Sunday, August 18, 2013

I didn't get here alone!

I was listening to some of my music the other day and came across a song that almost made me cry.  The words aren’t particularly sad, but most of them spoke to me on a different level.   The lyrics ring especially true this week as I have hit my fundraising goal!  I want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who has been a part of this. 

While this song is about Kenny Chesney's journey becoming a country star, it speaks to my missionary year as well.  I didn’t get here alone.  My calendar is filled up with names of people who have contributed financially to my time here in Tanzania.  There are countless other people who have supported me in other ways.  I have friends who have written me wonderful notes to bring with me, prayed for me, and made sure I was well fed (and not only in body) before I left home.  Not a single day would be possible without those at home.  I also have some amazing friends who have begun their work around the world or are preparing for their year as well. 

“I wanna thank everyone out there for the ride, ‘cuz I didn’t get here alone.  Didn’t travel one mile on my own.”
Thank You!!!
I Didn’t Get Here Alone
By: Kenny Chesney
Everyone who helped pave my way
If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be here today
All my friends, the girls, the broken hearts
All the critics the cynics the doubters
You know who you are. 
Mom and Dad, all your prayers
Those looking down from up there.
I didn’t get here alone. 
That road just too rough alone
I might be the one the spotlight’s on
But I didn’t get here alone
Yeah, I know I didn’t get here alone
The old ball coach who pushed me way too hard
The preacher man said trust in God you’ll go far
I’ll never forget the songs that changed my path
Just for one more reason I’m where I’m at
I hit walls and I wanted to quit
I picked myself up, but the truth is, yeah the truth is
The crew, the band,
Yeah all you fans
Who stood in line rain or shine
I wanna thank everybody out there for the ride.
‘Cuz I didn’t get here alone
Didn’t travel one mile on my own
You’re why I sing my song
You’re why I sing my song


Listen to it here...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An evening walk

 Has it really been week since my last post?  Time is flying already!

Last night, a group of us from the compound where I am living went for a walk in the opposite direction from town.  Our goal was an old dam and reservoir near the outskirts of town.  There is no water in the reservoir, but it was a great walk and a chance to see another part of Dodoma. 

We walked down the paved street for a little while before crossing over and taking a dirt path across a field.  This path turned into a dirt road and went through a couple of small neighborhoods.  It was early evening when we started out (about 5:30) and we saw a few people still working in their fields.  At one point, we stopped and listened to a group of people who must have been gathered together for some sort of worship.  Their singing was the most amazing sound.  We stopped on the road a few yards behind where they were singing and just listened.  Their song was a simple “Alleluia,” but was upbeat and included many parts beautifully woven together. 

 One of the small neighborhoods

Continuing down the road, we passed several smaller farms.  They were more like homes with gardens and farm animals (usually goats or chickens.)  We also passed a larger garden where they are growing several types of fruits and vegetables, including fruit trees.  Water is scarce here, but they have devised a system of pipes that bring water from somewhere nearby.  As we walked by, we saw a man with a large watering can giving one row of crops a hefty drink.  Growing anything in the dirt here takes a lot of work and water is just one of the many challenges growers face.

 A man working the land

The large garden.
The dam itself is void of water, though there is evidence of recent holes dug in attempts to reach the water hidden below the surface.  On an old water tower, you can see the marking left by years of water filling and emptying from the reservoir.  I’m told that when the rainy season hits, there will be some water that partly fills it again.  I also heard that it is a popular spot for kids to go fishing, and that apparently they actually catch things there.  We spent part of our walk speculating how the fish appear in what now looks like a desert and decided they must bury themselves underground until the rains come, or lay their eggs that way.   
The old water tower
Overgrown steps into the reservoir

We stopped several times on the way home for photo opportunities.  While passing through the field, we were invited (“Karibu”) to join in a football game, but the sun was setting and we needed to get home.  I am constantly in awe of the things I see here.  Whether it is the most amazing sunset, vibrantly colored flowers growing from plants in dry, red, sandy soil, or wonderful music shared in a small community, Tanzania doesn’t disappoint.


