To the ends of the earth…and back!

And the fun continues!

Hello! It has been a very, very busy few weeks! Thanks for your continued support…hope you enjoy the updates ๐Ÿ™‚

Settling in
As I have spent plenty of time walking along the main strip in Karatu, meeting the same familiar faces time after time, it is clear that I am here to stay for now. Whether it is the children from Tumaini, once they’ve been dismissed shouting “Teacher” or “Madame” or the young boys who sell souvenirs in the afternoon after attending secondary school in the mornings, who approach me with friendly handshakes, asking how I’ve been, it certainly feels more like home. Last week while going to the market, a group of three young children were shouting “Eliza Eliza” from across the street. At first I thought it was just “Sikiliza” (listen) or another word ending in “liza”, as there are plenty in kiswahili, but once I realized it was not stopping, I turned and was met with three little hands waving vigorously through the air! As I waved back, the chorus of “Eliza” continued with three HUGE smiles. In the market now too, I have made some friends with women shop owners. They have especially been helpful when I am looking for items for the children or for myself. If they do not have the items, they know where to get them and are more than pleased with the continued business.

More recently there have been a bunch more tourists coming through Karatu. As their safari vehicles pass while I am walking to/from Tumaini on the back roads or while I am in town, their surprised looks always make me giggle a bit. I usually wave to them and/or stop to greet them, as I remember when I was like them just two short years ago…never thinking I’d actually be calling this place home. Such is the life of a delicate flower I suppose!

Mother of 7
The Tumaini 7 returned to school on August 30, so I had to enter crazy Mama-mode in order to purchase all the items they needed for their third and final term of the school year. Since there have been some pretty horrific road accidents with the minivans/high speed taxies that travel between Arusha and Karatu, I woke up with the sunshine so I could take one of the larger (and slower) buses to Arusha. My friend joked, “Enjoy the big city life,” through an sms after asking if I’d arrived safely. Arusha’s bus stand was its normal busy self, but since I knew where I would stay from a trip last year, I briskly walked to my destination. For the rest of the day, I did errands and visited various stores to see where I could find the best prices for the items I needed to buy. I’m happy to report I had an Arusha map with me from a while ago so I studied it before I set out on my initial journey. Much to my surprise, I knew exactly where I was going and was able to navigate the busy streets with little incident. (Jodie-ann, you would have been SO proud of my skills!)

Anyway, from new exercise books to new shoes and back packs, an obama belt for one of the boys (a special request) as well as other misc items, I spent plenty of time traveling to/from Arusha to buy items in bulk. By the end of my first trip, not only had I mastered the layout of the town, so too had I made a new friend, Richard, who helped me purchase everything I needed which was especially helpful. In fact, we developed a great system of my sending him an sms with the desired items and him having them waiting for me upon my arrival. Fantastic.

Upon presenting all the items to the children shortly before moving in, it was like Christmas time! The children were so excited to receive everything, they couldn’t hide their joy. Smiles were from ear to ear as they modeled their new clothing/shoes/back packs for each other.

Also prior to beginning school, I took three of the children to get eyeglasses. After their respective eye exams, they each chose the frames they so desired. Though initially one was keen on reading glasses (such as those used by older people), after I told her they are more for bibis (grandmothers), she laughed and put them back in the case.

New Friends
During my 2009 trip, I met with the amazing organization, The Foundation For Tomorrow, (, which has a phenomenal sponsorship program for orphans. Whilst in Arusha recently, I met with TFFT again to compare notes and seek advice now that Journeys of Solutions’ Child Sponsorship Program is picking up momentum. Since TFFT has been around for a few years and has an office on the ground in Tanzania, I was eager to learn more about what works, what doesn’t and what is just a plain bad idea! In short, the meeting was fantastic. My walk to the meeting, on the other hand, was not as joyous! Shortly after I set out on my thirty minute walk to the meeting, I went to check the time on my phone and lo and behold, no phone. As I checked and re-checked all my pockets, on my jacket and my pants and then throughout my purse, I remembered two boys who had flanked me as I walked through a busy street. Like pros, they had managed to get my phone from the left chest pocket of my jean jacket without my noticing! I had been so worried about clutching my purse tightly to my body that I forgot the button on my jean jacket was not closed. Genius at work. Alas, at least it was just my phone and nothing else. I was tempted to walk through the street with the charger and say, “You forgot something,” though I successfully fought that urge.

