Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We Are One

Our final Tuesday in Pommern began as most of them do with porridge, toast, bananas, and a morning meeting with Edward.  Several people headed off shortly after for their final day of teaching at the Pommern Secondary School and at the Roman Catholic Pre-Primary School.  Others went to finish typing exams and a few ventured to help at the clinic with hopes of weighing some African babies.  Shortly after leaving, both groups came back to the Mission House – the doors were locked at the computer lab and there was no work to be done at the clinic (and no babies).

Some went for walks while others enjoyed reading books and reflecting on our time so far in Pommern.  Jacklin and Jen were finally able to have the Father bless their jewelry and rosary.  Lunch was served and we all remembered Ting as we ate the last of his Chinese version of Spam.  After lunch, groups went their different ways – some to type, some to teach, and others just to explore.  Ashleigh P. and I searched and searched for Mama Kinte, Edward’s wife, to invite her for our last supper, but she was nowhere to be found.  Later on, a group walked up to the Quiet Bar and enjoyed beer and Pepsi and spent time together.

After eating dinner, Dr. Elton came to speak to us all about the clinic and the health issues he has seen in Pommern.  We were able to ask many questions and were not stopped even when the generator failed.  As our time as Global Volunteers comes to an end, we are all striving to end it in a positive way while still remembering “We are one.”


Friday, May 25, 2012

Sports Square Off

Friday has never felt so much like a Saturday before; despite it ostensibly being a school day, the students, teachers, and volunteers were more likely to be drawn to the field.  That’s because Pommern Secondary School and three other secondary schools from the surrounding provinces were set to square off in football, volleyball, netball, and other games and occasions.

In typical mzungu fashion, the volunteers arrived at the football pitch with punctuality; in typical African fashion, we were the only ones around. 

Boredom turned to improvisation as the volunteers moved from Sharks & Minnows, Foxes in the Hen House, and an altered version of Death Ball to pass the time.  As the sun climbed its way higher into the sky, more students and teachers began finding their way to the pitch.  Later, minibuses filled with students also arrived simultaneously with great hump-backed cows.

Volunteers found different ways of taking advantage of the atypical day and beautiful weather.  Spectating the well-received football matches was a popular choice, but one not so humorous as paying “Nina dubwana mzungu” with sportingly innocent watotos.  I myself enjoyed documenting this so much that I turned my lens and feet toward the school; I wanted to illustrate to friends back home my routes, offices, and classrooms I’d taught in.  While there, I was quizzed on Obama, Jay-Z’s connections with the Free Masons (hint: there are none), and freestyled & beatboxed the afternoon away.

Friday presented the group and its individual members with special opportunities to expand horizons and immerse deeper into our hosts’ cultures, and we took advantage of it in equally special ways.  African field day was a blast.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Work is Well Worth It!

Today started with quite a spectacular show from the natural world. A pair of Verreaux’s Eagle Owls called to each other for nearly half an hour right outside the mission house. I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching and listening to their show.

After my coffee I began an early day of teaching health and biology with breaks to help organize old exam files in the library. One of the highlights of teaching today wasn’t what happened in class, it was an interaction with a student later in the day. In the afternoon, one of the students who had been in my morning class came up to me on campus and asked me other questions about biology. He was genuinely curious and very interested in finding out more about several different topics – even thought it was not related to the material that we covered today.

While I was answering his questions, a number of other global volunteers finished the mammoth job of organizing exams and files in the reference library. The job involved upwards of 12 volunteers over 2 days, but the organization was well worth it.

After work, a few of us took a walk through town. In some places, we still get celebrity treatment from the children. At various points, kids would run up to greet us with shouts of “Ciao!” or sometimes “PiPi!” Shannon had two new girls run up to her to hold her hands and walk with us for a little ways. They had enormous smiles on their faces the whole time they were with us.

After dinner, a couple of the teachers from the school joined our group for games of cards and Scrabble. While the games happened inside, the search for bushbabies went on outside. Unfortunately for the searchers, the bushbabies seem to start their day LONG after we end ours!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sorting, Sorting, Sorting

Back into the routine today as we all got up for breakfast and headed off to morning assignments.  Since testing was taking place in the primary schools, several of the girls were sent to work at the Roman Catholic Church school, today.  They taught the little ones animals’ names in English and Swahili and then had them draw the animals on paper.  While Ikeizja and Cameo tried to escape being attacked by the little ones, Sarah and Ashleigh helped to make the porridge. 

