Tuesday, August 28, 2007

juggling oranges in the Serengeti

Scenic Knitting

I did actually do a bunch of knitting in Tanzania. I had brought yarn only for sock knitting because it was the easiest thing to carry and also I couldn't really bare the idea of having a hot and heavy project sitting on my lap. The knitting ended up being the perfect thing to have with me for all of the "hurry up and wait" which is what we called the constant start and stop and adjustment of plans that was required behavior in Tanzania. The saying "Man makes plans and God laughs" couldn't have been truer in Africa. So having a little busy project while you waited 2 hours in line just to withdraw money at the bank was necessary to my sanity. Sadly my knitting is always something that goes so undocumented in the process so even though I am sure I was often knitting is such odd or beautiful places that I really wish I had some photos of but at least here are a few.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Birthday and Montessori visit in Mwanza

Well, another year older and a lovely birthday it was! Coincidently we had two friends visiting from out of town. It was a treat to have lunch with Darlene that had been working with us in Tanzania who lives in Minnesota but was passing through the Triangle to bring her daughter back to Physical Therapy school at Duke. Then one of our bestest friends came down to visit us and stayed the night. It was a really special treat to see Michael because he has just returned from teaching English in Japan for the last two years and he is getting ready to leave again to work with an organization doing voluntourism in Cambodia. We were lucky enough to visit Michael last year in Japan while we were teaching English in Thailand and it felt extra lucky to see him on my birthday. In the evening yesterday we got together with a bunch of friends and had a potluck picnic in a park that shows outdoor movies on the weekend in the summers. We watched Ratatouille which was really fun. Thanks everyone for such a great birthday! I have to say though that one of the biggest treats of all was just having my birthday fall on a Saturday and to have the day off. Back to a little bit of Africa updating. I wanted to share some of the photos that I took of one of the Montessori classrooms that I visited.

While in Tanzania I visited several different schools doing special days of guest teaching with children of all different ages and leaving behind large amounts of art supplies when I went. With each school I made sure to spend some extra time with the teachers to do some teacher training of how to use the materials that I left and how to integrate more creative learning into their curriculums.

One of the schools that I worked with actually has two Montessori trained teachers in the nursery school. I was totally amazed to talk to them and find that even though we had such different lives we had this common ground of teaching in our classrooms with the same principals and using the same materials. But when I saw the poor condition of the materials or the fact that almost all of them from the number rods to the continent puzzle maps were made by hand by the teachers I had to fight back tears. Chipped and cracked their pink tower only stands five blocks tall now and many of the works are made out of cardboard. Here as a part of your teacher training you learn how to make all of the materials yourself and many of the ones I saw were quite impressive. I am really hoping that in the future this school can be the recipient of older materials that we are ready to retire at the school that I teach at but would be ever so valued here in Tanzania.

All of the schools that I visited, whether public, private, or religiously run have very few resources. Some floors are cement, others are simply dirt. Some have chalkboards on the wall and others are just leaned against the wall or on the floor. Many have desks but in others the children just sit on the floor. None of the schools have electricity or glass in the windows. But in all schools the children are fed at least lunch if not breakfast also. This alone is a wonderful thing about schools here.

So please enjoy another little slide show of images from my visit to the Montessori class in Mwanza.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Inspirational Women

One of the really unexpected treats during our time in Nyakato was getting to know an amazing woman named Mama Lukamisa. Her real name is Shangwe but after a woman gives birth to her first child everyone from then on refers to her as Mama and then the name of her first born.

Mama Lukamisa is the Women's and Children's Development Director for the East of Lake Victoria Lutheran Diocese in Mwanza. She works tirelessly to improve education and health care for women and children and is quite outspoken in her crusade to empower women to stand up to oppressive husbands as well as encouraging them to be financially independent and to start their own small businesses. Mama Lukamisa has mentored several of the areas women's micro-loan groups which I had the pleasure of visiting.

In her spare time (I swear this woman must not sleep) Mama Lukamisa also has her own business doing small scale food canning, as well as making tea and a nutritious porridge blend for children and lactating mothers. She also runs small workshops for women to teach them the food processing skills that she has learned as well as proper sanitation for a business dealing with food products. She even runs a small shop in town where she sells her products.

I could not be more thankful for the time that I got to spend with Mama Lukamisa, getting to follow her around to visit the micro-loan groups and to visit her small business. It was fascinating and inspiring to pick her brain about the issues that women in Tanzania face and to be inspired by a woman who is filled with such a fire to empower these women to change the frightening conditions that they are living with.

I am testing out a new feature of my blog which is the bellow slide show where you can look at photos from my visits with Mama Lukamisa. You can play the slide show as is on my blog page and there is a small text box on the left hand side that will show you captions that I have put on some of the photos. Also you can just click on the slide show and it will bring it up in a new window so you can view the images larger. My husband showed me this feature so that I won't use up all of my blog memory putting the photos directly on the blog. Thanks Honey!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Where to begin?

Where can I even begin to start the first blog in almost three months?
On this tiny little blog I will try my darndest to offer a few little vignettes of what I have been up to for the last 2 months that Gabriel and I spent in Tanzania. Hopefully over the course of a few scattered blog posts a patchwork of photos and words will sew themselves up into a small taste of what my life has been like during my months of silence.

For those that don't know, my husband and I just spent the months of June and July working with an NGO that is doing mainly medical work in the Lake Victoria region of Tanzania but is also involved in other community development projects. Gabriel, having just finished his first year of medical school, had his only free summer of this several year school experience and so we went big and high tailed it for the far reaches of the Earth. Gabriel spent his days assisting in the small community medical clinic that our program runs. My days really ran the gamut. I had expected to mostly use my talents as a teacher but soon after we arrived in Tanzania most of the schools closed for a month long vacation that lasted the rest of our time in country. This was disappointing at first but I still managed to do several craft projects with a few schools before they closed and I was able to work with a nearby orphanage. Ultimately I filled my the rest of my time with several other projects that I hadn't expected but those will have to wait for another blog posting.

I am off to make some dinner but I will leave you with some photos from a couple of the craft projects that I did with a nearby orphanage called Hands Of Mercy.

The bellow photos are of a day that I brought home made play dough to the orphanage, a day that I brought materials to do tissue paper stained glass pasta beads, and the children's toothbrushes hanging on a tree all labeled with their names (no running water inside).