Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Journal by: Eitan Straisfeld

The group began our last day in Pommern with a bit of an overcast sky. It was a day of lasts; last dinners, last laundrys, goodbyes – saying farewell to our home of the last three weeks. We all headed down to the school around nine and took some pictures of the signpost at the front. After that we went to our various classes. Ryan went to meet Kayoke while Mimi and Eric went to go teach English to the Form 4’s with Wyngred. The Mexicans went off to teach Spanish to a full class of about 40 teachers and I went off to help in the biology/chemistry class.

We all met up again at tea and then Carlos and Garza went with some students to check out a nearby river that the students used as kind of a hangout off school grounds. Myself, Mimi, Ryan and Eric, at various points, made our way back to the mission house as the students were all busy with exams, so there were few teaching opportunities.

After lunch we met with some women who were selling baskets in front of the mission house. They were nice handicrafts and Mimi and Eric honed their bargaining skills (they discovered the trick – bring a few small bills and a lot of big ones – at worst, you’ll get another basket in trade).

At four we went back to the school as the teachers wanted to officially say goodbye to us - either that or just make sure we were leaving ; ) Before the meeting, Mimi and Eric managed to do another interview for the video they’re preparing for Global Volunteers and afterwards we all congregated in the teachers’ lounge. Margaret and the Bursar of the school made some very nice speeches and then we each stood up and gave our thanks for the experiences we’ve accumulated over the last three weeks. The teachers have been great – incorporating us into their lessons in a welcoming manner, which could not have been easy with all the exams taking place. We took some more pictures with the teachers and then headed back up to the mission house to potentially meet with a very big potato (the Lutheran bishop - one of twenty in Tanzania).

The bishop arrived a little after 5 and we sat down and introduced ourselves and discussed the water project and our experiences in Pommern. He’s a very educated and well-travelled man and it was a pleasure to meet with him. We walked down to the platform so that he could get a better sense of the progress of the water project and he actually jumped in the trench to see how deep it was – once in, he was satisfied that it’s depth was sufficient to prevent the pipe from being cut by farmers ploughing their fields.

We all sat down for our last dinner from Nessia (Mama Tony) and enjoyed a little early illumination from the generator – that’s what happens when the big potato comes over.

As evening rolled around, we had our final end-of-day meeting and Edward said that tomorrow would be a relaxed day and we should aim for leaving at around 1pm. Again, words like ‘last’ and ‘final’ came into the conversation – words that at best were bittersweet and brought home the knowledge that our time here was at a close. I think I speak for most of us when I say that we have seen the ‘real’ Africa – we’ve lived it and stood shoulder to shoulder with the people who call this place home. It’s an experience I’m sure we’ll all look back on warmly.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Journal by: Eric Noyes

“I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer

After extra large bowls of tasty porridge we began one of our last days in Pommern. Eric and Mimi went to the Roman Catholic church to help them water tree seedlings in their tree nursery. They have an interesting human-powered water pump in the nursery that Eric wanted to try out, that looks like a local version of a health club stair climber machine! Carlos, Garza and Eitan continued helping Moses in the new School kitchen work, preparing the storeroom floor for concrete. After the tea break all of us except Ryan, who was continuing to teach, converged on the kitchen. We mixed big piles of sand and cement together and stirred in water to the right consistency for Moses to spread it on the floor. We were joined by two strong students who rapidly hauled sand in to build a really HUGE pile for mixing and spreading to finish the floor. Once again, Eitan was a “diesel,” a nonstop shoveling, digging and mixing machine. We were all impressed again at his nonstop energy!

After lunch Eric and Mimi conducted five more video interviews for Global Volunteers with people who will benefit from the Water Project, both in their jobs and personally. They also looked carefully at the paths ahead of them and to the sides, in case any long slender green things were moving their way. Eitan taught an economics class and played football with a few local children. Garza and Carlos continued teaching their now-popular basic Spanish language class. With the house generator working, all things electronic awakened again (especially this computer) in the evening. The wood fire in the dining room fireplace feels good each evening, especially tonight.

After our good day’s work, we should sleep well. Knowing our service project is nearing its end, the wisdom of Buddha applies: It is better to travel well than to arrive.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Journal by: Mimi Gendreau

“Teach this triple truth to all. A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” ~ Budda Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta

This morning all of us started out on our assignments: Eric and I started out in the Kitchen with Moses; Ryan and Eiten taught English; Garza and Carlos tried to help in the baby clinic and also prepared for Spanish class in the afternoon.

After lunch, Eric and I walked with Edward to school for meeting and on our way we were met by a Eastern Green Mamba slithering towards the AIDS Clinic. YIKES!! Edward quickly called for Moses to bring a stick. Moses ran with a long bamboo pole and hit the snake with it to break its back. Then he hit it again to kill it. Edward told us that children are taught by their parents to hit to break the snake’s back first to immobilize it and then hit its head to kill it. Of course, Eric quickly got out his camera and got a picture of the snake before and after death. This was the second Green Mamba snake we have seen on this trip. Edward told us that they are not as bad as the Black Mamba because if you are bitten by a Green Mamba you have time to get to Iringa and die! J Actually, there is a local salve to apply and then you can get to Iringa for treatment but let’s not test this claim.

