Monday, June 30, 2008

Argh - Technical Difficulties!

Well, I've been trying desperately to upload photos and videos - mostly in an effort to take them off my camera (at least the video). Alas, this was not meant to be today. It keeps appearing to load, and then I get an error message. So, in an attempt to get a little more Arusha time, I'll be off and I'll worry about making this blog a multi-media experience when I get home. I'll also add some text content upon my arrival on PA soil too! I hope you've all enjoyed following my subject headings - I know it's exciting! Tomorrow, I'll be canoeing with hippos (and, yes, I know they're vicious). So, as long as I still have my appendages, I'll be flying home tomorrow night and arriving back state-side on Wednesday night. Happy early 4th of July!!

And, They're Off!

The girls are leaving today to go to Zanzibar. After some nerve wracking dealings with a shuttle service, Tau is going to drive them to the airport to ensure their safe delivery. One more pb and j lunch. Have fun, girls!

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

My husband, Jeff, kept himself quite busy while I've been away. Among other things, he was climbing in an area called the Gunks in New York. Check a photo of him doing what he does best. Well, that's not exactly true, because he does so many things well! Love you, honey!

Counting 1-10 in Hebrew

Leeron shows off her mad counting skill in Hebrew.

London Bridge and Ring Around The Rosy

On the last day at Miracle Corners, we taught the students how to jump in a game of hopscotch, play ring around the rosy and London Bridge. I'm always interested in thinking about the origins of some of these games - not just in teaching them to students in other countries, but also how they're so very widespread at home and where they came from. It is believed that Ring Around the Rosy originated as a children's song about the plague in England. Ashes or ah-choo, depending on what country you're in signifies either ashes (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) or sneezing associated with being sick. And "we all fall down" is just what happened when everyone (pretty much when the plague was involved) died.

London Bridge likewise has a sombering tone.

From Wikipedia:

Meaning and origin

The meaning of the rhyme is not certain. Most likely, it relates to the many difficulties experienced in bridging the River Thames: London's earlier bridges did indeed "wash away" before a bridge built of "stone so strong" was constructed. One theory[citation needed] of the "fair lady" who has been "locked away" refers to an old practice of burying a dead virgin in the foundations of the bridge to ensure its strength through magical means. Another theory[citation needed] was the people building the bridge were afraid the water spirits would not approve of a bridge being built, as it was invading their territory. To prevent an invasion from the water spirits, they made human sacrifices to the water spirits. This usually meant killing a child and burying it in the bridge. The more plausible reference of the fair lady was to Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. However, the rhyme is not confined to the UK and variants exist in many other western and central European countries.

Nice... nonetheless, fun was had by all!

Miracle Corners - Day 4

Our final day at Miracle Corners was bittersweet. We had to say goodbye to this fabulous group of students and teachers, but at least we had the opportunity to have our lives touched by them and hopefully we made some impact as well. Leaving was tough every day...but saying good-bye for the last time was certainly hardest.

Safari Animals

Well, I've certainly learned a lot of things on this trip. One thing I did not know about myself is that I have an uncanny ability to spot wildlife as we were trucking it down the road. I was known to mutter "acha" (stop) and then back up (I don't know reverse in Swahili). We saw so many animals including, but not limited to: elephants (and a baby), hippos, antelopes, flamingos, giraffes (we also saw giraffes from afar that were not spotted, but all dark brown or black), dik diks (a type of antelope), monkeys, and many birds as well. And poo - we learned about how to tell the difference between different types of poo. I also learned something about elephants that just hadn't struck me before. I saw many elephants with only one tusk and I immediately thought their tusk had been poached. I was quickly corrected by our driver. In order to poach a tusk, a poacher must first kill the elephant. He's (the elephant) not exactly going to stand still and let someone saw off his great tusk. So...any living elephants who are missing tusks lost them either fighting trying to knock down a tree. Makes sense now of course...thought I'd share that for anyone else living under the same misconception. If you look closely at the picture of the mama and baby elephant you can see that it has a somewhat gaping gash where it's right tusk once resided.

Into the Wild & Hapana Karibuni (No, You Are NOT Welcome Here!)