I took several of the other primary cast aways to the secondary school to help Rachel in the library.  We were all a little surprised to find the library housed all of the testing materials and that the tests were placed around the room in no particular order.  At first, we simply took a couple of piles and sorted through them.  We finished that task and then went off to tea.  We talked about how great it would be if we could go organize the entire room and sort the exams by subject and topic.  Although it would be a big job (we had NO idea how big!!) we thought that the end product would help Rachel stay more organized and save her time when searching for tests in the future.  We started by taking out pile after pile of tests and began to sort them by topic.  Then we had to sort each topic by test, mock exam, pre-exam, pre-national exam, and national exam.  Those tests then needed to be sorted further to separate the national exams by private, school and joint test versions.  What a job!  We stopped for lunch and then recruited some unsuspecting souls to help us in the afternoon.  We made a dent, but have lots to do tomorrow, as well.

We got home and Michael pulled out Haran’s guitar.  He had restrung it and we sat around and sang songs.  We were treated to a song by Edward that we really enjoyed.  After dinner the singing continued outside and we were treated to Dr. Thomas’ and my show tune medleys, as well as a special guest performance by Queens’ own gospel/show choir- it was a great night and I think (most!) of the singing was enjoyed by us and our neighbors.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just Chill

Once again we started off the week with an early breakfast and numerous departures to our various schools and classrooms. After teaching, some of us chose to go to the clinic to weigh babies and help with awareness of young mothers. Once done at the clinic some chose to chill out and read, while others went back to teaching, helped work at the secondary school, or just went for a walk. As the sun went down and the children were told to run back home, Mama Tonny prepared a wonderful meal that helped curb our appetites for the foods we miss from home. Overall it was an easy day for most to just chill and prepare for the week to come.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Weekend Fun

The first work week just flew by as the Global Volunteers all made friends and discoveries.  Thanks to the program staff, we had a full range of activities lined up for the weekend ahead. We kicked off the weekend by spending our Saturday morning planting trees.  Some of us had great interaction with the local kids helping each other with the water pump.  The volunteers also got fairly creative with building the baby tree shelters.  Ikeizjea stacked up a whopping castle and Jackie built a Palm Springs resort for her little tree with pine cones hanging. The increasingly pleasant scent coming off of the group urgently called for the need of laundry.  Hakuna Matata!  Mama Tony came to our timely rescue and patiently taught us how to turn our hands into heavy duty washing machines.  A good number of us were determined to wear each piece a few more times as we struggled to remove the stains from the clothes

After a filling lunch and a couple hours of chilling around the house, the group went out on a hike to a waterfall nearby.  It was a pretty relaxing walk over and some of us got to see downtown Pommern for the first time since we arrived. The water fall isn’t all that big and makes a great chill out spot.  It wasn’t long before people started posing up for all sorts of photos in this scenic destination. 

The early schedule on Sunday didn’t allow us to snooze as much.  We all attended the morning service at the local Lutheran church.  As different as the service may be to the ones we’re more familiar with, the devoutness to God was universal, not to mention the amazing performance put on by the choir.  Right after the service, everyone stood around for the auction.  As quiet as the scene was, all items were successfully sold. At 4:30 we marched to the field for the much anticipated soccer match.  Our dear Coach Allen had already walked us thru the basics of soccer and positions we were going to play.  We were confident that we would lose by only single digit goals.  As we kicked off the match, all mzungus went 100 percent against our half-trying opponents. We did a great job defending against the waves foattacks by the mwalimu team, only to give away a goal on a net-tearing shot after the first 30 minutes.  Our 2-minuted stamina quickly go exposed and we had to sub players in and out to keep up.  Kudos goes especially to the girls for keeping the goal shut with the unyielding backline and also for scoring the last minute goal with the staff team’s generous help.

