From Donations to Done Deeds

My dad has always told me in life “You’ll never know the answer unless you ask.”
Well I asked and you all delivered and I’m so grateful.
In order to get to Tanzania I did a lot of babysitting to raise funds to cover my flight, room and board, and living expenses here in TZ, and luckily some donations from friends and family covered what I couldn’t. But that didn’t leave me with a whole lot to use for donations or projects, in fact, it left me with about 70 dollars (besides the donation used for the “Happy Teeth Center”).
But I knew I had SS friends and family (selfless and supportive) so I knew that if I found a need they would do their best to help me fill it. But first I needed to find a need and figure out how it could best be filled.
Well when you ask God to find you a need, better believe He’ll deliver.

As you know the nursery school has been a project really close to my heart and there I found so many ways to help. But also many structural changes needed to be made to make this center better, safer, and more hygienic for the kids. Sooooooo I made a GoFundMe page that collected over $1000 thanks to my amazing friends and family. Without further ado- here is where your donations went. 🙂

Car:

The van used daily to transport 20 young children and 4 staff (yes it is an 8 seater…) had a windshield full of cracks snaking across the entire front of it. Additionally the steering system was out of whack and shook badly, along with tires that desperately needed to be rotated. With the donation money a brand new windshield was installed and the steering system fixed and wheels rotated. This is such a HUGE deal as it has increased the safety of the children’s daily transport so much! Previously the van was not able to go to town because police check points are rampant here. A simple thing like not having a fire extinguisher in your vehicle can get you a 10,000 shilling ticket, so imagine what kind of ticket a terribly cracked windshield could get you. Now the van can be used to get groceries and supplies in town!:)

After! A lovely new windshield

Cracked before

 

Water: Before, each child was maybe getting half a cup of water to drink and they were having to share cups right after each other. Now each child has their own water bottle container. Bigger ones for the older kids, and sippy cups for the young ones. A random guy in town asked me what I was looking for and when I told him about the bottles he took me to a small store and when the woman there heard the cause, she gave a discount!The cups have been labeled as well and now the children can ask for clean drinking water whenever they please. 

Mattresses: super excited about this!

So again the story behind this is a little miraculous. I took the bus to find a little vegetarian restaurant I’d heard about that was in a garden in the middle of the city. When I got to town I didn’t know the way and someone came up to wanting me to buy a safari. I said no( people try to get you to book safaris allllll the time). A friend of his then offered to walk me to the restaurant because his sister worked there. I was suspicious but since it was in the middle of the bustling town with lots of people around and the middle of the day I agreed. Turns out he was legit and the restaurant was awesome. He hung around and after he’d heard I was looking for mattresses he suggested I look in town today to get some prices. I agreed that was a good idea but said I would go by myself and had no money to give him. He said no problem and found another friend to take me to the wholesale mattress stores for free. I was suspicious the whole time but in the end this turned out to be such a blessing! He knew of all the mattress stores, ones tucked away in the center of town, and was able to bargain in Swahili for me to where we got the mattresses for a steal! The next day I came back to buy them and a parent from the nursery school offered their car for me to transport them. Another blessing because no way was I carrying 11 mattresses on the bus! Fitted sheets are not a thing in Tanzania and so I had a local tailor come and make fitted sheets out of extra curtain fabric the nursery director had sitting around in his house and office. One thing that was super cool was that the nursery school director had told the tailor to take my measurements by sight only and the next day I was surprised with a custom made suit (THAT FIT PERFECTLY AMAZINGLY).

All together 10 mattresses were purchased and 1 crib mattress!

Huge improvement from 3 mattresses for 30 children! It is the perfect amount since the children take naps in two shifts.

Before: kids having to have nap time on the hard floor

Before: the older kids all having to share one of the 4 mattresses

The mattress store: definitely looked a lil sketchy and I almost didn’t go in because it was in the back of an alleyway but turned out to be good people with great prices!

All these fitted sheets were handmade by a tailor who responded to our last minute call and had them done in hours! 

After 🙂 enough mattress for all

School supplies:

I’m blessed to have amazing parents and they brought over two suitcases FULL of donations! Colored pencils and crayons are really poor quality here and don’t last long at all but now the classroom is stocked with a ton of Crayola crayons, markers, and colored pencils. A friend from high school’s mom just retired from being a teacher and was kind enough to donate two large train sets and several educational puzzles. My cousin in Canada who is a kindergarten teacher as well shipped over tons of worksheets and lesson plans. Additionally I used donation money to purchase reading books, alphabet books, writing books, and story books in Swahili. Coworkers of my father donated brown and black baby dolls (it’s really important for kids to have access to toys that look like them, and not think that the only dolls are blond barbies. Representation is very important.)

Nursery school teacher Madam Rachel just thrilled about all her new classroom supplies 🙂

Kitchen sink:

Previously the nannies were having to wash over 60 plates and pots a day crouched over a bucket using water that came out of a pipe close to the floor. Now they have a full kitchen sink complete with wooden storage cabinet. Additionally an entire box of 70 bars of dish soap and about 20 sponges were purchased.

Before: no sink, washing dishes was really difficult

Bathroom sink:

So while hand washing was instituted before lunchtime, after the bathroom it still was no such thing. In part because there was no sink. The same plumber who installed both the Teeth Center and kitchen sinks installed a sink right in the bathroom so now hand washing is being implemented.
*Cool fact *

Both the kitchen sink and bathroom sink were old sinks the director had in storage so we were able to save some costs there! Woohoo 

Outdoor hand washing:

When the children are playing outside or in the classroom their only toilet option is an outhouse outside. A hand washing tap was set up outside so that after using the toilet the children can cleanse their hands.

Chicken coop:

My parents donated funds to build a chicken coop and other donations purchased the chickens and final building supplies!

An old shed of sorts on the property was full of junk, which was really a safety hazard. Parts of the shed were reconstructed into building material for the coop and also an outdoor kitchen for the nannies. This is really a great project because not only will the chickens provide eggs for the kids and great source of protein in the diet but also when there are enough chicks the eggs can be sold as a source of revenue for the center.

In this picture I’m wearing the custom made suit the tailor surprised me with. Such a great moment when my parents got to see the coop!


Chickens happy in their new home!

Outdoor kitchen that was created from the scraps of the junk shed. 

One of the nannies happy to be cooking in the new outdoor kitchen!

Food:

At the moment the center is really struggling with food so I spent the last day in Arusha running around the town market with my parents and our taxi driver purchasing food supplies. Over 100 pounds of rice were purchased, along with beans, sweet potatoes, mangos, corn flour for ugali, lentils and peanut butter. Additionally storage containers for the rice, beans, and flour were purchased along with new mops for cleaning and a trash can with a lid for the kitchen. With food costs taken care of for a few months the center can concentrate on saving their funds and better utilizing them in the future.

Wooden toy chests:

I wanted to make sure the toys were used and didn’t just stay locked up in a room so some of the donations went towards the construction of wooden toy chests that can be kept in the main play room, easily accessible and constantly available.
Fridge/breast pumps:

I met a mother here who just had triplets! They were born 3 months premature and I started spending one night a week there helping with the night shift so the mother could get some sleep. It would be such a help to the mother if she could simply use a breast pump, store milk in the fridge and then get a little more sleep as a family member could simply warm the milk and feed the children. Additionally she is a single mother and needs to go back to work as a teacher, so this way she can leave food behind for her babies with family or nannies. Your donation money helped me buy a small fridge for her and the baby’s room. My mom brought one pump and a cousin donated another as backup! A post on a Facebook group of moms from my hometown who all have twins and triplets, it’s called “Moms of Multiples”, got tons of baby clothes, bibs, and bottles donated! They made their way to Tanzania and the mom was blown away!!! The babies are extremely tiny (2 pounds is the littlest one!) and they were in 3 month clothing- much too big for them so this new clothing will be such a help. 🙂 

Such a nice moment when my dad got to meet the triplets.