My Chariots…
I traveled to Dar recently, the mode of transportation that I used was, none other than the lovely Dar Express. You may recall my writing about it a few posts ago; ah, the joy of 13 hours on a bus! The previous time when I took the Dar Express from Dar to Karatu, I slept most of the way. This time, though, I was more awake and did some work and read. I was pleasantly surprised to see there is not just ONE stop with a toilet, but two! Fancy! Of course, they make additional stops along the way, per request, but often you must walk a few hundred yards until you’ve passed a hill or two, behind which you do your business! I’m happy to say, I successfully managed to make it to both stops with toilets! Along the way we saw two overturned trucks–the first was a truck transporting oranges and I believe it must have had failed breaks going down a hill due to the way it was stopped. The second truck was on flat road, but it too must have had break problems for it was overturned, half in a ditch. Thankfully in both cases it appeared as though everyone was fine and just waiting for help to arrive.

I also experienced the joy of the bajajis. This three-wheeled vehicle zips in and out of traffic, and as I learned, on and off the tarmac! As my driver zipped in and out of traffic, I wished the tiny vehicle had had seat belts! Regardless, I couldn’t help but feel as if this tiny vehicle were my chariot! It was classic. Many people take these in Dar, as the traffic is horrendous and the bajajis can get through traffic more easily…though sometimes not as safely.

(The view from my chariot…right before we went off road!)

While in Dar, I visited Viona, one of the children from Shalom who is receiving cancer treatment at Ocean Road Institute. If you remember, I’ve visited her in the past and written about the small darling. She is just six years old and has been to Ocean Road several times, where she is being treated for a recurring tumor. Her caretaker, Monika, is also from Shalom. The hospital treats many patients for cancer and unfortunately there is not enough space for quarters for the caretakers. Instead, each bed holds two children and two caretakers. More often than not, the caretakers cannot sleep in the bed as well so they might sleep on the floor nearby. Viona is looking very strong and has lost several of her teeth so her smile is normally half full of gums! It was fantastic to see them both and with the help of a friend who is fluent in Kiswahili, we were able to chat about Viona’s health, her studies (they have a teacher who comes to the hospital and teaches the children), and their stay in Dar. I will return in about a month to visit again.

Back to School…Madame Eliza
In the week leading up to school re-opening, I enjoyed spending some quality time with the Tumaini 7, reviewing their grades, giving them extra work (at their request!) and helping them to write thank you letters to their sponsors. They definitely enjoyed being back at Shalom for the few weeks between terms, but were eager to get back to Tumaini and continue their studies.

Shortly before school re-opened, I met with the Director and Head Teacher to discuss my role as a volunteer at Tumaini. Not only am I spending my time here to meet with non-profits and groups who are working to further education, so too have I begun helping in the classroom. Because I am not a certified teacher, we decided the best route would be for me to help assistant teach as well as do some vocational skills classes. I spent my first week sitting in on classes and chatting with teachers to see how they’d like me to help them. Since I have my guitar with me and it’s known that I’m a musician, I was asked to teach music in the vocational skills classes. I recently wrote the most adorable song called “Hands and Feet” for the younger classes and they are really getting the hang of it. Some lyrics include: “Elephants walk across the plains as their trunks swing. While fish in the sea use their fins to swim deep. And people like you and me, when we walk and swim, we use our hands and feet, we use our hands and feet.” In addition to singing, the children also dance and move around, swimming like fish, hopping like rabbits, clapping their hands and tapping their feet. It is nothing short of amazing! They’ll actually perform the song for Parent’s Day, the end of the year celebration/showcase. I will be sure to record it so you can see what a good job they do!

