Saying Goodbye

My time in Moshi has come to an end, and I’ve returned home safely to California. I definitely feel that two months is too short of a time to spend at the hostel and in Tanzania. I settled in so well and it began to feel like home, then all of a sudden I had to leave. It was really hard, but I’m accepting of it because I feel like I’ve accomplished and experienced very much, and I have my niece and graduation to look forward to here in CA.

Last Saturday we had another BBQ at the hostel then went out to Melindi’s and La Liga. One thing I forgot to mention before is the toilets at the bars/clubs and many other places in town. I really should say lack of toilets because they’re merely holes in the ground. Just imagine squatting all the way down to pee in a hole—you better be in decent shape because you do not want to fall in! Before we went out that night the mood was a bit hindered because Peanut, the family dog (one of the Hostel Hoff guard dogs) had a seizure that lasted nearly half an hour. He has epilepsy, so he has small seizures often, but rarely this severe. He bit his tongue and it was bleeding, and one of the guys held on his lap while he seized. It was really scary and sad. Luckily he was okay, but a lot of people feel that he should be put down because it’s not fair for him to go through this without medication. I don’t want him to suffer, but I would also hate to see him go!

Also last Saturday, I developed some sort of rash on my eyelid that was somewhat painful. It was just a small red area and I figured it would go away. But wearing makeup again that night probably didn’t help. On Sunday it was more painful and still red. Lotte, my roommate, let me use some antibiotic and antiseptic creams and I hoped it would get better in the morning, but it got worse. I woke up and it was so swollen, I could barely open my eye. The red mark almost looked like an open wound because there was a dry ring around it and then it became a bit wet. I looked up pink eye and other causes of swollen eyelids, and I think it was just some type of infection. I kept using the cream and doing some cold compresses, and luckily I had antibiotics that I brought from home. The swelling went down after a day, and it completely dried up and healed after a couple days. It was definitely weird, but I suppose I’d be too lucky if I didn’t get some strange problem or illness while in Africa.

One other annoying thing was the frequent power outages that led to cold showers, untoasted “toast,” and dead batteries. But TIA! Perhaps the hostel should invest in a generator…Also, the termites! They’re giant, buzz loudly, and fly around constantly shedding their wings. But I’d take them any day over spiders (or flies that lay eggs in skin).

I met a lot of really cool local people in Moshi, including the hostel guards, Elia and Paulo, and Richard, the gardener who taught me Swahili sometimes. The other day I told Richard I was leaving on Saturday, and a couple days later when he was working he said “Njoo hapa” (come here), and he pulled out a beautiful printed painting that he gave me as a gift to remember him and Tanzania. He excitedly showed me how to iron and frame it, and he pointed out Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Mawenzi, and elephants in the Serengeti on the painting. It was so nice of him and I was so surprised! I wrote him a thank you letter in Swahili and I got him a black and yellow beaded bracelet from the BCC shop so that he can remember me and where I volunteered, plus I tipped him personally (it’s expected to tip all the staff when you leave the hostel).

On Tuesday I told Violette and Jacqueline that Thursday would be my last day at BCC. They seemed surprised and sad. They asked if I will come back to Tanzania. I hope so! A couple progress updates on Quine in my last couple week at BCC: she’s been improving her hand-eye coordination by building tall block towers. She’s also been increasingly good at understanding to close her mouth and wipe the drool from her mouth and desk. She does this both on her own and when asked.

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On Friday it really began to set in that I’d be leaving the next day. On Wednesday I had to say goodbye to a group that went to climb Kili, and on Thursday to a group leaving for safari. Too many goodbyes! Also, Thursday was my last day at BCC. In the morning I picked an Angel Card and I happened to pick the blank one. This seemed appropriate because I knew I’d have mixed emotions. There was a lot of rain that day, so it was only Tuma, Ema, ad Richard at the center. I took some photos and got to see Ema’s sweet smile for the last time. I also got a video of Tuma high-fiving me and saying “hi!” The day felt normal but weird at the same time. Toward the end, Tuma wouldn’t eat and was coughing, sweating, and crying out a lot. I didn’t know what was wrong, and his mom eventually came and calmed him down and took him out to their home next door. I was worried I wouldn’t get to say goodbye! Earlier I had told him it was my last day (in Swahili) and that I would miss him, and it seemed like he understood. After lunch I gave Violette and Jacqueline my thank you card, and they really appreciated it. They also gave me a very nice thank you card. Then it all set in and I started crying. They probably thought I was crazy, but once I started I couldn’t stop! We hugged and they thanked me and welcomed me back a lot. Finally I asked if I could say goodbye to Tuma, and his mother welcomed me into their home to say goodbye. I hugged Tuma and said my goodbyes while trying not to cry too hard! I still felt emotional on the dala dala back; it didn’t feel right to be leaving yet! But walking down the dirt road one last time, I still smiled and felt happy. What a hard day, but my experience at BCC has been wonderful. I hope that the mamas will continue to do stretches and other therapeutic activities with the children so they continue to progress.

