Saturday, May 31, 2014


This week saw the end of an area in Tanzania.  It’s a bitter sweet ending, as most of its kind are.   

If you’ve been following me since October, you may remember me mentioning a missionary organization called MAF.  MAF stands for Missionary Aviation Fellowship and has a presence in several countries around the world.  In very basic terms, they serve the countries in which they operate by providing resources to remote locations.  Pilots are able to fly supplies, resources, and medical care to remote areas which would otherwise be un-served.  A fellow teacher and I were able to fly in one of their small planes to Arusha before our safari. 

Recently in Tanzania, MAF has employed not only many expatriates, but several hundred Tanzanians.  These Tanzanians have been equipped with mechanical and other skills they would not have had otherwise.  Many of the MAF families have children who attend school at CAMS.  Their presence in Dodoma is widely felt.

On Friday, MAF officially closed it’s two largest bases in Tanzania; Dodoma and Dar es Salaam.  MAF has done what it can to help their Tanzanian staff find new jobs and the missionaries are either relocating to another MAF base or returning home. 

MAF has been in Tanzania for 50 years.  There is no doubt that they have had a major impact and that their leaving wil as well.  That is the bitter part, but there is a sweet side to this story as well.

If you add up the distance that MAF has flown in Tanzania, it would be the same as between 25 ad 30 flights to the moon.  They have covered a great distance in this country in the past.  More people have been affected by their mission than will probably ever be determined, but the restructuring of the program means that the need is no longer as great.  In a release MAF produced and published on their website, they said:

“Over the last 10 years we have seen improvements in the domestic infrastructure in Tanzania between the major population centres and, as a result, a decline in the numbers of mission and humanitarian customers we serve. This reducing customer base, along with increasing costs of the programme meant that it was essential we reviewed our long term strategy, to ensure good stewardship of funds and resources.”

What does this mean in simpler terms?  Basically, MAF came to Tanzania to serve locals.  In some ways, it did that by serving missionaries and humanitarians as well.  Flights like the one I took to Arusha in October helped fund the programs.  Because of the way Tanzania has been developing, other ways of traveling around the country have become easier.  MAF has been flying fewer people to fewer places.  This means that it is easier to get to the remote locations it serves as well.  As an organization, it has served its purpose. 

Last weekend, members of MAF in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma met at the first hangar the MAF used in Dodoma.  They came together to pray, tell stories, and celebrate the work MAF has done in the last 50 years.  Some fellow teachers and I were invited to join them, and to run a children’s program while the adults met.  The celebration was in itself bittersweet.  Tanzanians who would only have a job for a week more told of the skills they had been given as a result of their involvement.  Families came together.  Children played with friends they have made, but will soon part from.  Everyone had a chance to speak about what MAF has meant to them.  It was indeed a celebration.
Ruben, the head of MAF in Dodoma leads the ceremonies, with the help of a translator.
Singing was involved, and parents and children participated together.
The youngest children
The MAF kids we helped entertain during the meetings.  We estimate that we ended up with about 50 kids in total.

Playing games.
While MAF will be missed in Dodoma, the impact they have had will be felt for years to come!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Critters and creatures that crawl

There was a bit of excitement on the playground this week.  During our second break, lunchtime, a small snake decided he wanted to join in on the eating fun.  Don’t worry; it wasn’t a small child that was on the menu, but a lizard.  This happened on Tuesday and it was still the talk of the school on Friday.  I wasn’t brave enough to get close enough for a picture, but luckily Maria was there at the ready.  She got some pretty amazing shots.  After the photo shoot, the snake was put in a box and taken into the science room.  Nothing like teachable moments in Tanzania!

This got me thinking again about a blog post I have been planning for some time.  I realized a few months ago that I have not grown up with bugs and critters.  Sure, there are ants, flies, mosquitos, ladybugs, and others in Wyoming, but I have never experienced so many kinds of small creatures.  From lizards smaller than my fingers to insects as big as my fist, the diversity is really amazing!  Anytime I see another interesting creature and my camera is close, it’s time for a few snapshots.  There are others that I have had to miss simply because my camera was not with me.  Let me introduce you to a few of the stars of my time in Dodoma!
Let me start with the lizards and lizard type critters.  This chameleon was smaller than my hand.  I've seen 3 chameleons since being in Tanzania.  They are really cool creatures!

