that the upcoming days were the highly anticipated weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Journal by: Mimi Gendreau

“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received- only what you have given; a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi

Another beautiful morning in Pommern. The team met for breakfast and our morning meeting as usual. Edward delivered sad news that a senior member of the community had died the night before and the funeral would be held this afternoon. Everyone in the community will go to the burial to support the family and so will us Global Volunteers. When events like funerals occur everyone stops their regular work schedules to attend and so will we.

In the morning, we all went to our assigned duties; Eitan, Garza, and Carlos went to work at the water project platform construction site to move rocks for the 2 men working. Eric, Ryan and I went to the Secondary School for teaching. Ryan was assigned to English class. Eric and I went with Haran Ngede, the Second Headmaster, to teach a history review. After we returned for lunch, we all reported our experiences with our assignments.

After lunch, we walked to the cemetery where the burial will take place. A short time after our arrival at the cemetery, several trucks drove up with the coffin and the members of the community came walking into the cemetery. All gathered around the grave site. The women were sitting on other grave stones and the men were standing. The coffin was presented and placed into the hand dug grave of approximately 8 feet. Then the priest for the community’s Roman Catholic Church began praying over the grave with periodic responses from the community members. He then stepped aside and all the men took turns filling in the grave with dirt. They rotated so that many men participated while the choir sang several beautiful hymns with an Eastern African rhythm. Thereafter, the priest said some final prayers, sprinkled holy water over the grave and placed a large cross on the grave. The priest left the gathering and members of the community commented on the deceased man’s life. The service ended and everyone walked back to the village. Several members stayed assisting the new widow with her grief.

This was a moving experience for us to participate in as visitors. The attendance by the many community members shows the support and interdependence of the entire community. This ended the afternoon leaving us with lots to think about and ponder.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Journal by: Eugenio Garza

Vivire militare est (To live is to fight)

-lucio aneo Seneca

Our group woke up this morning very exited because finally we where going to see the water project that had been so mentioned for the past days, especially Mimi and Eric worked raising the money so that this dream for Pommern citizens could become true.

We got ready as soon as we could wearing comfortable shoes and clothes, carrying our water bottles and everything we needed. Eitan got a little bit too exited with the pacing.

We left the Global Volunteers house at around 8:30 and we hopped into the luxurious and comfortable 1st class seats of Mohamed’s truck.

Before we arrived you could see that everyone was anxious to get there, and it never crossed our minds the long and adventurous journey that we had ahead, we even lost a fellow member in the way (Ryan) but we will get to that soon.

When we arrived we met Gallus the technician who was in charge of doing the project, and he was very kind in explaining to us how it worked and how he contracted everything.

It pumps 4 liters of water per second and it will be enough water to sustain the school and other members of the community. It was very interesting to know.

So off we went to our hiking trip and at first it was very easy, but it started getting complicated. The views where fantastic.

We where all impressed that Mimi and Erick are the fittest members of the team.

After a while we came across some agricultural planting and the workers, we all appreciated the beautiful landscapes that we come across

Half way to our destination we saw Mohamed , Ryan went with him because his leg was giving him trouble.

And finally after going up and down again and again we where all exhausted except Carlos who used his spiderman abilities .

We finished where the water tanks are going to be and we where all very impressed by the ditch’s longitude.

When we got back home we all rested, had lunch and took a nap, but it wasn't long until the kids from the village came and asked to play soccer.

So Carlos, Ryan and Eugenio got ready to play with them.

After we where all exhausted we finished and we came back for a nice shower rest and dinner. We had a group meeting where we got to the conclusion that Carlos and Eugenio can not seat together and neither can Mimi and Erick.

We finally got our assigned work for tomorrow and finally the night came along and play with Ryan’s iPad took off to bed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Journal by: Ryan Davis

We live by what we get but make life from what we give.

-Prophet T.B. Joshua

Our group woke this morning to brisk air and a beautiful sunrise passing over the trees that line the back of the Mission House. After breakfast we began our true service orientation. We set group goals and agreed upon expectations of our group dynamic. We decided to help Mama Tony with the cleaning after meals in shifts of two people daily starting tomorrow. With these logistics out of the way, we followed Edward down the hard red-clay path to the secondary school. The teachers were all waiting outside of the teacher’s lounge to greet us. After dozens of handshakes and “Jambo’s” we gathered together inside for breakfast (again) and announcements/introductions.

