To the ends of the earth…and back!

2009 Adventures

Malaria

Since my return nearly three months ago (wow cannot believe how quickly it has passed) I have received many colorful responses upon telling people I had malaria whilst in Tanzania. In light of this, I wanted to post some helpful/insightful details about malaria for your reading pleasure…and your education. : D

Good news!

In January, there was an article on http://www.bbc.co.uk about Malaria in which Bill Gates says the vaccine for malaria may just be three years away! Check it out: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8479986.stm

That said, malaria is still the #1 killer of children in Africa.* In fact, every 30 seconds a child dies from it.*

What is Malaria and why is it so deadly?

Malaria is contracted when a mosquito carrying the parasite bites a person and the parasite then enters the blood stream. Unfortunately the symptoms do not tend to show for up to two weeks after the bite and even then the symptoms can be mistaken for other sicknesses. Symptoms include: fevers, chills, vomiting, migraines and other flu-like symptoms.

In my case, I never get fevers so as soon as I realized I was having them and saw all the bug bites on my legs and arms, I knew I needed to get checked. Further, when the doctors told me my blood was abnormal, I was not surprised. Luckily for myself, and the fifteen or so children who also had malaria, the medical clinic, FAME Clinic Ltd. (http://fameafrica.org/) is a 20-minute walk up the road from the orphanage, was generously supplied with the anti-malaria drugs I needed, AND I had the money to pay for the medication (equivalent to less than $3USD I believe). Others are clearly not as lucky, as the nearest clinic could be a day’s travel away, the clinic’s supply may be depleted and of course, the issue of payment is a constant struggle.

Malaria not only causes the aforementioned symptoms, but also wreaks other havoc in children’s little bodies.

“Many children who survive an episode of severe malaria may suffer from learning impairments or brain damage. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to malaria, which, during pregnancy, is a major cause of mortality, low birth weight and maternal anemia. And while we know malaria is preventable, the lack of resources, coupled with a climate very hospitable to the deadliest strain of malaria, has made the disease a leading cause of death among African children.” (http://www.malarianomore.org/malaria)

Pregnant woman are especially susceptible and at risk because the unborn child can easily contract malaria. Upon this, such results include: the mother becoming anemic, premature birth or mortality.

Types of Malaria (from http://www.netsforlifeafrica.org/malaria/disease-transmission)

There are four species of parasites that cause malaria in humans.

The most common species in Africa is the Plasmodium falciparum species, which causes the most virulent and potentially deadly form of the disease.

The Plasmodium vivax species causes a recurrent, episodic but not life-threatening form of malaria.

The other two species that cause malaria are Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae.

Stopping Malaria

One of the simplest ways to sidestep contracting malaria is to sleep under an insecticide-sprayed bed net. You may recall the United Nations Foundation’s Malaria Day Game through Nothing But Nets, that appeared in 2008. Through playing the game, you could ensure bed nets were distributed to areas where they were dearly needed. Click here to play the game and get involved with helping to save lives:

http://www.nothingbutnets.net/its-easy-to-help/game.html

In February, the district of Karatu provided free bed nets for each bed at Shalom—very generous and much-needed gifts!! Bed nets cost roughly $8-10USD. If you would like to donate monies to purchase a bed net, please email me: orphanageprojects@journeysofsolutions.org OR donate directly via paypal: http://www.journeysofsolutions.org/?q=node/23.

—————-

*Sources:

Malaria No More:  www.malarianomore.org

Nothing But Nets: http://www.nothingbutnets.net/malaria-kills/

Nets For Life: A Partnership for Malaria prevention in Africa: http://www.netsforlifeafrica.org/


Country road, take me home…

Hello dear friends!

It has been nearly a month since I left the dusty roads of Karatu to live in the snowy concrete jungle that is New York City! Throughout my return journey, which included three cars, two planes, one bus, and one train (forget about the partridge in a pear tree) to arrive back home, the fact that I was returning to the US did not really hit me. That is, until I stepped off the plane at Heathrow to wait for a connecting flight and felt the chills of a snowstorm cover my body. Thankfully my flight was going to Newark, rather than JFK because JFK canceled all flights for December 19 due to a huge snowstorm in the northeast. Africa was in the 80’s when I left on that beautiful sunny day and Newark NJ was in the teens with a few feet of snow. Luckily, the sun was still shining.

As I’ve had some time to reflect on the past three months of my time at Shalom I cannot help be thankful! Yes, there were some pretty hectic and draining moments but every moment was quite an educational experience! Ellen is still at Shalom working hard so please check out her blog for updates within the next few months while I remain in the US earning money for my return trip.  http://www.shalomorphanagekaratu.blogspot.com As many of you know, I hope tol be returning for ONE YEAR to continue working for Journeys Of Solutions in developing/expanding the Child Sponsorship Program at Shalom. *I will be giving an update on this within the next few days so please check back!

I have mentioned in previous blogs that the children really need multivitamins so this is just a friendly reminder!  The ones I recommend are from Costco, the Kirkland brand. The bottles have 300 chewable tablets and don’t contain all the added sugar of most other childrens vitamin brands. A bottle of 300 last just about six days for our 51 children so please feel free to send a few!

For all donors based in/around Rochester, I will be in town January 15-21 speaking about my three months at Shalom Orphanage Centre as a volunteer for Journeys Of Solutions. Please feel free to email me at the above address if you would like to see any photos or hear any more stories. Likewise if you’d like to get together and chat over coffee. The next exciting event is our four JOS volunteers traveling to Shalom in February. Each of the four has raised $500 so they will not be going empty-handed!!

Thank you for your continued support. Please feel free to check back periodically as I will be giving updates on life at Shalom.


Maasai sighting in New Jersey…

Fun in the snow…


Last Few Days in Photos

Apologies that the photo updates were somewhat scarce over the past few weeks, my camera unfortunately broke so I was unable to capture a lot of the last few weeks at Shalom. Thankfully Ellen has a rockstar camera she allowed me to borrow for the last few days…

———

The days leading up to Friday were extra busy with work, whether spent purchasing the majority of the items the Tumaini 7 need to live at Tumaini starting on January 3 or wrapping up the work I’d been doing for the past three months. It was actually quite a blessing that I had been so busy for that lessened the amount of time I had to really register the fact that I was leaving for a few months.

Thursday I shared dinner with the children, a delish meal of makande and greens. As I took my plate and sat on the floor in the classroom, about 15 children fought to sit the closest to me. It was such a special time with all of them and periodically I would look around and meet the watchful gazes of the other children throughout the room. Each time I was met with smiles

Shortly after our dinner, we took the music out to the veranda and the dance party began! The unanimous favorite, Beyonce’s “Put a Ring On It” song, was played about four times upon request throughout the hour or so of dancing. It was such a special time!

Dance Party Madness!

Candid shots before breakfast of porridge, just hours before I left.

Waiting patiently…

Group shot…should have zoomed in, sorry!

——————–

Walking the Tumaini 7 to extra tutoring help.  The walk was a sombre one, as they have the best understanding of my departure and most most upset by it. Just moments after taking this photo, we ran into one of the orphanage staff, Mama Z. Once Eliya, who speaks the most English, alerted her that I’d be leaving within an hour to begin my journey home, Mama Z fell into my arms full of tears telling me “No.” I assured her that I would be back next year and that there was no need to cry. I had been surprisingly strong the past few days, having shed no tears when on the various occasions the children had, though for a few seconds I felt the tears well up in my eyes. The children nervously snickered a bit at the sight of Mama Z’s tears, though once we said our goodbyes, their own tears returned.

Once I arrived at Tumaini, I said a quick “See you next year,” rather than “Good-bye.” The walk back to Shalom, again, was a sombre one.


Photo Updates

Physicals at FAME

Serena Lodge, a local hotel visited us on December 1 and brought many gifts including cooking oil, rice and other necessities. For run too they presented the children with Fanta orange, biscuits and lolly-pops. Excited, the children could hardly sit still…seated in Mikaeli, all smiles

Gifts from Serena Lodge : )

Walking to work…Karibu Shalom


12 weeks later…

Hello dear friends and faithful readers of my adventures as a delicate flower!

It is hard to believe I will be boarding a plane in just six days for the USA. The past 12 weeks have absolutely flown by. I am still trying to catch my breath!

Mama called the Doctor and the doctor said…

As much as Ellen and I love the children, we try and work from home on Saturdays to catch up on emails and any other outstanding items we need to address. Last Saturday as we were just having coffee, a Shalom staff member called me and said that there was blood in one of the toilets from a sick child but due to embarrassment, none of the children made a confession. I rushed over to Shalom and within about 20 minutes we were en route to FAME Medical clinic just up the road. FAME was started by Dr. Frank and his wife Susan, native Californians and has a large Tanzanian staff peppered by some mzungu (white/European) volunteer doctors. Simply, they do amazing work and we are so lucky to have them just up the hill from Shalom.

