Saturday, June 28, 2014


Well, this is my last post from this wonderful place called Tanzania.  At this time next week, I’ll be back in my house in Wyoming, curled up with my dog, and enjoying the company of my friends and family who are stateside.  This year has flown by, as I knew (and feared) it would.  It’s hard to believe I’m going home already!

Gabe is apparently anticipating my return by being extra crazy.  Can't wait to curl up with his crazy self!

The last days of any school year are hard, no matter where you are.  This was definitely no exception.  The last week was jam packed with events.  On Tuesday, the Secondary Girl’s Club visited the Village of Hope.  The Village of Hope is an HIV/AIDS orphanage operated by the Catholic Sisters of the Precious Blood just outside the city of Dodoma.  The girls in the group worked together to create a crib-sized patchwork blanket and some of them went to deliver it and to have some cuddle time with the babies.  We cuddled the 10 babies they have in the orphanage and learned a little about what they do there.

The girls and staff who are part of the Girl's Club trip
The girls and the blanket.
front gate
No, she did not come home with me, although it was hard to leave her.
Baby cuddles!!
More front gate action.

It is a fantastic place.  The babies are all kept together until they are about 18 months old.  This helps their caretakers provide for all their medical needs.  Then they are placed in a home at the village so they get a chance to grow up as a member of a family.  The village not only has the care center for the babies and homes for older children and families, but also operates a primary school as well as an all-girls secondary school.  I wish I had found this place sooner!

On Wednesday, the staff went out for a farewell/end of the year dinner at one of our favorite places to eat: the pizzeria!  As always, the food was fantastic and the company was even better!  It was nice to get together with everyone one final time. 

Keeping the mosquitos off her feet.
Ready to eat!!
Sarah doing what she does best... figuring out how to interpret a Tanzanian food bill and collect from roughly 30 people all paying separately.

Thursday brought another big farewell for CAMS.  Jane Window has been teaching at CAMS for almost 12 years and has decided to return home and retire.  Not only has she been teaching for that long but in the time she has been here, she has been ordained and has been in charge of the English congregation at the Cathedral for the past few years.  She is going to be missed in Dodoma!  Her farewell was very well attended by current and former students, CAMS families, important people in the diocese, and church members.  I had the honor of joining Celia and Sarah to perform an arrangement of the Irish Blessing near the end of the festivities. 

The MC
Sarah and Celia
Jane and the gift from CAMS.  The picture and the photograph and frame on the right.

After the farewell, I headed over a few streets to my friend Eleanor’s place.  Eleanor has been hosting a bible study for member of her church for the last 2 years and I have been joining them for the last few months.  It is a lively group that has invited me in with open arms.  Eleanor is moving on to Moshi to run a primary school there and two other members of the group (including myself) are leaving, so this was the last meeting they are having as this group.  I’m going to miss Thursday nights!


Friday was the last day of school.  I didn’t actually do any teaching for the last two days, but at home it feels that way for about 3 weeks before school is out.  Instead of learning on Friday, we had a day-long party.  We started the day by singing some of their favorite songs that we do for assemblies before going outside to play some run-around-to-get-all-your-energy-out games.  After break, we went back inside and watched part of Frozen.  We didn’t have time to watch the whole thing because the day was over at noon! 

The good thing about saying goodbye to an extremely active class is that they don’t sit long enough to let you tear up.  Every time I’d start feeling it, one of them would poke the person sitting next to them or start calling out.  Once they left though, I spent a lot of time avoiding eye contact.  It helps, trust me.  After school, I spent some time walking around in town with some people I’m really going to miss!  We ate lunch out, and then I met some other friends for dinner.  Goodbyes are so hard! 

I broke Joshua's heart.  Apparently it's not nice to move somewhere for a year, make friends, and then leave. 

The funny thing about goodbyes though is that the hard is a good thing.  It hurts without a doubt, but the hurt is a sign that there is a reason to be sad.  It means that there is something to miss.  If I was leaving Tanzania after a year and didn’t feel like I was losing anything, something would be wrong. 

Dear God,
Thank you for the friends I have made here.  Thank you for the new experiences that have changed me in many small ways.  Thank you for the tears.  Thank you for the people waiting to welcome be back in less than a week.  I ask you to watch over the busses, cars, and airplanes that make up my journey home.  In the words of the prayer I learned when I was younger, “God in front of me, God behind me, God all around me, Light my path, and CLEAR THE ROAD!” 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Form 4 graduation and a farewell at church

I have one week of school left.  One more week with my students. 