After going to Fotinis, we went for more relaxation and lunch at a place called the Sundance Lodge. It made me think of the film festival. After lunch we went on a nature hike with a Maasai gentleman who spoke no English. On our 2 hour wandering walk, he taught me some Swahili/Maasai and I taught him some English. As we would walk, he would point out all the acacia trees. Let me tell you something - they were ALL acacia trees. I would point out some ua (flowers). Our conversation pretty much went like this: "Acacia, acacia, acacia," Maasai man. Ellen replies: "Ua, ua, ua." We ventured into the words for grass and dirt too. Learning all those animal names, colors, and numbers came in handy. I even taught him head, shoulders, knees, and toes. He was very entertained by that. While we were walking, he pointed out (if I understood correctly) his home, which was very close to the start of our walk. Then we proceeded further and further into the bush and he attempted to give us a look into the dwelling places (bomas) of other people. Well, they were NOT happy about it, and can you blame them? Let's put ourselves in their shoes for just a moment. You've just finished eating dinner and you notice your nosy neighbor tramping through your yard with twenty or so mazunugus (white people) and...they seem to be walking right up to your front door! I would not be happy either. We tried to communicate to our nature walk guide that we were really ok with not seeing their bomas, but he kept on trying anyway. Then, a semi-fluent English speaking gentleman who, like the medicine man from yesterday, was under the influence of something tried to tell us something else we already knew. He indicated that one family was in three houses. One house, two house, three house, one family. Gotcha. He was going for shock value - polygamy - got it. Thanks. When we tried to continue on our way, he kept trying to engage me in the same conversation: one house, two house, three house, one family. Yes - I have seen the show Big Love. Other than our several confrontations along the way, we did return safely. We used our best broken swahili to indicate that we needed to return to the Sundance Lodge before it got dark. Twende (let's go) Sundance Lodge. Our tour guide relented and led us back in that direction. Without him, we'd truly be lost. I don't think GPS works out that-a-way. Then, when we got back the bus had to make two trips with the undergrads then with us. It was at least an hour and a half before we got on the bus and faced that bustling traffic back in Arusha.

Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is awesome!!! We were here just in time to see a pink line right on the horizon of the lake...flamingos! Millions of them! When we stopped for lunch, we noticed some gentlemen with some very fancy looking cameras. Turns out they were from National Geographic. I should submit some of my photogs for the mag. We spent a day on safari (which really just means journey) in Lake Manyara National Park with the folks from Maasai Wanderings. Awesome!

Trucking It

No...I wasn't allowed to drive the jeep on safari. But I was allowed to pose in it!

Fotini's - Maxing (out) and Relaxing

Fotini's is a lovely shopping area away from it all, so to speak. It is owned by a very nice woman from South Africa who served us tea and cake. It was leftover from her son's birthday party and it was delicious! Fotini's offered a nice spot to relax for a quiet afternoon after such a busy week.

Goat Roast

While visiting in the village we were also treated to a goat roast. The most interesting (this term is used loosely) thing was when the village elder (same one who dug all the holes for tree planting - he must have worked up quite an appetite) ate the marrow out of the bones. I didn't even know you could do that! He cracked them in front of us and poked it out with a stick. You learn something new every day.

Plant a Tree

While we were visiting in this Maasai village, we planned to plant trees. In order to do this, we needed to purchase a lot of 20 trees. When we arrived, the people (evidently) did not know that we were planning to plant trees and so, with one or two shovels, we helped/watched 20 holes get dug. Then we planted our trees, filled in the holes and watered them. The gentleman pictured is between 65 and 70 (they really weren't sure) and he single handedly dug most of the holes to plant the trees. say the least.

Tea With a Side of Numbness

When we first arrived at the village, we were greeted with a dance and then some tea. Never turn down hospitality. The tea tasted different and we were told that it was brewed using some of the indigenous herbs that are grown right in the village. After a few sips, we noted that the backs of our throats and our tongues were numbing. A little scary...but part of the experience. I can understand how this stuff has healing powers! This picture is of Sululu (the director of Terrawatu) and I enjoying our cuppa.

Dancing with the Women

The Maasai women greeted our jeep by dancing and singing. They invited us to join in the dance too. As we were dancing, one of the women gave me her necklace to wear. They were all very entertained, as I'm sure you will be too, when I joined in the jumping.