This little guy was climbing on the wall near the swimming pool in Arusha.  He's only slightly longer than my hand.
 The next three are tiny little guys, not longer than a finger.  The little ones are probably my favorites!

I have lots of pictures of this colorful one.  He likes to hang out in the roof of my building and I've named him Peter because he has the same colors as Spiderman and they fade or become more vibrant as the year progresses, so sometimes  he looks like a plain old lizard.  He's easily as long as my arm from fingertip to elbow.  He also hangs out with this smaller guy sometimes.

This gecko found his way into my shower. 

Speaking of things that have found their way into my shower, that list could go on forever.  The basin of my shower is shallow, but slick and many times critters find themselves stuck inside.  Here are only two examples, but I've also seen beetles. spiders, ants, cockroaches, and smaller centipedes that have met their end in my shower.

There is also quite the range of spider types that hang around. (See what I did there?)
Luckily this one was no where near my house.  Early in the school year, the staff took a trip to a local winery and this one was hanging out in the picnic shelter.

At first, I thought this was a tiny crab, before I realized that he could have fit on a US quarter and that we are no where near the ocean.  Still, he's pretty impressive looking!

I  had never seen a praying mantis before Tanzania.  They have to be one of my favorite insects.  They look SO cool and there are so many different kinds of them here, too.  Who knew?


At home, I cringe every single time I see a moth.  They are creepy.  Maybe if they looked  more like these, I wouldn't be so freaked out by them.

I also have a strange fascination with these HUGE centipedes.  They are about as long as my foot and I have seen several of them around since the rainy season started.  It's funny that I like them so much because I have a strange fear of worms.  Maybe worms just need to grow several sets of legs.
This one was hanging out on the wall outside my bedroom window, as seen below. 

Large flying, stinging insects are everywhere.  These wasps are easily 3 inches long and just look scary.  There are also black and white bees that like to burrow into the wood around the school.  Luckily none of them are openly aggressive, but I still steer clear of them whenever I get the chance!

There are many different kinds of grasshoppers here as well.  This one was hanging out on a wall, in this position.  He is probably the longest one I've seen, about the size of my middle finger. 
This master of disguise found his way to my front door.  Isn't it amazing!  If he had been anywhere else, I would have missed him.
This picture represents the most annoying creature I spend my time with.  This is a tiny carpenter ant mound that I am forever removing from my front steps.  Carpenter ants are also called white ants or termites.  They devour wood and build little mounds like this one.  The mounds crawl up walls and wooden structures.  While it is interesting to see a stick laying on the ground covered by their efforts, constantly removing them from the front of my house is quite annoying.

This is the only time I've seen this beetle, which tends to be the theme for most of my critter encounters.  Most of the beetles I see are small and black.  This one was cool!
I have, on a few occasions, spotted a frog hopping around.  This is the only one that stood still long enough for a picture. :)
One of the ways that I know that there are many other critters that encounter me, but I miss is this.  Some of my friends sent me these gel clinging decorations around Christmas, so that I could have a bit of snow in Tanzania.  When I went to take them off my fridge, I noticed that they were COVERED with tiny insects that had flown into them and never flown away.  After only a few weeks!  Life sure is interesting.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Update, update, and more update.

Well, I thought it’s about time I give an update on what I’ve been up to, since last week was a tangent of the philosophical sort.  I feel like there’s a lot to tell you.

School is going well.  I’m still in LOVE with my Standard 1’s!  They are such fun!  I’ve got a growing class.  There are technically 25 on my register now, but two of them are gone until the end of the year or close to it, so I’ve “only” got 23 if they are all here.  It’s quite a few more than the 16 maximum class size in Wyoming for this age.  With a class that large, the ability range is also quite large.  Differentiation has become a daily challenge.  I’ve broken my class into 4 reading groups, 5 math groups, 2 literacy groups, and 3 spelling groups.  It’s easy to spend an hour preparing for some subjects for a week, and reading usually takes at least 2 hours.   Yuppers!  Teaching here is strikingly similar to teaching at home.