Any teacher will tell you that the end of the school year is the most stressful time.  For the last few weeks, I’ve been assessing my students, writing reports to send home to parents, creating the profiles that follow them throughout their time at CAMS, and trying to maintain some sort of control over the 24 personalities in my class.  All of this is on top of regular school activities and special end of year events and while I have been extremely busy, it would have made for some very uninteresting blog posts.    

This week marked the end of CAMS for several students.  The Form 4’s celebrated their graduation with a ceremony for families on Friday during the school day.   They also joined with their friends for a separate ceremony and celebration in the evening.  As a primary teacher, I didn’t attend the graduation in the morning and had the chance to eat dinner with the family of one of my students, so I didn’t go to the evening celebration.  The festivities took place in the school library, so I heard all the fun as I went to bed early on Friday night.  I was exhausted and even the music, singing, and cheering from across the fence couldn’t keep me awake!
The girls after the ceremony in the morning

Fun in the evening!
Can't even tell it's really a library!
 *Thanks to Maria for letting me steal the pictures!*
Outside of school time, I’m taking every opportunity to spend time with my friends here in Dodoma.  Many of them are also leaving at the end of the term next weekend, but most of them are returning after the one-month break from school.  I was also asked to speak in church this morning about what brought me to Dodoma to teach at CAMS.  I have told that story here before, so I won’t recount it in its entirety here.  I will, however leave you with the end of my talk:

Here I am standing in front of you today, getting ready to head back to the life I had before.  I am not the same person who landed in Tanzania one year ago.  I have met people from all around the world, taught the most diverse collection of students I have ever experienced, and made some fantastic friends.  I thank God every day for each opportunity I have been given, and for the gift that life in Dodoma has been. 

I would like to leave you with just a few truths I’ve experienced from the past year.

1.       I have a fantastic support system, both here and in the US. 

2.       Every day is a huge gift!  Very few of my friends have ever travelled outside the USA.  I was given an amazing opportunity and I was sure to make the most of each moment.

3.       God can be found everywhere, even when you don’t think to look for Him.  He was definitely here before I came, and He will be here long after I’m gone.

4.       Children have the biggest prayer power of anyone, and their faith is without question.

5.       Finally, Dodoma feels like home and it will feel that way for a very long time. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Will Miss, Won't Miss, Do Miss

Two more weeks!!!

Let’s pretend for a minute that things are slowing down instead of speeding up. 

Ok, now let’s pretend that I’m being productive during my alone time instead of spending my time watching movies and hanging out on Facebook. 

Finally, let’s pretend that I’ve got everything sorted and ready to start packing.  Are you there with me? 

Good.  Now let me know what it’s like there because I’m a pretty far off. 

So, as a means of spending more time pretending that I have more than two weeks left in Tanzania, here is a little post I’m going to call “Will Miss, Won’t Miss, Do Miss” in which I tell you about the things I will miss when I leave, the things I won’t miss when I leave, and the things I do already miss from the states and am looking forward to when I get home.

Will Miss – Mishkaki, chips mayai, ugali, mangoes, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, grilled bananas, and chicken mango wraps from Lazuli.
Won’t Miss – Samaki.  Something about getting a whole fish on a plate, and being laughed at by Tanzanians when you opt to skip out on eating the brains…
Do Miss – Mexican food, real hamburgers, Miracle Whip, jams and jellies that actually have fruit in them.
Please ignore the Flat Jesus and just take in the wonderfulness that is Ugali, Mishkaki, and Mchicha, with a Mirinda Black soda in a glass bottle!

Will Miss – Picking out a cool fabric, taking it to a fundi, and going back a few days later to pick up an amazing dress, skirt, or pair of pants for literally less money than buying something new at home.
Won’t Miss – Making sure my knees are covered at all times and my shoulders are covered at school.
Do Miss – My jeans… why didn’t I bring them again?