Our group dispersed among the staff to meet some of the teachers and partake in some tea and doughnuts. The staff introduced themselves first and the overwhelming number of unfamiliar names was amazing. It soon became clear that much interpersonal time will be needed to simply remember some of the staff by name. Afterwards, our volunteer group introduced ourselves giving our names, nationality and interests/skills. The staff meeting wrapped and we mingled with some old friends (for Mimi and Eric) and some new acquaintances that have similar interests. We then went to headmaster Shadrack’s office to talk about the school and answer any questions we may have before our tour of the campus.

The secondary school was fascinating. We saw the classrooms, boys and girls’ dormitories, and the kitchen with its enormous pots of beans and cabbage and naan bread cooking over large wood and charcoal fires. Our group passed by small wooden corn sifting houses and through the woodworking shop as well as the primary school on our way to Edward’s house. While passing the cheering throngs of children gathered around the soccer/futbol field we watched on in amazement as a man cut down a very large tree with a chainsaw that fell right next to the primary school as children screamed in surprise and scurried to get out of the way.

We arrived to Edward’s home to be greeted warmly by his wife and a smattering of chickens. We met his daughter and ducks and ventured inside for a Coca Cola and a brief rest. After leaving Edward’s home we passed his milk cow on the path back to the Mission house and were greeted with a hearty Moooo!

Our team had a great but quick lunch of fried eggs and chips, took a short break and then met Mohammed for our tour of more of the village. We saw the pub, a couple of stores, lumber shop, some other local churches as well as the clinic. We met many people along the way who were very friendly and happy to greet us. We frolicked with some adorable and energetic little children yelling “picture picture” and continued our progress along our tour route. In the clinic we took a full tour with Dr. Elton of the services provided, including the dentist office, men and women’s infirmaries, maternity ward and more. Many of our group seemed eager to help, especially with the healthy baby program.

Around 4pm we concluded our tour back at the Mission House and proceeded directly to the dining room to begin our crash-course in Swahili language basics with Mohammed. We learned greetings, numbers to 10,000 and beyond, as well as the names of many animals. We were told that we would be introducing ourselves Sunday morning in church to the locals and will have to be prepared to do so in Swahili. It has been a very busy and extremely informative day. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed, shower, dinner and sleep became more appealing by the minute. As the sun faded beyond the trees staining the grass with red hues that mimicked the tint of the clay roads and footpaths, the shadows lengthened to become the dark of night. We felt a bit more acclimated to our new home and went to our beds weary, yet excited for the days still to come. The sounds of the night seemed a bit more familiar and comforting today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Journal by: Eitan Straisfeld

“Well it’s all right; doing the best you can.

Well it’s all right; as long as you lend a hand.”

-Traveling Wibury’s

We woke up in Iringa this morning in the Lutheran guest house to a beautiful, clear day. Next to the guest house is a primary school and it was nice to see the children arrive to school and point at the foreigners: then either laugh and run away, or say good morning and smile.

We had breakfast at around 8:30 and met Shadrack, the head master of the Pommern school. It was interesting to listen to him speak. He explained the progress and the difficulties they were having, and you couldn’t help but be impressed by his earnestness. We also met Nesia [Mama Toni] for the first time, the woman who would be feeding us for the next three weeks.

After that we drove to the market in Iringa to “help” mama Toni get the supplies we would need for the next three weeks. We thought we could be of some use in her shopping, but in essence we were just grown children following mama Toni around a marketplace that she seemed to know like the back of her hand.

We had some time to kill before lunch so we walked around the market a bit more then waited by the jeep. We talked about the things we’d bought and how successful we’d been in haggling with the local shopkeepers. The market was very interesting; a crush of merchants and buyers selling everything under the sun and navigating the streets through the cars, trucks and motorcycles that seemed to be going everywhere at the same time.

Lunch was very good and afterwards we went back to the Lutheran guest house and packed our bags. What was funny was that in the morning we’d been told that we would be doing the two-hour drive into Pommern in two jeeps, but it turned out that because of all the food, we would all have to pile into one jeep again. There was a collective sigh, but then we all laughed a little, thinking “hey, at least it’s not ten hours”.