This term is a reporting term, so I’m trying hard to give the extra push to all of my students to get them closer to where they should be at the end of the year, or beyond that for those who are already there.  I’m probably going to start testing in the next couple of weeks just so I can get everything done.  Reports are due in week 8, and this is week 4.  No pressure or anything.

In related news, my visa is officially out of “in process” status.  YAY!!  In true Tanzanian fashion, it *only* took almost 10 months.  There’s a saying here… No hurry in Africa!  I was beginning to think I’d have to pick it up in Dar es Salaam on my way to the airport when I return home.  I did end up getting my return date changed before I got my visa, so there’s that. 


As for my return date, when YASC purchased my ticket, they could only make the return date for 9 months out.  This meant that they would have to change the date as it got closer, which is actually really nice because who wants to be stuck with a return date that can’t change an entire year before they are ready to come home.  Did you notice the little ticker at the top of the page?  Not long until I leave.  After a bit of drama with availability, I can now confidently say that I will be leaving Tanzania on July 1st and will fly into Billings, Montana on the 2nd.  This is, of course, assuming I can make all my connections and the return flight goes as well as the one here did.  Fingers crossed and prayers sent!! I’m sure all will be well, though!

In news that’s a bit closer to my current home, I had a bit of an adventure last weekend.  Shortly after I posted my last blog, a few friends and I went out for mishkaki, which is possibly my favorite Tanzanian dish.  Basically it’s an all meat kebab, but Tanzanians know how to cook their meat.  It is amazing!!  When I order them from a restaurant, I always order them with chips mayai, which is basically a French fry omelet.  YUMMMMMMY!!  Anyway, we brought our swimming gear with us because we planned to head to a local hotel with an amazing pool when we finished. 

We made it to the pool, said hello to the several young children from school who were there at a birthday party, and headed into the bathroom to change.  On the way out, I stepped onto the tiled steps leading down out of the bathroom with wet feet from the showers and slid down a couple of steps.  I landed hard on my rear end and knew it was going to end up with a pretty bruise, but didn’t feel anything else.  Then Maria said “You’re  bleeding!” I picked up my arm to look and saw blood fly off the end.  She was right.  I was bleeding!  I stood up and followed her into the bathroom.  I wanted to get my arm over the sink before a pool of blood permanently stained the cement outside.  There really was an impressive amount of blood.  It ended up on the cement outside, the wall, the steps, the floor of the bathroom, and all over the sink.  CSI would have had a field day, or Dexter.


A short trip to DCMC to make sure I didn’t need stitches, a couple of prescriptions to fight off infection and pain, and I was home.  It’s really impressive looking now that the bruise is changing colors!  The more impressive bruise is not going to be seen by anyone.  Sorry.  :D

 On Tuesday was Maria's birthday!  We celebrated with an awesome time at the pizzeria.  I find it funny that the best pizza I've ever had has been in Tanzania.  Not exactly where you think of when you think of pizza!  Maria had lots of fun planned, including a quiz about her life, cutout mustaches and other fun things for pictures.  Some of her friends and family sent videos which were put together as a show.  It was great fun for a Tuesday night!!

The week ended with a fun celebration.  The principal at CAMS and his wife had a lot to celebrate!  Both of them have birthdays in the month of May and they have recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary.  To celebrate, we had a barbeque!  We’re talking mishkake, chicken, cassava, French fries (though they’re called chips here) vegetable salad, and drinks.  There was also music and hired dancers.  It was quite the celebration! 


Saturday, May 10, 2014

One way in and out

When I was about 14 years old, I was helping out in summer camp at my church.  We spent one week talking about labyrinths and journeys.  We went and walked the labyrinth at our local retreat center.  By the end of the week, we had drawn a giant one on the black of the church parking lot with multi-colored sidewalk chalk.  I loved it!