My new favorite Kitenge.  I am planning on getting it made into a skirt before I leave. :) LOVE the fans!!  I will wear it when it is hot out, to cool me off. 
Will Miss – Fresh fruits and veggies, fabric shops in numbers that equal or surpass the plethora of mini supermarkets, true small businesses run by families, most of which are in one room the size of my small bedroom.
Won’t Miss – wondering if I’m getting a higher price because I’m a mzungu, while getting preference at the counter for the same reason.
Do Miss – one-stop shopping.  Food, fabric, shampoo, and new plates all at the same place?  Not here!

Will Miss – My kids!!  They are some of the best ever!  Also, the fantastic staff, who are also pretty great!
Won’t Miss – 24 6-year-olds in a class.  It’s a lot of little bodies, and a lot of energy all in one room!
Do Miss – Updated technology.  What CAMS has isn’t bad for Tanzania, but is MUCH less than what I have ever had in the states.

Will Miss – My houseworker.  She’s the best part of my Tuesdays. 
Won’t Miss – Having to remember to turn my water heater on 20 minutes before I want a shower, not having hot water in my kitchen sink, and the goats next door.
Do Miss – Having a yard to chill out in and a BBQ to cook on.

Will Miss – Exciting stories that are readily available after every trip somewhere.  (This includes marriage proposals!)
Won’t Miss – Overcrowded busses, dalla dallas, and the crazy drivers who think they’re invincible.
Do Miss – Getting in the car and just going somewhere for no reason at all.

Will Miss – Friendly, helpful, and thoughtful people that seem to pop up everywhere.
Won’t Miss – Being shouted at (Mzungu!!) wherever I go and having to ignore beggars on every street.
Do Miss – Conversations with strangers that won’t inevitably end with a question about my phone number or how to get to the USA.

Will Miss – Feeling extremely wealthy all the time, but especially after visiting the ATM!!
Won’t Miss – Piles of money after visiting the ATM.  (International fees = taking out a month’s worth of money at once.  Notes in small denominations = LARGE piles of money after every transaction)
Do Miss – paying by check or debit card.

Will Miss – Listening to the music at the end of the Tanzanian service before the English one starts.
Won’t Miss – Power cuts on Sunday mornings that make my flute the only instrument to lead the congregation.
Do Miss – Episcopal liturgy, my church family, and my youth group kids.

Will Miss – Warm enough weather to be comfortable in a t-shirt all year.
Won’t Miss – Hot weather that makes it hard to sleep at night.
Do Miss – Snow!! 

Will Miss – So many different kinds of cool bugs!  They are fascinating!!
Won’t Miss – Fleas in my bed, mosquitos that think I’m a tasty treat, and ants that invade.
Do Miss – Ladybugs that mean summer is on the way!
This dude was sitting in the window in my classroom one day last week. He's about as long as my finger.

Will Miss – Peter, my colorful friend.
Won’t Miss – Lizards jumping out at me when I open cupboards in my classroom.
Do Miss – Are there really any Lizards in Wyoming?  Hard to miss something that doesn’t exist.

Will Miss – The amazing feeling of Skyping with Panama, Honduras, the USA, and Hong Kong in the same week.
Won’t Miss – Taking 2 hours to load a 5 minute video, dropped Skype calls, and loading 40,000 shillings of internet 5,000 shillings at a time.
Do Miss – Consistent connection speeds, even if it is consistently bad.

Eating Out:
Will Miss – Mishkaki, chicken mango wraps, Coke in glass bottles, biryani, plastic chairs and tables, eating under the stars.
Won’t Miss – Hand-written bills that are frequently wrong or just confusing, not being able to order something on the menu because “it is finished.”
Do Miss – Delivery Pizza (or anything someone brings to my door, really!)

My Name:
Will Miss – Watching taxi drivers and other Tanzanians try to pronounce it. (I get a lot of Irene, Had-ee, and Head-ee)
Won’t Miss – Trying to explain how to pronounce it.
Do Miss – ONLY having to explain how to spell it.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Home is where the heart is

Before I begin, I need to be sure to thank some very important people.  It’s a big list this time.  Since I am heading back to the US on the 1st of July, I wanted to make sure I had a chance to thank all of the supporters I’ve had, but who I haven’t been able to thank yet.  This list includes supporters for May, June, and July.  I’ve had an amazing year, in part thanks to: Bishop John Smylie, Press Stephens and the Foundation for the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, Christ Church Mission Committee and the Bargain Box, The Cowger Family, The Fox family, Pat and Connie Keller, Lee Ann Hand, Betsy Sell, The Sunderlands, Madeline Galagan, Mary Caucutt, Jill Carow, Randall Neilson, The Schnackenbergs, Carra Wetzel, John Galagan, The Whitlocks, Mrs. Wilkinson, Connell Keegan, Sue and Dallas Davis, The Call Family, Francis Clymer, and Nick Galagan.

