Archive for May, 2011

St Jude’s Revisited

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

At first we went to the Usa River campus. This is the location of the secondary school. It
was opened in 2008, when the first class reached secondary level. It would be an impressive school anywhere in the world - and even more so in Arusha. When I first saw it I thought for a minute I’m at a university campus. However, the St Jude tour was scheduled and visitors are usually welcomed at the Primary School. We traveled across town and 45 minutes later we reached our destination.
At first I thought, this is all a bit too polished - the visitor service, the assembly with students performing (for the visitors?). But now, more than a week later I still like to remember the visit. And I have a lot of good memories. The guests were invited up on a stage to briefly introduce themselves, so the students knew our names. During the tour with Adellah from the visitor service, a little girl about Sally’s age came up to me and said “Hello Sabine” - I was very surprised she remembered my name. Turns out we share the
same name;)

A few minutes later we passed a room with the dance club in action - practicing what I know as Ententanz, and before we knew it, Deb and I were dancing as well. The rooms are all organized practical - practical for the students and in friendly colors so it can be fun to be there. Each student has a space in the shelf for the bags and some space in a large shelf for text books and exercise books.
The grounds are divided into separate areas for lower and upper primary and the respective playgrounds reflect the different age groups. Similarly the colorful murals encompassing the school grounds are showing learning content from the syllabus. A great way to learn - apparently teachers use the large pictures, which are done in excellent detail, to explain for example the reproductive organs or the digestive tract of humans or some physical phenomenon.
What I still remember most though is the enthusiasm for kitchen staff and teachers alike, a lot of things that show attention to detail and the love of all the staff of St Jude’s for these children: children who fail a class can repeat and so far this hasn’t been much of a problem; if the teachers notice that the students are more upset than to be expected before going back home for the holiday, a group of 2-3 teachers will visit the family and talk to the neighbours again. Sometimes students know they won’t get more than 1 meal per day at most - that certainly would upset me as well. In such cases the school takes in lower primary students for boarding. Usually boarding is only from upper primary to give the students the chance to build a relationship with their family and, how Adellah put it, so they know where their home is.
The school has a computer room which has very restrictive internet settings for afternoon classes and no internet access in the morning, but the computer labs are equipped with state of the art hardware - in other words, the children really learn to use a computer as a helpful tool.
St Jude’s is teaching the syllabus for the international baccaleaureate - so in theory the graduates can study in most places worldwide. The first graduates are not expected for another two years, but then the next challenge is waiting: to find scholarships for these bright and highly motivated children. Their parents will still be among the poorest and won’t be able to support them. Anybody involved in scholarship management, feel free to get in touch with the school. You won’t regret it!

20 May, Friday - A short night and a long day..

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Thursday was a long night. Foot2Afrika only had all the documents for the next big group of volunteers complete for the visa forms last night. So Rashid and I ended up with a big pile. I can honestly say, I’m glad that I never seriously considered a pure administration career… It was a short night and a long day.
But on to much nicer things. After my session with the women, Salmin picked me up at the project, then we collected Deb and off we were to St Jude’s in Arusha. Of course we first went to the wrong place - they now have two campuses at opposite ends of Arusha (45 minute drive apart). We just made it in time to the Friday assembly at 1.30pm. The students meet on Friday in their respective age groups - lower or upper primary school, before they go home for the weekend. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t what we got. It was a very inspirational visit, to say the least. I will write in more detail about it when I have caught up on my sleep deficit, but I can tell you that this school is full of enthusiastic students, admin and support staff from kitchen to maintenance and of course teachers. They aim to involve everybody, including the visitors. That’s how Deb and I ended up on stage, handing out certificates and a small price to outstanding students. Their achievements ranged from excellent marks in Maths to exceptional kindness and caring for younger students.
Today it was time to recognize staff achievements. The enthusiastic applause and cheering of the students for kitchen staff and teachers alike was incredible. The whole campus shows attention to detail to create an enjoyable learning experience!

On the way back we saw Mount Kilimanjaro in full and leaving Arusha we had an excellent view on Mount Meru. It was a great day, but got to get to bed now. Just wanted to give a short feedback.