I have walked labyrinths in New York and Wyoming and brought a small hand-held one with me to Tanzania.   Each time I have entered one I have had a profoundly different experience.  I have cried because of the power in the experience, used the twisting path as a way to clear my head, focused my prayers, and more times than I like to recall, left feeling exactly the same as I entered, if not a bit frustrated because of ineffectiveness of the experience.  I have walked alone and with others.  I have entered feeling both frustrated and at ease, and at times have left with the same emotions. 

One of the most powerful labyrinth walks I have completed reminded me of the journey I am on.  This little thing called life.  As I entered, I remembered my first experiences with the labyrinth.  A line of children standing in the church parking lot, waiting to enter the maze with no end and racing to finish.  Yes, my journey started in the church where I grew up. 

As I continued through the twists and turns, I thought of all the things that lead me to this point in my life.  EYC as a youth in the church connected me through occasional weekend gatherings with other Episcopalians in my home state, and taught me that there are others like me out there who will surround me with love as soon as they meet me.  My Happening event in High School showed me the love that those close to me already felt at the same time that it allowed me to share that love with others I had just met.  The Episcopal Youth Event in 2002 gave me a glimpse into the church with a much farther reach.  These things, along with my experiences as a young adult have made me who I am. 
As I made it to the inner circle, I paused.  I saw myself where I was then.  I could look around and see all the things that had happened in my life, but I knew the journey was only half complete.  I turned to the path I had most recently left and thought about my future.  Looking back, I realize that I was thinking of where I am today. 

I walked slowly out of the labyrinth, thinking about what the future held.  As I walked though, I saw connections to the past.  I passed an oddly shaped stone and thought about a friend I hadn’t talked to in years.  She was in charge of many of the events I attended in Middle and High School, the ones I had thought about when I passed this stone on the way in.  What would she think of what I’m doing now?  Does she know the influence she still holds on me?

I stepped around the tall grass that was encroaching into the path I was walking and remembered doing the same thing as I thought about Taize.  I thought about the kids with whom I had recently returned.  They have grown so much.  I used to babysit one of them when he was much smaller.  Does this mean that I have grown too?

Each turn brought me back to one of those memories as I looked toward my future.  It struck me that the past is constantly talking to the present, and the future.  It is easy to lose yourself in a labyrinth.  When you walk with others, it becomes hard to tell who is coming in and who is leaving.  Isn’t that just like life?

My entire time in Tanzania has been one such journey.  Living in an area that is concentrated with missionaries, you get used to knowing people for only a short time.  New people are welcomed into the community as frequently as others are sent off.  I met several people here when I first arrived that have since left.  Others have been here for a short time, as my time begins to run short.

One of the coolest parts of a labyrinth is that even after you leave the inner circle, you will on occasion turn and walk back towards it.  We are always able to turn back to that point, even as we continue to move forward. 


My favorite labyrinth design is called the Chartres labyrinth.  In it, you are quickly brought to the edge of the inner circle before weaving your way around all of the outer layers.  This also means that you exit in the same quick way. I have less than 2 months left in the amazing place I have called home since last July.  I feel like I have just turned the corner into this last section.   I’m not quite ready to leave, but no matter how slowly I walk, I will be there soon.  I know that there is another life waiting for me outside and another labyrinth walk for me to take.  As in my other visits inside a labyrinth, I have cried, been frustrated, put to ease, spent time clearing my head…

… and changed.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A day in the life...

I have been talking to some people who are interested more in what I’m actually doing every day.  To satiate their hunger for knowledge, I decided to let you join me on an average day.  This is what I did yesterday, May 2nd.  This post is really long, so I decided to forgo any pictures this time.  If there is something in particular you want to see pictures of, let me know in the comments section.  Also, if there is anything particular you want to know more about, let me know that as well!

Before we start, and because this is a long post, I want to say thank you to the people who made my April possible!  A HUGE thank you goes out to Bill and Doris Lucas, Riley Nielson, Bill Garlow, Pat and Connie Keller, the Stephens family, the Sunderlands, and Marilee Sorenson.

