Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mid-week update

I know it’s only the middle of the week, and I’ve already posted this week, so this may seem unusual coming from me.  Don’t worry, I’ll be back to my regular once-a-week self soon.  I have just had a busy week so far, and have some fun things planned for the weekend, so I wanted to break it up for you all.  That way, you wouldn’t have a novel to try to get through on the weekend!  Really, I’m doing you a favor!

To begin with, there has been another (slight?) change in my position at CAMS.  I went to school on Monday excited to begin my second week in Standard 2 when there was an announcement during the staff meeting.  My friend Sarah, who I went on the safari with, decided very last minute to make a trip home.  Her mother is in the hospital and not doing well.  It was a tough decision for her to make and she had been weighing the options all weekend.  When I had last talked to her on Sunday, she still wasn’t sure of what she was doing, so the announcement in the morning was a surprise to me as well.

During second period, the deputy principal walked up to me with a new copy of my timetable.  This one has me in Standard 1 (kindergarten in the states) for most of the week, with the spots where I was in Standard 4 still there, and one period a week in Standard 2.  Even with the sudden move into Standard 1, I couldn’t be happier!  This week has been so much fun so far!  You can’t help but fall in love with those little guys. 

One of the highlights of the week so far has been the start of the swimming lessons in PE.  All of the primary students in CAMS go to swimming lessons once a week, taught by CAMS staff, at the hotel down the street.  The Standard 1 kids were extra excited because this was their first time.  Swimming was at the very end of the day, but they started asking about it from the beginning.  Second break couldn’t go by fast enough for them.  I had to remind most of them that second break was for eating lunch, not for standing by the bus waiting for the driver.

I look forward for another couple of weeks in Standard 1.  Even though I pray for the best outcome for Sarah’s situation, and for her to be able to return to Tanzania and to CAMS, it may be hard for her to get her class back from me.  I have fallen in love with their smiles and their humor and am excited to be with them for as long as I can! (Even if it meant an accidental nap after school today. J )
Sarah and I enjoyed our visit to the Maasai village.  Pray for her and her family as they go through this tough time.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Term 2 and some random musings...

Some off the CAMS staff and friends celebrating the end of term break.

I am happy to say that I made it through the first week of the second term at CAMS.  This term brings about quite a few changes, both to me and to the school.  First of all, we welcomed three new staff members, two of whom will be at CAMS until Christmas.  It is really great to have the extra help, especially as two of them are taking some of the PE classes and we are starting our swimming unit.  This means that I no longer have to attempt to teach young children how to swim! 

Over the break, the parent society began a full remodel of the children’s bathrooms at the school.  The old ones were old and dirty, and the new bathrooms are a very welcome addition!  The remodel was completed early this week and the bathrooms are open for use!  They are fantastic!  Those of you who have been following my blog from the beginning know that I’m not shy about taking pictures of bathrooms, but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet for these.  Never fear, though!   Pictures are coming soon!!

The Standard 2 class and their teachers,
Mr. Beales and Mr. Joshua at the opening
 of the new classroom building at the
 beginning of the school year.
Also coming is a picture of my new classroom.  For various reasons, I have moved into the Standard 2 classroom (1st grade in the states) and have really enjoyed my time there so far.  I did my student teaching in 1st grade and have always had a special love for this age group, so when the principal asked if I wanted to transition into the full-time teacher for S2, it was an easy yes!  The current S2 teacher is preparing to take an extended furlough in a couple of weeks, and won’t be back until mid-way through the third term, so I will be taking over his class.  They are a great group of kids and I am excited to get to work with them!

I have been keeping busy outside of school as well!  On Wednesday night, a group of CAMS teachers went to the pizzeria for dinner.  About once a month, they show a movie there on a Wednesday night, and this week they were showing Memoirs of a Geisha.  We enjoyed our dinner (I had a fantastic ham and mozzarella calzone, Pepsi, and ice cream for dessert) then settled in for the movie.  It was great to have a little break after the start to a new term.  We were all exhausted, but enjoyed the time there very much!  They serve the best pizza I have ever had, and I’m not just saying that because it’s the only pizza I’ve had in over 3 months.