Alleluia indeed!
The sunset was AMAZING!!

I had to take lots of pictures of it!

I also had to take pictures of the plants along the way home.  Truly beautiful!
The top of a "tree"

The hillside just beside the dam

These plants reminded us of toothbrushes.   They were such a pretty color, too!

We also thought these seed pods were interesting.  The seeds inside are about the size of a hazel nut and the pods are about the size of a golf ball.

These leaves were just cool. 

I have seen and heard of shoes hanging from telephone wires, but this was a new one for me.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The first week of school

I know it's only Wednesday, but the first week of school is over (we think.)  It is so nice to have a short week this week.  Now that I've met the kids, I have a few days to plan! 
First of all, I'm sure you are all wondering why we only think this is the last day of school this week.  The answer is simple, even if it is hard understand.  Let me explain:  Tomorrow is a holiday called Nane Nane, which is a sort of agricultural Tanzanian holiday celebrated on the 8th day of the 8th month.  Nane (pronounced nah-nee) is Kiswahili for 8, so the name really isn't very original.  It is, however, a day off from school and an excuse for us to visit an agricultural fair and take in a bit of Tanzanian culture in the process. 
What about Friday?  Great question!  At some point in the near future, we are reaching the end of Ramadan, a Muslim holiday which lasts for a month and is celebrated by fasting during the daylight hours.  Ramadan ends when the new moon is spotted, so it can't officially end until that happens.  There is also a 2-day celebration that goes along with it.  There is a large Muslim population in Dodoma, and indeed in most of Tanzania, so this becomes a public holiday.  So, even though we are pretty sure this will happen Friday, we won't know officially until Thursday night.
So, now on to my first days of school:
Monday was the first day back, and the first day of the new school year.  It is winter here now, so the kids just came back from winter break.  There are a lot of changes at the school this year, including a new principal and deputy principal, so it was exciting for everyone! 
Every morning starts at 7:30 with staff devotions and announcements.  This is the first chance we have to see everyone each day and only lasts 10 minutes.  Someone rings a bell at 7:40 to announce to the kids that it is time to line up outside their classrooms (little house on the prairie style.)
I start my day with Standard 6 (S6) devotions and attendance, then move into S6 reading.  I have the benefit of a great working knowledge of reading-level-based reading groups.  This is new for some of the teachers.  I really had it easy!  I was given a list of students from last year and their reading levels.  I am very excited to not have to assess them all at the beginning of the year! 
At other times during the week, I also teach reading to Standard 4.  I actually spend most of my time in S4, even though I'm semi-officially the classroom teacher for S6.  I also teach literacy (which includes grammar, writing, handwriting, and spelling) to S4, science in both classes, S4 PE, and Topic (social studies and geography) to S4.
The kids in my classes are great!  Most of the students are Tanzanian, but there are several expat kids as well.  They are just like the kids back home.  There are the ones who can't stay in their seat, the ones who like to chat, the ones who are quiet and don't say much, the sweet ones, the smart ones, the sassy ones.  Every day when I tell them good morning, they reply in unison with "Good morning Miss Galagan, and God bless you" in their cute Tanzanian accents.   
Our day is over at 2:00 when the kids go home, then we have a half hour of wrap-up time at the end of the day.  It seems really short coming from a 7:30am to 4:30pm day.  We also have 2 30-minute breaks each day.  The first one is in the morning after 2 periods and the second one is around noon for lunch. 
The school doesn't provide lunch, so the kids bring their own.  There is a student canteen that has little snack-type items they can buy, but doesn't stock much.  We also have a Tanzanian woman who makes things for the staff to buy for lunch.  Each day this week, she has had a type of soup and some other item to purchase.  We've had mince pies (kind of like a cupcake-sized shepherd's pie with a crust,) pizza, and pasties, all of which have been delicious!
On Monday, the bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika is coming to CAMS to dedicate the new unit that was just finished last week.  It currently holds a set of bathrooms and the Standard 5 classroom.  There is the foundation for another classroom, but CAMS doesn't have the money for it yet.  Today, we had a practice for the event and brought all of the students and staff out in front of the unit.  We also had a group from a church in South London who came to sing a couple of songs for us.  They are working on building another school in the area so our principal invited them to sing for us. 
Anyway, here are some pictures from around CAMS.  Enjoy them and let me know if there is anything you want more information about!
The Standard 4 Classroom
(I was still prepping when I took this picture, so it's not completely set up.)