Now, on to my day!

6:30 am
I roll over and hit the snooze button.  The sun is up and barely shining without its full intensity.  Outside my window, I hear a cacophony of sound as the birds and insects announce the start of another day.  I roll back over and pull the covers up to my chin.  Mornings are not my thing, even in Tanzania.

I hear the telltale beeping of the school bus backing up.  I can tell by the sound of the metal gate crashing closed and the rev of the engine that it’s leaving to pick up students for the day.  Some days I miss this.  The bus lives on our compound, but I can sleep through anything.  It is not long after the sound that I begin to hear children at school.  Cheerful shouts and laughing are somehow contrary to my mood first thing in the morning. 

As I lay in bed a bit longer, pressing the snooze every 5 minutes until…

When I can delay it no longer, I get up and get ready for my day.  I change into a dress or a skirt with an appropriate top.  Bare shoulders and visible knees are out of the dress code most of the time in Tanzania.  It’s funny, but when I see pictures of people I know who would be dressed moderately for a western country, but with bare knees, I can’t help but think about how short their skirt is.  Nine months here will do that to you.   I fill a water bottle, gather my computer, its charger, and the power adapter, and head to school. 

7:30 am sharp
Staff devotions begin and woe to the person who walks in late.  One of my fellow staff members reads the devotion.  Today is from a website, but sometimes they come from a book of devotions, an email, or occasionally a staff member chooses to write their own.  After a prayer for the day, announcements are made.  Today is Friday, so announcements include a reminder about the secondary students who are spending the night at school tonight and an invitation for people to join in watching a movie in the evening along with reminders about getting term plans turned in by the end of the day and for primary teachers to remember to bring their merit certificates to Primary Assembly this morning.  We finish just in time for the bell to ring, letting students know it’s time to head to class.

7:40 am
My Standard 1’s line up outside the door to the classroom.  I just found out about 5 minutes ago that I’m getting a new student.  It’s a good thing it’s Friday, which makes it an easy day.  Monica, my Tanzanian assistant collects their homework folders.  “Head on in, put down the chairs, and have a seat on the mat.”  My instructions are the same every morning.  We head into the room and I greet my class on the mat.

“Good morning, Standard 1.”

“Good morning Miss Galagan and Miss Monica and God bless you!”  Their canned response in their tiny Tanzanian accents really is adorable.

I take roll and we begin our day.  This morning, it includes a shorter devotion and brief announcements.  We go over the schedule and I introduce our new student to the class.

 7:55 am
We line up and walk to the library for Standard 3’s assembly.  They did a great job!  It’s fun to see the kids get so excited to sing!

8:25 am
We return to the classroom for our weekly spelling tests.  I have three groups for spelling, and each group has a different set of 6 words.  It’s hard for them to sit quietly during the tests, but they do pretty well.  This week, 9 kids got all of their words correct!!

8:55 am
Standard 1 has been learning how to subtract from numbers larger than 10 but smaller than 20 this week.  We do a quick refresher and talk about the tools they can use to help them.  Some choose buttons to count, some choose cubes, others pick number lines or 10-frames.  I always get excited when someone who I thought didn’t quite get it answers correctly and can explain their answer.  Even more exciting is when they come up with a way to find an answer that I haven’t taught!  After we review, I give them a little quiz.  Most of them finish in a few minutes, but a couple of them take longer.  When most of them are done, we read “My Rows and Piles of Coins,” a book about a Tanzanian boy who helps his mother at the market every week and earns 5 coins each day he works.  He’s saving for a bike, so we use the opportunity to practice counting by 5’s to figure out how many he has earned.  The kids ask to hear it again, but we are out of time.  “I’ll leave it in the back of the room so you can look at it when you have time,” I tell them.