As we sat waiting for the children to be seen, it was clear how sick they were. Normally boisterous and laughing, they all sat rather subdued in the waiting area. Two hours and seven prescriptions of dawa “medicine” later, we were headed back to Shalom. FYI we have been in discussion with FAME to reestablish their relationship with Shalom so we can get great health care for the children. Thankfully, we’re up and running!

FAME also offered free physicals for the 51 watoto (children) of Shalom so this past week we graciously accepted the invitation and began the physicals. Ellen and I, along with two Shalom staff members, Loveness and Daniel, headed up to FAME on Tuesday and Thursday first with a group of 23 then another group of 19, respectively. We will take the final 8 this coming Tuesday morning. Anyway, Ellen and Daniel headed up in a cab with the smaller of the children while I walked up the road with Loveness and 17 children. I walked with Emanuel on one side and Loveness (one of the children) on the other, each clenching a hand. Though I originally thought Emanuel was walking slowly because he had on shoes too large for him, I took a closer look and noticed he looked withdrawn and not as lively as usual. After we made an impromptu pit-stop on the side of the road for both children to relieve themselves, I piggy-backed Emanuel for the last 10 minutes of the walk. As his six-year old body became dead weight on my back, I realized just how sick he was. We soon learned the poor thing had a 103 degree fever…we promptly got him some dawa.

Luckily most of the FAME staff is Tanzanian so they reassured the children in a language they could understand. There are some American volunteers too and because Ellen and I have been such a constant in the children’s lives these past few months, the children’s reactions to wazungu is not one of fright, as is the case with some Tanzanian children.

It was beautiful chaos as the children were checked for worms, malaria and HIV. (We have 6 HIV children we knew about and were happy to know that no others have the virus). Ellen and I were pleasantly surprised by how well behaved our children were in the sitting room for the two hours it took to accomplish every physical. Almost all of the children received ALOM, the de-worming dawa,  12 of them had malaria, along with my delicate self, (compliments of the rainy weather we’ve been experiencing as of late), and more than 10 are anemic. *If you would like to contribute children’s vitamins, please email us at shalomorphanagekaratu@gmail.com for our mailing address and details on sending us gifts.

Anyway, many of the children were fine as they went from room to room to be checked, whether weighed, told to stick out their tongues or the unanimous favorite: to receive a needle’s prick for the blood test. Some of the older ones surprised me with their fright and hesitance to even enter the lab room where blood samples were taken. In fact, they would rush by the door, pretending they’d already been inside! I had to hide my smile so as to not anger or embarrass them. One of the little girls, Tina, was particularly skittish as we entered the lab room. As she sat on my lap and saw the needle coming, she began to hyperventilate, screaming, “Nataka Eliza, nataka Eliza,” meaning she wanted me to stick the needle in her tiny finger. The nurse, not knowing I was Eliza, questioned Tina, asking her where Eliza was. Somewhat surprised I could understand the exchange in Kiswahili I answered her myself! Later, before the final two boys had their blood drawn, I sat down and had my blood drawn, fearing I had malaria—a fear that was confirmed about 20 minutes later. Once Shedrack and George saw that I too received the lovely prick of the needle, they were more at ease! It was funny though to watch their hesitance, as they were the oldest of the children that day.

This past Wednesday was a national holiday: Tanzania’s Independence Day so we waited until Thursday to take the next group of children up to FAME. I actually stayed home from work and rested in bed, as the malaria was particularly bad. In between fevers, chills and complete exhaustion, I noticed how restless I am when I am unable to do anything. One of the girls who’ll attend Tumaini next year through our Child Sponsorship Program, Agnes, came to check on me and brought me lunch. She is often by my side as a translator, though less and less now that I am learning my Kiswahili.

The malaria meds are given over the span of three days to kill the parasite, so by Thursday I should have been feeling better and probably would have been back to myself had I rested that second day. Because we needed to take the next round of children up, I decided to go up Thursday morning with full intentions of returning to bed in the afternoon…quite the adventure awaited me though, as is the case nowadays!

Around 9:45am on Thursday, Ellen and I piled into cab with six of the smallest children—two of whom are 11 months old. For most of them it seemed it was their first time in a car and because the road is not paved and mostly uphill, they particularly enjoyed themselves. The herd of goat and cattle and then the tractor on the way back all added to the experience!

Once the children’s files were ready, again it was the eldest who were more hesitant to have their blood drawn. As I walked into the waiting room to get another child for a physical, I saw that Julius, one of our six year olds who normally is running around playing football always with a large smile was fighting to keep his eyes open. As I felt his head, it was burning hot so I told the doctors he needed to be seen next. The little peanut couldn’t even stand because he was so weak, so I carried him back and we found out he had a 104 fever. Immediately we had his blood tested and as he rested on my lap too weak to even lift up his finger, the tears came…mine I mean! It dawned on me in that moment that I would be leaving in just ten days and would not be returning for a few months. Likewise, I realized how right it felt to be there in that lab room with Julius in my lap and two other beautiful children looking to me for comfort as they awaited their turns for the blood test. Not wanting to scare them with tears, I quickly dried my eyes.

Once Julius’ blood was taken, the doctors sent us to the observation room so he could rest and the fever could go down. I sat on the bed as he dozed, in between bouts of fever and chills, and rubbed his back. I stopped for a second as I reached for my bag and he immediately woke up, fearing I had gone. I then changed to the seat next to the bed so he could hold my hand…thus was the case for the next 90 minutes. Luckily Ellen had a washcloth so we wet it with cold water, trying to cool his little body. I could have wet it with my tears as I was completely overwhelmed with my attachment to the children. Next Saturday, December 19, the day I leave Africa, is going to be quite a challenging one.

Within about 2.5 hours, all of the children had been seen so we headed back down to Shalom. As I took Julius back to his bedroom and got him some electrolyte water, I told him to rest up and I’d be back later. I tucked him in then gave him a kiss on the forehead. I have never seen a child’s facial expression change so quickly from feeling completely sick to one of utter happiness…his big brown eyes lit up and his beautiful smile returned by my a simple and genuine gesture. Needless to say, Thursday was a day of joyful tears!

Later that afternoon we got a call from Susan at FAME asking us to come and pick up the children’s dawa. We had an entire box full of meds for almost 30 of our kids. Once we got back, we explained to two of the caregivers all of the meds and how to give them to the children.

Ding dong the bells are going to chime…

Ellen and I just attended our second Tanzanian wedding this past weekend in Arusha. One of the assistant pastors at Mr. Nnko’s church was getting married so we were invited to the festivities. I met Peter, the groom, back in July during my visit and he is a super genuine and lovely man. His wife, Anna, is just the same…we could not have been happier to attend the send-off on Friday night and wedding on Saturday.

Tanzanian weddings are different from those to which I am accustomed. The send-off, the night before the actual ceremony, compares little to the rehearsal dinners I know well in the states. The send-off is a dinner, yes, but it is on a HUGE scale! Friends and family alike attend and many gifts are given via a line of dancing well-wishers. At one point in the evening, the bride-to-be walked throughout the room looking for potential suitors…it was hysterical to watch as various boys and men tried to cajole Anna into thinking they were her groom. Eventually she made her way to the back corner where Peter was sitting. It was SO fun to attend.

Friday, prior to arriving at the send-off, Mama presented Ellen and me with two brand new and beautiful outfits to wear for the wedding. They were especially made for us. Mama has such an eye because they fit just about perfectly…not too snug to bring any more attention than we already receive, but not too large to make us look frumpy! Hahaha. We were so grateful and please check back in a day or two for photos from the wedding!

Saturday morning, Peter came to the house and was just ecstatic that he was to be married within a few short hours. He was so gracious that we were able to attend and we tried to express how grateful we were to have been invited. He’s such a sweet man. Prior to the wedding, I had to call Dr. Frank to call in a prescription for me…when I had malaria my immune system was down so my delicate self is still sick unfortunately. After a quick drive into town and only 7,000tsh later (roughly $5USD), I had two prescriptions, one for amoxicillin and one for doxycycline. Cheapest I have ever paid for either of these two…did I mention I didn’t have to file an insurance claim to pay that fee? Amazing!

Anyway, the wedding ceremony was just beautiful. Since Peter is the assistant pastor at the church where the wedding took place, it was a fantastic celebration! The church choir danced and danced as they wished Peter and Anna the best. As we did at the last wedding in November, Ellen and I were invited to sit in the front along with Mama Warra and Mr. Nnko—he actually started the church a few years ago. Additionally because he and Mama were standing in as Peter’s parents, they were seated in the front. The ceremony was much shorter than the last one so within about 2 hours we were headed to the reception at a neighboring hotel.