The drive up to Pommern was very nice – it didn’t seem like two hours. Once we left the asphalt, Edward told us that we were finally in Africa. And you could feel it – dirt roads everywhere; houses made of red clay; goats and cows coming out of nowhere being shepherded across the road – it looked like all the pictures I’d ever seen.

We arrived and the Lutheran mission was beautiful. It was built in 1906 and it has a very rustic feel. It was still light so we all chose our rooms, got settled and just sat around talking until 7:30, when it was time for dinner. Mama Toni did not let us down and the dinner was great. Edward gave us the schedule for tomorrow and introduced us to Moses – the guy who will be watching the house at night and taking care of it during the day.

After a span of two to five days, different for each of us, we’re finally in Pommern. We’re all very looking forward to seeing the rest of the town tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Journey of team #152

Journal by: Eric Noyes

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act upon them? ~Buddha

Global Volunteers begins a new team service project with us who came together last night and this morning: Mimi and I from Detroit Michigan USA, Eitan from Toronto Ontario Canada, Ryan from Phoenix Arizona USA, and Carlos and Eugenio (“G” for short!) from Mexico City Mexico. True to a global service organization, we are very much an international team! Like all great efforts, ours started with Carlos’ and Eugenio’s luggage not traveling with them from Nairobi and not arriving until the next night, and Ryan being delayed by flight problems getting to Dar es Salaam. We all came together by breakfast and Edward, our Country Team Leader, started us off to get to know each other together with the mission and vision of the Global Volunteers.. By 9:00 AM we were loaded up and Mohamed began moving us out of Dar es Salaam on the long drive to Iringa. We chatted quite a bit as we began to learn more about each other and the upcoming opportunities to assist the community of Pommern during our stay. We ate an excellent buffet lunch at Chalinze, “checked the tires” near Morogoro, and transited Mikumi National Park. Driving through we saw impalas, baboons, a giraffe and one elephant. Park staff was in the process of burning off underbrush near the highway. This being the dry season, most of the grass was brown rather than green so it burned well.

We arrived in Iringa near 6:30 PM tired and a little dusty from the road, but happy to see the Iringa Mlandege Lutheran Center, our home for tonight. After unloading our bags we went to dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant and met Naiman Chavalla, the Iringa Diocese General Secretary. He warmly welcomed us to the Diocese and to Pommern and discussed some of the work we will do to assist the Pommern community during our stay. There is an ongoing project to improve the Secondary School dining hall and also the water project that is vastly improving water delivery to the community, school and dispensary, and adding much needed water storage. This water project has been the community’s number one priority and they are very excited to see it develop. We enjoyed meeting and talking with him as he shared many facts about the Diocese and the Pommern community and answered our questions. We will meet him again later in our service project. We returned to the Lutheran Center tired from the road, well fed, and looking forward to tomorrow to shop for provisions and to finally reach Pommern!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Mohammed to Spencer and Spencer to Mohammed.

Stephanie and Spencer prepared to go to work at the Primary school as Edward, Mohamed, Moses, Patrick and I along with several students led a second Toyota Land Cruiser packed with yet more students along with Mr. Haran and a variety of digging implements.

At the water intake we all grabbed hoes and shovels for a landscaping job around the reservoir. The formerly diverted stream was routed back to its original path. The water began to flow into a puddle behind the lip of the reservoir. It rose slowly until a trickle spilled over the lip and ran down a slope toward the reservoir, picking up speed and becoming less a trickle than a rivulet before finally turning into something slighty less than a torrent and spilling into the brand new reservoir.

Most of us stood spellbound on the edge of the reservoir as it slowly filled. A student who had been clearing the trench down stream appeared with a puff adder draped across his shovel. The water in the reservoir reached the pipe that let into the spring box. The spring box filled and a quarter turn of the red handled cutoff valve sent the water rushing out of a galvanized pipe into the trench and on its way toward Pommern. Hands were grasped and shaken, pictures taken and smiles appeared all round.

After lunch we said a reluctant goodbye to Moses and Mama Toni and drove bumpily but unevenfully toward Iringa for a bit of shopping and an evening meal. Tomorrow we say goodbye to Edward and Mohamed. We will miss you guys.

