Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tanzania! (1050 photos), by Tara McKenzie

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Saturday, August 7, 2010


We have had a fabulous time in Zanzibar although we were surprised it rained here a bit, since everyone on the mainland always told us it would not rain during dry if definitely different here on the island.

We have taken many excursions! We have gone snorkeling and swimming with the dolphins in the Indian Ocean! We loved our time on the boats, but they don't feel as secure as the boats we are used to in the life jackets! We also did a spice tour around a farm, which just seemed to have random plants everywhere. Our guide made us banana grass jewelry, crowns, bags and sunglasses! We have some funny pictures! We also visited our first rain forest with wild monkeys everywhere. Our guide took us trekking through "the bush" which wasn't that much fun since there were strange plants and spiders everywhere! Tara got stung by some poky plant, but after 10 minutes all the pain was gone.

We are learning here that you are supposed to tip EVERYONE - even if they only help you for ten seconds. It can be a bit much, but as soon as we remember that they have a family to support, we are more than willing to hand them a few dollars.

We love the beautiful white sand beaches here so much; it will be tough to go back to the rocky New England beaches. But, we are ready to come home...we both are really looking forward to Nachos! And while we are looking forward to home, we are not excited about the next 36 hours of traveling ahead of us :( You can feel sorry for us now! As they always say here....Hukana Matata!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lions, Elephants and Zebras...OH MY!

Saying goodbye to our students on Friday was very emotional. We loved the teachers we worked with and they were so appreciative of our time. But even worse was saying goodbye to our classes. We couldn't believe how sad Class 2 was, since they gave us the most trouble! We felt very heavy-hearted when we said goodbye. We hope to do some some fund raising when we return home because it is heartbreaking to see a school without any books.

Saying goodbye to the family that took care of us for two weeks wasn't easy either, especially because there were so many family members and friends that kindly took us in. But, we were off to our next adventure.

We spent the night in Arusha and Gustaph was kind enough to take us for a pizza dinner! Thank goodness pizza is universal. We left the next morning for our 3 day safari. Our first stop was Manyara National Park, which was the most beautiful since it was the most green. Of course, we took a million pictures of the free roaming monkeys and baboons on the side of the road since they were the first animals we saw. It was there we got our best pictures of elephants and giraffes. We spent the night at a very nice campsite. Definitely designed for tourists...toilets, a pool and a restaurant!

We were off to Ngorongoro Crater the next day with our fingers crossed that we would see lions, despite Gustaph's hesitance to guarantee a sighting. After a two hour drive into the park, we reached the bottom of the crater (Melissa was freaking out a little about the sharp, steep, curvy, bumpy road down) and immediately saw two cheetah! They are usually so hard to see since they typically hide or run so fast! But we caught the two of them sleeping 100 yards from the road! We were happy enough even if we didn't see lions, but throughout the day we ended up seeing 10! Gustaph couldn't believe it. One was hunting (although we didn't wait what would have been hours for the kill) and the rest were lazy and sleeping. One was a yard from our jeep cleaning himself and not disturbed by us one bit. We even saw a hippo out of the water! Unbelievable.

Later that day we visited a Maasi Village. We entered the village to their "Welcoming Dance" and we even joined in the jumping up and down. It was a little disturbing to go inside one of their cow-dung built huts and hear a rat crawling through their bed! Thank goodness we didn't see it or there would have been screaming! Our guide was not the least bit worried though.

Another pasta dinner at the campground. And then off to Tarangire National Park the next day. Not so many animals out that day, but we were pretty satisfied from the two previous days. We did see more groups of elephants. And believe it or not....we followed other cars to a site with a leopard sleeping in a tree in the distance! Unheard of! We were so lucky to have seen 4 of the big 5. Rhinos are going extinct and so it is unlikely to find one.

A 3 day safari was perfect (especially since Tara wasn't feeling so well the last day, typical travel sickness...oh my). We were back in Arusha and met our fellow volunteer, Lisa, for another pizza dinner. It is crazy how crowded and busy the city streets of Arusha are. We had some trouble figuring out the best way to cross the streets with no street lights and CRAZY drivers everywhere.

Finally, we made it to our resort hotel in Zanzibar. We are ready for some sun and warmth. The Zanzibari Hotel is beautiful! Tomorrow we are off on our snorkeling excursion! Spice tour and swimming with the dolphins later this week!