Again we found ourselves seated in the front because of our relationship to Mama and Mr. Nnko. The choir celebrated again with song and dance. When the time came to present gifts, we walked up with Mama and Mr. Nnko. Their gift was a king-size bed, which was a fully assembled wooden frame one that was carried from the back of the reception hall to the front…of course via a line of dancing well-wishers. It was fantastic to be part of that line!!! As we sat back down and let the slew of other well-wishers continue to shower gifts on the couple, they received some more blankets and pillow cases/sheets for the bed. Of course each time they were presented, the gift givers added it to the made…it was awesome! The little flower girl, clearly having missed her nap, kept eyeing the bed and many of us kept watching her with our breaths held, hoping she’d take advantage and make a good photo opp!

A beautiful day completely!

***UPDATES ON THE CHILD SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM WILL BE POSTED WITHIN THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. PLEASE CHECK BACK OR FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME FOR DETAILS***

We will be sending our first six children to board at the local English-medium school, Tumaini Junior School which has a phenomenal reputation and is known for its rigorous curriculum and skilled teachers. Needless to say, we and of course the six children, are very excited for the wonderful educational opportunities that lay ahead.

please check back for photo updates on Tuesday!


Update on Viona!

Thank you for your continued prayers for Viona, she is doing fabulously well!

Ellen and I visited little Viona and her caregiver, Mama Ndogo, in Dar es Salaam last week. Viona looked so healthy and strong, we were so relieved. She just received her third of six chemotherapy treatments to rid her little six-year old body of a germ cell tumor. Once we arrived at the hospital, we swept Viona and Mama away for a delicious lunch then a supermarket trip.

The visit was so special and all four of us ladies had a great time. At a few points we had to have our waitress translate conversation for us, which she did happily once Mama explained the work Ellen and I are doing at Shalom. Before leaving, we called Mama Warra and not only did she speak with Mama Ndogo and Viona, but she then passed the phone to some other staff members and children at Shalom. Watching Viona’s little face light up as she spoke to her brothers and sisters for the first time in a few months was sweeter than anything.

Perhaps the most exciting bit of news was the okay we received from Doctor Trish to bring Viona home for Christmas at Shalom!

Here’s the pretty girl about to enjoy some lunch!

The four of us…and Obama!

Viona talking to her brothers and sisters! She was nothing but smiles!

Once Ellen and I arrived back at Shalom, we showed pictures of Viona and Mama Ndogo to the children as well as some video that Ellen and I had taken. The children were more than ecstatic to receive news that Viona is doing well and getting stronger each day. Here they are surrounding Ellen and then at my computer looking at photos!

Art and Crafts Time

For nearly two hours on Friday evening, we opened the door to our office and allowed a slew of the children to come in and have some arts and crafts time. From drawing pictures, coloring/tracing, to teaching in English, I had a most fantastic time. Every few minutes there’d be someone saying “Eliza, pen please!” “Eliza, please marker!” We’ve come a long way since they’d just look at me and say “YOU BOOK!”

Pole pole!

I am constantly in awe by how hungry they are for knowledge. They are just beautiful!


Child Sponsorship Program

Dear Friends,

 

After a second meeting with Tumaini, please be advised we are revising the numbers for our Child Sponsorship Program.

 

Please check back for the updated figures.

 

Apologies for any confusion. Please email shalomorphanagekaratu@gmail.com with questions!

 

Thank you for your continued support.

 


Photo updates!

Ellen and Mama

GuitarHere is Mama Warra and Ellen…the ladies leading Shalom : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once our little winged friend lost in his battle to Saning’o, we resumed guitar.

 

Clement off the market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Clement has some admirers!! Joyce, myself and the lucky little man!!

 

reading

 

 

 

 

What beautiful reminders of why I am here…working on English whilst reading.

 

 

 


Apples and Peanut Butter

WELCOME AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN  : D

That’s What Friends are For

Prior to leaving for Arusha last week, Ellen and I met with the local CPAR office. Throughout the meeting we learned very useful information about Shalom’s past. Likewise, we made a new friend who promised to introduce us to some other local contacts who are committed to helping the people of our community! It was most exciting : )

While in Arusha, we met with a great organization called “The Foundation For Tomorrow”. I highly recommend you check out their website. TFFT helps secure sponsorship for orphans so they can attend school and receive the care they need. We hope to operate our Child Sponsorship Program successfully like TFFT does.

Lastly, we headed to Lake Eyasi (about a 1.5 hour drive from us) on Wednesday for another meeting. A man named Merick has started the Humura Foundation through which he secures sponsorships for orphans living in the Lake Eyasi region. To read more about Lake Eyasi, please see one of my first posts—I mention the visit to the Bushmen and Datoga tribes. Anyway, some of the children under Merick’s care are from the Datoga tribe. Ellen and I were uncertain of what to expect, as Merick had visited Shalom on several occasions because Mama Warra is a sort of mentor for him. He had given us some details of his work but was very anxious to have us visit him.

After making the 1.5 hour VERY OFF ROAD journey, we were pleasantly surprised and honored as he took us around to the four different schools in the Lake Eyasi region where the children under his care attend. We traveled by car, thankfully, as the schools were at least 10-15 minute drives from each other in the labyrinth that is the Lake Eyasi/Bush region. Through donations from some Germans they are able to add some buildings to one of the schools as well as a water system that pumps water from the fresh spring not too far. Merick is a rock star.

Sensory Overload

As you have read, Ellen and I spent last weekend in Arusha for a wedding. Lucky for me I didn’t spend the 2 hour drive stuck between the driver and passenger in the front seat. Rather, Mama, Ellen and I enjoyed a spacious ride in the middle set of seats! Prior to Saturday’s wedding, we decided to indulge in city life. (Arusha is the closest large city to our little town). This included watching a movie (The Hangover) in a real movie theatre and sipping lattes just moments after purchasing a copy of “The International Herald Tribune” and the latest copies of “TIME” and Oprah’s magazine. Watch out. The fun didn’t stop here though!

Saturday morning we stopped by this fantastic place called “Shoprite”—a real supermarket! It truly is the little things, my friends! For the first few minutes I walked up and down the aisles in a bit of a trance, eyeing first the fresh apples and avocadoes, then moving along to the garlic cloves, and wine, convenient located just a turn from the fruits and veggies. I then ventured to the glorious aisle where we found berry preserves and natural peanut butter (sans hydrogenated and other bad oils for you), simply two of my most fave things! (We later enjoyed apples and peanut butter once back at home at Shalom. We shared the goodness with Saning’o, who peeled his apple with his giant spear, then applied a generous coat of peanut butter.)

Back to Shoprite, I voiced how overwhelmed I was to Ellen a few times, especially as our diet for the past 4 weeks has included: rice, beans, spaghetti, bread, eggs, instant coffee/tea, green beans and peas, carrots and onions. Of course there is nothing wrong with this diet, I merely was excited for some variation. I almost keeled over when we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. It didn’t really hold its own compared to some of the delish places in Chinatown, but again, a little variety can be exciting!

The wedding was very interesting. First of all the ceremony was 3 hours itself, NOT including the reception. All of it was in Kiswahili as well so it was challenging at times. That said, it was pretty fantastic to witness and to recognize the differences in wedding ceremonies and even receptions across cultures. The groom entered first to the congregation singing songs. After a few songs, he walked back out—note by “walk” I mean inched his way, as his steps were about one inch long—I’m not even close to kidding. Anyway, he inched his way back to the door where his bride entered to the tune of a live brass band—trombones, French horn, trumpets and drums. Once the bride and groom (who were TOO adorable) inched their way back up to the front, they took their seats in front of the best man and matron of honor. Periodically throughout the ceremony, the best man and matron would take turns blotting the faces of the groom and bride with handkerchiefs. It wasn’t terribly warm in the ceremony, but I suppose they were nervous and also wanted to look their best in photos.

Which brings me to my next point: there was not just one or even two photographers capturing the special day, there were about 5 or 6, including one special fellow who took photos with his phone. To make it even more special, the phone’s camera was not silent or any where near unrecognizable. Rather each time he chose to take a photo, the electronic device would make a sort of a count down that sounded like a bomb ready to go off. Special, indeed. Also, one of the photographers would randomly snap shots of Ellen and me or just of us individually. Thankfully we learned at the reception that they printed out the photos to sell…not to just keep and be creepy! I kid, sort of.