Standard 6

The entire student body at the rehearsal today.  My S4's and S6's are on this side of the 2nd and 3rd rows from the front.  
Our chaplain, principal, and deputy principal (pictured in that order) talking during a break in the assembly.  
 Part of the playground with the new building in the background.  The building on the right houses several classrooms including the computer lab.
Looking toward the student bathroom, Staff Room, and there's even a classroom there!  The Staff Room is the doorway in the corner.
The offices and Staff Library
The veranda outside the S6 and S4 room.  The doorway is to S6 with the windows on the left of the door.   The windows on the right are for S4, 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Good morning everyone!  It's Saturday morning and I've been spending some time this morning unwinding from a crazy week and chilling at home.  I plan to head over to school after lunch today to get some more work done before students arrive on Monday morning!!  Several people have asked about what my living arrangements are, so I thought this would make a perfect opportunity to share the pictures I took from inside my house.
The housing compound I'm living in is right across the street from the school.  The street is smaller than the alley by my house back home, but it is a street nonetheless.  I am so close to school that I could easily leave home at 7:29 an be in the staff room in time for our morning devotionals and announcements at 7:30 sharp. 
There are several other units on this compound for other expat teachers.  We are all so close together that I frequently hear my neighbors using their microwave or doing their dishes.  The windows have sort of glass shutters on them, except in the bedroom, but the shutters don't work.  This gives everything an open and airy feeling.  We are so close to the equator here that there isn't really much need to keep out the cold, even though it can get cool at night. 
The water in Dodoma is not safe to drink from the tap.  Instead, I boil a large pot of water on my little table-top oven/stove and filter it through a counter-top filter, which is next to the sink.  The water is ok to use to clean up with, but needs to be heated as the only water heater around is a small one attached to the shower.  This needs to be turned on about a half hour before I shower so that the water has time to heat up.  I generally wash my dishes with the tap water, but rinse it with filtered water with a bit of bleach.  All dishes need to be air dried since dish cloths become contaminated quickly.
At night, I sleep under mosquito netting, which keeps out the bugs that would annoy me at night.  Apparently, mosquitoes which carry malaria are more likely to bite at night, so this is one extra precaution.  I have seen mosquitoes around during the day and have gotten a few bits already, but have not seen the masses of mosquitoes I had heard horror stories about from others who have been to Tanzania.  In my house, I have seen more spiders and ants than mosquitoes at this point.  I do have a bit of an ant problem.  I can't even leave out a knife I have wiped almost clean of jam without the ants having a hay day and covering my sink and counter area.  One of the first things I will learn this year is how to do my dishes in a timely manner.  (For those of you who know me well, you know that this is my LEAST favorite of all the household chores.)

Here are some pictures.  Let me know if you have any other questions for me!
My sitting area, just to the left of my door.
Into the kitchen area.  The tan cylinder in the left corner is my water filter. 

My front door, standing by my sink.

Into my bathroom.

The view into my bedroom.

My tiny closet.