Maasai Medicine Man...Again

Sululu from Terrawatu took us to visit a different Maasai medicine man. This medicine man encouraged one of our own, Leeron, to try something for a headache...and then he insisted that she pay for it. At the end of our visit, the medicine man insisted upon donations. Sululu explained that we had already paid him to visit and then Sululu proceeded to explain something about the medicine men that we didn't hear yesterday. Evidently their job is very spiritually draining and so, in order to cope, they often imbibe of either alcohol or other concoctions of their own making. Let your minds wander. So, this was our first encounter (of a few) with someone under the influence and then trying to influence us to pay them.

Chinese Food in Tanzania

Yum! The place that we are staying the Everest Guest House is also...a chinese restaurant. Tonight was my first night trying it out and yum is the word that sums it up. And sharing...I like sharing. One big downer was that they ran out of vegetable spring rolls. That was not good. So, we proceeded to harass some Canadians who seemed to have ordered the last few of the vegetable spring rolls. Evidently they were not interested in sharing their rolls with all 8 of us. Go figure!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Class List

Can you imagine having this many kids in a room? Sometimes I'm worried about having more than one student with the same name. I guess when you get to 75, what's another 5 or 6...

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan/schedule for the school day was posted on the wall in one of the classrooms. It's not a terribly clear picture, but you may notice similarities to American school daily schedules.

Lunch with Donna Duggan

We enjoyed a box lunch together with Donna in the Form 7 classroom. She explained some of the Maasai culture and how the school came to be. The school itself was there, but much neglected. Through her work with Maasai Wanderings, a percentage of profit goes directly to the Maasai people through projects like the Ilkurot School. Donna explained that the Maasai warriors would not join us for a drink or for lunch as they do not eat or drink in front of others except for their mothers as it shows a sign of weakness that they need nourishment. She explained that Maasai men do not laugh, they smile; Maasai men do not cry, they show some sadness.

Coca Cola Commercial

Coca Cola should totally pay me for this video footage. After the Maasai dance, we, the students, teachers, Donna, and elders enjoyed a chilled beverage.

Village Elders

We had the awesome opportunity to talk with the village elders of Ilkurot. They expressed how important it is in an effort to protect the identity of Maasai for the children of Maasai to become educated so they can defend their traditional ways to the rest of society. The elders were representative of each area of Ilkurot. Ilkurot is on the outskirts of the district, so there was a public school, but it was much neglected and Donna's work with Maasai Wanderings has improved the area. Now, children can go to a school that is much closer to home. They welcomed all of us to stay and teach there - no problem/hakuna matata. They offered to put us up in their huts at night. How generous!! The gentlemen you will see pictured are wearing suit jackets and pants. They explained that this is their "business/office clothes." They, like the students, wear their traditional Maasai blanket at home. Similarly, the students change into school uniforms for school. In a way, they are leading a double life and learning the ways of the world while still holding on to the most important parts of their culture.

Maasai Warrior Dance

The Maasai warriors arranged themselves outside between the playground and the soccer pitch to perform a traditional dance. They sing, and bounce, and jump, and it's awesome. See for yourself in the video below. When they approach you, they will dip their shoulder to you, and you in turn are supposed to bump them with your shoulder as well. Some of the girls from the school joined us outside and helped to guide us in what we should and should not do. One of the students danced me out to the warriors to initate a shoulder bump with them. The best part was that when some of the young gentleman popped on over, they would drop some English on us. Some examples include: "What is your name?"; "Where are you from?"; "So white."
Check out the cell phone video being taken of us in this video:

Sample Lessons

We had the honor to observe the school's principal teach some sample lessons to his form 7 class. He taught the students in Swahili about coordinates, graphing, and multiplication. The thing that struck me most was how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Guess what happened in the middle of the lesson? The principal/teachers cell phone rang. Funny, right - I'll bet you didn't expect that! After that, Leeron's admirer and a teacher at the school named Jumanne (which means Tuesday) taught an English language lesson on phrases. I swear that during my time in Tanzania, I've learned more about he formal English language than I, as a native speaker, ever knew before. Check out the video - you'll notice it's very quiet in a Tanzanian classroom! This video is of a student working out a math equation.

