And we’re off!
This first week back has been somewhat of a whirlwind and it feels as though I left just two weeks ago, rather than eight months ago!
While in Dar last week, I purchased a modem so I could have internet anywhere and at a faster pace than the local internet cafes. However, unfortunately the coverage did not reach to Karatu, much to my chagrin, for the salesman had assured me I would have no problem. After a few very fun customer service calls, I called it quits and headed into down. As I walked the familiar main road and side streets of Karatu, it felt as though I had never left. My first stop was the internet cafe and just for grins, I had brought my iPod touch and checked to see if there was wifi. Much to my surprise and delight, there was! Wifi in Karatu…amazing.
Since there was a family of four visiting Tanzania this past week as well, I geared up for their three days of volunteering in Karatu. Tuesday afternoon after I completed my errands, I headed over to Shalom to say hello for the first time since I left about 8 months ago. As I walked down the road I remembered well, I first met Mary, one of the mamas who washes the clothing, as she was walking home for the day with her young son. After a brief chat and many hugs, I told her I’d see her tomorrow. A few minutes later, I met four of the children who were en route to fetching water. They bolted towards me once I waved my arm and I was almost thrown to the ground as they all took turns nearly tackling me and refusing to let go of my hands. Josephat actually put his water jug down and tried to convince one of the other children to fetch the water for him so he could escort me to Shalom. Unfortunately the girls wouldn’t have it and I made the walk alone! I walked through the iron gate towards that beautiful pink veranda but not before noticing a huge truck and drill–the water well project had begun! This project had been long anticipated and the funds had finally been received to begin the project. I saw Elipokea first and then some of the other men working in the garden and greeted them both in English and Kiswahili, just as Shangazi (remember the cook who is pure sunshine?) saw me. With a combination of running and skipping, she came to me while singing a chorus of my name. She hugged me then would push me back by the shoulders to have another look before hugging me again. The song continued as she led me up the steps to where the children were playing. Shortly thereafter songs echoed throughout the building!
After seeing everyone, I had a look around to see what new projects had happened over the past eight months. The two structures behind Shalom now have roofs so there is an inside kitchen and a larger classroom/dining area. There had also been some volunteers who painted murals in the sitting area, which have really brightened up the room. As mentioned before, the newest project is the water well. We chatted over chai about these new projects, child sponsorship and the children before I headed to dinner with the volunteers.
The entire time I walked from my house to Shalom/Tumaini, the same path I had walked countless times last year, I couldn’t help but think of the opening lyric to a song I wrote about the Tumaini 7, “I wonder where this dusty road will lead, do you know you’ve got the world at your feet? Just walk on.” Once I’m back in the States, I’ll record it for your enjoyment : ) FYI there may be some public performances of it so stay tuned later this Fall for details.
JOS Volunteers come to Karatu!
The family, from New York, spent the previous few days doing cultural activities in/near Moshi and Karatu. Kathy and Steve and their two college-aged children were eager to spend time with the children and learn more about JOS’ work in Karatu so we decided to visit FAME Medical clinic, head to the market and purchase food for Shalom, visit and tour Tumaini, and spend time with the children. I had originally met Kathy, Steve and Rachel in January during a dinner in Rochester where I shared about JOS’ work in Karatu, the child sponsorship program etc., so they knew the basic idea of activities we would be doing.
Our first stop on Wednesday was to FAME Medical Clinic, just a short walk from both Shalom and where the family stayed. Next was the trip to the market where we purchased rice, sugar, laundry soap, tooth paste and some other necessities Shalom had requested. Due to several generous donations from an individual who wanted to directly assist the children, we were able to make these purchases. We spent a fair amount of time weighing the rice and making sure we had the proper amount of kilos for a fair price. At the end, we purchased 150KG which will last about 17 days at Shalom as well as other items.
Kathy, Steve, Rachel and I took a bathroom break at a local cafe as Godfrey, Yusuf and Evan continued bargaining for items on our list. (We stopped at a favorite spot from last time where I made friends with one of the waiters. He couldn’t believe it when he saw me so after we finished taking the food back to Shalom, I ventured back into town for lunch to catch up. I ordered my fave ugali and stew with vegetables and perhaps due to pure excitement managed to not only savor the flavor in my mouth, but so too spread the love on the front of my shirt. A few minutes later as I headed to the bathroom to wash up, I realized another fun tidbit…the zipper to my only pair of jeans no longer works. Hot mess but thankfully I’m still pretty.) While en route back to the boys, we stopped at the Baracka Obama Shop–a little hand-pushed cart with trinkets for sale. Kathy and Rachel found animals they liked and then began the bargaining. I started in Kiswahili and because the man recognized me as living in Karatu, he brought the price down a bit and said he was doing so because he knew I might come again then. It was a fun interaction with the family and our new rafiki.
Child Sponsorship…and the journey continues!
It was fantastic to be back at Tumaini and discuss what I will be doing over the next few weeks to continue developing the child sponsorship program. It will be clear within the next few days what exactly I will be doing at Tumaini, though I will certainly be kept busy! After a delish lunch of ugali with greens and meat, I was able to see five of the Tumaini 7, as they were still at school receiving extra lessons in preparation for the big National Standard IV Exam next month. Tumaini has been in the top tier of scores for the past few years in this exam so our five children anticipate high scores. The children look wonderful and again, I found myself nearly knocked over by their hugs. They’ve grown so much and have more confidence. Likewise, they could not stop talking about what they’ve been doing since beginning at Tumaini. From their favorite subject–most prefer Math or English, to what position they play on the sports teams, they could hardly stop speaking!
Currently, Tumaini has new classrooms that have been built and the second level of the same building is waiting to be completed. (It will be a dormitory so there’s additional space for the boarders.) For the next two weeks the school will be closed for holiday before the final trimester begins at the end of August. Tumaini is now up to Standard VI level and has more than 370 students. A little more than 80 of these children board at the school, our Tumaini 7 included. The average class size is roughly 20 or so and some classes are broken into two groups, North and South classes, so as to keep the class size small.
During my meeting at Tumaini on Thursday, the family headed to Shalom and helped to chop vegetables for lunch, haul corn from the field to its destination, and sit in on the nursery school class. Additionally, Steve (an engineer) and Evan (majoring in mechanical engineering) fixed the corn milling machine. We had been told there was a problem with the motor but after a closer look, the two men, along with Yusuf, were able to fix the problem and now the mill machine works. Meanwhile, Rachel and Kathy spent some extra time in the classroom with the children and helped with reading.
The last day of volunteering on Friday was spent running around with the Shalom children briefly before we headed over to Tumaini to meet Bayo and the standard IV students. After learning all about the school’s history, present and future plans, the principal gave us a tour so the family could see how Tumaini children live. Thoroughly impressed, the family couldn’t help but chat about the school as we drove away. After a huge lunch prepared by Shalom for the volunteers and me, we ventured one last time into town to purchase fourteen pairs of school shoes. Note, we had to walk off some of the lunch before our final trip for it included: ugali, greens, salad, rice, beans, beef, chicken and chapati! Let’s not forget the chai afterward.
Yesterday the Tumaini 7 moved home to Shalom, where they’ll stay until their return for their final semester in two short weeks. Some were decked out in their Tumaini Junior School track suits as they prepared to travel along the dusty road…adorable.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates on my adventures next week…
photos to follow…