Nasra and her three triplet boys- Isaac, Ishmael, and Ibrahim. They’ve come a long way from weighing 900 grams at birth! 


Salaries:

Finalllly,

Unfortunately the center’s funds were at a slight standstill as the center is extremely flexible with payments for childcare as many of the mothers are barely making ends meet. This unfortunately meant that the nannies had not been paid for the last month of work. I was assured that the funds for the next months salary would be in order, and I used the remainder of the donation money to pay the balance of the salaries as most of the nannies are mothers themselves with mouths dependent on them for food. 

The lovely nannies.

Wall paintings:

Grateful for Florida International University student Robinson being willing to donate his time and money to paint this room for the kids 🙂

In closing:

None of this would have been possible without your donations and prayers. I’m so so grateful and I hope you see and feel that it was put to good use. These changes to the center will live on and continue to transform the children’s lives on a daily basis, contributing to better health and enriched and stimulated minds.

Proverbs 3:27 says “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.”

I thank you for acting. You’re responsible for smiles like the one below.

Meet Benjamin.

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Smile! It’s DONE! 

If you told me 3 months ago that I would be bargaining for sinks using Swahili in the industrial district of town, meeting and contracting plumbers and carpenters, and clearing stores of their entire children’s toothbrush selection I would have said HUH?! 
But that’s exactly what part of this whirlwind of 2 and a half months has consisted of and I’m sooo excited to announce the “Happy Teeth Center” at the nursery school is complete and had its first day of use today!!! 

So since I kept this on the hush-hush till it was successfully completed let me give you the background story of the past two months. So it all started when in my second week here I started noticing… wait actually let me back up, this story starts before my plane even left the United States.
At church the week before I departed for TZ, I went onstage and told the congregation where I was going and asked for prayers. Following the service, a woman I’ve never met or seen before ( and I’ve been attending this church my whole life) came up to me handed me an envelope and was soon on her way. 
Imagine my shock when I opened the envelope and found a check for $300 stating it was “to use for whatever need God showed me”. 

This was such a blessing in itself because at that point I had only raised enough money to get me to Tanzania and pay room and board but had very little to use as donations for supplies when I got there. 

Fast forward and within my second week in Tanzania I had noticed dental health was a huge issue here and had also been introduced to the nursery school next door. It’s unclear whether some of the kids even own toothbrushes and for those that do, it’s unclear how often and how well they are brushing, but if their teeth are an indicator it’s not a good situation. Instantly I thought of doing something with toothbrushes but was thinking of keeping it small- just a small wood and wire set up that would hold the toothbrushes next to an outdoor water spigot where the kids could brush their teeth every day. 
Well God had other plans. After drawing up an initial plan and diagram I showed it to the director of the nursery school and he said I LOVE IT, but we can do better- I have a room inside you can use- whatever you want to do, the room is yours. 
So right then and there I had to make the decision to go big or go home. Well going home was clearly not an option, the need was oh so present and so I decided to get to work.
Plumbers came in and walls were broken open and water pipes installed. I began going to town and walking up and down the streets where sinks were sold and getting estimates. (Grateful for the Cradle of Love manager coming with me the first time so that he could ask the price in Swahili and I got to know the local and not the mzungu( foreigner) prices.) 
But as per usual in any home building project (and this was my first one, I’m not even a fan of watching HGTV!) not everything goes smoothly. So once I finally had the sinks at the nursery center ( the original plan had been for me to cram onto the dala dala public transport with two porcelain sinks, glad someone from the orphanage was able to drive me instead),we realized the water lines the plumbers installed were not at the right height for the kind of sinks I bought. 
Next dilemma- the carpenter who came in to build a cabinet for the sinks gave me an extremely high estimate. I was on a tight budget and now with having to redo the plumbing I was despondent about what I assumed would be a very high plumbing fix cost as well. We also needed mirrors and a cabinet and the painting estimate was again way higher than I wanted to hear. It appeared things were going to go over-budget and fast. And that just wasn’t an option. I prayed about it and walked into the director’s office to think things over. That’s when I noticed a wooden cabinet with glass panels full of old books and papers. I imagined it with a fresh coat of paint and thought could that possibly work as a sink base and cabinet? “It’s yours.” said the director. Then I noticed an old large framed mirror sitting dusty in the corner of his office. “And that, are you using that?” I asked. Again the answer was “Nope, it’s yours.” Things were starting to look up now. I could check off cabinet and mirrors! All at no cost!!! Then also saw a bookshelf in the office that would be perfect for holding the toothbrushes. Again was given permission to have it. Next morning a new carpenter and plumber had a joint meeting with me- they agreed to combine the cost of their labor and materials and split the price amongst themselves – and the price was a steal! I couldn’t believe it, I had literally braced myself for the worst when they were about to say the price and you could have blown me over with a feather I was so shocked with the price. What an answer to prayer. Then to get those items out of the director’s office required a big reorganizing and throwing-out-junk effort. So a well-needed office clean out occurred as an added bonus! (It was a bit like an episode of Hoarders- we found slide-rules from before the time calculators were used, antibiotics for cows, and a slew of physics textbooks from the director’s college year.)

But the first day the water flowed through those sinks was so cool! Definitely a surreal moment- They were the first sinks in the whole house and daycare center. 

Next step: tiles. Well my indecisive self had quite a rough time with this. I even tried to get my driver to weigh in on the decision but he said “All men are colorblind! You need my wife for this!” Eventually I couldn’t decide that day so I came back another day. Well this time the man who previously had been very open to selling me the tile said it wasn’t worth his time to go to the warehouse a few blocks away for just one box of tile. Sooo I had done a 40 minute bus ride for no tile. Ended up finding it at a store closer to home and having to walj nearly one mile with it. I had purchased a lot of other school supplies that day so safe to say I was a comical sight- I looked like a pack mule! To free my hands I tied my two huge black shopping bags to my bag pack and hugged the box of tiles to my chest. The bags were pretty flimsy and so I was having a nice lil chat with God that went something like “please give the bags some strength!” Well it was a blazing hot day and I was getting tired so I got inspired by all the women I saw around me to try and carry the box of tiles on my head. Ha! Bad idea- clearlyyy I don’t have the neck muscles or balance or skill level for that. Luckily I was able to abandon that idea with out any tiles being broken in the process. On a side note it’s truly amazing to see the woman walk with things on their heads tho. You can see people with huge piles of firewood, vendors with hundred of pairs of socks, and buckets of oil just being balanced on heads with no hands holding. It’s absolutely incredible. 
After we found a guy to put in the tiles the next step was to paint the room. I’m forever grateful for two European volunteers- a doctor and a nurse- who I met and became good friends with that helped me paint that room and all the wooden fixtures for over a week straight! Absolutely could not have done it without them. 

Then hired a street sign artist from a stand on the side of the road to do the lettering on the wall and he threw in a cute elephant design for free. 

A college classmate pitched in with money to buy the last bit of the toothbrushes( both my childhood and current dentist back home have donated brushes and toothpaste that will be on their way next week in my parent’s suitcase). 
Andddd finally 2.5 months later, today we had our first morning of the kids brushing their teeth when they arrive and although we had a couple kids who would not stop swallowing the toothpaste, it was a great success! At least now 25 kids will be starting a habit of good dental health and brushing their teeth twice a day. 

I learned a lot in the process. Not giving up, how much work building a home or improving a home must take, learning to reuse or reinvent items instead of just buying, and learning to take input and advice from others because theirs could be a lot better than yours and take your idea to the next level! 

Really happy to be leaving this behind, and one plus is since most of the kids still have baby teeth, they’ll learn the good habits now to really take care of those permanent teeth when they come in and that’s definitely something to smile about. 🙂 

Verse of the day: “This is GOD ’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as GOD: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’”

Jeremiah‬ ‭33:2-3‬ ‭(MSG‬‬)
One thing I’ve learned is God’s got this and God’s got us. When things aren’t going right-talk to Him. It’s okay to complain, it’s okay to be frustrated, God understands and He cares. 