In the Principal's Office

First things first at Ilkurot...we were called into the principal's office! We had a short introduction to the school and to what we would be doing that day. Keep in mind that the school is on vacation right now. And there are students coming just for a sample lesson for us. And teachers are coming just for a sample lesson for us. And the village elders are coming...just to talk with us. How cool is that? Now, all American teachers...put yourself in these shoes. Your principal calls you (on your vacation) to ask you to do a sample lesson for a group of teachers from another country...and could you get your students (you know...all 187 of them) and some of the parents to come too? And, could the PTA get the dance troupe to do a performance (Maasai warrior dance) and if the soccer team could come out and utilize the pitch, that would be great too. Yeah...

Ilkurot School

Ilkurot School is a highly cheery place for such an otherwise desolate area. The countryside is beautiful, don't get me wrong - but bare nonetheless. Whereas we often have posters in our classrooms, these classrooms and outer walls are in the process of being painted in cheery tones with informative aspects as well. Check out a few shots of the decor. PS - Ilkurot translates to "dusty place on the side"...and it is.

Mountaintop Chit Chat

Godwin took us to the top of a hill/mountain depending upon who you talk to... There, he told us the history of the Maasai and how they came to live in this region of Africa. He told us about their beliefs and traditions. He discussed polygamist practice of the past and present. Most do not, but as with all traditions, this has not stopped entirely. One of the stories that I thought was particularly interesting concerned a woman having difficulty having a baby. He explained that there was a spot to go to weep into the sand and pray for a child and once you have done that if you still are not blessed with a child, then another woman will have a baby and give it to you and no one will ever question who the mother is of the child. I thought this was a true testament to the strength of this community of people.

Maasai Medicine Man

Godwin explained to us the role of the Maasai medicine man and some of the traditional medicines and treatments that are used by the Maasai. A piece of wood is used as a toothbrush. No paste necessary. He also explained traditional treatments for menstrual pain, migraines, STD's, infection, croup, asthma, broken bones, cancer, teething, and kidney pain. They've got things pretty well covered down there. We also learned while in the shop that many Maasai men scarred their cheeks, knocked out their bottom two teeth, and stretched their earlobes in an effort to not be taken during the slave trade. And - it worked. These characteristics were considered undesirable and the Maasai were considered very smart (in that they weren't taken) for doing so. Pictured: Medicine Man on the right, customer on the left, and a list of concoctions on the blackboard.

Jeep Song

Jambo Bwana
Habari Ghani
Nzuri Sana
Wakari Bishwa
Tanzania Yetu
Hakuna Matata
Hakuna Matata
Hakuna Matata

This was a song that our Jeep driver, Patrick, taught to us. It's quite catchy. So, I went a-looking on YouTube for a video depicting the song and I found one...from Kenya. Apparently, it's en vogue to sing this song with any old country's name in place of Tanzania or Kenya or Zanzibar. So, this way - you get the idea. We also learned some other phrases during our car ride. Tena (again), Twende (let's go!), Poli Poli (slowly).

The 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In an effort to cut down on plastic usage, we purchased this larger bottle of water to refill our smaller bottles of water. In other conservation news, there were many recycled arts available for purchase...and I did! In one shop, there were frames and furniture made from a dhow. The explanation included with the frame reads "This picture frame is handmade from recycled, hardwood planks and nails taken from a large how called MV Sophia, that we found in total disrepair, on the beach, in Zanzibar. Over thirty five years old, this dhow had led a life of sailing between the spice islands and mainland carrying coconuts, dry goods and passengers. Handmade in Tanzania. email:" So, if you're interested in owning your own piece of dhow, drop a line. I also picked up a few necklaces made of paper beads and I noticed many other recycled materials pieces, like earrings featuring bottle caps and trucks made of aluminum can material. Going green in TZ.

The Bio Teacher

Tau taught Cindy the names of some Tanzanian trees.

Stickers Went Over Well...

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

African Barbed Wire

Instead of barbed wire, we found many high walls covered with shards of glass - ouch!

Gang Symbols - The Same Around the World