Besides the music classes, which I will begin teaching to the older students next week, I have taught some of the students how to write haiku poems. Next week, I will work with the older classes on how to correctly write letters. We have a volunteer arriving next week and she will also be helping with vocational skills, for we will be painting murals around Tumaini. We will probably enlist some of the older children to assist with this as part of their lessons. It will be great fun, I am sure.

In every class, it is the same: the children are eager to learn. I am always so amazed at the huge desire for education and I know I’ve commented on it before, mentioning the difference between some children at home and the children here. It seems those here realize more the gift of education and how it truly is a key that will help to open doors to success and opportunity.

Between playing football with the Tumaini boarders this past Friday and Saturday (note, Friday was Eid so the children had no school), I worked on “Hands and Feet” with some of the children. After music on Saturday, some of the teachers asked me to show them how to play guitar. Rather than teaching them, they decided they just wanted me to play and they’d sing along. At first I played them two of my own songs–one of which they loved and decided to sing along to! After that, their requests included some Mark Anthony/Celine Dion songs, but I told them I’d go home and practice first, for my guitar repertoire is not nearly as advanced as my piano repertoire. I promised I’d find the chords to these songs so we could sing another time but not willing to be deterred, they asked me to play while they sang some Tanzanian songs. As I made up some chords, the six or seven teachers began singing in Kiswahili and we had great fun! Though I’m sure the chords I was playing were not the real chords, they men were all in tune and it actually sounded pretty great! A good amount of the children were sitting in front of us in hysterics as they watched their teachers belt out lyrics. It was a great time for the children and teachers, for at the end of the song, just as one of the teachers began to rap, the children and I erupted in laughter.

An impromptu jam session at its best!!

Growing, polepole (slowly, slowly)
It is hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since the birth of our lovely Child Sponsorship Program! Even more, it is quite amazing to have just enrolled an 8th child in our program!

Yesterday morning Shedrack, the newest child who will attend Tumaini, and I walked to Tumaini so he could take an assessment test to see into which class he will place for 2011. Between his tests, Shed ate lunch and walked around the various buildings, having a look at the classrooms/dormitories/football field. Since it was a Saturday, the boarding students were running around playing football, using jump ropes and just sitting around chatting with one another. I asked Jonas, one of the little boys who has been in my music classes, to invite Shed to play football and within a few moments, the two were running around together. In fact, shortly before we walked back to Shalom, Jonas and Shed were both asking me if they could play football longer. And, once Shed and I did begin walking out of the school’s driveway, Shed turned around and waved to some of the boys, while sporting a huge smile, saying he’d see them soon.

Note, we have recently updated the Journeys of Solutions website and photos of the children will be published soon. We have a few more children up for sponsorship for the 2011 year, so if you want to know more details, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Asante sana!

the flower

3 responses

  1. Big Mama Kallop

    Great job! I will start on a “Tumaini Blue” hat for Shedrack tomorrow!! Best wishes for a very successful term for all eight children.

    12/09/2010 at 13:35

  2. Sam Choi

    glad to hear you’re doing alright. i’m sorry about your phone.

    16/09/2010 at 14:14

  3. Surya Ganguly

    Hi Elizabeth, many thanks for the Mody connection, I made it safe and sound to Arusha and eventually Boston, hearing great stories about Eliza, all good. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think Powering Potential will end up using Mody often and I’ll post his services on yelp and a couple of travel sites geared towards intn’l development volunteers.

    Have fun in Karatu and look me up when you’re stateside, we have a few ideas about integrating the Tumaini project with Banjika to expose them to some of our tech-based programs. Keep doing interesting work! Cheers -S

    01/10/2010 at 18:34

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