The weekend fest doesn’t end here. At dinner we found out just how pampered a birthday mzungu can be in Pommern.  Thanks to Jenn, we got to indulge ourselves with two birthday cakes which included a full roasted chicken.  After dinner, we took a short walk in the dark to get a few drinks at the local lounge bar, where we marked completion of an exciting week of venturing out in a foreign land.  It was only when we realized how closely we’ve all bonded as a group.  As another work week lies ahead, I don’t believe anyone is ready to leave just yet.

Christian Allen

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Early Birds

Today, so many people had to leave earlier than expected so very few people were at breakfast.  Although very few had breakfast before they left, they were still able to get hot beverages, hence, why there were only 3 bags of tea left!  After breakfast, we all traveled on our journey to teach our second lesson or a continuation of a lesson.  When we returned we shared all of our experiences.  After eating the wonderful chips mayai, some of us returned to school, others dug holes to help Moses or played games of speed Uno.  Tired from working and playing, a few girls traveled in the invisible jeep mobile around the village while others stayed home and finished off the cooked corn.  After our return, some people took a nap while others viewed the country bus and a choir rehearsal at the church.  My what beautiful voices singing praise!  As they returned home, girls were waiting to play and dance while older girls watched on in amusement.  As dinner time arrived, we ate a wonderful meal and finished off the night playing card games.  As I sat back in amazement at how we were all working and playing together, I can truly say that we have become one. 

-          Ikeizja

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Today was our first day of teaching. I think it went pretty well for most all of us. We all came back with interesting stories about our classroom experiences. Now that our first time is out the way, I feel the rest of our days teaching will only get better. After a wonderful pizza from Mama Tonny for lunch, we practiced soccer trying to enhance our skills for the game on Sunday (Wazungu vs. Tanzanians). Edward has the great advice that if we confuse the other team enough, we can win! We went back to the secondary school after practice to continue mixing concrete. After 70 buckets of sand were filled and carried, and plenty of cement had been mixed, we were proud to say that we no longer have baby hands. After a while, some of us ventured with girls into their world. They were excited to show us their dorms and practice their English with us. We convinced them to teach us all a Swahili song and we, in turn, taught them an American one. We were all laughing, clapping, and dancing with each other. We truly became one with them. We finally came back to the mission house where Michael played instruments with some boys and Ashleigh and Suzanne taught some girls hopscotch, ring around the rosy, follow the leader, and the chicken dance. It was a lot of fun to watch of course we took a lot of picha picha! Over dinner, we closed the night with encouragement from Edward to continue to experience the life of the whole Pommerini community. As we close out the day, I feel that the days to come will bring an understanding of a culture and people we could never get without being here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Setting Goals

After a breakfast of delicious porridge we visited the big potato buildings.  At first, we saw the clinic, which surprised me by how advanced it was.  It had a dentist’s office, delivery room, and Edward said the town even had birth control.  We saw where they weighed babies, which I am quite excited for and I am certain Jacklin is as well.  With five births a month, we might see a newborn while we are here.
 The secondary boarding school had mostly male or science teachers, surprisingly.  I am excited to walk there every day so students will no longer stare at us but will begin greeting us happily.  The children at the primary school and the Lutheran church were adorable, and I can’t wait to spend time with them.  I am nervous about being the only mzungu in a classroom, but I will survive.

 Mama Tony made chips with cheese for lunch which was exactly what I missed.  (And, even if it wasn’t cheese, I pretended it was).  The cucumber soup was delicious as well.  Every day, we have had something new, and it is always good.

 We made some house rules and goals with Edward, then had the jolly Mohamed teach us Kiswahili.  He then led us through the center of town where we were met by cries of “Wuzungu!” and promise of a night in the pub in the future.

  A few of the girls had our first cold shower experience which was actually not as scarring as we might have thought. Although, I think I’ll use a sunshower next time.  Afterwards, some of us played soccer with the watoto or cheered until dinner.  Wonderful, as usual, and we went to sleep with visions of teaching dancing in our heads.


Monday, May 14, 2012

We are Family

While we were in Iringa, we ate breakfast and then walked to the Headquarters of the Global Volunteers Organization to meet with the General Secretary Nayman Chavalla. He made me feel more secure as he told us that we were in safe hands. I enjoyed his enthusiasm and his sense of humor during the meeting. He discussed what Global Volunteers is all about as well as some of the issues plaguing rural areas of Tanzania. As he commented on the suffering that is taking place in Africa, he said “sometimes I wonder if we are children of God.” This statement really hit home for me because of how sad he seemed.