When things go right and even when they’re going wrong, give Him thanks, because He’s carried you this far and He’ll carry both you and the work you’re doing, to completion. 

Crazy to think when I was thinking wooden toothbrush stand in the dirt outside, perhaps He may have been chuckling in heaven saying “Nah, we’re gonna go bigger.” 

So rest easy knowing God’s got a plan for your life and most likely it’s bigger than your wildest dreams, just trust Him.

Day 1! First day using the “Happy Teeth Center”

The very first rough sketch of initial plans The room before any construction

First water pipes in

The very first day water flowed in the sinks!!!

If you look at that bottom cabinet- that became the sink base!

The UK doc and nurse and I are extremely proud of this wall! Took about 3 hours of taping to get this design 🙂

Vincent brushing his teeth!

The little ones need a little extra help

The number 60

Progress:

Ay yi yiiii where to begin??? Well it’s officially been 60 days in​​Tanzania! So much has occurred it’s a little overwhelming to even think of writing it all down. So I’ll probably condense a lot and let the pictures and captions do a lot of the explaining. (and in case you’re not a read to the bottom type of person- there’s a gofundme.com link so check it out!)

But an example of how each day is crazy and different: this was today.

Started the morning meeting with a carpenter about a special project I’m working on, walked to the orphanage, hung out with the children, on stirring duty for the giant pot of ugali that would be lunch, then in the afternoon hopped on the back of a dirt bike with a friend from the orphanage (yep there were 3 of us on there including the driver, don’t worry mom and dad I’m fine!) and trekked up the mountain to a local dressmaker whose shop was smaller than the size of my bedroom. Spent part of the afternoon designing a dress in broken English and Swahili for a wedding I’ve been invited to, then walked through banana trees and foliage for a good 30 minutes to reach the house of my friend for a quick snack break( rice of course). Then it was time for the dirt bike ride back down the mountain- where the entire time the driver never even had to turn the engine on, due to the incline. Reached the bottom- hopped into the dala dala (bus), see a mother board the bus and hand her baby to a stranger in the front and push her way to the back to the only available seat, then I joined the chain of hands helping to pass the baby from the front of the bus to its mom in the back, stopped to buy food coloring that I’m adding to white paint for a craft I’m doing with the kids ( because colored paint for crafts is not available here so making my own) then a nice 1/2 mile walk to home. All in a day’s fun!

I’ve really settled into life and a bit of a routine here. One thing that also seems to be a part a part of the routine is the rain- OH my goodness it never stops! Once we had our clothes drying on the line for 5 days straight! Finally we brought them in in desperation- I was running out of dry clean clothes! We utilized every surface in the house to hang clothes and when it looked sunny it was a mad dash to the laundry line to hang our clothes for the 1 hour of sunshine. It finally appears to be letting up which is great, because walking on muddy roads is no picnic either. Seasons are also opposite here, so it’s heading into the chilly season and that combination of wet and cold makes everyone sick. All the kids were coughing with runny noses last week and now I seem to have caught whatever they had as well, but I’m on the recovering end of it so no worries, just a cough is hanging around.

So Monday to Wednesday I go to Cradle of Love Baby Orphanage and it’s funny how things change. At the beginning I thought I would always be with the babies but now I choose to usually always be with the 3-4 year olds! Perhaps it’s because I miss my own four year old nephew or because every time I visit the nursery the babies seem to sleeping but I’ve really grown to love this older group! (I’ll be doing a night shift in the nursery soon tho- I’m sure the babies won’t be sleeping then!) Additionally I’ve really gotten to know the staff and now a good amount of my time each day is spent in the kitchen helping prepare the meals and then I also eat at lunchtime with the staff. It’s nice being around a circle of women in the kitchen and it’s comforting in a sense to have a daily communion like this as I miss moments in the kitchen with my family back home. It’s also been really good to watch and learn how to cook African dishes. I have a new respect for cooks who have to prepare large quantities because literally stirring the giant pot of porridge, my arm aches and I almost break a sweat!
I’ve also tried to learn as much Swahili as I can. I think it’s easy to get comfortable and stick to English and only communicate with those who can speak English, but that just can’t work for me… mainly because I love to talk to any and anyone, and additionally I need to know what people are saying about me! Ha at the beginning of my time here I probably accepted some marriage proposals by accident, but now I can distinguish if someone random is telling their friend I’m their girlfriend and I can butt in and say “Mimi siyo mpenzi wake!” (I’m not his girlfriend! I don’t know him!) My Swahili definitely isn’t great by any means, but I try because the bottom line for me is if we can’t communicate we can’t connect and we are strangers in the same room. While I have experienced how connection can transcend the lack of common language, if I’m going to be in a place for an extended time I want to learn as much from the people there as I can and I can do that so much better if we can speak and share life. They’ve led a different life than me, and thus have a different world view and I’d love to see through their lens and get a different perspective. Plus, when dealing with a room full of kids who only speak Swahili, you find you better learn some Swahili fast or it’ll be a room full of chaos! Swahili really is so different from English though, especially in the sounds used and the way your mouth forms the words, so it’s been quite interesting trying to learn and at the beginning especially I looked and sounded ridiculous trying to pronounce words. Random fact: there is no letter Q or X in the Swahili alphabet!

When I came to Tanzania I really wanted to get a good idea of how orphanages work and I feel like that has definitely happened. I’ve seen how meal prep goes, what bills there are to pay, and I love accompanying the cook on the weekly grocery trip to the huge open air market. It’s fascinating how many fruits and vegetables we need for one week! For example- 60 tomatoes and 12 pineapples! (That costs less than 20 bucks)

I lucked out so much with my host family. It truly does feel like a family and I feel 100% comfortable and we laugh a lot . It’s typically my host mom and dad, Joshua and Beatrice, and a U.K. volunteer Jess. Jess was supposed to leave about 3 weeks after I arrived to head home to England but ended up extending her trip for another 3 months so it’s been really fun hanging out together. We go dancing every week and it is definitely one of my favorite parts of the week. We probably dance for 5 hours straight, the music is great, and Tanzanians can dance! 10 Americans from Florida International University  in Miami are staying at the lodge next door and eat dinner with us now every night. What a small world! I’m all the way in Africa and students from a school I attended are now here! It’s crazy to kinda be the experienced voice of a Tanzanian traveler and answer their questions and show them around the town when a month ago I was just as new to it all as they currently are! The food here is still great although I do miss some American food. I still love how all my food is unprocessed and a good amount of it even comes from my backyard here. At the nursery school there are three huge avocado trees with over 100 avocado on them each! That’s wild to see when in the US, it can sometimes to be hard to find good avo in the grocery store. Miraculously the number on the scale hasn’t changed despite a huge increase in carbs in my diet here. One day I had rice for breakfast lunch and dinner! All the extra walking is probably all that is saving me from not fitting into any of my clothes! So amen for that haha.