Richard

Richard

Emanuel (Ema or Baby Eems, as I call him)

Emanuel (Ema or Baby Eems, as I call him)

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Front view of the center

Front view of the center

dirt road on my daily walk to the center

dirt road on my daily walk to the center

On Thursday night we went out to for a goodbye dinner at IndoItaliano for me and Susanna, one of my roommates, who left the day before me. On Friday after dinner Mount Kilimanjaro was very clear, so a group of us went to a place we call Rooftop Bar, which has a great view of Kili from Moshi. We took some photos and admired the view. What a perfect ending to my trip! Later that night we went out to our favorite clubs for my final time, and on Saturday I packed up and wrote a short note in the hostel guest book.

Group picture at Rooftop Bar

Group picture at Rooftop Bar

Wearing the dress I had made!

Wearing the dress I had made!

While sitting at Kilimanjaro Airport awaiting my departure from Moshi, I felt such mixed emotions. Saying goodbye to everyone at the hostel was hard and just didn’t feel right! But that morning I picked the final Angel Card of my trip, and it was “Adventure.” I liked this, because it sums up what this experience has been—an adventure of a lifetime. And it signifies my next adventure ahead—moving out of California for grad school.

Driving to the airport, Mount Kilimanjaro was clear and beautiful behind me. I also had a view of it from the airplane before takeoff. I remember on my taxi ride to Moshi from the airport when I first arrived, we drove around a turn on a hill and the driver pointed down and said there would be sunflowers soon growing in the field below. On Saturday, those sunflowers were in bloom, shining tall and brightly. My favorite flower!

I really wish my time in Moshi wasn’t over. It seems like I was just on my way there. But it’ll be nice to be home. The other day a friend at the hostel was saying he’s getting ready to get home and start his life. Rhiannon, the hostel manager, was present and said to him, “You know that this is life right now?” I appreciated her saying that, and it really reflects on the message in the book “The Power of Now.” Accepting every moment as it occurs and enjoying it to the fullest.

I hope to have reunions with my new friends from all over the world, and I would absolutely love to return to Moshi in the (near) future to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, visit Zanzibar, and return to the BCC center. Perhaps after I complete occupational therapy school, so that I can provide more advanced services to the children in the program. I also would really like to visit more countries in Africa. I highly recommend Hostel Hoff to anyone who is interested in volunteering in Moshi. It’s a wonderful place and I’ve made lasting memories there. Or if you simply want to visit Tanzania for a vacation, please do it! Be spontaneous, just go. It’s a beautiful country with so much to see and experience, and it will give you a whole new perspective on culture and life in underdeveloped countries.

Hostel Hoff Family Photo May (Version 1)

Hostel Hoff Family Photo May (Version 1)

Things I’ll miss:

*chips mayai
*drinking Coke and eating chips (fries) and not feeling guilty about it
*avocado on bread at every dinner
*watermelon, pineapple, and mango with every meal
*the chai at BCC!
*ugali
*cheap food (cheap everything, really)
*playing cards on the hostel patio
*Konyagi and Karaoke night at Melindi’s
*dancing with the locals at La Liga
*cheap taxis and cramming 10 people into them
*chili chicken at IndoItaliano
*simosas and chapati
*saying Asante and Pole (I’m sure I’ll find myself saying these a lot at home!)
*other Swahili greetings/friendliness on the streets
*Peanut & Butter (the dogs)
*peanut butter and bananas on toast every morning
*Tuma’s laugh
*Ema’s smile
*the sound of the rain
*geckos and the bird I heard all throughout the day (do-do do-do do-DO-do)
*movie nights and yoga at the hostel
*Paulo’s excited gasp followed by “Pole Sana!”
*everyone at the hostel and at BCC, of course, and so much more!