On that note, it’s hard to believe that I have been away from home for 3 months now.  Where has the time gone?  On the one hand, it’s good that things are going by so fast.  Nothing you enjoy ever seems to go by slowly, and this is definitely the case with Tanzania!  On the other hand, I wish things would slow down a little bit.  I am already aware of how quickly my year here will be gone, and I want to make sure that I am taking the time to enjoy every minute of it fully! 

Let me know if there is anything you'd like to see as a blog post or if you have any questions for me.  I LOVE hearing from you!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Humbling Stories

I am getting ready to start the first week of the second term at CAMS.  This week has been really relaxing, thus not producing anything particularly blog-worthy.  Sure I’ve had a couple of fantastic evenings with friends as we came to the end of our break, but I have been humbled by a couple of blogs from other YASCers over the past week.  I would like to share those with you to help us all remember what is out beyond our bubble of a world.

Hannah Perls had an experience that will forever change her.  When I first read her post, I was reminded that those of us in YASC are going to experience things beyond the realm of our previous existence.  It is a post so powerful, not only in the writing but in the story, that I will never forget it.  It is a powerful memorial to a man she had never met.  Please take a moment to read it here.

I got another dose of humility today when I read the blog of YASCer Sarah Lowery.  Sarah wrote in this week’s blog post about the things she is experiencing in her placement working with Mission to Migrant Workers in Hong Kong.  She told the story of one of the clients who came into their mission with a story no one wants to hear and many pretend doesn’t exist.  Please read her blog as well here.
Almighty God, grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Monday, October 14, 2013

On Safari

There are a lot of pictures here.  Just warning you in advance!

I am incredibly blessed to be where I am.  I have said this many times.  This past week, I became even more aware of the blessings I have, and even more thankful for all of you who are supporting me.  One week ago, Sarah Robrecht and I traveled to Arusha to go on a safari.  Sarah is another American missionary working at CAMS.  We were both excited to see some animals, so we planned our safari together.

When we were beginning to plan our safari, we talked with other teachers at CAMS to see what they had done and get some suggestions from them.  One of the teachers told us that she had taken a trip last year with a company called It Started in Africa and had an amazing time.  After checking with a couple of companies, we decided to go with them.  They offered what we considered the best trip, for the most reasonable cost.  We were very happy with our decision.  It was great!

Our MAF pilot, and CAMS parent, Andrew Parker. 
We also took her suggestion and flew up from Dodoma to Arusha.  There are no commercial flights out of the Dodoma airport, but there is another missionary organization here called MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) that makes regular weekly trips on Mondays.  Our decision to fly only one way was based on a couple of factors.  First of all, the cost of flying both ways wasn’t justifiable.  It was great to be able to support MAF by taking the flight up, and the cost was really reasonable.  Unfortunately, the cost of a bus ticket is much less.  We also didn’t want to have to stay in Arusha for the extra two nights in order to get the flight back to Dodoma.  As I said before, they only make weekly flights, so we would have had to wait until Monday instead of coming back on Saturday.  The other aspect was that Sarah wanted to be able to experience a Tanzanian bus ride.  She has worked previously in the Philippines and Cameroon, but wanted to have the bus experience here as well. 

I had the realization on our flight to Arusha that I am not living the life I ever would have expected for myself.  Flying in a small plane over baobab trees above a fluffy blanket of clouds directly toward Mt. Meru with Mt. Kilimanjaro out the window was a surreal experience.  This is the kind of thing you see on TV or you hear of someone doing.  Here I was living it.  Words failed me, but I couldn’t stop smiling!