On Thursdays and Fridays I teach at the nursery school. One thing that has been interesting to deal with is such a lack of resources. I’m blessed in that I have a lot of experience with young children and spent much of high school as director of a program for young children where we taught about many different things- animals, manners, plants, etc – so I have a lot of games and crafts in my arsenal to pull ideas from. Howeverrrrrr, it’s different and difficult to not have supplies easily at your disposal. At the nursery school there was not even paper or crayons and only broken pencils when I got there, so any craft ideas I have to be really creative to find the supplies. And it’s not like in America where I can go to Wal-Mart or Michaels craft store and have everything in need. I have to go to little stalls that sell stationary and try to find what I need. Another things that can be tricky is planning the lessons. One night, with no copy machine, I was up till 4 am making alphabet worksheets for sixteen children by hand. There’s no library to go get books from, and while I’m lucky to have google on my cellphone and Pinterest from which  to gain lots of ideas, the teacher here doesn’t have access to the internet to get pictures from or lesson plan ideas. I try not to use too much technology in the classroom, such as showing the kids pictures on my tablet, because I don’t want the teacher to have trouble capturing their attention when I leave because they’ve gotten used to technology, as she will only have the chalkboard to teach them with. I did find some lesson books in Swahili here in a bookstore that have been a big help. But all in all it’s been a good challenge and I try to do things that the teacher can replicate and expound on in the future with resources she has. For example- everyone in my household now knows to save toilet paper rolls because so many crafts can be made with them! I’ve learned it doesn’t have to cost a lot to be good- one day we made paper mache bowls and all that took was some flour, water, and old newspaper! And the kids absolutely loved it. It was so cute, when I started making the flour and water paste (it’s the glue for the craft) one of the children was like “You are making chapatis! ” which is a flat bread here in Tanzania- quite delicious by the way. Most of these kids have never made crafts before which is a crazy thought. Imagine trying to be a preschool teacher but only trying to teach your five year old students verbally, with no coloring or crafts, or books or drawing. Not an easy task for their teacher! The teacher has not gone to school for teaching but simply has a big heart for children, so I’m glad to try and give some new ideas for the classroom from my experiences with kids in the past, even though I’m not a trained teacher either. Additionally it’s been really good to have dialogue about discipline of children. For example- hitting children in school (which unfortunately is not uncommon here in TZ), and even though at this school it was only a tap with a pen on the hand, it’s been nice to see changes implemented and that completely reduced. The concept of “time-out” was a novel one that will also hopefully cut down on discipline issues and disruption. I’ve really grown attached to the kids at the nursery school and a typical day is teaching from 10:30-1:30, then lunch and just hanging out with the kids till 5 pm. At the end of the day over 20 kids pack into an 8-seater van for their drive home.

Tragedy recently struck this region as a bus filled with elementary school children crashed off the side of the mountain and over 30 children died. The entire town and country was shook by these events, and a massive funeral was held in the city.

Education in general here can be a bit of a struggle. The government recently took away schoolfees, which is a plus for those who previously couldn’t afford to send their kids to school, but on the other hand so many more children are now flooding the public schools and there is neither space nor teachers for them! In the government schools it is not uncommon to have ONE teacher for a classroom of SEVENTY students! Imagine trying to makesure all the children are learning, it’s impossible, and one on one attention can never ever happen. A teacher here told me “you just have to generalize and assume and hope they are all learning.” Her children are lucky to attend private school but even there a good classroom ratio for her 7 year-old child was one teacher to 45 students! As a result of the influx of students, many schools have now gone to half day systems. Some children come in the morning- filling the classrooms- some classes are even held outside- then at noon they leave to go home and another batch come to fill the free classroom space and start their school day. Many schools do not have the money to feed children and often the school will let the children out early so they can go home to eat. I ate dinner with a teacher and her family and her personal childhood story of how school was for her in the villages is quite sobering. Many children wake up before dawn to make the long journey to where the school is. She said they wouldn’t eat before they left then they would be at school from 8-4, and since there was no money for food there either, they wouldn’t eat all day. Then they would go home, but perhaps their parents wouldn’t be home from work yet so imagine- no food till 6 pm! And these are young children, six year olds and eight year oldstrying to learn on empty stomachs and with no school supplies- not a recipe for success at all. But I’ve also seen the schoolwork these children are required to do and it’s challenging! Some of the questions are definitely more advanced that’s what their age group would be doing in the US.

But let’s switch to some positive talk-some areas of progress: 🙂

Handwashing!

One thing I’ve noticed here in Arusha is a huge lack of soap. People typically do wash their hands religiously before meals (many homes have a sink right in the dining room or a family member goes to each person with a bucket and bowl of water at the table) but the hand washing can often only be with water and hand washing after the bathroom is not that common, especially as when you are out and about shopping or something, most public bathrooms won’t have soap available. Here in many places a bottle of soap is literally a soda bottle half filled with water half filled with soap, with holes poked into the lid and it makes sense- soap is so concentrated might as well dilute it to make it last longer. So one night I spent my time making these “soap bottles” for both the orphanage and the nursery school. At the nursery school, furniture is sparse and so the children were eating the food sitting on the cement floor and weren’t washing their hands before meals. This is especially a problem because some meals are eaten with the hands, no cutlery involved, so hand hygiene is really a critical need here. Well I got a large mat for eating time for them to sit on and taught about hand washing, even making up a little song for it, and now hand washing takes place before every meal! That’s 30 kids now eating with clean hands and that’s a win in my book! It’s great to know it’s really sticking with the kids as the director of the nursery school told me that he tried to give one child a cup of tea ( hand washing not really required to drink a beverage of course) and they said “No! Madam says we must wash our hands with soap before any food!”

It’s been really great to see other changes put into place at this daycare center, and it really is a nursery school with a great cause of empowering woman so they can go to work and support their families.
I’m busy basically alllll the time- whether it be at the orphanage, teaching, or planning a lesson, or running around the markets purchasing shoes or supplies with donated funds, or hiking for fun. I’ve been working on one really big project here and it should be finished this week! Can’t wait to reveal it to you! 😉

SOOOOO how can YOU help?
I have one month left here and I really would love to leave this nursery school and one other in the area with cabinets stocked with school supplies and food! Additionally, the children could use sleeping mats as they normally nap for three hours usually sharing a small twin bed or on the cement floor. Personal water bottles ( like sippy cups) would also be really good as the kids don’t drink much water.

I have some other projects in mind too and the good thing is if you feel inclined to donate, unlike donating to a mass organization and not being sure where your money has gone, I will be here making sure it goes right to supplies and helping the children and will show you the pictures to prove it! Plus foreign currency goes a long way here! One friend from college donated $60 and with that I’ve been able to buy about 30 shoes for orphans here!

If you’d like to help, just click on this link and the go fund me webpage will tell you all about it!

http://www.gofundme.com/42fbmjwc

View of Mt. Meru

Some of the shoes purchased for the orphanage children!

this is Happy, happily gazing at Mt. Meru as we drive the car packed with children home at the end of the day. 

Learning about plants

Breakfast- that one day of rice for every meal!

Secret Project work! 😉

Toilet Paper Roll Butterflies!

Little neighborhood buddy Ibrahim, who comes over every few nights to read and do crafts. 

She showed me how its done! It’s crazy how the little babies know to grab around your neck as you’re tying the wrap. 

The children now eating on a clean mat instead of the cement floor. yay! 🙂

Upcycled old coffee cans into pencil holders for the kids using a surf magazine and glue.

The search for the perfect fabric!

15 mile hike later- climbed up under this breathtaking waterfall. 

Getting there was quite a task! We wouldn’t have made it down the slippery slopes and through the river without these local boys that’s for sure!  They make the trek in flip flops up to five times a day!

Brunch one day- everything straight from the ground.. minus the egg haha. 

My favorite lil Guy at the orphanage, Gifty. We love to sing together.

Mom came through with an amazing care package! ❤ vegan protein shake, vegetarian hot dogs, and Nutty Bars?? What more could I need! And is it a coincidence that two days after I got the charging power pack she sent, we were kind of stuck on the path to the waterfall and I needed the extra charge to let our host families know we were okay? God always come through. 

Waterfall hike; hike 8 miles up 34 floors of elevation to here. Then its a downhill slippery descent to the river, then follow the river and times walk through it till you reach the falls!

little Happy gazing happily at Mt. Meru, this is in the car packed with over 20 kids

On one of my hikes I passed an orphanage and stopped in to see if they needed anything. Turns out Freddy here has been struggling to get to school in the mud. Here he is happy to receive the rainboots that one of my college friends sponsored!

Whittling down the “paintbrushes”. Next challenge project: totem pole?