16-19 May: Time travels fast when you are having fun;)

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

It was a bit of a mad week so far - glad it is Thursday evening already… But a very good mad;)
Monday I went into town with Sally and her mother Caroline after the class with the women to pay for the first semester and do some shopping to equip Sally for school. First we went to my bank to take the money out. After waiting in line for 1/2 hour we found out that we had to walk across town to the schools bank. Finally we were ready to buy new shoes, socks, pencils, a mathematical set, a sweater that matches her school uniform, a school bag and a bag to go home at the weekends. It was so nice and in a way heart-breaking to see Sally always choose the most economical option. For example the  mathematical set was available with Barbie and Hannah Montana and then the plain Oxford one. She picked the Oxfortd one, because it was not only cheaper, but also included more items. She did pick two pencils with Barack Obama on it - at least that;)
On Tuesday morning after my class the three of us took a taxi into town again, this time to go to the school. First we had to do all the administrative details; get her registered, hand the receipt from the bank to the school accountant. She told us that the second semester actually should also be paid for at the beginning of the school year and could I come back by the end of the week. Then it went all very fast, we just had time to take a picture, Sally ran off to class. Caroline and I had a brief chat with the headmaster and left. I went into town to take more money out of my account, Caroline went back home.
Wednesday I went to teach my English class in the morning, then I raced back to the hostel, dropped off my books I use for teaching and then I raced into town to take some money out again, met Deb to borrow the missing 20000TSh and continue as fast as possible to the bank. I actually managed to get there just on time. I was the last customer admitted into the bank, paid the 2nd term and left. By the time I had walked back to the hostel my feet were seriously hurting..
This morning (now it’s Thursday) I asked Salmin, our very reliable taxi driver, to pick me up at the project again to take me to the school once more. I had a very nice chat with the accountant and afterwards was introduced to the manager of the school (who’s name I forgot, unfortunately) and again met the headmaster, Mr Kimboka. Mr Kimboka and I have good common ground: he did a Master degree in hydrology engineering at the university in Galway in the 80s. The manager, who has been running the school since 2000, has all his family still in England and we talked about the queen’s visit to Ireland and how wonderful and important it was that she said sorry for some of the cruelties of the English in Ireland.
Back at the hostel I went back to work on an email regarding my in-country travel grant to meet potential project partners in Dar-es-Salaam next week. I got up early this morning to work on the reply, afraid that the one week power outage announced to
start today and to last for a week would cut off electricity during the day. Well, I can live with power outages like this: today has been the most stable since I arrived… To make a long story short - I first checked my email and what do I find?
My travel application has been confirmed! Yipieeh! Thanks Ms Jaskula and Mr O’Reilly - this email made my day!! :)
Now I’m all excited about tomorrow: after the class with the women I will travel to Arusha and visit the School of St Jude. We are invited to join the school assembly - so hopefully we will be there on time for it at 1.30pm. More news and interesting stories to come - it is also my first trip seriously out of town since I arrived.

15 May - a very lazy Sunday

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

There wasn’t much happening today. I updated the blog as you might have noticed. Then I walked into town to get money out for tomorrow. When I came back our new volunteer, Maren, had arrived. A 21 year old Norwegian African Studies student who has spent the last few months in Dar-es-Salaam, studying in an exchange program. She brought a lot of laughs to the house already and it looks like she will be a good addition to the team. Then at 6pm I all of a sudden had this (brilliant) idea to check whether Kilimanjaro might be visible. And, yes, there it was.

14 May - Kilimanjaro does exist after all

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Saturday morning after class I had a chat with Sally’s mother, a very nice lady, and we decided the next steps. On Monday I will go into town with Sally and her mum, buy shoes, socks, a bag, a few things Sally will need and pay the school fees at the bank. Tuesday after my class, all three of us will go to Sally’s (boarding) school here in Moshi, get her registered, buy her uniform and the books and leave her there.

Yes, I will be broke and there won’t be a holiday budget left for travelling around Ireland this summer, but I think it’s worth it. I also talked to Sally’s mum, that I would like to continue supporting Sally’s schooling and also stay in touch with her. She is raising Sally by herself, living in a small room with two bunk beds right beside the two rooms which are the workshop of the women, but it is her number 1 priority to get her girl through school. Very brave woman!