Baba Spencer, Mama Spencer and the Doctor.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

“Back to the Drawing Board” [American cliché]

Marina, the teacher down at the primary school, has become quite taken with the drawings I’ve been making from the Kiswahili picture books, and at her request I have been producing pictures at a steady pace. I’ve made 3 posters and 22 letter size pictures so far, with a few more to do in the morning. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this job, sitting in Marina’s office, with the adorable children running this way and that to class and back. The bolder ones will come in and visit when the coast is clear. Marina has sent the posters to the carpenters to build frames for them. I think she is my biggest fan ever.

Spencer taught English to the Standard 6 primary school classe, which he seems to be enjoying and we checked in on David and Moses at the new secondary school kitchen, which looks just about finished.

David and I took a walk before dinner and ran into a high spirited older woman who wanted her picture taken. At her request, we photographed her a number of times (she didn’t like seeing her body cut off in a head shot), two different sets of pigs and then she pulled out the maize for hand grinding with big poles and we staged some action shots. Every walk in Pommern has brought its surprises and delights.

This is our last night in Pommern and it is very moving. The Global Volunteers staff has taken excellent care of us and we will miss Edward, Mohamed, Mama Toni and Moses very much. We will miss the teachers and children we have worked with and Spencer will especially miss his evening soccer buddies and the two Masai girls next door. Later this evening Spencer is going with Mohamed to the secondary school faculty lounge to watch the Barcelona and Real Madrid soccer game, which will be the finishing touch to a brilliant three weeks.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

“Spentho” Ngujeje

The day started early, as usual, with delicious oatmeal. My mother and I headed down to the primary school while my father went with Moses to the kitchen. I taught two English classes for standard six. The class was very cooperative and did very well on the assignment that I gave them. My mother stayed in the office drawing wonderful pictures of various things. In the afternoon I went to the kitchen to find that they did not need my help. I trekked back up to the mission house where I met up with Ngujeje and Naomi, both taught me how to make chipate. As the countdown to our departure becomes closer the more sad I become, longing for more soccer games with the understanding and charming youth of Pommern.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011

“Some people come who live 2 Km away, others who live but a few feet from the school do not come at all.” ~ Mr. Haran

Spencer and Stephanie returned to the primary school and I joined Moses at the kitchen. It seems there was no water at the spigot we had been using closest to the job site. I took buckets down to the pump at the teacher housing. The morning proceeded apace.

At tea/faculty meeting Mr. Haran spoke of how he had especially asked the teachers to attend some of the events like morning prayers to support the students even though they did not have duties then. Thus the above quote. Things seem to be the same everywhere.

At the end of the faculty meeting Mr. Haran began to speak to the faculty in Kiswahili. Afterwards he explained that the students often do not respect traditions and that the younger teachers do not instruct the students in the traditions and themselves do not support the traditions. Mr. Haran was trying to explain to the younger teachers that it was their responsibility to uphold the traditions and standards of behavior that they wish to see in the students. I mentioned that it was the same in the U.S.

Later after lunch when I returned to the kitchen I found that Moses had come up with an ingenious way to make a form for the corners of the buttress wall by using two benches. The second piece of good news was that the water began working close to the kitchen by the boys dormitory. The third piece of good news was that Spencer had joined us to help with the flinging of the cement.

The three members of the team met up again after work having enjoyed a successful day.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

“Are we there yet?” [whiny American children]

After breakfast we were dressed to the nines in locally made clothes. With no definitive plans for the day, we decided to take a walk up the main road to the former ANC training grounds. We thought the walk would take an hour each way but after two hours of trucking up hill, it was apparently otherwise. The people and children remained friendly through the neighboring village and it was a little startling to get to a deserted stretch of road. On the way, we saw an empty green snake skin and some very colorful insects. Finally we got to the crossroads to the camp but couldn’t see very much. We arrived back at the Mission House just in time for lunch with our legs trembling with exhaustion. The late afternoon and evening brought the children playing soccer, two big hooting owls and a crackling hot fire.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

“WAZZ UPPP?” Mohammed

The day started out early at 6:30 when we set out for Iringa to get supplies...Our first stop in Iringa was the Hasty Tasty, a Mzungu friendly eatery. We then went to Neema Craft, an inspiring store run by disabled persons. There I bought a notebook made out of elephant dung. We then went to get soccer apparel and pick up our food for the journey back home. We arrived back in Pommern around 1:30, perfect timing for the party. The party was a great success and ended with a delicious cake. The day ended with a friendly soccer game with the youth of Pommern and much needed rest.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011

“I would not have allowed you out of the car if the snake had been black.”