We can't believe we leave on Sunday. Our time went by so quickly. We have discovered that most travelers we run into have toured for over 2 months......we aren't built for that! We are looking forward to buffalo chicken nachos ASAP! Who wants to meet us at the Fours? See you all soon!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We made it to our last day of school!

So...apparently our students here in Africa are not that much different from our kids back home - they ask to go to the bathroom just to get out of class and one even stuck out his tongue at us! We were encouraged (but couldn't bring ourselves) to use corporal punishment. We did make Clinton miss his break and do more math problems! The students loved all of the games we played with them: Around the World, Roll to 30, and the Math Balls. We hope the teachers will continue to use all of the game materials when we leave...we think they will.

On the home front, we finally completed our four sessions of Swahili lessons. We made little progress, but at least we know a few greetings when walking in the street. We also had an African cooking lesson. We made and rolled dough around ground beef and then fried them in a TON of oil (sorry mom!) They were called Sambosa and were tamu (delicious!!) We also did our laundry by hand and have a renewed appreciation for washing us....our hands are full of cuts.

We just got back from exploring the village market. So many people and so many veggies. We bought a kanga, which is an African skirt of sorts. Who knows what we will do with it now.

Tomorrow we are off to Arusha to get ready for our safari on Saturday. We will be back after that. Miss you all!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Weekend in Tarakea

We made it through our first week of school -mostly teaching multiplication, even Lattice Multiplication. The teachers are excited for the new way. And I think it will help because they are regrouping their numbers on the side, which seems so confusing to me! (Bill - that part was for you and yes, we aren't really into teaching PE and Health so don't worry!)

Yesterday, we took a hike through the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was 1.5 miles to get to the trail head (and part uphill!) and then we continued towards the mountain. Unfortunately, it was in the clouds (the only time you can see it is in the morning this time of year.) It was crazy to see little kids harvesting corn and wood so far away from the village and then carrying it back on their heads. I tried for a minute and it was so heavy and it hurt!

We finally reached the forest close to the mountain and saw huge piles of elephant poop! We didn't see any elephants or monkeys. When we turned around, we had a beautiful view of the village below and Kenya in the distance.

By the time we made it back for porridge (like oatmeal) we had hiked another 5 miles. And we weren't done! We then walked another 5 miles through the foothills to the other end of town to see our host mother's saw mill factory. It was pretty amazing because Mama started it by herself 22 years ago and now they not only cut wood, but make flour and cement blocks for building! The company is run by all women; the men do all the hard work! How wonderful! Mama is a incredible woman - she is on SO SO many committees, including the district's board of education and many more. She is always off to the meetings.

Today we visited Jifty's (a boy living at our compound) school. It had ten classrooms, which each hold 60-100 students for class. The school was rather small for having an enrollment of over 550 kids. I wish we could contribute more in so many all the schools. They need everything from pencils to paper to many many more text books.

We are loving our quiet nights at home. The family loves the games we brought and it is so much fun playing with them. Mama said she will play Rook every day! (Thanks Molly, Robyn, and Will!)

We forget to mention a funny school story! Aaron, a boy that lives with us and walks us to school each morning, was classifying grasshopper as an insect during our reproduction lesson when he pulled a HUGE one out of his backpack (just like the one that jumped on Tara when we were at the airport)! We didn't know whether we should make him let it go or not until he told us that he was saving it to cook and eat later! Apparently, it is an honor here if somebody gives you a cooked grasshopper to eat. Thankfully, we haven't received one yet. Oh my.

We are off to home to learn how to cook a traditional Tanzanian meal. And then we must do more laundry! Scrubbing our socks today took well over an hour because of the road dirt! We are extra appreciative of washing machines now!

Apologies for any typos above....our internet time is limited!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

First Three Days At School

Habari!!! (Some sort of greeting you can use all of the time!)

We are loving working with the six native teachers here at the school called Mawenzi, named after one of the two peaks on Mt. Kilimanjaro! There are 5 classes, which range from pre-school to Class 3, which is a little like Grade 4 in the US. Each class has 20-something pupils, and they can be many different ages! In class three, we have 11 year olds and 7 year-olds. All of the kids are so cute and love to learn! When we enter the room, they stand and say. "Welcome, Teacher Tara. Welcome, Teacher Melissa."