The reception was just as lively. It was outside under tents and as wedding guests walked up to the bridal party with their gifts, they were given a bit of the roasted goat. Ellen and I were the last to give in our card so we somehow managed to sidestep the goat. The buffet was just as interesting (and quite delish) as the experience of the Tanzanian wedding had been. And even though she and I both wore the outfits Mama had made for us, we still managed to NOT blend in. The stares throughout our arrival at the ceremony and reception were constant. It felt as though we were taking away from the happy couple at times as we received attention. Nevertheless, it was an adventure!

Sunday we ventured to a local hotel and relaxed poolside. It was quite the oasis until a small child with a tube fastened between his chest and belly button decided to scream for a while as his mother and sisters refused to give him the attention he demanded.

Trick or Treat!

I’m sure most of you, my faithful friends and readers, have been busy carving pumpkins, buying the funpaks of candies in preparation for trick or treaters and making decorative arrangements of your favorite gourd combinations. Well, I must say that we too here in Tanzania have been channeling the Halloween spirit. On Thursday night as Ellen and I saw out on the porch with our fave Maasai, Saning’o, I happened to glance over between guitar strums and singing towards the kitchen. Just then a bat flew towards us, swooping back and forth from one end of the porch to the next. Ellen and I both hit the ground at about the same speed as the creature, but luckily our faithful Saning’o, the love, stood confidently with his Maasai club (a gift Ellen picked up in Arusha for him last weekend) ready for action. With one swift swing and smack, (à la Batman—remember when the screen would show “BAM” or “POW” following by the smacking/kicking noise?!) our winged-friend fell to the ground.

ALSO, some of our friends from FAME Medical just up the road have invited us to a Halloween party tonight at an art gallery not too far from us. It is exciting making new friends!

Welcome to English Lessons

Though I wrote a few weeks ago that I would be teaching English to the children and staff, it happened for the first time yesterday with the staff. Due to all the meetings we have been attending as well as the loads of emails and excels, we had not been able to teach. Anyway, the twelve staff members who attended the lessons were MORE than grateful that we took the time to help them learn English. As much as they want us to speak Kiswahili (and we do too of course), they are so eager to learn English. As Ellen and I handed out new notebooks and pens to each of the students, they were beaming! Throughout the 75 minutes we spent in the classroom, we shared many laughs, questions and confused looks (on both parts). I have this little pocket English-Kiswahili dictionary I always carry around and they have each eyed it on separate occasions. I hope that we’ll eventually be able to get them one of their own so they can practice as much as they’d like.

Ellen has this amazing Kiswahili binder of lessons that her Kenyan tutor created for his prior to arriving in Tanzania. Teme, the other Maasai has borrowed it a few times and as we were riding in the cab home from town two days ago, Teme asked us how to pronounce one of the animal’s names. Unfortunately he could not remember the animal so he just put his hands as horns on each side of his head and then went “wraaaahhh” a few times. Eventually we figured out he meant wildebeest but it truly was fantastic trying to figure it out! Even the driver and Saning’o joined in the crazy laughter once we had named the animal.

You all remember Shangazi I am sure—I just wrote about her—our cook! After continually inviting Ellen and myself to eat at Shalom, we happily took her up on her longstanding offer and shared a meal with the children last night. Not only was Shangazi absolutely ecstatic, but so were the children. As Ellen and I entered the classroom (remember, it doubles as the eating area for right now), beaming smiles were seen between bites of the rice, beans and greens.

Shortly following dinner, some of the older children insisted on doing stretches which included jumping jacks and random stretches I used to do before flag football practice. All of these were quite a feat, as we had literally just finished eating. Thankfully the children stopped the stretches after a few minutes and some cajoling!

Lastly, the dance fever has continued. Beyoncé is still the preferred artist with “Single Ladies” being the absolute favorite. Words cannot describe. I tried to capture it with some photos…even these don’t do justice to the enjoyment!

And the adventure continues!


Some photos for your viewing pleasure

Shangazi

 

 

Meet Shangazi, one of our beloved cooks. Shangazi, which means “Auntie” on the paternal side, is a beautiful soul. You can clearly see this as she prepares some of the food in the kitchen*. Every morning, Shangazi greets Ellen and me with a heartfelt smile, hug, hand shake and a few rounds Welcome/Karibu. This followed by more smiles, laughs, hugs and then thanks from all parties. When we feel overwhelmed, we normally go spend some time with Shangazi and all is well! *We have a structure just behind this outdoor kitchen that will eventually be our real kitchen…we just need to putkitchen/dining room a roof on the structure, cement the floor and install windows and doors. This is one of our big 2010 projects. It’ll be about $6,000.00 to complete the kitchen as well as the dining room structure just next to it. I heart Shangazi!

–>Here is the kitchen and dining room to be (I stood in the dining room to take this photo. Through the doorway you can see part of the outdoor kitchen we currently use. On the right is a large window through which we’ll serve the food from the kitchen to dining room.

Jackson

Meet Jackson. For dedicated readers, this is one of the little boys who enjoys “takataka” so much! While I used to approach him constantly with hand out, demanding the random item from his mouth, he now comes to me (sometimes running) announcing his takataka with a huge smile. He happily hands it over. Baby steps/polepole! A little more about this little darling: he LOVES our dance nights out on the veranda. His smile is literally ear to ear as he gets down with his bad self.  He also has a huge fondness for books…mostly just sifting through them for the pictures, but what kid doesn’t love that? I still do that too!

 

NinjasMeet some of our boys who attend the local government school. Needless to say, this pose is one of their favorites. L-R: Shedrack, Wilium, Josephat, and Ezekial. Thanks to Journeys of Solutions volunteers, Susan and Barbara, who were here in September, we purchased a second set of uniforms for the 26 school-aged children.  Susan’s church contributed the funds to purchase the much needed second set. : )

 

ClementThis little love is Clement…at just two years old, he’s the youngest bachelor we have at Shalom. Watch out ladies!

 

 

 

 

 


A To-Do Scroll

Ellen and I have been so incredibly busy within the past few days scheduling meetings, attending meetings, creating a newsletter, writing endless emails and documents. I am nearly out of breath thinking of all of it!

Since my last entry, I paid off the remainder of the water bill but not without a fight! Ellen and I walked to the Maji (“water” in Kiswahili) building and sat for about 25 minutes. We were greeted by many of the workers as well as the gatekeeper, however we sat and sat inside the office. We helped ourselves to two orange Fanta and chatted until one of the women finally came back to her office. As I walked up to the “Reception” window, I tried in my broken Kiswahili to tell her that I’d like to pay the Shalom bill. I must admit I did a pretty fine job of expressing that. She looked at me and said, “Go to the cashier” pointing to her right, my left. As I chasséd over a few steps to my left, the Cashier window was dark and no one was there.  : D It was priceless! Thankfully within the next few minutes the other woman came in and helped me. Ah the adventures.

New Friends

Last week we also met with the founder of Tumaini (“hope”) Junior School and I almost hugged the man! He and his wife began the school a few years back and they do a stellar job! This past year actually, for the big exam in Karatu, for which 220,000 students sat, 7 of the top 10 scorers attend Tumaini! PLUS they have football (soccer), netball and volleyball teams for which the children can try out. The football team actually made it to regionals this year! Watch out!  Children start as young as 3 years and stay until they’re about 14, right before they enter Secondary School and all courses are taught in English except French and Kiswahili.

I’m in the process of laying out the Child Sponsorship Program and adding up the exact costs for individuals to sponsor our children. Our goal is to have every child enrolled. Ideally, we hope to solidify donors not just for a yearly commitment, but for an educational commitment—meaning that sponsoring wouldn’t be just one year, but for a few—through secondary and beyond should the children decide to attend university. Polepole though. (“slowly” in Kiswahili, i.e. baby steps) If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please email us: shalomorphanagekaratu@gmail.com and we can give you more details. ****EDIT: We are still in the process of determining the costs for our children to attend Tumaini as well as ensure their needs are met, i.e. medical costs, food, extra uniform, etc.****

We also met with FAME Medical Clinic and again, I fell in love! FAME is just about a 25 minute walk up the hill from us and they provide medical care for the local community. It was started by two fantastic Californians just a few years back and they’re in the process of doing some incredible additions to their building, namely an inpatient structure. A few years back the relationship soured a bit due to some miscommunication so Ellen and I were more than ecstatic to reestablish the relationship. So too were Dr. Frank and Susan, his wife. Seriously, love them. Before we left actually, we decided to schedule physicals for each of the 51 children here and Dr. Frank and Susan said the initial consult will be free of charge : D Plus we have an infant here, Diana, who needs her tongue snipped. I forget the exact name of the procedure, but basically the skin under her tongue needs to be snipped, she’s “tongue-tied”. Anyway, there’s a surgeon up there and Dr. Frank is an anesthesiologist by training so the procedure will be super fast and safe! Fabulous. We’re going to schedule this procedure soon too.