Spencer and I went off to the kitchen job as Stephanie trundled down to the elementary school for more artistic pursuits. We made good progress in the morning with the two of us barely keeping up with Moses and Freddy who were slapping cement on the wall at a furious pace.

At 10:00 I met Edward and Mohammed for a trip to the water intake. On the way the keen eyed Mohammed spied a snake in a small tree about 5 feet off the ground. We pulled over and I popped out for a video. Despite the fact that the snake was a good two and a half feet long, it did not show up well when we reviewed the tape. Oh well.

The intake that had been completely cemented looked really terrific. We made our deliveries and picked up some wire mesh to take back. I returned to the kitchen. At lunch Mohammed made the statement above and we reviewed some snake protocols.

After lunch Spencer and I went down to the primary school to see the posters that Stephanie had made. There were three, representing breakfast, lunch and dinner with pictures of foods you might find at each meal with their names (in Swahili) written below each illustration.

Mrs. Mgeni asked if we would like to see a class which of course we did. She held up the posters while the children read the names of the foods in unison. It was a stirring performance and proof that Stephanie’s talents had been put to good use. At Mrs. Mgeni’s request Spencer stayed at the primary school to help teach and I returned to the job site.

We mixed 10 buckets of sand to one of cement, a ratio that I had been trying to figure out for a week. Freddy and Moses set to work and I keep them supplied. We ended with the walls done at exactly 4:30 with the last batch of cement mix completely depleted. Good job Moses!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

“What are these? These are onions” ~Pommerini Primary School Children

All day I overheard the adorable school children of Pommerini recite English, as I made posters about the different foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a task I thoroughly enjoyed under the charge of Marina and Mama Kinte. Spencer was supposed to work with Dr. Godlove at the clinic, but the good doctor was hours late and Spencer ended up working back at the new school kitchen with David, Moses, Freddie, Jack and a number of school boys.

After work the neighborhood kids played soccer with Spencer out front. A young dog joined the fun as we listened to an owl hoot and a piglet run back and forth through the village. After dinner, Edward gave an engaging lecture on the history of Tanzania and we cooked up a plan for a going away luncheon.

Not bedtime yet – Spencer found the scrabble set...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

“Mom you’re working too hard.” Spencer Hardy (Me)

The day started off with delicious oatmeal made by Mama Toni, I, of course, enhancing the oatmeal with maple syrup. We then started out toward the half completed kitchen. We started out plastering, something I think I have mastered only to observe Moses and Freddie professionally flinging cement at the wall. We plastered while my mother took the helm of carrying all the heavy items. My mother never seizes to amaze me by defying her age with buckets of sand. We then made our way back to the mission house for a large lunch and nap. We then set back out to finish our job at the kitchen, I laid down the rest of the floor while the boys finished plastering. We then finished our day in the mission house with dinner and a fire.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

“Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.”

It is not nearly as bad the old saying above but Pommern does have issues. It is the dry season after all. When laundry day comes to the secondary school the water for washing can slow to a trickle.

Today we set off in the Land Cruiser, with Harrison and several students from the secondary school along with Edward, Amy, Jack and Hannah. We took another thrilling ride across the African Bridge, this time loaded with all of the above along with our intrepid driver Mohammed, plus several bags of cement, a case of water, assorted rebar and all the tools we have used working on the kitchen. I volunteered along with several others to get out of the vehicle in order to lighten the load but Mohammed judging the bridge adequate continued across with all aboard. Another flawless crossing after which

we arrived at the water intake reservoir which is now well along. Here we spent the day carrying sand and gravel from the top of the hill to the reservoir. In addition to this task we mixed cement for Moses and the others who were plastering the inside of the reservoir and finishing off the top. The students joined heartily in all of these endeavors as well as helping to dig out an area that was going to be the site of the main water valve.

Meanwhile, Spencer spent the day working with Dr. Godlove sorting pills and organizing patients’ files.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quote of the day: “Roses are red my love, violets are blue…..” [American Songbook]

I noticed how saturated blue the sky was today – light ultramarine with a touch of cerulean.