Things I won’t miss so much:


*covering knees and shoulders
*mosquito bites
*cold showers
*”Mzungo!” constantly
*not being able to walk at night or carry valuables
*fear of death as a pedestrian (slight exaggeration here)
*not having a washing machine

Family Photo Version 2

Family Photo Version 2 with Mary

Asanteni Sana to Hostel Hoff, BCC, and the people of Moshi for welcoming me and making my experience in Tanzania unforgettable. Tutaonana tena siku moja!

Caitlin McConnell

adventure

Winding Down

Things are winding down for me here in Moshi! Sheila left for the U.S. on Saturday, so last Friday was my last day with her at the center. We hugged and took a few photos, and I took some more pictures at the center that day. Sheila told me she talked with Meghan, the local liaison between BCC and Mosaic, and Meghan said they could provide some rainboots for Violette to do home visits during the remainder of the rainy season. Sheila was very happy about this, and Violette has already gone once to visit Isidory.

Sheila (left), me, and Violette (right)

Sheila (left), me, and Violette (right)

Jacqueline, Sheila (holding Jacqueline's daughter, Rehema), and Violette

Jacqueline, Sheila (holding Jacqueline’s daughter, Rehema), and Violette

Part of the BCC center

Part of the BCC center

Another view of the center

Another view of the center

Me and Tuma! Blurry but I love this picture

Me and Tuma! Blurry but I love this picture

Sheila and Tumaini

Sheila and Tumaini

Me and Tuma again

Me and Tuma again

On the way to BCC that same day I walked past a dog in the road who must have just been hit. A local guy a bit ahead of me had stopped and looked down at him for a few moments, and then I stopped as well. The dog was convulsing a bit and clearly suffering, it was so sad. He looked up at me as I stood there. I wish I could’ve done something. Afterward the guy and I exchanged a look of sympathy. The dog was gone when I walked back a few hours later. I hope he didn’t suffer for too long.

The first few days without Sheila at the center have been fine; I’ve carried on with my usual routine. Violette has taken on more of Sheila’s roles as “Center in Charge” and Jacqueline now does the cooking. On Tuesday I was feeding Tuma his uji (porridge), and he didn’t want to eat it. He made this clear through his expressions and vocally, and this has happened several times before, so I wasn’t too surprised by it. I’ve asked Sheila about it before and she explained that sometimes his mother feeds him something before he gets to the center, so he’s not hungry for uji. She usually tells me to just let him be and not feed him. So I tried feeding him and when he refused I put the cup back on the table. Violette has been aware of the issue before, so I figured her and Jacqueline understood the situation. I went to the kitchen to wash the dishes, and when I returned Jacqueline was attempting to feed Tuma. I observed and Tuma just kept spitting out the uji. Eventually he started swallowing it because Jacqueline kept forcing it into his mouth. This really frustrated me but I didn’t know how to communicate with them about the issue. It also made me feel as if Jacqueline thought I had failed or fed him improperly, but I don’t want to assume this because she did not act negatively toward me in any way. When lunch time came a few hours later, I attempted to feed Tuma his lunch, but he wouldn’t eat lunch either. Usually when he refuses uji he eats his lunch because he’s hungry again by then. But I think since he was forced to eat the uji he was still quite full at lunch time. I said in Swahili “Hatakula,” meaning “he will not eat,” and Violette said okay. The earlier incident had rubbed me the wrong way a bit and for the first time at my project I felt slightly inadequate. Contributing to this emotion was the fact that I usually sit in silence during chai and lunch time when the mamas speak to each other in Swahili. I was fairly used to this already because even when Sheila was there that was usually the case and they didn’t often initiate conversation with me. And I actually didn’t mind it because it was kind of nice to just listen to the language and then drift off into thought when I began to tune it out. But when Sheila was still there I at least had the comfort of knowing there was not a complete barrier and I could communicate in English if necessary. Now this comfort zone was gone and I couldn’t help but think they might be talking about me when hearing the occasional “mzungo” in their conversation. But the mamas really are very nice and always welcoming toward me, and I think if they do ever talk about me like this they are only poking fun, or maybe they’re even just curious about my behaviors, etc. The fact is that we are different, and I guess I can’t blame them for noticing the peculiarities. This is all part of the cultural exchange. I’ve still been taking Swahili lessons and learning more grammar and essentials, and Violette and Jacqueline both seemed impressed and happily said “Sawa” (correct) when I would say something in a questionable tone.

