Judging by the adventures I have had already, it is hard to believe I have only been in Tanzania for 5 days. I am back in the internet cafe again and running through the stories in my head trying to decide which to share. First and foremost, I told many of you that I talked to God about the bugs and He was going to take care of it for me...well, He did! I have not seen a single large bug yet!! Not even any small ones to be honest. A daddy long legs here and there, but that is all. Although, to be honest, every once in a while a little lizard goes running along the bedroom or bathroom wall and it scares the life out of me - I'm always sure it is going to be some GINORMOUS Madagascar beetle or something.
While I'm on the subject of wildlife, Sarika, Elizabeth (my roommates) and I had two bushbabies in the tree outside our window two nights ago. They are the loudest little buggers I have ever heard and kept us up for quite some time. Bushbabies are like lemurs, and look like a cross between a monkey and a raccoon, I guess. Although it was loud, it was a bit entertaining! Unfortunately, today I found out that the neighbor killed one of them because he thought they were eating his chickens. I'm thinking it wasn't them - bushbabies are vegetarians.
This week is my "cultural immersion" program. Each day I am amazed at the amount of Swahili I am learning. I know the common greetings and questions, can count to a million, tell the time, know all of the months days and years, can ask basic questions and am learning some more basic words so that I can get around town. Ally, my teacher, is patient and speaks English quite well.
After language lessons each morning, we go on some sort of excursion. I expected the "program" to be a bit more formal, but flexibility here is a must. The girls and I now joke that whatever errand needs to be completed that day is my cultural immersion experience for the day! While it wasn't what I expected (again!), I can't say I am disappointed. Every excursion is a new adventure. (A note to anyone who may decide to visit Africa some day - don't expect anything!)
I am running out of time and will wrap up soon, but I'd like to share a bit with you about the orphanages here. Elizabeth and Sarika are working at an orphanage about 3 miles from our house. It is run by some catholic sisters and privately supported. On Tuesday I was able to go with the girls and Ally to the orphanage to speak with the head mother about some basic improvements that could be made to better care for the children. Interestingly enough, this particular orphanage is quite well-off compared to others here in Tanzania, but they do not use what they are given. Simple things like handsoap, diapers, milk and water are used only sparingly with the children. For example, each day a child gets 2 tiny cups of milk (maybe 4 ounces) and a cup of water after each playtime. We are not sure if it is a lack of education or time, but the dadas (sisters) do only the minimal amount needed for the children to get through the day.
In contrast, yesterday we went to Arusha to visit Ally's orphanage. He and his mother started it about 5 years ago. It is not government funded and we were unsure what we would find when we arrived. The girls and I were greeted at the entrance by 12 smiling, excited children. Each one of them went down the line and greeted us in English, telling their names and asking how we were. I am smiling now just thinking of how proud they were to be able to speak with us. Ally is doing amazing work. He inherited what i would guess to be about 5 acres of land from his father. It is across the road from the current orphanage which no bigger than 1000 square feet. In the past five years he has erected a school building on the land which currently teaches grades 1 through 4. Next year, he will expand to grade 5 and will continue to do so until the oldest child completes grade 7 (at which point they transfer to government boarding school). The school is simple, but beautiful. The building is a simple rectangular building with 4 classrooms. The walls are covered with pictures, grammar lessons and learning tools. There are long handmade wooden desks at which 3 or 4 children can sit and study. The children study both English and Swahili in school.
For the past year, Ally has been working on building a new orphanage for the children. He has planned it out well and today the windows will finally be installed. He and a few of his friends and relatives dug their own well and help on the construction whenever needed. There is much to do still, but he is excited at the progress. The children can't wait for their new home!
I met my first Maasai warrior yesterday. He guards the school grounds and thought Elizabeth, Sarika and I were quite funny. I have only seen a handful of mzungu (white people) around here, so I am sure we were somewhat of a spectacle...wish I could post pictures for you.
I will have to work on keeping my posts a bit shorter than this. There is so much to share! Thank you to everyone who has been following along and posting notes for me. They are so much fun to read!! I really do appreciate it!