Sunday, February 23, 2014

Family Fun Day

Imagine the computer lab at your local high school (or secondary school for those of you outside the USA.)  Do you see it?  Now, imagine that the computers in that lab are aging and are slightly past their prime.  Now, imagine that the network that links those computers and the 3 similarly aging computers in the staff workroom is not quite capable of keeping up with the demand that the internet, multiple computer classes, and staff needs are asking for.  What do you get?  The CAMS computer system.
Having to battle with occasional power cuts during a computer class is tough enough, but when there is power and the computer system still isn’t working, things get more frustrating.  This is how the computer teachers at CAMS have spent their year.  Sometimes the computers are working fine and there is no problem.  Other times, secondary students who are studying computing are forced to work on computer theory rather than on actually using the computers.  As you can imagine, this becomes a problem for computer teachers and won’t help the students pass their exams.
The CAMS Parent Society recently decided to do something about this.   This weekend they organized a Family Fun Day to raise money to help the school upgrade the computer system.  The Family Fun Day was a blast!  It was really fun to see parents and students outside school hours and there were great activities set up, venders selling their goods, food, balloons, face painting, and a second-hand sale.  All the items were donated and a good time was had by all.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. 
Face painting was a HUGE hit!  Lots of butterflies, spidermen, snakes, and sparkles!
No, I didn't get my face done, but you have to admit... he's got a cute one!
Bean Bag toss.  Winners got a sucker.  They were a hot item!
There was even a teachers vs parents tug-of-war game.  We let the parents win.  Didn't want them to look bad in front of their children. ;)
Maria was popular with her henna tattoos. 
Second hand items were sold on this veranda, which was also a popular resting space.
More face painting.

Quite possibly my favorite picture of the day. 
Even the secondary students got into the face painting! :)
I'm not sure how much we ended up raising, but I think it's safe to say that Family Fun Day was a fantastic success!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Same Here

I was looking back at some of the posts I have created since moving to Tanzania and came to the realization that I have spent a lot of time talking about the differences between here and the place I’ve called home for 25 years.  I have done little to reassure those who asked before I left about whether or not I was living in a mud hut with no electricity or running water that I am in fact living in a modern location.  I decided that it was time that I remedy this situation.

Here is a list of 20 things in no particular order that are the same about my life in Dodoma and my life in Wyoming.

1.       Pepsi or Coke?  Both are options.

2.       My refrigerator is small enough that I can see the top.

3.       Nothing beats frozen Snickers!

4.       Pringles are delicious, and available in a variety of flavors.

5.       Getting unexpected mail from friends and family makes everyone jealous, especially when your package is bigger than everyone else’s or contains something extra awesome. (This reminds me of college… the glorious ride up a crowded elevator with a box in hand!)

6.       Sitting “shotgun” must be called.

7.       Kids are excited to see you outside of school.  They can hardly believe you don’t sleep there!

8.       Turning on a fan and hoping to catch a breeze through open windows is a popular pastime on hot days!

9.       Warm showers feel good after a long day at work.

10.   Pizza is one of my favorite meals to eat out.

11.   Fabric shopping makes for a great afternoon.

12.   I have a bunch of plastic containers in my cupboards.  I just HAVE to save all of them to keep things in, and I worry that I’m going to run out some day.

13.   I feel rich after visiting the ATM.

14.   Candles are amazing ways to light up a room.

15.   People are friendly and will return a smile.

16.   Mosquitos have no purpose except for biting my feet.

17.   One of my favorite meals to cook myself is pasta.  It’s so easy!

18.   No one knows where Wyoming is.

19.   A movie night is a great way to hang out with friends, as is an evening roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

20.   Major sporting events draw a crowd at the local bar.
While it is so true that there are major differences between Dodoma, Tanzania and Cody, Wyoming, these similarities make me realize that the world really isn't quite as big as it seems.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Where it all began...

One year ago, my life changed.  I had no idea at the time how much it would be different in the following weeks, months, and even now. 

I drove myself to the airport that first morning, parked my car in one of the spots close to the doors, taking advantage of the airport’s free parking, and hurried inside.  It was a cold morning and the sun wouldn’t be up for another hour or so.  I was glad I had checked myself in the night before and had printed my boarding pass.  Straight through the short line for security, I waited in the small waiting room for my flight. 

Waiting rooms are great places.  I looked around at my fellow passengers, wondering where they were all going.  I remember that there were an unusual number of children on this flight.  I hoped they were going somewhere warm and with fun on the way!  On the plane, I sat next to a former teacher and colleague.  It was nice to be able to talk about my destination and long weekend ahead, even though I had no idea what was really coming. 

A couple of waiting rooms and airplanes later, I landed in Florida.  It was Wednesday evening and no one else was there yet.  I called and caught a shuttle to the hotel where I was spending the night.  I was meeting someone else there, someone who also couldn’t catch a “red eye” to arrive Thursday morning.  We had an advantage over many of the others. We were getting a full night’s sleep!

As we took the shuttle back to the airport to meet the others the next morning, my nerves were on high alert.  What had I gotten myself into?  What would the others be like?  Would they like me?  Was I really here?  How would we know where everyone was?  What was going to happen this weekend?  So many questions, none of them with answers.

It didn’t take long for me to begin thinking of the people I waited for and with as “My YASC Friends,” instead of only “The Other YASCers.”  Throughout the weekend we spent a lot of time getting to know each other, getting to know the program, and eating.  Every moment was carefully planned to allow the best use of our time. 

We did a lot during Discernment Weekend, and it really did allow for discernment.  I was encouraged to think about what I wanted to get out of YASC and out of a year of service abroad.  Through small group discussions, I was able to learn a lot about the others who had applied and to share about myself.  We went deeper with each other in a shorter amount of time than I had ever done with people who were complete strangers even a couple of days earlier. 

