Friday, May 30, 2014


We are off to safari! Hope to be able to post personal pictures of the Big Five animals. Back on line Sunday night unless I find an elephant with a satellite dish.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The generosity of those who have nothing

Today we visited an orphanage - hardly a standard Dickin's one. The man was a climbing driver and guide when he found a street child, parents dead, no family, no social system to care for him. So he brought the child home to raise him. When we were there 35 children were in residence - all in school. His small hut had been rebuilt by an Englishman who was on one of his treks and decided to help. Now there are rooms for the girls inside and the Boys have an outside bunk. They cook over a wood stove in a separate hut. The man still guides climbs and at various points random people drop off food and various toys and clothes and they survive.

Of course they sang great songs of thankfulness and there was a soccer ball. (Although yesterday we saw the kids at school play kick the plastic bottle and it worked fine.) So we spent some soccer time and came back to home base that seemed palatial. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

At the touch of a switch!

Of course we have water and electricity here! But it takes a little effort,

Picture 1 is the hand washing station by the dining table so you are sure to wash and then touch nothing until you get your plate. Someone fills the top with hot water, it goes in the bowl which has holes punched he'd in the bottom and then drops to the lower bucket. It is used to water the lawns. I think.

Hot water for showers is available if you remember to turn on the water heater switch 40 minutes ahead of time. And remember that the taps are reversed - red is cold, blue is hot. Maybe below the equator...

Electricity comes from an outlet if you have an adapter and turn on the electricity switch - but there is no warm up. See Picture 2.

Astonishingly there is terrific WIFI everywhere including outdoors!

Cultural observations without comments

Driving to work in the van this morning I saw

A woman carrying wash water to her house and setting up to do laundry in a bucket at the base of their satellite dish.

A woman selling blue jeans off the mound balanced on her head.

A church so open to the elements that rainfall and birdsong drowned out the preaching.

 A guy in a lime green hoodie that read: Marco Island.

You can't make this stuff up!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Value of English

Today I taught English which consists of watching the kids ages 4-5-6 point with a giant stick and recite "capital letter A and little letter a" through the alphabet and then letting the next one start, we jazzed it up with a few animal noises. After 45 minutes of this I asked the teacher if there was anything else she wanted to cover. She sent them all to the bathroom and my partner did maths for the same amount of time and again asked to stop. Out buddy in the next room did not get the memo on asking to quit and talked about animals for 2 hours- counting feet, wings, horns, tails.

But our speaker on education today explained it somewhat. He said understanding did not matter. The sounds and the exposure to English matter. English speakers learn from the cradle the sounds in rhymes and songs, long before they can understand. Most Tanzanian children are raised in home where the traditional tribe language is the norm. They at age 7 they switch to totally Swahili.  At 14 if they pass a test they switch to totally English. So for ultimate success, they need to build on any English they have heard.

On the play ground, I did a Hokey Pokey AND Mulberry bush!

Afternoon glimpses

We went to tour first restaurant today and on the menu was "cupcake - ask flavor."
 So we asked and were told "Plain."
"Plain vanilla?"
"No. Just plain."
We opted for coffee flavored milkshakes which were fantastic. Each was 4500 Tsh - doing the math that is ....less than $3.

In other news we had a speaker arrive today at the same time as a large and scary insect. We were totally focused on the latter so I asked the speaker to identify the bug so we could stop being jumpy. He told us "not to worry! It is a large toxic bee."
"Toxic like kill you?"
"Not right away. Just don't let it sting."
Order was not restored until we were bee-free.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Presbyterian school

What a perfect assignment!

I am at aPresbyterian run school for ages 3-6 on the church property. We start with staff devotions. The pastor speaks Swahili, but of course if he says John 3:16, I know what he is talking about! The words to the songs are printed. But since they were not written down until the English did, they are completely phonetic making them a snap to sing. One was Jesus Loves Me but alternative tune.

Then we have devotions with the kids who do praise, worship and prayer. The kids sing with enthusiasm.  Amazing wear-you-out excitement about Jesus. It was energizing to be a part. In the little purple uniforms they sat at desks, even the 3 year olds. No free play and discovery. Call and repeat, numbers 1-100, letters and words. Then the Big Stick came out and teeny little children went up to the board and, hardly able to reach the board, pointed to the numbers and letters. And the class repeated, with decreasing enthusiasm and increasing wiggling. But still. It is just a different way of learning more based on oral work than written.

Because there was virtually no paper, very few and uninspired signs, none of the learning equipment I used to teach 3-6 in the library. Not even power point! They each had one Blue Book type notebook, no work sheets and if there we're color pages, there were no crayons. But the kids were clean and attentive and completely adorable.

Tomorrow I am up to teach English - the letter D. Dr. Seuss said, "Big D, little D, David Dunkin DOO dreamed a donut and a duck dog, too!" That won't translate well.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Day 1 is given over to figuring out where we are and what we do.  All I know is we are a long way from Chicago.

The house has a wonderful garden and open areas. It is actually 2 houses - the front one is for staff and cooking. The back one is for volunteers. We spend our time between the two in a huge shelter covered with a tin roof. There is a palm tree growing through the roof (I bet the tree was here first). At one point during orientation we all jumped when a sound like a cherry bomb when off. Then a coconut rolled off the roof....the locals laughed.