Monday meant back to work. Today was a blur of hucking bricks and red dirt into the new school kitchen, as Moses and Freddie lay the floor down. Tea time in the teacher’s lounge never looked so good. By lunchtime I didn’t think I could go on, but felt revived after lunch and happily continued until Edward insisted we stop. The work day was enlivened by the one day old baby calf and her mother who shared the yard with us. Mama cow and Spencer exchanged some heart felt moo’s. David spent most of the day with the school carpenters making beds for the students.

The early evening hours were spent sitting on the porch and chatting with passers by, as well as the two Masai teachers staying at the Mission House, JeJe and Naomi.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

“Sitting, waiting, watching, wishing…..” Jack Johnson

The day started out with an early breakfast before attending the Lutheran church at 8:30. Edward picked us up and explained how the church donations worked but most importantly how to introduce ourselves. We walked into the church and sat down only to be called up in front of the Lutheran audience to introduce ourselves. My family and I stumbled through a Swahili introduction and then enjoyed the rest of the service ran by my fellow soccer player. After church we went back to the mission house to sleep and eat lunch.

After lunch the family and Mohammed took a trip to the waterfall. We walked through the village only to be stopped by every child asking for their picture to be taken. We arrived at the waterfall accompanied by bathing teenagers. At the waterfall we gave the local teenagers some cliff bars (something they were thrilled about). We then started our journey back home. The day finished off with some delicious Mandaz made by Mama Toni.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Quote of the day:

“The return of this asymmetrical Saturday was one of those little events, internal, local, almost civic, which in peaceful lives and closed societies create a sort of national bond.”

Remembrance of Things Past ~Marcel Proust

Today we slept in and ate breakfast late after which Mohammed walked with us to a particular road that led to a good view of Pommern. We met Mohammed’s friend who had worked with him at Ngoro Ngoro. Mohammed stayed to visit with his friend and we continued down the hill. Along the way children shouting, “Picture, Picture” stopped us to have their image digitally recorded. They would then rush toward the photographer giggling to see the result.

The side of the road was covered with flowers and white, orange, and red as well as stands of bamboo and eucalyptus. We found our way down one hill to a stream and up the other side where you could indeed see Pommern scattered along the ridge with sky above and mountains in the distance to the right.

Other walks followed to the place where the big trees had been felled the day before, to the store, to the soccer field.

Friday, August 5, 2011

“Look Homeward Angel” Thomas Wolf

Edward was in Iringa for the day. After breakfast, Spencer, David and I joined Moses and headed down to the secondary school with a 50 kg (over 100 lb) bag of cement. After that accomplishment, which weight Moses mostly bore, we continued with our task of helping Moses plaster the walls of the new school kitchen – well, at least we tried to be of as much help as we could to Moses. Spencer has actually gotten the hang of the proper wrist flick and is helping make good progress. He has been working harder than I think I have ever seen him work before – a very satisfying sight for his parents. I mostly fetched water and had many fun conversations with the school boys at the water pump. They are all very friendly and interested in who we are and where we come from.

Tea time in the faculty room brought news of the death of Mr. Kindole, one of the school’s cooks and one of the longest standing employees at the secondary school. Haran, along with input from the faculty, made a plan about to how to help the family. It was decided that classes would be cancelled for the afternoon, a group of students would dig the grave, the school choir would sing at the service, a substantial donation of food would be made by the school and money would be collected from individuals for the family. After lunch, with Mohammed by our side, we attended the first hour of the funeral service which took place outside the Kindole home, where many people were gathered and the choir was singing. We made a donation and signed the collection book and all were very grateful. The crying and wailing of the family members were striking to us and we left to finish our work at the school, as the procession left for the cemetery.

In the morning, I had heard word from home that one of my work colleagues passed away unexpectedly, so there was a lot for me to think about.

As I write this, we are spending another evening in front of the fire enjoying Mohammed’s stories about his escapades with the animals of the game parks and other aspects of life in Tanzania and Africa. We are learning so much from him and enjoying his company.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quote of the day: “Hakuna Mattata” Pumba

The day started at 7:30 in morning with a delicious breakfast made by the one and only Mama Toni. We then started out on our various jobs, Dad went to the school carpenters while my mother and I joined Moses for cement plastering. Moses showed us how to fling the plaster onto the wall, something that looked very easy. I took up the trowel to try myself only to be disappointed by the glob of plaster falling to the floor. We continued to plaster for the rest of the day until we finished all the cement. We then went back to the mission house with our legs feeling like spaghetti. I, being the sporty one of the family, decided to play soccer with the youth of Pommern. The day finished with another warming meal by Mama Toni.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 3, 2011

“The air was saturated with the finest flower of a silence so nourishing, so succulent…”

In Search of Lost time ~Marcel Proust

I woke up a few minutes after 12 in a darkness that was impenetrable. I lay there listening but there was nothing to hear. Unable to sleep I groped for my head lamp and took up the book I had been reading and shortly came across the passage above which completely described my experience of a few minutes before.