In this same meeting, Ellen and I learned the huge benefits of children taking just one multivitamin a day along with having at least one hot meal. A few years back, they checked some children at another orphanage and nearly 80% were malnourished. The Mama there changed the diet by making one meal a hot meal and by adding one multivitamin. Well in just one month of this change, all of the children were healthy as can be! We actually received a donation of some multivitamins a few weeks ago but we are all out now…as we go through them everything at a huge speed with 49 able to take them. (our two youngest are only 7 months each). Thus if you’d like to donate some multivitamins, please do email us for we’d certainly be grateful! We also learned that children need medication every three months for worms.

Lastly, as we were chatting with Dr. Frank, Susan and Caroline (a girl my age who is volunteering up there to help with development—she’s pretty super fab), they invited us to the local wazungu (White people/expat) hang out spot! Relieved, we happily accepted the open invitation and will take them up on the offer within the next few weeks once they’re back from a mobile clinic visit to Lake Eyasi and we have managed to stay abreast of the craziness!

Tomorrow we will meet with our CPAR friend—CPAR is a Canadian medical organization that provides relief too.  So excited! I’ll have more updates next week.

Call me Gene Kelly!

Last week we received our first bit of rain. Tanzania normally has a short rainy season in November but it came a bit early this year, thankfully! In fact, every day since, we have received rain, either at night or during the day. It’s really great because we need so much, very badly. The one downside is that all the dust we previously had is now mud. Hm, I’m still not certain which I prefer: dust-on tan or mud-bath exfoliation!

Hey Mr. DJ, turn the music on…

Ellen and I have started the fantastic tradition of end of the work day Dance Parties! It brings just joy to my heart, I cannot even express it! The children just adore the extra time they have with us and certainly love to shake it. We actually had some of the staff, including Mama Warra AND the two Maasai warriors, show off some of their moves. I’m not even sure pictures could fully do justice to the awesomeness! Their fave artist is Beyoncé, as they constantly go around saying, “All the Single Ladies”. (In fact, last week during the first night, one of the little girls, Agness (she’s arguably the most promising female English-speaking child at Shalom) came up to me and said, “All the single ladies, this song is for you Eliza.” How right she is!) Even some of the boys will go around singing the words, constantly coming up to me saying “kucheza” (“dance” in Kiswahili) or simply they’ll just start to bust some moves with HUGE smiles. Probably my favorite dance move I’ve passed on is the running man. Ellen and I keep vowing to capture the DP’s on video but we keep forgetting. Promise to make this happen soon! Around 6 or 615pm each night, you can feel the excitement in the air as they children know the DP is about to begin.

Nanny 911

So we have begun dealing with the huge undertaking of discipline and behavior. Unfortunately we only have two formal caregivers at the moment. Of course all staff members take turns helping with the children and showing them affection; however it is such a huge job for just two women, and tiring! Within the past few days we have really seen some need for discipline. The children crave attention, which is normal. But unfortunately they also love bad/negative attention (again, normal) which happens when they purposely do not listen and choose to disobey. While ever frustrating, we cannot help but have patience because they have not been taught before about and HELLO they’re orphans and want lots of attention.

A few nights ago, I had some of the older boys help me by leading by example—as the younger boys mirror the behavior of the older ones. The older ones were more than ecstatic to lead and have some responsibility. Positive reinforcement never hurt anyone! I must admit my Kiswahili is still sub-par for explaining the importance of obeying, but the older children help us, as does Isaac with translating. Furthermore, a few nights ago when the kids were their worst, and I do mean, THEIR WORST, we took away the dance party as punishment. It saddened me so much because of the joy it brings to them, but lessons need to be learned.

A Weekend off…

Ellen and I are off to Arusha this weekend for a family wedding—Mama Warra’s family. Don’t worry, I’m not getting married, though it seems many are trying to change that! We will be wearing the beautiful outfits Mama had made for us so I’ll update with a photo next week. Since we’ve been working weekends since we got here, it’ll be a nice break to get out of the dust/mud for a few days. Also, Ellen’s friend Michael lives in Arusha so we can hang around with him a bit and see Arusha. On a selfish note, I’m really looking forward to the Indian Restaurant in Arusha. Now if only we could find a thai restaurant…

Newsletter Coming Soon

We expect to have the Newsletter out within the next week or so as I’m just finishing up the edits. We recently received all of the emails from the email accounts Mama used to use so I’m also sifting through all the messages for contacts who need to receive it…sorry for the delay my friends!

Viona Update

As you know, Viona is our little girl at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam. She has a germ cell tumor for which she is receiving the treatment. She had a blood test on October 18 and just received her second round of chemotherapy treatments this week—Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Likewise, Mama Mdogo, one of our faithful staff members has been staying with her since September. Viona and Mama M will be staying in Dar until February because of the six required treatments for the child. It is pretty crazy accommodations, as each bed in the cancer ward has two children and is flanked by their respective caregivers. No extra rooms are available for the caregivers so often, the beds are for four people to sleep…

Ellen has visited Viona twice and we both will be going around November 16 or 17. Whilst there we’ll spend some quality time with them and give Mama Mdogo a break, both emotionally and physically.

 


New Email!

JAMBO!

If you have any questions about Shalom Orphanage Centre or would like more information, please email us at:

shalomorphanagekaratu@gmail.com

: D Asante


From blackberry to built-in flashlights!

Missing New York

This weekend, I went into town with Isaac to do some errands and make 525 copies. Yes, you read that correctly! Back in July before I left New York, I purchased some teaching books for preschool and grade level 3. Because Shalom does not have enough copies of exercise books for each child, I have made some small packets for each so as to make learning easier. Besides, I am not the best artist so I figure I’ll save them the joy or that! Having legible images in front of you is always easier PLUS having the lesson prepared saves about 30-45 minutes of class time.

After errands, I came back to the volunteer house and opted to relax a bit so put on ELF. Since two of the older girls from Shalom were there at the house, I thought it’d be nice to show them where I am from, the lovely Big Apple. Of course this was a fabulous decision because they enjoyed seeing it. However I was instantly overcome with sadness. Autumn-Christmas time is my favorite time to live in Manhattan and seeing Buddy the Elf frolic on the familiar streets of the City that Never Sleeps was bittersweet. Moreover, Ellen returned from her adventure in Dar so we watched Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa. All I have to say is only in New York could Alex the lion have a career. Furthermore, Moto moto…a name so nice you must say it twice.

 

Seriously though, I must admit, it is most odd to reflect on how different my life is in New York and in Karatu…yet I feel home in both places! In NYC, you’ll find me blackberry and coffee in hand, iPod in ears, fashionably dressed and ready to go. Here in Tanzania, I glance in my small compact, maybe once a day…I don’t have the luxury of easily gazing in the large windows that fill the streets of New York and are always used by passersby as their personal mirror, helping to make sure every piece of hair is in place. I think the locals will probably start to call me Simba soon, as the humidity causes quite the fro of my curly, short hair!  Furthermore, I’m only clean from evening time after my shower until I get dressed in the morning. My messenger purse is strewn across my body that is clad in some long-flowing and very figure complimenting skirt. Ha! A folded piece of paper is my new blackberry but at least the local phone I have boasts a built-in flashlight—a much-needed asset that comes in handy when the electricity is shut off at least one a week here of when I walk home from Shalom with Saning’o. Still pretty!

New BFF’s (Best Friends Forever)… and an interesting discovery: who needs tanning when you’ve got Karatu?!

Last week we had two newly-wed couples at Shalom. Both are very interested in lasting relationship with us : ). The first couple from Spain would like to send us some items, toys or clothing in a few months. The Canadian couple wants to help us make the website bigger and better! (www.shalomorphanagekaratu.org). So much has been changing since our arrival just a few weeks ago so we are more than excited to share the joy with the world! I don’t know why I was surprised, but after the two couples left, Mama Warra looked at me and said, “Maybe you soon?”—yet another suggestion for my much-anticipated marriage. Can a sister get a break?! …

Anyway! Ellen and I ventured up the road this morning (a very steep and dusty one) to FAME Clinic. [www.fameafrica.org] This clinic provides medical assistance so we of course want to become new BFF’s with them. After running into a herd of goats, two cattle pulling a big cart, two taxis and one HUGE truck going entirely too fast, we were a few shades darker. Ah, the joy!

This Thursday we are going to Tumaini School—the local English-medium institution where we are hoping to send our children once we have our Child Sponsorship Program up and running. Coincidentally I met one of the teachers from Tumaini at church on Sunday, Teacher Elli. She made me promise I come say hello! Much like many of the Tanzanians Ellen and I have met, she is super friendly! This reminds me…after Sunday’s service, one of the older girls, about 18, asked me to take a photo with her. Then about 5 other children insisted on individual photos. It was sort of awkward as they put their arms around my waist and smiled hugely…I wonder if this is how celebrities feel? Also, walking to town we’ll run into local school children who say, “Eliza!” upon seeing me. Watch out Angie!