After our meeting we proceeded to shop in Iringa. We all found some interesting finds, but I know Christian is very excited to have his jersey. Most of us also visited the Internet café to send emails to loved ones. It felt good to tell them that I was approaching the final point of our long journey! I think I speak for all of us that we were ready to settle in Pommern.

However, a long and bumpy ride loomed between us in Iringa and our house in Pommern. After lunch we commenced our journey through the mountains. As I was in the sick van, many of its passengers were feeling under the weather. However, I am happy to say that we all worked hard to support each other over all the nauseating bumps. I felt like we were bonding to act as one. For the next few weeks, we are family! I want to say a special thanks to Mohamed for doing all he could to make us as comfortable as possible and for getting us to Pommern safely.

Upon arriving in Pommern, many of he vans passengers took naps. However, as the Jeep passengers arrived, many went outside to play soccer/football with the local children. We all practiced our Swahili with the little ones. It was an awesome first afternoon in the village, and I’m sure we all look forward to what tomorrow holds.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dar Es Salaam and Beyond

On our first full day in Dar Es Salaam we woke up to the gorgeous view of the bay right outside our windows. We ate a quick but filling breakfast and headed out to explore the city.  The previous night we were able to see some of Dar Es Salaam, but seeing it on a busy Saturday afternoon was completely different.  We stopped for lunch at a food court type place and enjoyed Chinese, Indian and American food.  After lunch Edward took us on a walking tour of the city and we were able to literally come face to face with some local people.  For me, the walking tour was the best part of the trip so far.  I was able to look at each person and see a piece of myself or someone I know from home in many faces.  Instead of seeing Tanzanians as on big group, I started to see individual people.  As we continued the walk, we encountered street vendors, a fish market and we learned that pictures cannot be taken of the President’s house.  We made it back to the restaurant just in time to miss the rain an hour or two of bonding time before we left in cabs.  None of us were ready for those taxis.  Everyone quickly learned that road rules are merely suggestions, and it is always best to buckle up.

After dinner that night, Edward welcomed us again and explained that from this point until the end of the trip we are one.  He told us there is no separation and each action should be made as one.  He also told us we will eat as one, which we did by sampling different dishes on the table. After dinner, many of us stayed up to go to the supermarket and talk about the trip so far.

Breakfast at the Slipway Hotel was great with the fried bread being the crowd favorite.  After eating, we waited for the trucks by playing the newly discovered version of Mancala and perfecting “The Stance.” We left the hotel and moved on to the market. As soon as we stepped off the van we were greeted by shopkeepers trying to sell their goods.  Some things were fairly priced, while others required some firm bartering.  Each shop was filled with sculptures, jewelry and art, but thankfully we only had 30 minutes and we couldn’t spend all of our money.  Some people turned out to be better at bartering than others, but everyone left with at least a new story to tell. After the market, we began the LONG journey to Iringa.  Although the trip was tedious, we came up with creative ways to pass the time.  Along the way, we saw plenty of baboons and some animals in the national park.  A little after nightfall, we reached Iringa and had dinner.  We also got to go to the pub and cheer on the Tanzanian football team.  Tomorrow begins the “real” part of our trip, and I can’t wait to see the place I’ll call home for the next two weeks

- Ashleigh

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Frist Day at School

Today was the first day in the schools.  Some of us were at the secondary school and some were at two different primary schools.  At the schools, we mostly observed, marked papers, and got our topics for tomorrow.  The schools had a very different environment than the ones back home.  I know many of us were instantly pulled out of our comfort zones as the language barrier became more real.  The afternoon consisted of working at the secondary school and watching/playing in a futbol match.  Christian, Ting and Lee all played futbol with the secondary team.  They played their hardest, but their skills could not compare to the talent of the students.  While at the futbol game, some stayed behind.  A group of young girls came by the house and participated in a dance party.  At the end of which, Ikeizja taught them the Macarena.  After dinner, everyone prepared for their lessons.  Ideas were passed back and forth and help was offered if needed.  We all hope that our first lessons are a success.