Chopping of the wood into paintbrush handles!

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Literally cut the branches off a tree with a machete, whittled and smoothed down the wood, then hot glued foam to the branches to make paintbrushes for an arts and crafts with the kiddos. 

Lunch with a view on the way to the waterfalls. I decided not to go down to the falls for a second time ( was more so acting as a tour guide for the new Americans  here) and ended up exchanging Bible stories with some of the neighborhood young boys for quite a while, as the others hiked down to the falls. Good way to spend Sabbath if you ask me!

Craft time with my neighborhood buddy. Again all you need is glue, an old magazine, and paper!

Time to decorate the paper mache bowls! Doesn’t look like the paintbrushes were used that much.. LOL

E

Now this is living! Jackfruit is my new thing- love that fruit now. 

The very first class I taught about a month ago. The kids hadn’t had crayons in months! Taught about the ocean 🙂

Nursery school director named GoodLuck, very happy to have the pictures displayed on the classroom wall. 

Moment’s peace among the market chaos. 

ALL the food for the orphanage is fresh fruits and veggies.  And all of this was about 80 USD.

 

Handwashing is a thing now before meals! Success!

Anytime I go to run or workout outside, these 3 and some others join in!

Angel learning to write the first letter of her name.

Paper mache bowls in progress. 

Alphabet scavenger hunt. Hid letters all over the yard and garden.

Jackfruit right off the tree outside our house!

Nursery school buddies 🙂

Mandazi ( fried sweet pastry) in the works! YUM

Church choir

Another time I walked in on dinner.. poor thing is just sitting next to the pot it will be cooked in. 

Lea, the cook at the orphanage. 🙂

One of the top 3 meals I’ve had in my life! Lentils, chapati bread, chile puree, brownrice, and avocado. ❤

What planning my lessons really looks like…

Lovely dead snake found right outside our house….

Weekend with the Maasai

“Pole pole!” (pronounced pole-ayy pole-ayy). If I had a dollar for every time I was told that over the course of 2 days I think I’d have enough money to eat out at a restaurant here every night for two weeks! But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up and take it from the top, from the very start of my journey to spend a weekend with the Maasai. Location: Arushatown Supermarket. So I was traveling with a guide who was a friend of my host family to Monduli, which is about a 3 hour drive away from where I live, so we had decided to stop at a supermarket to stock up on some snacks for the drive. Now let me clarify… Most stores labeled as Supermarkets here are little more than the size of 7/11 convenience shops, many even smaller than that. So when I heard we were going to a super market to grab some snacks- a tiny store perhaps made of aluminum sheets was what my mind was prepared for. Well I was like a kid in a candy shop looking all around in awe when we arrived. I walked through head swiveling, marveling at the long aisles, bright lighting, and even a produce section just like the in the US AND a bakery. I think my mouth was literally gaping open when I saw conveyor belt checkout lines instead of getting your change from someone’s waistband. I would have been happy to spend an hour simply drifting down the aisles just looking at everything. 

After a month of only buying goods in open air markets( not complaining LOVE the markets) where your fruit lays on tarps, the cement floor or in straw baskets, I truly experienced a culture shock of a second kind going into a super market today that likened to Publix! 

I was cracking myself up because it was truly as if I had never been inside a grocery store before. I was like Briana you’ve only been away a month! But hey as the quote goes “if you can laugh at yourself then you’ll never cease to be amused.” TRUE. 
Now here’s a little fact about me: I love donkeys! I think they’re so cute and lucky me here in Arusha they’re abundant. And the people think I’m crazy for thinking donkeys are so cute when to them, they’re just a work animal. I remember driving from the airport and asking my driver if he could stop for me to take a picture with a donkey we saw on the side of the road, and he just looked at me like I was crazy .. “picture with a punda( Swahili for donkey)?!” And then he ignored me and just pressed the pedal a little harder, ha probably thinking let me get this crazy American out of my car!

So anyways when I heard that you could visit a Maasai village using a donkey as transport I was so excited! So I quickly booked the trip and that brings us to where we are now in this story. 

 So after grabbing snacks, it was time for the long drive. I passed the United Nations courts where the Rawanda trials were held, and passed fields where camels were grazing. Imagine, passing a field of camels! Now that,  was cool. The Maasai tribe has been pushed further and further back as gentrification has occurred and to get to this particular base we had to enter military territory. My guide had once been a member of the military and so with pride I was shown the various buildings and training grounds. The car snaked up up the mountain, with one incline turning into another, and of course as always my Florida ears were popping from the elevation. Gazing out my window the scenery turned into dense rainforest, and if you swerved off the road- safe to say that would be a long drop to the bottom. The lush landscape was a vibrant green, with various types of trees popping out the mountain face. We could see the tracks and telltale slide marks of elephants struggling up the slippery mountains and that was insane to know elephants were right near where we were. Fresh dung piles told us we had just missed a sighting of them, which was disappointing but even seeing the massive footprints was enough of a thrill for me. 

We finally arrived at a house and I met my Maasai guide for the weekend, Lanuni. Here came lesson number one in going with the flow: there were no donkeys for me to ride. 

Safe to say I. Was. Ticked. I mean this was the whole point of the trip! 

And I had been so so excited to ride a donkey. I was told “rideable” donkeys had been switched to a different pastureland. HOWEVER, it was truly a weekend of a lifetime and I probably would have missed out on a lot had I been confined to the back of a donkey. Things happen for a reason. 
Rapid fire came the next lesson: trust. 

My guide from Arusha drove my Maasai guide and I down a road and promptly dropped us off to start our hike. Here I was in the middle of nowhere with a guide I didn’t know. But as we walked on the red soil path different village dwellings, giraffe tracks, and plants were pointed out to me and I got to know him, he was a great guy and guide. He also made sure to stop anyone walking by with donkeys in order for me to get a picture with them. Even as my enthusiasm about pundas wore off throughout the weekend he never failed to excitedly point out “pundas!” whenever any were near. Within 20 minutes my other guide had caught up with us- turns out he was just parking the car and also had known this guide and his family for years and had been bringing tourists to them for quite some time. 

Stopping on the side of the path, I got an amazing view of the East African Rift System- an active continental rift zone that it one of the most extensive rifts on the planet. It was incredible and definitely made you feel a lot smaller in the world. Looking down I could see compounds made up of 8 or so huts. I learned that the materials for the hut are collected by the men and the huts are constructed by the women. In Maasai communities women really have a large share of the work- child rearing, cooking, cleaning, fetching water, gardening….. 

Once the hut is complete, dung and mud are plastered on the walls and roof of the structure and a fire is started inside to dry and cure it. This creates a waterproof hut that is cold in the hot months and insulated and warm in the cold months! This is another reason the Maasai can be a nomadic tribe- homes can be easily constructed again in a new place and the material comes straight from the earth- in fact almost everything they need in general comes right from the earth. There is no electricity, so cold food is not an option. Imagine- no cold water on a hot day, no cold milk, and definitely no ice cream. Every now and then we’d have to hop to the side of the road to get out of the way of a piki piki- motorcycle used to transport people- as it made its way up/ down the hill. Piki pikis are really common in Arusha and you can often see up to 3 people on the back of a piki piki or an entire family- dad mom and 1 month-old infant plus the driver!!! All on the back of the motorcycle clipping along at a really fast pace down the highway. Here in Monduli the piki pikis have only been around about 5 years and the majority of Maasai there still only use walking as transport and don’t trust the piki pikis to make it up the hills. Funny because at times I didn’t believe in my legs’ ability to get me up the hill!