Home is a funny concept.

At this time last year, I was in between two trips that I would have considered huge in any normal year.  I had just returned from France and was getting ready to spend 2 weeks in New York.  I was absorbing every moment I had at home.

When I left for Tanzania in July, I knew that I was doing the right thing.  I was excited to have the amazing experience I knew was coming, but it was hard to leave home.  I don’t remember ever living anywhere but Wyoming and have always considered Cody home.   The 2 hours from Cody to Billings and the airport I was flying out of was the hardest drive of my life.  It’s a good thing I was only in the passenger seat.  My vision was a little blurred. J

When I pulled into Dodoma the first time, I remember thinking, “Here’s my new home.”  It didn’t feel like it yet, but I hoped it would soon.  I walked into my front door, looked around, and thought “Sure, I can live here for a year.  It’s quite good, actually.”  I had walls around me, a roof over my head, a bed, cooktop, refrigerator, and a mosquito net.  Simple?  Yes, but I really didn’t need anything else.  After all, this was a temporary living situation as far as I was concerned. 

When I came home from my safari in October, I realized that Dodoma wasn’t quite home yet.  The safari seemed like another thing to do on my trip to Tanzania.  I had begun to refer to Dodoma as home, but it was mostly out of habit.  It’s much easier to think that way and to talk that way than it is to feel that way.  Returning still felt like I was coming back to a hotel room after a short trip away. 

A couple of months later, I had another opportunity to travel around and see a bit of Tanzania that reaches farther than my Dodoma bubble.  I had an eventful Christmas break and was glad to get home to a familiar bed.  At the time, I would have told you that it felt like I was returning home, but I realize now that it wasn’t quite there yet.  Even after 5 months here, it still felt like a temporary place.  I may have been resisting the urge to fully call it home knowing that it was only mine for a short time.

After my week and a half away at Easter, I knew all of that had changed.  The time away felt like a vacation, much different to the feeling I had in October.  The bus pulled into the stand in Dodoma and I looked for a taxi to take me home.  It was no longer a temporary place that I got to experience.  It was my home. 

I sit here with three weeks left before I leave Tanzania.  Three weeks to the day before I hop on a bus, taxi to the airport, spend roughly a day and a half in airports or airplanes, and land stateside with my parents at the airport anxious to see me.  I think back to what was surely ten years ago, but also could be last month.  Three weeks before I came to Tanzania.  In a way, I feel the same, but in so many ways it is different.

How can I describe it?  The short way I’ve been telling people who ask is that it feels like I’m leaving home to go to a place I only call home, knowing that if I ever actually get to make it back, it won’t be my home at all.  Confused?  Let me try to help.

I will have spent almost a year in Tanzania.  Every person I met and every friend I hung out with was here.  My entire life, with the exception of a few Skype calls and Facebook messages, has been in Tanzania.  It has truly felt like home.  Not only is it the place where I escape at the end of the day, but it’s the place that has granted me adventures, growth, and fantastic new friendships.  I have fallen in love with Tanzania.

In three weeks, I will say goodbye to everyone I have met this year.  They will all return home or to a vacation destination.  Most of them will return a month later, but some will stay away.  Like me, they are done with Tanzania, at least for now.  If I make it back at some point, even if it is only a year away, Dodoma will be changed.  Friends I leave will have left and new people will be here.  My home here will never feel the same. 

As excited as I am to see all my friends and family in Wyoming, part of me isn’t looking forward my return.  It is so hard to leave home knowing it will never be the same again.  It is harder to return to a place that should feel like home.  Yes, I am looking forward to real hamburgers, and root beer.  It will be nice when a hole in the road is not “fixed” by sticking a branch from a nearby tree in it so that people avoid it.  I’m not sure I’m ready to be bombarded the things I have lived happily (and been better off?) without for the past year.

Home is where the heart is
No matter how the heart lives
Inside your heart where love is
That's where you've got to make yourself
At home