After breakfast the team went to the secondary school to audit various classes. I was with Mr. Moto who gave a lesson on finding the surface area of a cylinder. In the next class he asked me if I would write the notes on the blackboard for the same lesson, which I did. When I was finished he said, “Continue with the lesson.” I continued and it was wonderful… the attentive students, the math, the class, all wonderful. I found it thrilling.

At lunch it became clear that each of us had had a rich experience at the school and were willing to return at any time upon request.

After lunch and a brief rest we were joined by Patrick for a tour of the water system under construction. Mohammed drove us over what Edward referred to as an “African Bridge” which consisted of a number of logs laid side by side across a chasm. No rails, no steel, no support. All of that would not have been so bad had it not been that crossing the bridge required that each outside tire had to be on the crown of each outside log; no deviation, no disaster.

With Patrick, who had the vision and tenacity to push the water project to the construction phase, we saw the watershed and the reservoir which was nearly finished. From the reservoir we followed a trench that was prepared for the piping for perhaps 5 km to where it ended a little more than 1km away from its eventual destination.

Along the way we enjoyed the beautiful African landscape which included groves of pine trees that had been planted to encourage rain fall water conservation. Eventually we reached the end of the trench and where we found Mohammed and the Land Rover. Another rollicking death defying trip across the African Bridge and we were all but home again.

At the mission house we had coffee outdoors with Patrick and discussed dental braces, mascara and the Pommern water project. Later Spencer and other boys played soccer with the younger kids as the adults rested in the elegant evening light.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

“You say tomato, I say ‘nyanya’” [American Song Book]

Our first morning in Pommern, Edward led us in morning meeting to set goals and discuss our expectations for the next three weeks. Being that we three volunteers are all from the same family, it didn’t take too much time to get to know one another.

Edward then took us on a tour of the schools - first the secondary school, where we met with the faculty, who all greeted us in well spoken English, followed by visits to, among other places, the computer lab, chemistry lab, library and kitchen, where various needs were apparent. We then toured the primary school where we met the ‘big potato’ of the school, Engera Mgeni, who just happens to be Edward’s wife.

Edward then showed us his very charming house before we ate another delicious meal by Mama Toni – a potato frittata and fruit salad of papaya, pineapple and banana. Right after lunch Edward to Spencer took the health clinic for a quick photo shoot under a mosquito net.

The afternoon consisted of a walking tour of the town with Mohamed. We were surprised by the Pommerini children shouting ‘ciao, ciao” at us, which they picked up from the Italian volunteers at the Roman Catholic Church. Mohamed gave us a much needed Kiswahili language lesson including some greetings in the local HeHe language. The day ended with Spencer joining in the local soccer game and another great Mama Toni meal. Usiku Mwema!

Monday, August 1, 2011

“WAZZ UPPP?” Mohammed

The day started out early at 6:30 when we set out for Iringa to get supplies...Our first stop in Iringa was the Hasty Tasty, a Mzungu friendly eatery. We then went to Neema Craft, an inspiring store run by disabled persons. There I bought a notebook made out of elephant dung. We then went to get soccer apparel and pick up our food for the journey back home. We arrived back in Pommern around 1:30, perfect timing for the party. The party was a great success and ended with a delicious cake. The day ended with a friendly soccer game with the youth of Pommern and much needed rest.

“You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon

The day started out with a delicious breakfast made by our hosts in Iringa. We then set out for the market where we met Mama Toni. Mama Toni showed us how to shop like true Tanzanians. I also bought an AC Milan shirt in the market which was bargained down from the original price by my father (something he was very proud of). We then set out on a bumpy road to Pommern, the heart of Africa. After we arrived in Pommern we immediately went to sleep under orders from Edward. Later in the day we met fellow volunteers from Chapel Hill, NC. At the end of the day we returned to the mission house for more rest so we would be fit for the days of work ahead.