They laughed harder at our attempts at Swahili. I mispronounced the director's name with a word that means "brown bat."

I am teaching 4-5 year olds: English, maths, science, art and Swahili. I imagine I can come up with some ideas for all but the last. That hour I'll sit on the floor and learn along.  I wonder if they moo and baa.

If the locals ask who has been to Africa before, South Africa  and Morocco Do Not count. They say TAB - "THIS Africa Baby!" Certainly the jungle surroundings are authentic. It is  not too humid here now, but the rain season is just ending and everything is green and booming. 12 foot hedges around the houses. In our yard alone there are trees for mango, palm, oranges, Avacado, banana. All producing fruit.

The roads back to the compound are pre-primitive, and I can't even imagine what they would be in the rainy season.  We drive on the right side. Or the left. Or the middle.  With an amazing number of speed bumps!

Tomorrow the teaching begins!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Our home base and work sites are in Moshi which is a base for climbing Kilimanjaro, reported visible from anywhere in town! There is an airport about 45 minutes away, between Moshi and the next big town Arusha, and a direct flight with KLM. The Chicago to Tanzania trip is about 20 hours including some time on the he ground in Amsterdam.

The population of Moshi is about 180,000 and besides being a tourism base - many treks to Lake Victoria and safaris are organized there - the primary crop is coffee! Ahhhhh - my favorite crop!

We stay in a group home with 4 people in a room and attached bathroom. Dorm living again. I have to scramble for a lower bunk! Eating and hanging out are done under an awning in the yard. We had a conference call this week and everyone arriving when I do sounds very nice. One of the best parts is the other volunteers! Six of us actually meet in Amsterdam.

Last laundry done. Beginning to fill the duffle bag and backpack. I am advised not to check it so it needs to be light enough to lift into the famous overhead compartment.....

Monday, May 19, 2014


I laid out a bunch of clothes and then had to change my mind. Not on a female whim!

Africa - hot, right? Not in late fall, south of the equator, at 3120 feet altitude. (I had to get a frame for reference: Denver is around 5300 and Chicago is 597). The average temperature is low in the upper 50s, highs in the mid 70's. 

And the town - as is more of the world than I think - is very modest and conservative. Cover knees and shoulders any time we are in public. Even hiking should be done in capris or longer and only 1-piece swim suits. I know as a base for many Kilimanjaro hikes there will be lots of Americans and others who will ignore these rules, but because we are there to interact and represent the best of the US, we are respectful.

It was no surprise that there will not be a washer and dryer. I long ago learned to shower in my underwear and then hang it out. Everything else goes into a bucket occasionally and dries outdoors. The news was that the water is infested with lots of bugs (do not even brush teeth with it!), a bunch of which love to live in clothing, creating annoying - but not deadly itching. so everything - everything - must be hot ironed.
So put back the synthetics and knits. In the end it seemed safest to buy a couple of long cotton dresses and not get so attached to them that I want to bring them home.

Having resolved the packing, I am anxious to wake up and see Killimanjaro out my window. This Friday the adventure begins!

(This photo is from Freepix - can't wait to post my own!)

Monday, May 12, 2014


I am always amazed at the diseases we no longer think about here that still require attention in other parts of the world. For India I had a cholera vaccine. For Russia I had to test negative for HIV two weeks before leaving. Now for Tanzania, the malaria series of pills are an essential. In addition to the mosquito nets and two kinds of bug spray - one for day mosquitos and one for night mosquitos. Fortunately my flight layover is not in a Yellow Fever country or I would have needed that shot, too. So many things we take for granted here - like mosquito abatement!

I will be working in a nursery 5 days a week from 8-noon. No idea how many kids or what facilities they have. But another opportunity to share quality American cultural  experiences like Hokey Pokey...

Actually a much greater purpose is to let the teachers and community know there are Americans who value a variety of cultures and are open to working together with mutual respect. CCS teachers do not come in with all the answers (or any of the answers!), but offer support and smiles. We also do not all have Hollywood homes, massive cars, or guns! And we have come a long way from the Gone with the Wind or Titanic values, which I have found to be very popular movies and the basis for many expectations.

If I got issued a Magic Wand at the border, however, I would do something about the mosquitos!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why does the last month take me by surprise?

Suddenly it is May, and I leave on the 23rd! I would think the six months of getting a visa, arranging money, organizing malaria medication, air flights avoiding Yellow Fever countries, and filling out endless forms would have clued me in that something big is coming! But suddenly....

Moshi is at the base of Kilimanjaro, but I doubt I'll climb. More interesting is the possibility of a safari on a weekend, but usually just the sights and sounds around town are ample fun. Just to wake up each day - push back the mosquito netting  - and see mountains! It is the last stop for many climbers which usually means a fascinating mix of traditional locals living their lives and gung ho tourists - with all the good and bad that can be!

We are just back from a short trip down the south east coast and many of the "southern" food, stories, and crafts have their roots in West Africa.

In a week or so I should know what kind of work I'll be doing and then it is a scramble to arrange games on grammar or remember finger plays.

Time to check the electric adapter and learn some Swahili.