Quine doing a fine motor skill task

Quine doing a fine motor skill task

Quine practicing walking along the railing

Quine practicing walking along the railing

Me and Rehema

Me and Rehema

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I suppose now is a good time to mention some other frustrations, annoyances, regrets, etc. that I’ve had throughout the trip. Looking back on my posts, everything has been very positive, which makes me happy because I truly have felt very positive, present, and open-minded since I’ve arrived here. And simply content. But this goes without saying that nothing can ever be absolutely perfect. In regards to BCC, the language barrier is clearly something that’s been a struggle, including rarely being addressed by any of the mamas at the center aside from greetings and meal times. I do wish I’d started the Swahili lessons earlier on, but they’re certainly still helpful now. Another frustration that I haven’t yet mentioned is the laziness of the mamas at the center. It just bewilders me that they are getting paid (mind you, very little), but they spend much time laying around on the beds and are constantly on their cell phones. Don’t get me wrong, I know how much they care about the children and I respect what they do. Sheila is very knowledgeable and does a lot of the administrative work for the center, so I know she can’t be with the kids every minute. She also goes on home visits when some of the kids aren’t there, which I mentioned previously, and I know she is genuinely concerned about them. I know Violette also cares and since Sheila’s left I’ve seen her doing stretches with Richard and reading books to Quine, as well as feeding. But I can’t help but wonder how little interaction and stimulation the children would get if I were not there to interact with them throughout the day.

BCC Brochure

BCC Brochure

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On another note, I’m definitely getting tired of constantly being approached on the streets or yelled “mzungo” at. I mentioned previously that I love how friendly everyone is on the streets, always greeting each other with “Mambo” or “Habari yako.” I still do love this; it’s so refreshing and opposite from the way we walk down the street like zombies in the U.S., avoiding eye contact and focusing solely on reaching our destination, often in a hurry. The “pole pole” attitude here is nice—take things slow, say hello to a stranger as you pass, hakuna matata. But as a white person, there’s no denying that I stand out, and many of the people here find it absolutely necessary to follow me down the road or try to sell me things, or even just yell “mzungo.” It really does get old. But I’ve accepted this from the beginning, because I know this too is part of the experience. Part of me keeps questioning why we all can’t just see each other as people all the same and not as if we come from different planets. But coming from of diverse country where I am used to seeing foreigners and learning to accept human differences, I know that is (ironically) an ignorant viewpoint. And truth is, we are different. I’m here to see and appreciate this country, but I also paid thousands of dollars to come here and volunteer, which would never be a possibility for most of the people living here. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. I can’t deny how much of a privilege it is to be here.

Me with a child named Vanessa at Gabriella Rehab Center last week

Me with a child named Vanessa at Gabriella Rehab Center last week

A couple other things that have been worrisome: one of the girls here had some bug bites that were abnormally big and red and had black dots in them. She went to the hospital and they squeezed the bites, which apparently was quite painful, and eggs came out. The doctors weren’t able to communicate what type of bug had laid the eggs (or perhaps they had no idea). She found out from other resources that they were mango flies that had laid eggs in her skin. When she returned to the hostel, she discovered more bites and had to have people here squeeze them, and in one or two of them the eggs had hatched and live larva came out. (Yes, disgusting and one of my worst fears—I think I’d rather have diarrhea for a month). I felt so bad for her and of course everyone was worried after that, but the hostel staff made sure to disinfect all the sheets (apparently the flies are often found in laundry that is air-dried, or something along those lines). I also mentioned in one of my first posts that one girl had been robbed the week before I arrived, but that it’s quite rare and could happen anywhere. Well, I guess I spoke too soon, because six more people from the hostel have been robbed since I’ve been here. Now, a couple of these incidents were partially provoked by the victims’ decision to walk at night or to carry valuables with them in their hands/bags. It’s still a sucky situation, but they did take that risk. It turns out that two of the robberies were committed by the same guys, and luckily they were identified and caught. But a couple of them were in broad daylight like the first one. Amanda, the hostel owner, said it’s likely only happened so much because it’s low season for tourists (not sure if this makes sense to me), and that it’s never been this common. I’ve been very careful about not bringing a bag and instead using my pockets or money belt, especially when carrying valuables is necessary. Or if I do need a bag I wear my small backpack instead of a shoulder bag that’s easier to snatch or cut off. And of course I take taxis at night. I hope this doesn’t worry or discourage anyone from visiting Moshi. It really is a generally safe and peaceful place, especially being a smaller town. But all mzungos are perceived as wealthy and thus become targets for some of the dishonest locals who need the money. But even after all this, I still haven’t felt unsafe once here.