Which brings me to my next adventure with the Maasai- ohhhh the walking.  
So after walking awhile to enjoy the views of the valley, my guide got in his car and drove away again, leaving us to walk back home. Turns out it was all part of the experience tho and perhaps one of my favorite memories from the whole weekend! Simply to walk home from where we were took almost two hours! (Way less time by car) But it was incredible to walk through lush green fields, valleys and pasturelands, waving at all the children with their herds. Sometimes the earth rose up on either sides of us, other times it broke apart leaving deep rifts in the earth. Our feet carried us past flock after flock of cows, sheep, and goats -most tended by children under 10 and some flocks under the supervision of children as young as 4 years old! Crazy juxtaposition to how we baby young children in the USA and here they are out in the wild with full responsibility over a flock of animals and they are both thriving and surviving! It was incredible to see a way of life so preserved and upheld, and I can’t quite describe what it was like walking through the lands and through the various dwellings but it was just out of this world and SO different from any life back home. Here most parents don’t like their children to go to school, mostly because they feel it threatens their way of life as the children can tend to want to move on from the culture sometimes. Before visiting I would have thought “That’s so bad , how can they keep kids from school?” But after visiting I can at least understand the intense desire to want to preserve your way of life, and the Maasai life is not a bad one, often free of technology, living off the land and truly enjoying moments with family and friends and just living life as it comes, following the rhythms of the earth. Not that I support wanting to keep them from education but I think this is what travel is all about, learning more about others so even if you don’t agree, perhaps you can understand where someone is coming from , and not just judge harshly from across the globe. 
It was especially unreal to walk by the huts, and have the pictures I had seen of Africa back in the US, turn into reality right in front of me. The whole journey seemed to be uphill and every now and then the landscape would change drastically to deep rifts of red and black soil, that seemed almost volcanic in appearance, that we would have to jump over. Each time Lanuni would start with ” I don’t know your jumping ability…” to which the *strong independent woman* in me would reply “I got this Lanuni! Let’s go!” 

He would smile and just say “Ok, pole pole” which means slowly, slowly in Swahili. This was probably about the 5th time I’d heard pole pole by now. 

At one particularly wide fissure though I had to admit my jumping inadequacy, as the *logical strong woman* in me reminded myself of the lack of ambulances in the region, and how would anyone ever get to us to help me, as breaking a leg was inevitable if I took the jump. LOL. Needless to say we moved further down till we found a smaller gap to hop over. 

At one point we were walking through a rift with fiery orange rock walls stretching up next to us about 20 feet into the sky and a girl approached us from behind, passed us quickly and was soon completely out of sight. All of this happened at her walking pace. I turned to Lanuni, and said “This is not your normal pace is it…” Of course his reply was “Its okay, pole pole.” But I asked him to walk his normal walking pace, and let’s just say I had to jog to keep up and soon it was me saying “Pole pole!” 

The Maasai walk so fast, and it makes sense since they can walk for hours a day! For water collection, or traveling to the market, etc. Lanuni told me he can complete a walk to town- 24 km- in two hours! The last part of our journey was completely uphill and only sheer willpower got me up there, I was huffing and puffing the whole way, and my inner conversation was “Briana you will not faint on this hill. Briana you will not get elevation sickness.” Sometimes you have to be your own motivational speaker. Lanuni of course was there to offer his own words of motivation, you guessed it- “Pole pole.”
When we finally reached home , sitting down at the table to eat I learned more about the customs of the Maasai. (Disclaimer: these were the customs where I was, I don’t have enough Maasai knowledge to claim them for all Maasai, simply the Maasai in the region I stayed.) First off, men and women don’t eat meals together. Even from the age of 2, a young boy will no longer sit to eat with his mother. *Being non-Maasai I was exempt from that rule and my guide could eat with me.* Women are not allowed to cook meat for men, and any meat touched by a woman will not be eaten by a man. Additionally the only meat a women can eat is the stomach or small intensifies. Special exemptions are made after childbirth when a woman is made a special soup containing meat and also given animal blood. A woman cannot even look at a man while he is eating meat! If having a conversation with him while he is eating, she needs to turn the other way and avert her gaze. Since our meal was vegetarian that issue did not come up. Some other traditions I found very interesting is that after childbirth the father will not see his child for the first time until after perhaps 2-3 months! Additionally husband and wife have separate beds. 
After a meal and some quick bonding time with the lil one of the house- a 2 year old member of the family named GoodLuck who fell asleep on me following lunch – it was time to hit the market. Aka time to start the 45 minute walk across fields and down the hill to market. I think my shopping habit would be nixed in the US if I had to walk 45 mins to the shopping district, that’s for sure. At the market was the usual fabric and produce with the addition of a stretch of grassy area that was specifically for selling livestock. And of course the area where meat was butchered and sold was male only. All around me people were adorned in garments creating a swirl of traditional Maasai plaid patterns all around me in reds, blues, and greens. Many women had silver earrings that attached to multiple holes in the ears and in some cases the nose. 

The Maasai are a striking people- typically tall and skinny- and I saw many beautiful faces. One older woman was so beautiful, with her face framed by hundreds of white beads attached to earrings that looped and hung in a scalloped formation and hundreds more beads wrapped around her neck. She had two scarification marks under her eyes on her cheeks, in the shapes of moons, and I learned that these are given at a young age with the belief that they prevent disease in the eye, although not all families participate in the practice. I couldn’t help but have my guide ask her if I could take a picture of her, but some Maasai are very shy about photos and she refused. I wish you could have seen her. 

The hustle and bustle of the market was in full swing, and I didn’t stand out as much as I thought I would even though I was the only non-Maasai that I saw. Usually in Arusha, I get a lot of stares as I look different, but here the Maasai didn’t seem much bothered by me at all. I was wearing a colorful head scarf that day, and apparently some just thought I was African and even asked the guide if I was his wife! Ha. One thing that was very interesting was hearing another different language. Here I was barely getting the hang of Swahili and now I had to learn new greetings in the Maasai tongue! 

“Yeyu tequena” to ladies and “So-pie” to men to which the response is  “Iko” and “Heypa” respectively. By the way spelled those phonetically, not sure of the real spelling. 
When we arrived back home what a sight it was to see the yard slowly begin to fill with animals as various memebers of the family returned with herds/flocks. The boy tending the goats was about 8 years old and when he saw how I was obsessing over a young lamb, he shyly brought over a 3 day old goat they’d been keeping in the house. Well if Tanzanians thought I was weird for loving animals before, they probably just officially accepted I must be off my rocker as I cuddled and held that little goat for 30 minutes. It was so cute when I put the goat down, it bleat once, and instantly it’s mother respond from the other side of the yard and rapidly made her way over. The mother child connection, whether it be animal or human, is one that is unbreakable. 
Although the Maasai family I stayed with was one of the few families with a Western house, there was still no electricity there. So to charge my phone ( I wanted to be able to take pics in the morning) it required a trip back down to the market to find a dukka (small stall type store) that had electricity. Luckily this time we took the car! Again came a lesson in trust that went against all travel guidebooks, as I handed my Maasai guide my phone and charger and watched him walk past the rows of dark stores to one about a mile off, one of the only dukkas illuminated in the dark of night by one lone light bulb.

Next a woman came to my car window selling chai (tea) and sweet treats. I had seen the state of the store they came from and could only imagine the kitchen area and at that point also knew that much of the water in the area was gathered from a not-so-clear lake where wild animals such as elephants and cows also bent to drink. So that was probably what my plastic teacup had been washed in. And by this point I had also seen the cow milking process and knew there was no antibacterial or pasteurization process whatsoever. But I thought what the heck why not… if my stomach isn’t made of steel by now, oh welll. 