Next week we will be meeting with CPAR, another local clinic started by Canadians. [www.cpar.ca]

We are all about the friend-making here people!


Photos : )

d

Our guitar session…just before Saning’o (pictured center…see the famous stare!) showed us his skills!

Ashley and Godlucka


More Photo Updates

5Had to…Marge, me and Rose : D6

 

 

Our new office…. : )4

Finished and beautiful!

1

1. Josephat receiving an extra boost from Courtney!

2. Wewe getting ready to do hand prints!

 

 

2!

 

3Mama Warra putting the finishing touches on our mural fun!!


Photo updates

Water used for drinking, prior to PUR1. Why we need a well for the children…using PUR water purification system.

2. Dirt particles are separated2

3 3. Clean water…4

4. Finished product…5

5. Blackboard before

6. Blackboard after!!

7. Murals at the back of the room

6

7Newly finished mural


Whistle While You Work

It is hard to believe it’s already week number deux since I arrived in Africa. It feels as though I have been here a few months already because there has been so much for us to do! Exciting update: we now have internet and a phone at Shalom. Prior to this purchase last week, all records, receipts, inventories etc were done manually in a slew of various notebooks. Isaac has begun to go through them, as almost all are completely in Kiswahili. Later this week he and Ellen will sift through them together. Also, our fave painter, Pascali, the same man who painted the veranda just completed the two offices and the baby room. It’s amazing what a few coats of paint can do to brighten things up!

On the road…always! Ellen has consistently been on the road for the past few days, whether to Arusha or down to Dar es Salaam. If she could get points for traveling via mini-van taxi, a la British Air or Delta, she’d certainly be on her way to some free trips! The most recent trip to Dar was for a visit to see Viona, one of the younger children from Shalom, who is receiving chemotherapy for cancer, and Mama Ndogo, who has been staying with her. The children in the cancer ward sleep two to a bed so all of the beds are flanked with two adults, making a total of 4 who sometimes sleep in one bed. Crazy to believe I know, but true nevertheless. A few years back Viona had a tumor removed from her stomach and in early September was sent back to the hospital because she was very ill. Now she will be in Dar until February because of the necessary treatments. Please keep her and Mama Ndogo in your prayers.

Ever see those t-shirts that read something like: “Hook’d on fonics worked for me!” For the past few days I have been working tirelessly on some giant posters to help with English lessons. Because there are not enough books even for the children to share (we have at most 4 or 5 of the same kind for groups of 20 each), I’ve resorted to having some fun with different colored sharpies. The cheapest place in town where I can make photocopies has been closed the past two days so I’ll have to try again tomorrow. Making 400 copies requires the cheapest price. In a few odd moments over the past few days, I’ve had the chance to give individual papers to some of the children. Once completed and corrected, they place them under their mattresses for safe keeping. (A project we hope to do at some point in the near future is to build cubbies under each child’s bed so he/she can store things such as this or any other personal items in a safe place). Lessons are set to begin this evening with the eldest children…Let’s hope I don’t need to break out the fonics t-shirt!

Another facelift for Shalom, ay?!

Ashley and Courtney, our rock star volunteers from Canada who stayed a few extra days to help us before continuing their travels around the world left yesterday. They helped out so much and the children LOVED them. The boys especially enjoyed Courtney’s attention and football skills. In addition to showing some TLC, the pair painted murals throughout the orphanage and repainted the black board. In the classroom, they did some fabulous monkeys hanging from trees and then in the foyer area they painted “Welcome-Karibu”…but that’s not all. The job was not complete until we had the children and Mama Warra do hand prints with acrylic paint (couldn’t use the normal stuff as most children love to put their hands in their mouth…more on this later). It truly brightens up the foyer area and was incredible fun for the children.

Becoming a local

Over the past few weeks I’ve walked into town on a few different occasions, whether to buy paint, water, stop at the Post Office or to use the internet. Recently as I walked around, not only did we run into Saning’o, our fave Maasai, but also the mason and the ladies from which Ellen and I have purchased hand-woven baskets. The local internet café owner has also become a new BFF. My fave though is the seamstress who made all the uniforms for the children of Shalom. She is just fantastic and so beautiful! Last week Ashley and I stopped in for a visit and after she and I said our greetings, we just sort of stared at each other smiling, a mutual understanding that greetings were as far as we’d get for now, for her English is limited like my Kiswahili. Ashley purchased some fabric from her and I am determined to have a dress or two made, as she’s a genius! Mama Warra actually presented Ellen and me with beautifully hand-made outfits. Ellen has zebras on hers and it’s a perfect fit! Mine, befittingly, is a flower combo in green and khaki, but I must get it tailored a bit so as to not make any friends walking in town…it’s a bit large on the bottom. I was never one for the plumber in training look…

“Takataka” Collector

I have become the resident garbage, or “takataka” collector around Shalom. From balloons, papers and even foam in children mouths (yes, I am serious), I constantly can be seen stooping with hand out as children hands over the “takataka” or more often, spits it into my hand. Glamorous, I know. Note, if you plan to visit Shalom any time soon, kindly refrain from giving balloons. I must have collected over 50 balloons, either full ones or just pieces, from children’s mouths and the floor. Thankfully many of the children now come running up to me announcing the “takataka” item in their hands, proudly handing it to me. Yusuphu, one of the younger boys is probably the most hysterical as he makes announcements half-mockingly. It’s rather endearing.

“Takataka” Disposal

Remember that kid from your class that always ate the glue in art class, or something enjoyed a nibble of loose leaf paper? Perhaps it was you?! Well my friends, meet Jackson, aka “Jacki” or “Maasai”, or as I call him, Sir Takataka. This child always, always, always has something in his mouth that he’s chewing on. Once he realized that I was coming around doing a collection, he purposely shoved all his items in his mouth at one—obviously unaware that he was all the more obvious. From this moment, a monster has been born! His favored items include stickers and paper. On Tuesday as we were doing hand-prints with the paint, Courtney, Ashley and I mapped out our plan of action for him so as to stop any temptation of licking his hands…I am not even close to kidding. C, A & I later decided that he must have an overly sensitive palate. Perhaps he’ll grow up to be a wine connoisseur.

Little John too is a constant culprit of the takataka disposal method. In the span of about twenty or thirty minutes, he spat out first a balloon and then some foam, FOAM! Note: the children’s mattresses are made of foam.

Recently some whistles were given to the children so along with the constant echoes of laughter and bouncing tennis/footballs against the concrete, Ellen and I find ourselves working to the tune of whistles…


Karibu, Welcome, & Bienvenue!

Surprises come in 3’s

1. After a busy few days of large tours last week, I noticed some bricks were missing from their normal home near the mill machine building. Likewise, the door to the machine room had been closed with a rock set in front of it. Mama brought it up to me first and said they’d just received a pig as a gift! Mind you, figuring this out was not nearly as simple as the aforementioned sentence…Mama couldn’t think of the word for pig in English, so instead said the Kiswahili term “afd;kj”. Ellen sort of remembered the word and then after I literally snorted a few times to confirm “pig”, we all erupted in laughter.

2. This same day, one generous couple returned to us after having just left on the last tour. The woman, Cecile, ran out of the car to me and gave me a wad of cash that she and her husband had just withdrawn from the bank…the donation was a lofty sum.

3. Thursday was a bit intense in the sense of information overload and lack of communication abilities. Not only was I still reeling from the pig update and the consequent groundbreaking on the animal’s pen, (apparently the mason and the carpenter do not quite understand the difference between “collecting estimates” and “giving payment”. Ah, the joy. Anyway, Friday was just as intense, as Ellen had just returned from Arusha with the internet-capable phone and we were sitting down with Mr. Nnko for some English clarification. As we finished up our conversation, I mentioned something about a computer. Moments later, Mama reappeared with a “Macbook” box—the same type of box in which my computer had arrived. Skeptical and a bit jaded from the past few days, I thought out loud, “It’s probably not a Macbook, it’ll be an older machine.” I ate my words as Mama handed me the box and I opened it to find a brand new Macbook which had been donated from one of Shalom’s largest donors. Even more dumbfounded was I as the computer turned on and all of Windows XP plus Microsoft Office had been previously installed.