Karaoke night at Melindi's this past weekend

Karaoke night at Melindi’s this past weekend

Birthday dinner for my roommate, Trine

Birthday dinner for my roommate, Trine

Thursday was a very good day at project. I actually saw Jacqueline and her daughter Rehema on the dala dala on the way to BCC. The dala dala “conductor” took my 400 TSH and didn’t immediately give me my 100 TSH change. Sometimes they wait until you get off but not usually. When we got off, I held my hand out and said “chenji” and he shook his head. I said “Ndiyo, mia moja, nilikulipa mia nne” (Yes, one hundred, I paid you four hundred) and Jacqueline said something to him about me knowing Swahili. He kind of laughed as if he’d been caught and hesitantly gave me the proper change. Not that 100 TSH is worth anything at all, but it was the principle of it that mattered, and my new tiny bit of Swahili knowledge paid off! It was also the first time I’d not been given correct change on the dala dala. It somewhat surprised me because I thought he noticed that I was with Jacqueline, but perhaps not. Anyway, Jacqueline and I exchanged a few words on the short walk from the dala dala station to the center, and then she said something I didn’t understand. Once we were at the center, I was still curious so I looked it up in my little dictionary and exclaimed that I understood now. She, Violette, and I all got excited, and throughout the day I used some more Swahili here and there. They both complimented me on my progress, and I felt accomplished. It was a much better day than Tuesday! But back to the children, the more important part. Tuma has been great and I’m so proud of him. Lately I’ve been trying to get him to say “Hi” (much easier for him than hello in Swahili), and I can tell he’s been trying hard to articulate it. He can’t yet say it totally clearly, but I can definitely make it out. I’ve also been doing some grasping exercises with him. He can’t really use the muscles in his hands/fingers to pick things up himself, but I’ve been assisting him and he can at least feel the sensation of holding objects between his fingers. Furthermore, he’s able to lift his right forearm to give me a high-five! He can’t fully extend his fingers, but the strength in his arm is clearly increasing. Very exciting! Quine’s walking and fine motor skills have also continued to improve, and I felt like I really bonded with her one day earlier this week. She wouldn’t let me put her down when I held her and she kept hugging me and resting her head on my shoulder, it was so sweet. Ema has unfortunately been in the hospital the last few days; on Tuesday his coughing and respiratory problems were really bad, so his mother took him on Wednesday. I hope he’ll be okay and return before the end of next week when I leave. Isidory, Primus, and Brian still haven’t come to the center in weeks. Leila is there off and on. Richard has been there often and I’ve still been doing more stretches and sensory exercises with him. One thing I do is have him reach for/point to various body parts on himself so he can feel/locate them while I say them in Swahili. For example, his head (kichwa), eyes (macho), nose (pua), ears (sikio), shoulders (bega), stomach (tumbo), mouth (mdomo), knees (goti). This also allows for a good arm stretch.

The geckos are really cute and curious...they like to hang out between our tent covers

The geckos are really cute and curious…they like to hang out between our tent covers

Yesterday I had my final Swahili lesson with Zacharia. Our homework was to attempt to write a story in Swahili, so I decided to write a thank you letter to Violette, Sheila, and Jacqueline. In our lesson he helped me translate the parts I didn’t know, but he was impressed by how much I’d learned and written on my own. I hope the mamas at the center will appreciate my effort, as well. Today I went to the BCC center in Msaranga, another part of Moshi, with two newer girls at the hostel who volunteer there. With Jacqueline at my center now and so few children there lately, it was okay for me to go see one more of the centers for a day. I was very impressed by this center. The mamas were very involved with the children and talkative to us. There were lots of toys and supplies, including walkers, wheelchairs, leg splints, and an assistive standing device. Six children were present. Two were teenagers with autism, and the other three had CP. The center once had a physical therapist from somewhere outside of Tanzania working with the children, and she apparently returns once a year for a few weeks. She left a booklet with a list of exercises to do with each child, and charts for each child to track progress and maintain a daily schedule. The structure at this center seemed very beneficial. The two girls volunteering there from my hostel are physical therapy students in Denmark, so they are familiar with a lot of the exercises and activities. It was nice to get a taste of another one of BCC’s centers. I’m sure the 8 others I haven’t seen are great, as well.