I am NOT writing this so you think: That’s great of Sabine. BUT maybe some of you readers feel inclined to do something similar. If that’s the case, go to the website of School of St Jude’s. I hope to go and visit them next Friday after my lesson with the women. St Jude has a very special mission: provide school for the poorest and brightest children. I will report back after my visit;)

We went to Pamela’s bar across the road (imagine a well used biergarten set up) for lunch and soon after Julia had to leave for the airport. The rest of the day was very uneventful - except for one thing. I finally saw Kilimanjaro! First Msafiri pointed out that a little piece of it was visible. And around 8pm Sarafina dragged me outside and there I finally saw the top of the mountain in the dark. But the moonlight and the snow made it visible. Great sight! Sorry, no pics. My camera just showed a lot of very dark night…

13 May - Katanini, Sally, the touts & Kaesspaetzle

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Things I have learned today: the village I go to every day is called Katanini, don’t go shopping by yourself, children love going to school (knew that for some anyway) and it is possible to make kaesspaetzle and potato salad on a gas camp cooker.

After the lesson with the women I had another talk with Sally - she is a very smart and friendly girl with excellent English. She spent her first few years in Kenya; that’s were she learned English so well. I asked her if she shouldn’t be in school. She was a bit emberassed and then told me that her mother didn’t have the money to pay for school. Her mother is working as an assistant teacher in the school next door - which is actually something like kindergarten cum 1st grade.  Well, combined with all my thinking about the baby-hugging volunteer tourism I decided to figure out what to do about Sally. I asked Debbie about her and she told me, that Kevin, another Foot2Afrika volunteer who is planning to come back in autumn, had been looking into it, but so far nothing had happened. I offered to be the sponsor, if it is within my budget. Well, to make a long story short, I talked to Kevin on skype that evening, got the costs (~500€) and what to do and decided to pay for it.

Well, the rest of the day was a bit hectic (very unusual occurrence here) between 1pm and 8 pm. I had to wait for several hours for another volunteer; because of that I was late getting into town. I had to buy a big pot or pan, because I had promissed to cook dinner for everybody as a farewell dinner for Julia, the other Irish volunteer who has been here for 2 weeks andf who will leave Saturday afternoon. - Julia, it has been a blast!! ;))
In town I was picked up by a bunch of touts who were extremely aggressive and hard to get rid of. I did something that is considered very rude in Tanzania (didn’t know): I expressed my anger about what I considered very rude behaviour by these touts. Anyway, in the end I had everything I needed. Just when I was getting ready to start cooking we had yet another power outage - but there is always the back-up gas cooker. And, what can I say? 3 hours later dinner was ready, everybody enjoyed it, I managed to talk to Debbie and Kevin about Sally and overall the day had a very good overall result.

12 May- Thursday

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

It has been raining most of the night, but not as much as the night before and it stopped early in the morning. Salmin was right on time at 8.30 am and we left for the project. It was quite an adventurous drive and Salmin had to take a detour, but we made it. On the way we picked up Prisca and she and Apollonia were the first ones there. We played the vocabulary game and one by one Aisha, Happiness and the rest of the group joined us. Overall a very uneventful day - which is nice as well;)
Oh, well, I did do something: I had a long talk with Sally, a little girl that is around most mornings, looking after the smaller children and sometimes listening in on our class. I asked her if she would like some kind of toy - she asked for a book. Ok, she had me right there. I remember saving all my pocket money for my first book and everybody else considering that a strange choice for a little girl… Why is she not in school? She loves fairy tales; there is my mini project cut out for the rest of the week. I have to find out, why she is not in school.

11 May - The day after the rain

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

It rained all night from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning. Wednesday was the day after the rain… I couldn’t go out to the project, because the roads were too muddy. As it was still raining in the morning I spent the time preparing a more detailed lesson plan. Then I did a bit of online research on start up information to feed into our topic “Government and Community”. I found a lot about costs for starting a business; I’m not clear on the tax system yet.
In the afternoon I walked into town with Debbie in bright sunshine and we had lunch at the Salzburger Inn - an extremely curious place, but curious in a nice way. It has all kind of memorabilia from Austria and Salzburg in particular: old beer mats with Austrian beer brands, a picture of a group of people calling themselves “Freunde des Kilimanjaro” (friends of Kilimanjaro) and the menu includes, of course, Wiener Schnitzel and I think I also saw Salzburger Nockerln. I had an omlette with beans and spring onions with french fries and Debbie had chicken chow mein - both not exactly Austrian specialties as far as I know…
Then we went on to explore a part of town I had heard of, but neither Debbie  (who has been here since January) or I had visited before. We went past the clock tower and discovered the public library and another so-called supermarket (similar to any mid-sized Centra in Ireland). To use the library we will have to pay 10000TSh for a one year membership and provide two passport pictures. Since I would like to see if I can find some more local information for the course I’ll definitely get it. I’m of course also curious what kind of books they have. I admit it, all my friends know it, books are my soft spot…