Bienvenue! I have studied French for about twelve years now and actually majored in it at NYU. Over the past two years since graduating, I unfortunately lost some of my speaking abilities, as I was out of practice a bit. I’ve brought some French books with me as well as some learning CD’s and it’s a good thing because last week two French tourists on safari visited Shalom. As I walked out to greet them, I immediately welcomed there and introduced myself, all in English. As they blankly stared back at me, their guide Freddie informed me they’re from France and speak English on un peu. For the next hour and a half, I would have made my parents proud (having paid for my education). Luckily the couple was quite patient as I tried my best to explain details about Mama Warra and Shalom. Freddie was always tri-lingual, Kiswahili, English and French, so he translated for me when I hit a bump in the explanation. Again, luckily the couple was patient! It was really exciting and also really great for the couple to have someone who could speak to them, as I’m positive it was probably quite unexpected. C’est la vie!

“How are you?…Thank you!” So different yet so similar I have really been trying to learn Kiswahili, especially key phrases like “Sit down” “Don’t eat that, spit it out” “What happened and who did it?” and of course the common responses to greetings. It’s a slow walk that I am on, but I am getting there! Recently Saning’o, a lovely Maasai warrior, has been awarded the task of protecting Ellen and me and all others at the volunteer house. Saning’o is wonderful and never without his giant spear and a reassuring smile, so we, of course, feel safe. Anyway, I realized just a few days ago that Saning’o and I are not so dissimilar. Yes, there are obvious differences such as Maasai vs. delicate flower and his insane staring abilities (he’ll stand outside of our porch and just stare at us for ten, even twenty minutes at a time without breaking concentration); however our language abilities are about the same. Here is our normal conversation:

EK: Hello Saning’o

S’o: Hello Eliza!

EK: How are you?

S’o: Thank you!

OR

S’o: Jambo Eliza!

EK: Jambo Saning’o! Habari

S’o: Nzuri insert some Kiswahili with a smile

EK: Asante sana!

Since Ashley and Courtney brought a guitar with them and both Ellen and I had ours, we had a jam session a few nights ago after dinner was over. As our trusty Saning’o stood watching from outside the grills of the porch with Teme, Shalom’s Maasai guard, I offered over my guitar to them. Within moments both Maasai were busy strumming the instruments. I must say, Saning’o has quite a knack for it…yet another similarity! Don’t worry, I will not be seen bearing a spear any time soon! Hakuna Matata friends!

Lastly! All of those interested in child sponsorship: we are still collecting the exact figures needed to create the proper programming and get all of this set up. I promise to have some additional updates within the coming weeks–thank you so much for your patience!


The adventures continue!

Hello there!

I feel sort of spoiled having access to the internet twice is just one week!

It’s still busy here and we’ve actually picked up a lot of momentum within the past two days. Ellen and I had a very successful and productive meeting with Mama Warra and Mr. Nnko on Monday afternoon during which we mapped out some larger one-time projects, as well as some on-going ones. We have a pretty fantastic start on upcoming projects and priorities for 2010! Additionally, we had a meeting yesterday with all the staff to formally introduce Ellen, Isaac (a Tanzanian man who just joined the team as an administrative assistant), and myself, as I’ve received some new duties.

The staff is incredible here and I admire them all so very much for the hard work they do. They consistently remain all smiles and shower so much love upon the children it makes me cry…in fact, that’s just what I did during the meeting yesterday. So professional, I know! As we went around the room and Mr. Nnko introduced each member, he had them stand up when he explained what they do. Some of the women were so shy and just looked down as his words filled the room. These 14 people are some of the most humble I have met. Period.

Anyway, it was decided that I will be teaching English to the children daily and teaching the staff twice a week. Once the latter announcement was made during yesterday’s meeting, the room erupted with clapping and shouts! The staff is SO excited to learn English. I just hope I am an adequate teacher for them! Instructing the children is one thing, as the older ones have a much better grasp on the language and the little ones just crave your attention they’ll do anything! I’m sure it’ll be yet another adventure with the staff but I truly feel blessed to have such an opportunity to spend quality time with them.

Ellen is just great and she is really going to be a rock star here at Shalom. I am so thankful to be working with her. We cleared out the office yesterday where she and I (for the time being) will be. It’s perfect and right on the front of the building so we can see any time someone arrives at Shalom. There’s so much light and we will actually be hiring the painter to paint the room, as well as Isaac’s office, and the babies’ bedroom later this week. (paint purchased compliments of Journeys of Solutions).

We had two fantastic volunteers, Courtney and Ashley, arrive at Shalom on Monday night to help for the next week or so. Ellen actually met then en route to Zanzibar and invited them to come. Since they are traveling around the world and have been for 7 months, their schedule is pretty flexible. The two are fantastic and from Canada. The children especially loved playing football with Courtney, as they LOVE when guys come to visit. They are going to help us paint some murals on the walls in addition to spending time with the children.

I know some of you are interested in sponsoring children to attend the local English-medium school. Ellen and I will hopefully visit next week and get the definitive details on cost breakdown and such.

We are hoping to get internet at Shalom as well, as it’s quite special attempting to access it in town. One can learn so much patience trying to do so…special.

Until next week….asante sana.


Photo Updates part deux

Ezekial enjoying the verandaMama Warra with the children, coloringWith Norahall the goods

1. Mama doing Aurelia’s hair

2. Ezekial enjoying veranda

3. Mama Warra coloring with some of the children

4. With Norah on the veranda

5. All the goods: shoes, shirts, croc-like sandals, socks, sweaters…

6. News shoes, socks, shirts and sweaters! (pants and skirts are to arrive soon)

New shoes, socks, shirt and sweaters!

97.  New schools…a perfect fit!


Photo Updates!

Godfrey and Yusuf packing up the shoes!17 pairs of shoes...Wire protectors we purchased in july

newly finished mill hutAnother mural by JOS volunteersMurals in younger boys' bedroom

1. 17 pairs of school shoes for the children.

2. Godfrey and Yusuf packing up the 17 pairs of shoes.

3.Wire protectors for lights that we purchased in July

4. Newly-finish mill hut…another step closer to sustainability because soon the people from town will come here and pay to use the mill machine. Ah, community relations : )

5. More murals!

6. Mural painted by JOS volunteers in younger boys’ bedroom

7. Beautiful Veranda with some new text : )

new paint

8. Flower murals painted by JOS volunteers in younger girls’ bedroom

Flower murals in girls room


Extended family, off road travel and more culturing experiences…

Saturday after heading back to town and negotiating some purchases and checking email, we headed back to Shalom for a few minutes. Soon enough, we were back traveling to Arusha with Mama to visit the home she used to share with Mr. Nnko. She has not lived there for about 4.5 years, when she began her work with Shalom. We took a taxi to town and then switched to a minivan for the 2 hour journey. Normally, this would have been quite comfy as it was an 8 seater. How silly of me…soon I found myself in the middle front seat between the driver and a passenger, straddling the radio/AC vent with my legs resting upon the men on either side of me. On the bright side, at least I wasn’t in one of the Dali Dali vans that achieve into circus-like feats with up to 20 people stuffed in, some hanging out the windows. It is only my 5th day here so I have about 85 more to achieve the feat…

Anyway, the drive was beautiful and soon we were in Arusha at the house. We spent time with Mr. Nnko’s mother and some extended family, ah the beauty of the extended family. It was such a community, Ellen and I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Well, except for the small child who was terrified of us and would cry upon our approach to her. Note: by the close of Sunday when we left, we couldn’t help but find it hysterical. She would glare at us from her mother’s arms, both petrified and mesmerized. HAHA.

We enjoyed a delicious Indian dinner in Arusha where we met a young guy from Canada, Michael. He has just climbed Kili as a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s Disease. After dinner we headed back to the house and during the ride, Mr. Nnko said, “Elizabeth, tell me about the ring on your finger…are you expecting something big soon?” **Since my return to Africa, I have been donning a small opal ring on my left ring finger so as to avoid marriage proposals from interested suitors. Carrying around a guitar case does not help the matter as most are encouraged even more to approach and ask! Well, after explaining this to Mr. Nnko, he insisted, “Elizabeth, do not close the door so soon! I have someone who is interested in you but we African men respect the ring.” Ah, exactly! Finally I had accomplished my wish. The four of us were in hysterics at the conversation and Mr. Nnko had again tried to sway me, as he wants to see my stay (and get married) in Tanzania. The ring is still firmly upon my finger : D

Sunday was beautiful—we visited the village where Mr. Nnko and Mama grew up and the same place where some of their family members still remain. It is about 30 km from Arusha. Again, the off road experience was like none other. Surely had the window been fully open, I would have found myself upon the dusty road!  The church is on a plot of land that Mama’s father donated and the church was planted by Mr. Nnko, truly a community effort! We sat in the front, flanked by Mama and Mr. Nnko on either end of us. We were asked to share a verse or brief teaching so we opted for excerpts from “My Utmost For His Highest”. As we read in English, Mr. Nnko translated into Kiswahili for the tiny congregation. Before the Benediction, we sang hymns in Kiswahili and luckily had hymnals so we were not completely lost. As we sang, the breeze blew in over our shoulders and filled the brick structure. Fuchsia flowers were hung from the windows and grew in through holes in the structure. Truly, it was a beautiful place of worship.