I made the right choice. The milk chai was AMAZING, and I typically don’t like anything with dairy in it, but it tasted like an exotic hot cocoa, and as we were high in the mountains it was the perfect antidote to the chill that descended into the region as the sun faded out of sight. And I may have had to pick off a bug off of my Mandazi ( popular African fried biscuit) but it was the most delicious pairing for the creamy chai tea. And as I alternated *bite, sip, bite, sip* I leaned my head against the car window and looked up at the night sky and it literally took my breath away. With only a few dukkas with electricity, there were no bright lights to impede the view of the stars, and my goodness , were the stars putting on a show that night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many stars, soft twinkling lights peppering the black sky, and it almost seemed as if I could see the hazy nebulas of constellations. I think I stayed gazing up at the sky with my face pressed against the glass for upwards of an hour, I was literally mesmerized. It was as if I was in a drive-in movie, but instead of soda and a popcorn I had chai and mandazi and instead of a movie I had something better, a sky painted by God himself and in that moment it felt like it was just for me. My advice to any travelers: drink the chai, eat the mandazi, and take a minute… or hour for the stars. For me, it was one of my top 5 moments of my life. 

One hour later Lanuni went to go retrieve my phone from the shop and soon it was back safe and sound in my hands( not gonna lie , breathed a big sigh of relief when I had it back). 
Later that evening after dinner, I had my first hot shower since arriving in Africa! Yay! And who would have thought it would be when I visited a Maasai village. It was water heated over a fire in a bucket, but hey it was lovely and thoughtful of the family to take the time to heat it. Even though it was pretty freezing outside, before zipping into my tent I had to spend another 10 minutes just gazing at the stars. You don’t get a view like that everyday so you have to soak it up while you can. Perhaps I even shed a tear 😉

   

The next morning after breakfast we said goodbye to Lanuni and his family ( who were so so kind and welcoming and who my parents will get to visit and meet when they come to visit in June). We then went to another Maasai village about two hours away, that especially welcomes tourists and performs traditional tribal dances. There I learned polygamy is very common among the Maasai and one man told me his father had 10 wives! 
My last lesson to go with the flow came as we stopped at a lodge for a “brief” check-in for my guide to inspect the facilities. I’ve learned “African time” since I’ve been here, but after 2 hours I was getting antsy ( okay I’ll admit antsy with a side of annoyed). When I moved to a couch to nap, my guide sent me on a tour of the grounds with one of the workers. Well that turned out to be amazing. Brightly colored lovebirds flitted about in the sky and I quickly counted my blessings not my annoyances. I was in a national park and on a personal walking tour to Lake Manyara getting a Swahili lesson along the way, and was literally feet away from wildebeests, antelopes, and gazelle in their natural habitat. My own personal safari without the confines of a vehicle. As we neared the shore of the lake, hundreds of pink flamingos rose out of the water and took to the sky, startled by our presence. That was an unreal moment as I had seen that scene be the start of many National Geographic, Planet Earth, and Animal Planet TV series on Africa. It was wild to be seeing that “movie scene” play out in real life before my eyes. It was also unreal to be walking where lions could be just off in the trees, but the worker walking with me informed me that as long as the other animals seemed unalarmed and remained far from the lodge, all was well. He said that if the staff wakes up in the morning and the animals are crowded near to the lodge they know, “Oh no, a lion is near.” And quickly dash on full alert between buildings to make it to their jobs and start their shift. 
 All in all…
This trip was quite a 2 days! I learned much about trust and going with the flow. If I’d remained annoyed at the fact there were no donkeys to ride, I could have missed out on an amazing experience, amazing people, an amazing culture, and an unbelievable sky. If we hadn’t spent an extended time at the lodge the next day I wouldn’t have gotten to walk the shores of Lake Manyara in the company of gazelles and meet a kind worker who ended up setting up the safari trip for my family in June at a steal of a deal! 
The Maasai culture is fascinating in that even in the face of modern times, it does not fade away or conform. In Arusha city you see tons of Maasai, all aware of what city life and garb is, but still wearing their traditional cloaks of plaid fabric, their interesting sandals, and many carrying a tall walking stick. The Maasai culture will prevail because it is ingrained in its people, it is a source of pride, and because it’s people seem to usually want to return to their roots even if they stray away.

 A random small world moment occurred when I made it back to the orphanage that week where one of the guards is Maasai and I told him where I was that weekend. Turns out that he is from that village! And even could name the family members I stayed with by name when I showed him the pictures from my trip. Andddd turns out he has 2 wives! It really is more common than you might think.

Weeks after this trip I met a Maasai young man while some friends and I were out to dinner and was able to have a really great dialogue with him about Maasai culture. I learned a lot from him and it was really interesting to hear his experiences growing up Maasai. A rite of passage for Maasai boys can be to kill a lion and he says he’s killed two! One part of the conversation I liked was when we were talking about the polygamist culture in Maasai and I asked him if he wanted to have more than wife. His answer? “I have one heart, how can I love two wives?” 
Well sorry it took so long for me to write a blog but I’m in a writing mood now and there’s much to say because God has been working so much during my time here! I really feel so settled in here now, I know my way around, and this week when I went to market I ran into so many people I knew, that it really is starting to feel like a home of sorts here for sure. So stay turned for a blog within the week on all that’s been going on. 🙂 As always thanks to everyone who has been praying for me. 
Much love and stay irie, 

Bri
VOTD: 

“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. ” Proverbs 4:23

What we hold in our hearts is what we pour out into our lives and what spills over into the people around us. It’s always good to take an inside look and see what we’ve got going on in there- love, jealousy, envy, anger, pain, joy, heartbreak, happiness, confusion? 

Whatever it be that you find, my best advice is to give that heart to Jesus and He’ll fill it with the good and help sort out the bad. And whatever your religious belief or if you have none at all, it’s never a bad idea to do a little personal X-Ray and examine what we’re holding dear to us in our hearts, and what negative things in there we’ve been letting take up residence that we need to get rid of. Cuz remember, real estate in the heart ain’t cheap and it’s a shame we let bad things stay for free and take up space where so many good things could live.

So cheers to a week of heart cleaning! 💕

Walking with Lanuni!

Night night little GoodLuck

East African Rift

Dung beetle

Market

Family I stayed with

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Can you spot me ? The man jumping- one of the traditional dances involves jumping and is done when men are fighting over a woman for a wife. Jump higher- you win!

Found the Pundas!

Piki piki!

The mom was a woman of few words, but so sweet and had just presented me with a beaded bracelet

Happy Here

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.greene2@umiami.edu) 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, 
Bri

 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.” ❤

VOTD:

“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 🙂 

Faraija and Miriamu , double duty

Love his smile! One of the kids at the nursery school

Love going to the market. NOT one thing I eat here is a processed food

Sunday market , fabrics and clothes galore

Host mom Beatrice!

Richardi , most always smiling

Little Noureen is 4 weeks old and weighing in at 4 pounds. She was born premature and is HIV positive but is growing stronger and bigger everyday. I went with her to the hospital today and it was fascinating. The pediatric ward is an outdoor building with open windows about half the size of one of our houses in the US.

Classroom at the nursery school

The equivalent of McDonalds drive thru here. The breakfast stop!


Helping to fertilize my host family’s cornfield!

Sabbath school at the Seventh Day Adventist Church here

Reality 

Reality:  My last days in Dar were really fun. Ran 5 miles through the city in the blazing Tanzanian heat right on the streets dodging the crazy drivers while my friend’s dad- who does full marathons UP Mt. Kilimanjaro- sets the pace. Add in seeing monkeys on the side of the road, her dad clapping for literally every runner/walker we saw and a sprint at the end= one of the best runs ever! Really had to mentally push myself. 

Did a few solo trips on my own using bajajs ( motorbike taxis) and Uber ( yep Uber has made it to Tanzania!), and didn’t get lost even with the language barriers. ( I felt victorious after that!) Only minor crisis was when my cell phone died while I was at the market and couldn’t communicate with the taxi I had called. Found a bookstore to charge my phone in thankfully! In fact it is the taxi drivers who usually become victim to a sudden Swahili lesson, with me the eager student badgering them with language translation questions. My Uber driver Godfrey and I probably only had about 20 common words between us, but human connection transcends language and our attempts at each other’s languages had us both doubled up in laughter and high fiving whenever the other succeeded.