Our safari company met us at the airport and we drove first to their office before being dropped off at our hotel.  We rode in the car through the main part of Arusha, then into the part of town I’m sure is not meant for tourist eyes.  We turned off of the nice paved road onto a dirt road full of pot holes.  Small shops lined each side, and as we continued turning corners, the roads got more and more narrow.  The road just before the office was so narrow that there was room for one vehicle to pass, narrowly missing the pedestrians.  The office was surrounded by a brick wall and as we drove through the gate, I saw a sight that I’m sure can be found all over the world.  One of the safari vehicles was sitting in front of the office with the hood up and two men working under it.  One was sitting in the driver’s seat revving the engine, and about 8 were standing around watching them.  Just one little reminder that this world is not so far off from the one I know much better.

After talking about our safari and settling on our price, we stopped at an ATM on the way to our hotel.  There is no such thing as a checkbook in Tanzania, and almost no companies take credit or debit cards.  This meant that we paid for our safari with cash in a way that felt odd.  In the US, paying with large amounts of cash feels wrong, but it is normal here.  The largest denomination that you can get in Tanzania is 10,000TSH, which is about $6.75 and meant that we gave our safari company a large pile of money.

Our hotel was just down the street from the “clock tower” which marks the geographical center of Africa.  We walked down for a photo shoot and to find some lunch.  Our hotel also had a restaurant, so we ate dinner there the first night, and the cost of the room included breakfast.  After breakfast, we packed up our things, and met our safari drivers in the lobby.  Emmanuel was our guide and Ziere was our driver.  They were great and it amazed us to see what they could spot while driving.  Their eyes were amazing!
We started off visiting Tarangire National Park.  Tarangire is known for its elephant population, and it didn’t disappoint.  We saw more elephants there than we did at any of the other places we visited.  We also learned that it is currently the dry season here, which is good for seeing animals in this park.  There is a river that runs through the park that animals visit and they can eat the grasses and plants around the area.  In the rainy season, the soil become too moist and the animals can get bacteria in their hooves because of the type of soil here.  Here are some pictures from here.












On the second day of our safari, we ventured into Lake Manyara National Park.  Here, we saw flamingos from a distance, blue monkeys, baboons, impala, and other animals.  We were so close to one elephant that we were starting to make him nervous.  He let out a trumpet and started toward our Land Rover.  I don’t think he was going into a full charge, but it was enough to make me sit down in my seat, instead of peeking out the top!

The third day was spent in the Ngorongoro Crater.  The crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera.  As we drove up the side and then down into the crater, we thought nothing could top the things we had seen the last two days.  Boy, were we wrong!  There were SO many animals gathered there!  We were able to see things we hadn’t seen the days before.  We saw a total of 8 lions, several Thompson’s Gazelle, flamingos close enough you could tell what they were in the pictures, hippos hanging out in a pool, and even saw a rare black rhino (from a distance.)  This was possibly the best wildlife viewing day of them all.

Our last day was spent with a relaxing morning at Haven Nature, the campsite where we had spent the past 3 nights.  Then, we went to a Maasai market to buy a few souvenirs and on to a Maasai village.  We were welcomed by the Maasai with a welcome dance, then shown around the small village, and into one of their houses.  It was a great experience.

Our driver joined in the welcome dance.  I think he's seen one or two before...

She is SOOO cute!

Making fire.

The chief's son showed us around.

Inside the hut.

Ziere sitting on the kids' bed.  Apparently, it sleeps 4.

Through all of this, I couldn’t help but think about the reason I’m here.  I would have never been able to have this great experience if it wasn’t for YASC and all of my supporters back home.  While I didn’t use any of my YASC money to fund the trip, I never would have made such a long trip for such a short adventure, and it would have been too much of a financial strain if I wasn’t already in the country.  I didn’t spend one single day of my safari without thinking about all of you who have made it possible.  As I said before, I am incredibly blessed, and very thankful for the opportunities I have had.  THANK YOU!