9:55 am
Morning break starts!  I help our new student find a friend to play with and show him around the school at break time, then I head to the staff room.  Most teachers enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some goodies baked by Rosina, the Tanzanian who cooks things for staff to buy and is in charge of cleaning up the staff room.  I skip the tea and coffee.  I’ve never liked coffee and only like my tea with milk, which I am too lazy to bring from home.

10:25 am
It’s off to Standard 4 for the next two periods.  First, I teach them literacy.  We start a unit about persuasive texts.  First I have to explain what “persuasive” means and we talk about what you can do to persuade someone to do something.  Then I assign them the task of thinking of something they would like to see changed and to write a letter asking for it to change.  I can’t help but laugh at some of their answers.  Primary students don’t have to wear uniforms at CAMS, but one student thinks it would be fair if TEACHERS had to wear uniforms.  He’s planning on writing a letter to the principal to let him know how he feels.  When literacy is finished, I continue to hang out with them.  Their regular teacher is busy today with interviews of some potential teachers for next year, so I agreed to spend my regular free period with them doing “golden time.”  Golden time is their reward for a week’s worth of good behavior.  They lose time for being stinkers.  Most of them got the whole hour.

12:25 pm
Second break!  Once again, it’s into the staff room for lunch.  Rosina has made her usual pasta and coleslaw for Friday.  YUMMY!!

12:55 pm
Last period starts.  The end of the day on Friday is a hard time for little Standard 1’s, so this is when we do our “Fun Friday.”  I set learning centers up around the room and the kids get to choose which ones they want to do and we switch centers half-way through the period.  Today they can choose from Legos, puppets in the reading corner, pegboards, play dough, puzzles, and plastic construction sets.  They are so creative!  Some of them practice writing their names by rolling play dough snakes.  The boys LOVE to build cars with multiple wheels with the construction set.  I’m always impressed with how they work together and love to see when more capable students choose to partner with students who struggle.  While they play, Monica and I talk about the lessons she is teaching next week. 

2:00 pm
The bell rings signaling the end of the school day and I’m ready to go home.  Today was a busy day!  Instead, I head to the computer room to print out my term plan in order to turn it in and am reminded of music practice.  I have been playing my flute on Sunday mornings at the cathedral.  I have to run home to get it.  It’s a good thing that I can go home and be back to school in less than 5 minutes.  I really enjoy playing and am glad I brought my flute half-way around the world.

After music practice, I head back to the computer room to print out some lesson plans for Monica.  I stop for a brief talk with our head of primary and head home.

3:00 pm
I’m finally home after a long day.  I spend some time checking my emails and Facebook.  I also spend a little time reading and just vegging out.  It’s funny because a school day at home is much longer than this.  Sometimes last year I wouldn’t leave school until 5pm with tutoring after school.  Something about teaching here is tiring. 

6:00 pm
Some of the teachers have planned to go out to dinner at the new restaurant that is located at the Railway station.  I walk down with Maria and we are stopped along the way by a man selling trinkets.  Maria buys some candle holders and agrees to buy some nice paper from him tomorrow. 

I have the closest thing to Mexican food I’ve found in Dodoma.  The chef has found some very Mexican spices somewhere and has cooked up some ground beef with beans.  These he wrapped in a chapatti (which is like a think fried tortilla, sort of) with a little guacamole.  As most things are her, this is served with French fries and a vegetable salad of sorts.  It was tamu sana!

I’ve now lost track of the time.  After dinner (I suspect somewhere around 7:30 or 8:00) Maria and I go to school to visit the secondary students who are there for the overnight.  I don’t have much to do with them normally.  They are so much bigger than the ones I normally deal with!  I stayed, watched, and took pictures of some of their games.  We also showed them the movie “Cool Runnings,” which was amazing.  None of them had seen it before and they were grumbling and complaining about it before we started.  They thought it was going to be a waste of time.  At the end of it, though, they were laughing, clapping, and cheering (and crying?) along.  It’s amazing to watch movies I grew up with for the first time with teenagers.  I also had a new perspective watching it this time.  I can now better relate to people coming from a warm place and freezing when they go somewhere cold.

I left the party at about 12:30 am and headed to bed.  This has been a long day!