Usa River, Arusha aka my new home
Soooo… It’s great!
Usa River is smaller than Dar and is more of a town than a city. It’s a very tropical region. Driving from the Kilimanjaro airport to Usa River took about 40 minutes and I saw members of the Masai tribe along the way tending herds of cows and also fields of Maize. Rain has not been here much this season so farmers like the Masai who depend on natural rain not irrigation systems, are struggling and it is evident in the stunted short stalks of corn. (Update: one week after this was written THE RAINY SEASON HAS ARRIVED! in full force- all my sneakers are soaked and I’m wondering when my laundry hanging on the line will ever be wearable 😂)
Stopped by the Seventh-Day Adventist University here, where my home host is a professor, and it’s a nice campus! Made my first purchase in Arusha there from a fruit stand on the side of the road- 5 bananas for 20 cents!
Sometimes I start my day with a run around a soccer field at a nearby elementary school, and by around lap 2 I have about 10 kids in their school uniforms jogging with me until school begins. It can get crowded but I won’t complain, it’s motivation to keep going and I’m impressed how the little ones can keep up for 5 laps! Everyday I have a 50 minute walk to Cradle of Love, the orphanage I am volunteering at. There are only 3 paved roads that I’ve seen since I’ve been here, the best one being the road that runs from the airport straight on thru to the town center / everywhere else is just stony rubble rocky roads. Aka extremely bumpy and dusty. Taking a dala dala ( essentially a van used for public transport that should seat 12 but squeezes in double that amount of people) is an option for getting to the orphanage but I don’t like the crowding and worry about hopping out at the right time or missing my stop, so I’ll use it sometimes when I’m feeling lazy, or running late or just for the ride home. (Today I didn’t get out at right stop – ended up having to do a 30 min walk back the opposite direction! Ugh haha) One ride is about 25 cents though, can’t beat that.
I start in the nursery with the 6 months and under babies and then switch over to the 3 and four year old group for feeding and then going for a walk to a nearby playground. On our walks it’s common to see large monkeys in the trees just feet away from us- crazy! The kids are really cute and it’s amazing to see how independent some are. Most of the 2-4 year olds feed themselves, eat really large portions, then put away their dishes and stack their chairs! All without being asked!
One thing that’s sad to see, even though there is a caring 24/7 nanny staff, is that the one-on-one attention or physical contact a baby would normally have is simply not possible at all times. Allowing a 9-month old to drift to sleep on you is discouraged because when you the volunteer leave, and there are 2 nannies for 5 babies, there just are not enough hands to go around for each baby to be rocked to sleep, so it’s important that they get used to being able to calm and soothe themselves. But sometimes I can’t help myself and just cuddle them to sleep. There’s a 3-week old here and I can hold her as much as possible so loving that! But the babies are happy and laughing little ones, and the facility is really nice. All the children are fed a vegetarian diet and nut milk. It can be interesting finding your place in a “well running machine” that has a structure/schedule in place, but I just aim to be a source of affection and happiness for the kids, and at least once a day an interaction will occur with a child- whether it be a bonding moment, or knowing they got some affection through hugs, or a fun moment where they really smiled and we laughed together- those moments solidify for me why I am here. To give attention and give love.
Next I eat lunch at the orphanage then around 2 o’clock head home. From 1-3 is rest time for the whole orphanage and the kids are in bed by 6: 30! Two houses away from my host family is a house-turned-nursery school where 30 children attend. I am going to start stopping there on my way home and probably go there two full days a week as well. Resources are really sparse at this nursery which is why I think I’ll be spending a lot of time here. Cradle of Love orphanage is very well established and has quite a few European volunteers so this nursery school may need my help more. The owner of this home nursery school opened his home to the community in an effort to support women. Women often do not work here, and if they wanted to, childcare is a problem. He takes children in from 8am- 6pm charging the women minimal fees or nothing at all. It is a really noble thing he is doing. I stopped in yesterday to meet him and the kids are so adorable and sweet. The owner is desperate for volunteers and really looking for dialogue and input with ideas to improve the center and make it the best for the children, so I really look forward to working there. He worries the children are not getting good enough nutrition because resources and funds are sparse, so I’ll be using some of my donation money to purchase the children some food supplies – sacks of corn, rice, beans etc. (if anyone wants to help with this or with other needed supplies like school supplies, please contact me! B.firstname.lastname@example.org) My aim is to help improve sanitation and nutrition conditions here.
All the food I have in Arusha is delicious and my host family is warm and inviting. It’s definitely a whole other world here but I’ve gotten used to ice cold showers (not gonna lie, the first one was brutal and I still have to count to 3 to make myself jump in😂) and no AC ANYWHERE, along with sleeping under a mosquito net. I find new mosquito bites almost everyday, but I’m taking my anti-malaria pills faithfully so here’s hoping for the best! My host family is Adventist and I was able to go to church with them this weekend which is an ALL day affair—- 9-5 pm! The area we drove through to get to the church was one of the poorest I’ve seen thus far and the road was probably the bumpiest but the church family is very close knit and inviting.
Over 40 people were in the church and only 3 cars in the lot, which demonstrates how most walk to church. Additionally song hymnals and lesson quarterlies are purchased at your own cost- how many of us in the US would buy them if they weren’t provided for free?! Food for thought.
After the service there is a potluck lunch. Then everyone remains outside together for hours, discussing the lesson or just fellowshipping, happy to be in each other’s company and relax. I’m usually ready for a nap by the time we go home for sure. Next week I’ll be singing with the choir– in Swahili– That should be interesting!
I did receive a marriage proposal at church haha, and then one older gentleman was just shocked I was 22 and not married! “You are running out of time! Getting old! You are lying to me, you must have a fiancé!” This seems to be a bit of a common theme I’ve been hearing here haha.
There are 5 other girls from Europe staying at the house, all nursing students from London volunteering at a local hospital, so with 6 twenty-something-year-olds the house is never dull!
I don’t have wifi here, it’s only available at this one cafe about a 30 minute walk from the house, and data on my phone runs out so quick so this may be the last post in awhile! It’s nice to just kick back with a book instead of a phone and be a little disconnected.
All in all, all is well and I’m happy! Thanks for all the prayers! Now for that 30 min walk home…
Much love and stay irie,
P.s. In case you were wondering
“Irie” is a Rastafarian term that means ” to be in a state of peacefulness or harmony, both within oneself and/or with the world in general.” ❤
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love”
1 Corinthians 13…
There are 37 recorded miracles of Jesus in the New Testament and only 1 written sermon (Matthew 5-7) of Jesus. Is there a message there? Yeah! So often our words can fall flat, so instead of preaching, and judging and lecturing on and on all about love and Jesus, go out there and SHOW the world some love through your actions.
Think actions not verbs today 🙂