After service we shared a soda with the pastor, an older man with wrinkles from smiling and laugher around his mouth and eyes. When he smiled, he warmed the space. We then went back off road to drive to Bibi’s home, where Mama Warra grew up. Her mother is in her 90’s and beautiful. We shared lunch and looked out from the spectacular place. For miles we saw trees and hills and even the top of the Ngorongoro Crater. We ventured back down and visited another church and some family members from Mr. Nnko’s side. Once back in Arusha, we packed the car up and prepared for the 2 our journey to Karatu. We stopped at the gas station where Ellen and I picked up some water and juice and Mama got some milk and other items.

On the road, Mama handed Ellen and me each a cold milk. “Brookside Cultured Milk.” I should have known from Mr. Nnko’s preface, “It’s not fresh milk.” that I was in for a real treat. Ellen took a swig first and said, “I hope it tastes like a milkshake!” Shortly she handed the drink saying “Salmahani” (I’m sorry) to Mr. Nnko. My turn came and I took a hopeful swig of the cold, cold beverage. As the chunky white coldness went down my esophagus, it was soon fighting to come back up. Truly this was not fresh milk and I was the one who was instantaneously cultured!! As I wondered which would be more offensive: giving the drink back to Mama or sucking it down then throwing it right back up, I opted for just holding it, perhaps hoping the children at the orphanage could have it. Luckily once back in Karatu, two of the small girls shared the treat

The upcoming week is going to be very busy again, as Ellen and I will begin to prioritize with Mama for Shalom’s needs. Please feel free to check back early next week for another round of updates. I hope to load pictures soon too—the connection currently is too slow to do so. Apologies! Hope the stories can give you some ideas of the fun we are having!!

Love from Tanzania!

p.s. please check out Ellen’s blog for some more fun reading!!

http://www.shalomorphanagekaratu.blogspot.com


ELIIIIIIZA!! WHERE’S ELIZABETI?

Habari my friends!

Hujambo? (how are you?)

As expected, the shuttle drive from Nairobi to Arusha was quite special and even as I watched the beautiful African landscape, it felt as though I had never left. There were some tourists who were traveling on Riverside Shuttle for the first time and fielded their questions to me, which was a somewhat odd experience. I didn’t realize how much I had learned about Tanzania and the process of stopping at the borders…that and they were comforted that I spoke English. Anyway,  since the moment I arrived in Karatu last Wednesday evening, there has hardly been time to even catch my breath. From meeting with the two JOS volunteers who did a fantastic job (read below) to visiting with the children and staff, trying to conquer jet-lag, running to the markets for much needed uniforms, making new posters for the classrooms to help the children learn about animals and where/how they life, giving tours to visitors, to finally and most importantly prioritizing what needs to be done at Shalom, I think it has registered that I am back!

As Mr. Nnko drove me down the familiar road to Shalom, we met some of the 5 or so children who had been my English students in July. Their hands and arms waved furiously as their mouths stood agape at seeing me. It was so heartwarming and soon shouts of “ELIZA!”  filled the air. They were en route to school so there wasn’t time to greet them, but I received a wave of hugs and smiles and shouts as we pulled into Shalom’s property. I was nearly knocked over by some of the older ones who almost tackled me! We could only stay briefly because I needed to get settled but the children would not let go of my hands long enough for me to enter the car. Home, at last.

Sue and Barb (jos volunteers) were great and a special thanks to them for their work! We all had dinner on Wednesday night to debrief and chat about Shalom. [The first thing both Sue and Barb and Yusuf mentioned was: “The children keep asking: “Where’s Eiza? Where’s Eliza?” I felt sort of bad that they had had to field these questions, but of course I was so flattered too, as I had missed the children dearly.] The murals in the bedrooms are beautiful–start and cars/footballs (soccer balls) decorate the boys rooms, while flowers are upon the walls in the girls rooms. Sue, Barb, Godfrey, and Yusuf did an impeccable job on these!! Additionally, a new coat of paint was applied to the walls of these 4 bedrooms so they seem so much brighter now! An entire 2nd set of uniforms was purchased for the 26 school-aged children.

In fact, bright and early on Thursday morning–so much for conquering jet-lag– Yusuf, Godfrey, Sue and I headed to the markets. AS we walked through the familiar streets to pick up the remainder of the items–17 pairs of shoes, 22 shirts, 18 sweater, 20 pairs socks-we paid a visit to the seamstress who made the pants and skirts in July. She remembered we and we both shared a laugh. She is to deliver the final 11 skirts and 15 pants sometime this week for the children.

Later on Thursday, as I stood on the newly finished veranda from July, time seemed to stand still. Some of the boys were playing football on the veranda while others were sitting on the steps coloring various pictures. Some still were running about in the front, taking turns pushing each other in a wheelbarrow. In between taking turns with each set of children, I just felt absolute serenity. Suddenly, Samwel shouted, “HELICOPTER!” Instantly, about 15 children joined him on the grass while some other gathered on either side of me to gaze up at the sky. As they were all silent peering up at the sky, I wondered, “Would they ever be able to feel the thrill of soaring through the clouds in a plane or helicopter? Would they be able to one day look down on their beautiful homeland with wonder, as I had just days before?” Within a few minutes, the soccer game was back on and laughter and shouts of “eliiiiiiiza” filled the air again.

I learned quite a lot within the first day back at Shalom and I must admit, I was pretty overwhelmed at the moment. Some much for “pole pole” (slowly). Among the updates: a new washing machine was donated by a passerby on safari and the corn mill hut structure is complete. We are now just waiting for the machine to arrive. Additionally, a donor is in the process of raising funds for the crucial addition of a well. Similarly, I also learned that Shalom’s water had been turned off because they didn’t have enough money to pay the bill. First thing on Friday morning, Mama and I headed over to the Water Supply  Office and paid off half of the $1,000.00 bill. (Accumulated since April!!!) The water was turned back on shortly after our visit and I will return later this week to pay the balance.

The rest of Thursday and Friday were quite busy. I started more posters and English lessons for the children. I thought I was hallucinating from dehydration as I began to hear English in the foyer. I opened the door to a group of 12 tourists from America. Though Mama Warra usually works with the safari guide to welcome guests and give them a tour (she speaks Kiswahili and the guide translates) they asked me to go ahead and do this one. Secretly, I was relieved because just the day before Mama and the guide had used their normal system and the translation was rather abrasive. Also, once the rapid-fire questions began, I was more than relieved that I was the one fielding them. In these moments, I was yet again reminded of how vital my English-speaking abilities are at Shalom. Especially because our main way of income is through the tourists who pass by whilst on safari, I was ever grateful.

Once the guests had departed and I had generously handed out my card, I continued work on English posters. Some of the girls found me in the office and promptly shut the door behind them so as to have some alone time with me. Even though we didn’t speak much as I enlisted them to help me sort through coloring books for pictures of animals, they just craved the time with me. From time to time they’d take turns asking me about a specific color for filling in the pictures of animals. “Eliiiza, this one?”

Once I had segregated the pictures into land, sea, air animals, the three girls and I ventured to the classroom where the older children  (the younger ones were still napping) began coloring the animal pictures. I had a big animal book where the children could look up their animal and see the colors, but many just made their animals rainbow colored. Again they all insisted on showing me their animals every few moments as they progressed with coloring, writing the animals name and their own name. As I thought, “Wow, this is going really well,” I heard the excited screams of the younger children and like a flood, they all poured towards me shouting “picture” “color!” wanting their own coloring page. Thankfully I got some sense of order with them while trying to peel the suction-cupped fingers of two of the smallest from me so I could walk around. Ah, those brief moments of calm in the classroom with the older ones were just a blur now!

Friday night, Mama and I headed to town, a 20 minute walk, to pick up Ellen. I was so excited for her arrival, not only for someone with whom to work for Shalom, but also so I’d no longer be eating all my meals alone and only talking to my journal at night. As is the custom here, the two young women who work at Shalom and stay at the volunteer house with me, merely prepare the food and set it before me and only after I have eaten will they have some food. On a few occasions in July I was insistent enough that they joined me. Anyway, after the power went out at the internet café inhibiting my blog update last week, Mama and I sat in the dark for about 30 minutes waiting for Ellen. Soon enough she was here and the real fun would begin. [ellen will be staying at Shalom for at least two years with a possibility of extension…]