My bedroom window.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Flushed Away

It’s hard for me to decide what to write about in my first blog post in Tanzania.  I guess I should
start off with I MADE IT!!!  After several hours (I lost count of how many, but I do know that I had been awake for about 23 when I boarded the plane in Amsterdam) I landed in Dar es Salaam,
paid for my visa (it’s a good thing I got some extra money from the ATM in Minneapolis before I left the states because, apparently, a $50 bill from before the year 2000 is too old to work,) picked up my bags, and met Salim, the taxi driver who showed me the ATM to get Tanzanian Shillings and took me to an…interesting… hotel called Sharon House and helped me check in, check out in the
morning, buy my bus ticket, and find my seat.
I have only been in Dodoma for about 4 days, but have already experienced so much that several blog posts will likely be in order.  I will start, however, with the story of my journey. 
It’s funny the things you pick up on when you travel, and how your perspectives change along the way.  I was given an assignment by my friend Rachel Carter before I left.  Rachel is going to Panama and you can check out her blog by clicking on “YASC Blogs” at the top of this page.
You see, when we were at orientation in New York, Rachel and I would meet up at the bathroom.  It was TOTALLY unplanned every time, but it seemed like we would always see each other there.  It began to feel like we had some sort of special bathroom connection.  Since bathrooms seemed to be our thing, Rachel told me that I had to make a post about bathrooms, which I agreed would make a fantastic post. 
I set out on this bathroom mission with what began as playful innocence.  It was such a novel thing.  What it turned into however was a certain realization.  I began to see the differences in cultures apparent in how even the little things, like bathrooms. 

I began with the bathroom in the hotel room in Billings, Montana.  This is where I stayed with my dad the night before I flew out.  Here, I noticed what I have often seen in American hotel rooms.  There was a separate room for the bathtub and toilet, with the sink area outside the door, but divided from the rest of the room.  This set-up allows for more than one person to get ready at the same time, whether for the day or for bed, in privacy. 
The differences between this hotel bathroom and the one in
Sharon House are glaring.  In Sharon
House, there is no tub, only a shower floor. The shower head wasn’t even attached to the wall and there was no shower
curtain.  The entire room was the size of
a large shower stall, but held the shower area, toilet, and sink.  They provided shower shoes, though you could
see that they had been used several times before.  Even the package for the provided toothbrush
was opened on one end.  I wore my own
shoes whenever I was in the bathroom, as well as in the shower, to provide a
layer between me and the grimy floor. 

It would be easy to say that the US hotel was cleaner than the one in Tanzania, but it is important to remember that this was one hotel, and not one that normally caters to American tourists.  There was a much nicer hotel we passed on the way, but the cost of that room was considerably more.  I was able to stay in this hotel one night for roughly $15.  It was a room designed for one, so privacy was not a priority. The room as a whole was small, but still slightly half the size of most of the homes in Tanzania (certainly larger than the space I saw the man sleeping in across the street,) and cost more than half of what an average monthly income for Tanzanian households was in 2001. It put some things into perspective.


Billings, Montana

The bathrooms I encountered in the airports I visited were very similar to each other.  Each had 4-5 stalls and 2 sinks.  The colors were various shades of blue.  They were designed to allow several people to move through quickly.  The only difference in design that I saw was with the stalls in the bathroom in Amsterdam.  Clearly, privacy and security were a priority here.  The doors on each stall went from the floor to the ceiling, as did the walls.  The only way to tell if someone was inside was a small window in the door that turned from green to red when the door was locked. 
Minneapolis, Minnesota
The other design difference in Amsterdam was ingenious!  The doors on the stalls opened outward.  This made it SO much easier for me, my carry-on bag, and my backpack to enter the stall and close the door.  This is a design element that airports in the United States could learn from!
Amsterdam, Netherlands

The last pictures are from the bathroom in my new “house.”  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

The biggest thing I learned from the different bathrooms is that really, bathrooms are a place people don't take much time thinking about.  Sure, they are important parts of our lives, but the designs are basically the same no matter where you go.  People do with them what they can, and as long as they function the way they are supposed to, why change what works?