Teaching has been fun, but we are still trying to figure out the level of the students. It seems like they memorize a lot - might not know the reasoning behind the rules. We are hoping to help Class 2 and 3 better understand multiplication while we are here. And who knows what else! For instance, we are now teaching science and doing a unit on reproduction! With one textbook, we must teach them which animals lay eggs and which "reproduce." And all of the body parts. Oh my!

We are also teaching PE to all the classes because all the kids want to have us! Ha ha. We taught them Red Light/Green Light, Hokey Pokey, Simon Says, Over the River and Relay Races so far. Please let us know if you have any other ideas for us! When they are playing, they push each other roughly! "That is not what we do at East Middle School!"

We feel so bad that we only brought enough materials and prizes for our 50 students. The school is so small, that we didn't realize we would see all the students, all of the time. Hopefully, we can spread our goods somehow! They love the pencils we brought and REALLY LOVE the stickers...although now the whole packet is missing.

Their schedule is interesting. We start class around 8.... or 8:15.... or 8:20! And we teach until their first break at 9:30ish. Then we have a 30 minute break! Then, we teach another call for an hour, and then a 40 minute break! Then we teach for another hour and followed by lunch for an hour! Then we teach for an hour and then they have "homework time." They don't necessrily do their homework then, but maybe they can....we aren't sure yet! Can you tell we are still trying to figure out the daily routine?

We love how enthusiastic the kids are! Sometimes, it can even be a little overwhelming, but we aren't used to elementary school ourselves anyway! Today we learned how to say "Kaa Chini," which means stay in your seats (or else they run up to you yelling, "teacher, teacher, teacher...."! They stayed by their seats today, but still stood when answering a question!

Monday night, our school coordinator Maggie took us across the border to Kenya! It is literally, 100 meters from the pub where we had drinks. She was friends with the policemen and so we were able to sneak over! Then, she drove us thorough Rombai Forest, which has VERY interesting trees, to one of the five base camps of Mt. Kilimanjaro. So cool!! We hope to do our own mini-hike this Saturday.

And last night, we had our first Swahili lessons with Godfrey. We are definitely beginners, with little potential for progress, but we are having fun! We stick to learning one word, not sentences - even though everyone is really trying to teach us! We will have class tomorrow night, Friday and three days next week, so maybe we can improve more than we think!

I would say goodbye right now in Swahili, but I don't know it! Oh wait...Melissa does! Kwa Harie!

Monday, July 19, 2010

We made it to Taraeka!

After a long flight, we landed in Arusha and were able to tour the area a bit before we drove to have lunch in Moshi (great pizza!) and then 2 hours more to our little village of Tarakea.

Our host family owns what they call a compound, which is made up of one main house with attached little huts/cottages. We are staying in our own cottage which they just renovated for the is very nice. The main kitchen is outside. And they raise their own cows, chickens, goats and garden. It seems that each family here is self-sustaining. Not what we are used to! They even produce their own milk.

There are many family and friends that live on the compound. It is hard to tell family from friends! But, they are all so welcoming and make us eat all the time! There is also another volunteer, Lisa, staying here for the rest of the week. Lisa is much more fluent in Swahili than we are. We will be taking some lessons this week and hopefully will get better. Many people do speak English, but it would be nice to learn about their culture more. We will also take some cooking lessons.

Our first night in Tarakea was exciting because there was a memorial service for a village member - with hundreds of people there. In fact, we were able to meet a member of Parliament because Fratern, our volunteer organizer, is very popular and well respected for all his good works. He even graduated from the University of Delaware with a Master's in International/Non-profit Organization (hence, Volunteer Kilimanjaro). His full-time job is working for an organization that helps raise money to place orphans in local schools. He is really a wonderful person!

Our favorite part so far was visiting an orphanage yesterday. The kids were as old as 3 and just wanted so many hugs. It was so much fun to play with them. They loved our sunglasses and seeing pictures of themselves on our cameras. We were also able to visit Mawenzi, our school, and the students were eager to meet us. Each time we visited a classroom the kids stood and sang to us. One song was about how important it is to be educated and work hard. We loved it and can't wait to start teaching tomorrow.

And good news: since it is the winter here and the dry season....there are NO bugs! Everybody here thinks it is so cold now in July; they wear sweaters and wool hats! We are in T-shirts because we think 70s are perfect! It can get a bit colder at night, but nothing like a New England winter.....more like our fall.

We love it here! Off to find an American-like toilet ....we might have to walk all the way home!