Checked out the national museum of history ( I think some museums here would have been appalled at how items were being preserved, but I still learned a lot!) It was crazy to see the neck cuffs and chains used to connect slaves in the past, and seeing it up close you can see how rough and jagged the edges of the metal were, and that’s something I had never thought of before. 

One interesting thing is that the Masai tribe members are often used as guards for buildings and homes in the city due to them being from the warrior tribe, so that was really cool to see men dressed in traditional tribal garb with their walking staffs contrasting with the suits and bright colors of people in typical clothing. After getting my fill of history I had some great veggie sushi on the water and even found a vegetarian/vegan restaurant! Definitely going back there on my flight back out of the city on June. 

 Butttttt… the reality is my pictures will never do anything justice, both the beautiful things I see and the bad. Though it may not be apparent in my photos, poverty is everywhere and the constant juxtaposition between extreme poverty, wealth, and working class is so constant and sudden it can be almost dizzying. There are beautiful well maintained houses and places and stores but mixed in between are shacks and essentially Lean- to dwellings made of a variety of discarded materials. And there are other places of business that still function normally, but structurally have fell into real, real disrepair. Over half of Tanzania survives on only $1 a day, and in a new political climate unemployment seems to be rising daily and I can really see it in the streets- lots of people just milling around, with no jobs to go to. Even large successful companies are laying off staff and as I visited my friend at work, it was evident- the office desks were half empty and talk of more layoffs was a constant stressor. The dollar is extremely strong right now in comparison to the Tanzanian shilling so while I was able to do fun things, it was sobering to know what I spent on a piece of cake -3,000 shillings equating to a little more than one US dollar- is more than most families will have to spend on food in a day. Here I can get a fancy meal in a restaurant for $7 and a very big house or villa could be rented for about $1800 a month, and apparently prices are dropping as the economy struggles. 

Post 8K run!

Bajaj

This neighborhood was really impoverished and unfortunately as you can see it’s located below ground level and as a result has constant flooding, Espedially in the rainy season which we are currently in.

Storm coming in!

Oh goody…

View of Dar Es Salaam coastline from departing plane

Banyan tree at the National Museum


 Much of Tanzanias streets are lined w tiny shops and stalls and that is where you can find literally anything. A soda, snack, butter, eggs, toilet paper, butcher shop, stationary store, you name it. One thing I experienced in Dar Es Salaam was traffic!!! It took us 2.5 hours to get home on a drive that should have been 30 mins! 

A piece of advice I was given before I left was eat everything. I sure have been following that advice! So far I haven’t gotten sick and have even had street food so I think I have a strong stomach or it’s adapted! Sometimes I have to just choose not to think about where my food came from or the kitchen conditions it was made in. 😉 I am very careful about drinking water though. Eggs aren’t refrigerated here which is interesting. It was a shock at first to see crates and crates of eggs sitting in the sun in the markets but now it’s become normal to me. I do love it here! Tanzanian culture is as vibrant as the clothing you see in the streets and I’ve experienced only kindness from the people, along with some curious stares. I’ve made it to Usa River, Arusha and have been here for the past 3 days and soo much has happened!!! 

All mostly good! You’ll have to wait for the next blog to hear about it 😉 
Much love and stay irie,

Bri
VOTD: 

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 
Literally kept repeating this to myself as I did that 5 mile run through the city! Haha not that I was afraid of the city, but of not being able to complete the run! 

Remember we’re God’s children and He can help us do anything anddd give us a spirit of courage. Often times the battle starts in our mind, we first need to convince ourselves we can do it, so instead of even saying “you can do it” I just kept saying “you will do it” because honestly I think we’re aware we have the potential to do so many things we’re just nervous to actually make ourselves do it! Just replacing “can” with “will” helped my brain get past the fatigue. 

So if I can complete that run, you can battle whatever challenges the world throws at you today! Just tell yourself you “will”. 🙂 
Kwaheri! (Bye!)

Day 2/3: R&R and Exploration

The past couple days have been really great, minus the jet lag! It’s strange writing this at 8 am, knowing most of my family and friends are at home sleeping while I’ve been up for close to 4 hours! ( Thank you Mr. Rooster next door who was my alarm clock)

But the first day my college friend Irene and I went and got traditional African body scrub massages. It was amazing! The scrub was made of apricot and honey and for $25 for an hour, it beat any massage I’ve had back home. Next stop up was Slipway, a marina right on the coast where I had Zambarau (purple plum) ice cream, topped with mangos. It was deliciously tart and sweet at the same time. So far I have loved all the foods I’ve had! Although everyone looks at me a little strange when they hear I don’t eat meat, all the chefs have been really accommodating and I haven’t tried anything yet that I haven’t like! I’m mostly eating variations of bean, plantain and rice dishes, but it reminds of my grandma’s Caribbean cooking so no complaints here. One dish I really liked, which is a staple here, is called ugali. It is finely ground maize, cooked like grits but more solid/firm. You scoop it into a ball with your fingers and then dip it into different things- I had it with beans and really liked it. Everyone has been extremely friendly and welcoming.

Driving here is a whole different ball game, and let me stop right there and clarify I am NOT driving here. First off driving is on the other side of the road, but secondly there are tons of bikes, motorcycles, and people walking to dodge around, not to mention there are a lot of unwritten rules I don’t know. For example, in the mornings when there is heavy traffic, two way roads become one way roads and the directions can change on roundabouts. My friend offered to let me drive her car while she was at work, then we both looked at each other and said “Nahhh… on second thought that’s a terrible idea.” LOL.

It’s very very hot here, like probably the most hot I have ever felt. My skirt doubles as a face towel in the afternoon for sure! The seasons here are opposite so turns out I am here in the hottest time of the year! Miami was very hot, but here the humidity is even higher.

Dar Es Salaam is right on the ocean and the beach is about 5 minutes from where I am staying. Yesterday we took a boat to Mbudya Island which was BEAUTIFUL. Of course I had to go sit at the very top of the boat, which required jumping over a large hole in the hull, and while I made the jump my sunglasses are now sitting at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. RIP glasses. The scene was clear turquoise water, white sand with lots of broken up coral pieces/rocks, green spindly trees dotting the island, and a shack offering french fries and seafood. It truly was it’s own little paradise. Looking from the shore to the city skyline with people jet skiing around, it really almost made me feel like I was in Miami. People perhaps don’t think of tropical paradises when they think of Africa, but it exists! Africa has so many different landscapes to offer. Apparently there is no need to worry for sharks, so I was in my mermaid element just swimming around. I did get some jellyfish stings but nothing too bad. One thing I have to watch out for is to always have on my 100 SPF sunscreen because the anti-malaria medicine I’m on makes me extremely sun sensitive.     (Found this out the hard way two summers ago returning from India where I was on the medicine. The day after returning I went on a vacation to the Keys and within two days I was a red and purple lobster with sun poisoning. So I’m trying to avoid that this time. :] )

On the way back to the mainland, all the sudden the boat motor sputtered and cut out and I thought oh great, here’s where I will have to put my four years of swim team practice to work. But my friend assured me this happens all the time and within a few minutes we were on the way again. However in the evening, the waves had really picked up and the boat was rocking and tilting and I again found myself mentally preparing to go for a nice long swim. I guess it all added to the fun though, and laughter would always follow everyone’s gasps when the boat took a particularly precarious lean.

I’m still not completely adjusted to the time change, today I was wide awake at 5 am but by 6 pm I am completely exhausted.

Checking into the US Embassy today, doing some exploring and market time, and then Wednesday morning I fly to Kilimanjaro and then from there travel by ground to Usa River, which is where I will spend my three months. So prayers for safe travel please!

Stay irie and much love,
Bri

Verse of the day ( VOTD):

1 John 3:18

” Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Love people today- the world needs it!

Irene! My friend from UM who’s been showing me all around her home city

Yummmm

Ugali with beans

Captain Bri