After the excitement, life continued as usual. Only the volunteers seemed excited about the snake. The local folks seemed to take it as nothing too unusual. They are accustomed to living and dealing with Green Mambas. We continued to our meeting and conducting interviews about the water project for the Global Volunteers office and lining up more for tomorrow. Ryan, Eitan, Moses and Mohamed went to the water project trench to dig a hole to put another air valve box. It was another fulfilling day in Pommern.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Journal by: Ryan Davis

Morning came sharp and quick Saturday morning as people prepped for their personal adventures. Eric and Mimi decided to take a hike to “the waterfall” while Eugenio and Carlos proceeded to get some more much-needed sleep. Ryan and Eitan had breakfast at the Lodge and went down into the park with Essou at the wheel. Safari lasted from 8:30am-3:30pm and Ryan and Eitan bounced around in the back of the Land Cruiser with their heads popped out the convertible to snapping pictures like crazed paparazzi of every animal that showed up along the way. After seeing many Elephants, Impala, Hippos, Giraffe, birds, Lions and Pigs they wearily made their way back to the Lodge for some much needed relaxation. Back in Pommern, Eric and Mimi were at dinner with Huran and his family. After a fun-filled day and a long evening the group returned to their beds for a good-night’s rest.

Morning came early and aggressive for those who were out late Saturday night but everyone eventually made it up and out for the day’s activities. Mimi and Eric walked with Edward down to the Agricultural College as the Mexican boys continued much needed sleep and relaxation. Ryan and Eitan had breakfast and said goodbye to their new friends at the Lodge and boarded the truck again for their return trip home. They stopped in Iringa for money, internet before the drive and they continued on their way back to Pommern.

After some warm welcomes, Eric and Mimi returned from their hike to the Agricultural College and meeting with a Green Mamba to find everyone together again. We discussed our weekend adventures and went for dinner at Pastor Sagga’s home. The group was warmly welcomed by various members of the diocese and sat down to talk and eat. Dinner consisted of chicken, rice, pinto beans (which our Mexican members loved!), veggies and oranges. We stayed for some chatting and with very big “thank you’s” we trickled out the door one by one and wandered back in the darkness to the Mission House. Everyone was very tired and work continues tomorrow morning so the group took it easy and hit the sack relatively early.

It was a long busy weekend of fun and adventure and the night’s sleep ended quickly as the moon bowed out and the sun, a glorious golden thief, crept through the window panes, rooster crows nipping at his feet, and stole the sleep from the eyes and minds of the volunteers in the Mission House – waking them for the start of their last week of work in Pommern.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Journal by: Ryan Davis

Take not the path already made but instead walk where there is no path and leave a trail.


We started Friday morning partially sunny and cool with a strong breeze emphasized by cool passing shadows of the clouds overhead. Mimi and Eric taught English Form I while G and Carlos worked in the kitchen with Moses again. Since Ryan was leaving for Safari around noon and his class was moved to 1pm, he had the morning to relax and pack. Eitan took the local “chicken bus” at 6am to Iringa where Ryan would meet him around 2pm at Hasty Tasty.

After a quick lunch we parted ways and Ryan met his Safari driver Essou for the transport to Iringa and then on to Ruaha National Park and the Hilltop Lodge. Mimi and Eric continued work on the kitchen through the afternoon while Eugenio and Carlos went with Pierre Baptiste to the Roman Catholic church area to play with the children. Meanwhile, back at the Hilltop Lodge, Ryan and Eitan arrived and proceeded to play pool with the other people staying at the lodge. They met a group of 8 medical students who worked in a hospital in Iringa. They were an internationally mixed group and were quite interesting and fun to hang with. Everyone was tired at the end of the day and some got more sleep than others.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

“No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.” Ralph W. Emerson, Self Reliance

We started the month with the right foot forward. We all woke up to breakfast, and Eugenio and Carlos were late as usual. Edward put forward the options of work and labor; Garza was going to work in the kitchen, Eric, Mimi and Eitan were going to work in the air valve and the water intake, while Ryan and Carlos were going to teach the second and sixth form.

The three hard workers picked up the supplies to work at both locations, digging the ditch at the intake and Moses plastered the inside of the chamber of the air valve and made the lid. Garza had a déjà vu in the kitchen, as he merely worked and watched the mason work with astonishing speed and quality. The second form class was cancelled due to lack of student assistance, so Carlos and Ryan had the early morning off. They spent it with Wingred, speaking about a few interesting topics and cultural facts of each one’s country of residence. Ryan, Carlos and Eugenio went to the traditional tea in the teachers’ lounge, where a discussion was being held.

The teachers were arguing in Kiswahili, and the three foreigners overheard the word child abuse and the persistent use of the word Mimi. After the off putting confusion and the discussion was over, they asked one of the teachers what had happened, what Mimi had done or said. He cleared our worries, explaining that Mimi meant “me” in Kiswahili.

After tea, Ryan went to teach his habitual English class with the sixth form, Carlos went with two students to help them prepare for their English examination and Eugenio went with a few students to talk about Mexico and its rich culture. It was time for lunch, and only two Mexicans and a big gringo sat at the table; the other three members of the team were still doing the hard labors and were late for lunch.

When they arrived they finished all of the food that was left, and we came to realize that the amount of hard work is equivalent to the degree of hunger. After lunch Eric, Mimi and Eitan stayed to talk with Johannes and his team members, the trench diggers, and had a very long talk thanking them on a personal scale for their hard work. Ryan went to teach another lesson at one, and went afterwards had the chance to meet a teacher outside of school.

Garza and Carlos taught their Spanish class for the teachers, which went great as the one before, and was the first time the homework giving was the other way around, where the youngsters where handing it out to the teachers. Eric and Mimi spent their free afternoon with Haran’s son, Jerad or to avoid pronunciation discussion, Jerry. We all met for dinner, where we had to change the light bulb. It was a good day, long and eventful as usual. As September begins, we look forward to our remaining days in Pommerin.