On the way back we turned onto Market Street at the bus depot and found a Christian Bookshop; that’s when I remembered that I had found that bookshop online when I did some online research before I left. They seem to be the only bookstore and they have a much bigger selection of text books than the stationary shop across form Union Coffee. However, they also do not have anything beyond textbooks and, of course, books on Christinaity the bible, etc.. Then Debbie met with Johnson to go somewhere else and I walked across the big (food) market in town. After a while I decided that I could use Msafiri’s support to find the right market stalls and to get a good price. So we will be back tomorrow afternoon (I hope).
The evening was quiet, because we had another power outage; this time this was accompanied by no water. A few of us, Julia, Msafiri, Jonathan and I, sat in the living room for a while, talking about children’s stories from our countries and I went to bed early.

10 May - 1st session with the women

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Another first: first day of our lessons. I take Salmin’s taxi on the way out and I start to wonder how I’ll make it back…I have prepared a mix  of English revision and introduction to Entrepreneur skills. Today I just want to see how much the women can understand, what their level of spoken English is and which of the topics in the Entrepreneur course they are most interested in. We won’t be able to cover them all in the 4 weeks we will have together, but I’d like the women to make the decision.
The women are all ready and are waiting by the time I get to the project. We quickly set up an empty room with an ancient blackboard; 8 chairs in a circle around two old coffee tables and we are ready to go. Everybody had an old (paper) notebook already, but they are very happy about the new pink notebooks and the pens I got for everybody - it is a new start;) It takes a while to get through the topics - I learned many new Swahili  words.
The women choose the following topics:

  • Government and Community
  • Business opportunities
  • Market Research & Product Development
  • Business Planning
  • Selling to Customers

I think this is a very good choice. We have a short discussion, because the topic “How to figure out the costs” was just not chosen, but we all agree it is also essential and we decide to give it some extra space inthe business planning section. Interestingly the only topic selected by all the women is market research & product development.
I introduce my favorite vocabulary game - pairs; and we spend half an intense, half hour with a lot of laughter. Nobody wins - we’ll have to play the game a few more times;)
The way back is another first and the biggest challenge of that day! It’s a 1-hour walk on mud roads and how I manage to actually trace back the way we took in the taxi I don’t know! Turn left at the little shack, go past the Coca Cola plant, across the bridge with the Coca Cola logo on it. Turn left at the very muddy intersection right after the bridge and take the first right again. Go straight until the t-crossing at the Safe Haven Orphanage, turn left there. Continue straight past the Kili FM advertisement, until the mud road turns into asphalt. Follow this road until you reach the big brown bible school building - you are back;)

That evening I notice I got a souvenir - the color of my arms is matching the color of the lobster-red shirt I’m wearing. Doh - who would have thought you’d need sun-screen for a 1-hour walk back at lunchtime…

9 May - May I introduce: Rudisha Women’s Group

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

The first day with the Rudisha women’s group; there are also some pictures. I met the group and Sadock explained in Kiswahili what I’m going to do - teach them some Business English and write a business plan with and for them. Then each of them introduced herself and I told them a little bit about myself. I will write a little bit more about the individual women once I get to know them a bit better. All this took about an hour and another hour waiting for everybody to show up, cleaning their work space - the wind had blown in dirt and dust over the weekend. I’m looking forward to our work together. They are a nice group of women and all seem very eager to learn and appreciate the opportunity - and this is probably the understatement of the day. Olga, one of my co-volunteers, suggests to curb my enthusiasm - she does not expect many of them to show up on time for the first lesson tomorrow morning. I’ll just wait and see.
It just started raining outside - third evening in a row. This is really good, because apparently the rainy season hasn’t brought that much rain so far.
By the time we get back into town, including a short stop at a shop where Olga checked for prizes for the material, we arrive at the Union Coffeeshop at 3pm. I run across into the store with stationary and books and 50000TSh (~25€) later I have all I need for our course: note books, pens, poster paper, 2 English-Swahili dictionaries and some colored printing paper and tape to put up the posters.

Back at the coffee shop Olga is sitting over a price list for the bags and we discuss prizes for the various product lines for about an hour. Around 5pm Msafiri shows up out of nowhere and offers a ride back in the taxi he has rented to pick up cement. A happy and noisy reunion with Salmin, the taxis driver who drove Katharina and myself back from the airport last Friday.