Hanging out the last evening.  This is one of my favorite memories of the weekend.

We talked about what mission is, and what a missionary does.  Before the weekend, my definition of “missionary” was very close to “evangelist.”  I was relieved to discover that there is much more to it than that.  We also got a short history of mission in the Episcopal Church, specific information about YASC, logistical information, and heard from former YASCers about their experiences and life after YASC.  We were also given the opportunity to worship with each other on a daily basis, and spent free time talking with each other and getting to know each other even better.  My short answer for when people ask about Discernment Weekend has always been “They flew us all to Florida, stuffed our heads full of so much information that nothing else fit, asked us to think about (and talk about) ourselves, fed us, then sent us all home.”

Sunset.  It was amazing!!
The little chapel at Camp Weed, Florida. 

When I left Florida, I was a different person.  It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to the new friends I had met, knowing that I may not see some of them again but not knowing who that would be.   When we got to the airport, we exchanged last-minute hugs as we all found our gates and met our planes.  I have an incredible amount of respect for the extraordinary people I had spent the last few days with.  They are the kind of people that make you better just because you know them. 

Before we left on Sunday morning, we had been given one week to let YASC know if we were still interested or if it wasn’t the time for us.  I was determined to give it at least a couple of days before I let them know.  I wanted to be sure it wasn’t the incredible weekend that made my mind up for me. 

My answer came to me at about 10:00 on Monday morning.  I was on the playground at school during a Kindergarten and 1st grade recess.  After a late flight in the night before, a conversation with my parents who were curious about what I had been up to for the past 4 days, and a short drive home, I was exhausted!  I looked around the playground at the kids I loved teaching at a school that I don’t ever remember not being a part of.  I remember thinking to myself “I absolutely love my job and my life here, but I’m going to Africa next year.”  The rest, as they say, is history.
The whole group!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

First week back... and what a week it was!

This week saw my 6 month mark here in Dodoma.  I can’t believe I’m half-way done.  I swear, I only arrived a couple of months ago, and I’ve only been working with the kids for a few weeks.  If the other stories on this blog are any indication, this year has been one of the most eventful of my life, and there are still 6 more months to look forward to.

Was it really 6 whole months ago when I took this photo of the sunrise outside my plane window before taking off for my first flight to Tanzania?

On Monday, we welcomed the students back to school.  It was good to see them again after such a long break at Christmas.  I’m still in Standard 2 and it was nice to be able to return to school this term already knowing my kids and the curriculum I’m teaching.  We were able to start off right where we had left off last term without the “getting to know you” phase.

This has been a very busy week outside of school as well!  Aside from all of the school things involved in a new term, it was my birthday this week!  My birthday fell on the exact 6 month mark in Dodoma, but also was my “Golden Birthday.”  For those of you now familiar with this very important event, a Golden Birthday is the birthday where you turn the age of the date of your birth.  I was born on the 28th of January and turned 28 this year.  It only happens once in your life, which is what makes it extra special!  This called for a celebration of epic proportions.

We started last Saturday, with an afternoon at a local swimming pool.  This was really our last “hurrah” before school started.  The water was refreshing in the Tanzanian heat.  I know those of you back home are thinking that swimming in an outdoor pool is probably the last thing you would have wanted to do last weekend, and I don’t blame you!  It is, however, summer in this part of the world and the temperatures have been hovering in the 80’s.  This Wyoming girl is missing her snow!

My friends enjoying Chips Mayai at the pool edge.  The water was too nice to get out, even for lunch!
Letting air our of the ring in preparation for the dalla dalla ride back to town.
SO nice!!

On Monday, the staff at CAMS received an invitation to a Chinese New Year celebration put on by the Chinese community in Dodoma and the Confucius Institute at the University of Dodoma.  Due in part to the late notice, Maria and I were the only CAMS staff that were able to go.  We were not disappointed!  It turns out that the Chinese Embassy had invited an arts group from China to come perform for us.  They, along with a dance troupe and students at UDOM, performed a number of songs, dances, and martial arts displays.  Even with the power cut in the middle of the evening, it was a full night of entertainment and a great celebration! (I know.  I should have pictures.  I promise I’ll never forget my camera again!)

The actual day of my birthday was spent at school.  There was cake during one of the breaks for the staff in the lounge.  I went to Maria’s house for dinner, then to Sarah’s house afterwards, where we celebrated again with Andes Mint brownies!  They were SOOOO good!

I rounded off my birthday celebrations on Wednesday with a night out at the local pizzeria.  Sometimes the Leone de African has a movie night on Wednesday nights, and this week they were showing A Fish Called Wanda.  It seemed like a perfect, ready-made celebration.  I was able to enjoy a ham and mushroom pizza with a Coke and the company of some great friends. 

Candle-lit lantern at the Pizzeria.

The rest of the week was definitely focused on school.  I’m with a class 22 of the 25 periods each week (and spending at least one of my “free” periods in my classroom while my class is there) this term, and spending my time in both Standard 2 and Standard 4.  I’m definitely kept on my toes!  I do prefer to be kept busy as sitting around with nothing to do bores me.  No chance of that happening this term!

Before I finish I have to, once again, send out a HUGE thank-you to everyone who has been supporting me the last month.  Prayers and well wishes are extremely helpful, as were the numerous Christmas cards I received in December (and on into January.)  This month, I have a special thank you to Grandma and Grandpa Lucas, Pat and Connie Keller, Press, Shirley and Mariah Stephens, Kate and Warren Murphey, Marshall Dominick, Russell Keegan, David Dominick, Ernie McFarlane, Mom and Dad, and Bishop John Smylie for their financial support.
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What do you think of this "little" guy.  Don't have 8 inch centipedes in Wyoming, that's for sure!