Angel card inspired letter from Mom :)

Angel card inspired letter from Mom 🙂

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A few days ago Mount Kilimanjaro was very clear so I was able to take some pictures of the view from our backyard at the hostel. The pictures don’t do it justice, though!

View of Mount Kilimanjaro from the hostel

View of Mount Kilimanjaro from the hostel

Just over one week left in Moshi. Time to go make the most of it!

Hostel Family Photo from April

Hostel Family Photo from April

Time Flies in TZN

My time in Moshi is flying by! But a lot has been going on and still there’s lots to tell, especially since my last post was dedicated solely to my safari. I’ll start with BCC updates. Way back on April 23rd before my safari, Sheila brought her daughter, Helen, to the center. She’s ten years old and very sweet and diva-like. She seemed older than ten, actually. It was fun to talk and play with her for a while. Only Tuma, Richard, and Ema were at the center that day. Sheila informed me that Isidory had malaria, but that he was taking medication and recovering. Most days lately there have been no more than five children at the center, sometimes no more than one or two. Sheila told me that she thinks BCC should close the centers and do home visits instead during the rainy season, because it’s very difficult for many of the children to get to the center when the roads are muddy. She feels that it’s a waste of time to be at the center with only a couple children when we could go around to all of their homes and care for them individually. Apparently she’d raised this concern to the office in the past but they’ve done nothing to solve the problem. I went down to the office one day to speak with Johann and the other administrators about the issue. I agree that it is an issue, but the problem that I suspected and that they confirmed at the office is that they can’t just close down the centers because some families rely on them. Many of the parents work so they need to drop the kids off each day, and it wouldn’t be fair to them to close the center. However, they did say that it’s fine to do home visits as long as no children are left unattended at the center. Sheila has been doing this occasionally already, and sometimes she goes to pick up children who can’t get to the center on their own.

Johann recently sent out a BCC newsletter that I’d like to share here (see below this paragraph). It’s a bit outdated, so none of the events mentioned occurred while I was here, but I still found it interesting to read some of the program’s recent highlights and perhaps you will, too. Johann also showed me the local BCC shop, where the organization sells beaded items, homemade bags, and a few other items. Half of the proceeds go to BCC and half go to the individual incomes of the people (mostly mothers of children in BCC) who make them. I bought a couple things to support the program, and I plan to bring some people from the hostel there. I found out recently that Sheila will be leaving on May 10th for a BCC presentation in Omaha, Nebraska. She won’t return until after I leave Moshi, so this is my last week with her. I asked if it would be alright to take some photos at the center, and she said of course, so I hope to take some this week before she leaves. From then on it’ll be just be me and Violette and I believe Jacqueline, who usually covers for one of them. I think the language barrier will be a much greater challenge now since Sheila was the only English speaker, but I’ve established a routine at the center so I think it will be manageable. Also, I started taking Swahili lessons with a group of people at the hostel! A man named Zacharia comes to the hostel and teaches lessons for 5,000TSH per hour. We’re doing them twice a week, and we’ve had two so far. I thought about doing this at the beginning of my trip, which seems like it would have made more sense than starting now, but I figured I’d get by with my Swahili dictionary that my mom gave me for Christmas. I’m so happy I’m taking them now because basic grammar is so helpful, and I’ve found myself frustrated by not being able to say basic sentences. Zacharia has been teaching Swahili since 1989. Just over 30 years ago, he became a paraplegic. He was treated improperly for a boil/abscess on his skin that became infected and left him paralyzed from the waist down. Aside from teaching Swahili, he started an NGO called “Friends of Paraplegia” that aims to educate people about their spinal cord injuries (SCI) and build functional, accessible homes for people with SCI living in extreme poverty. Type in the name of the organization on Facebook and you’ll find the official FB group. I talked with him for a bit after the first lesson about the lack of accessibility and lack of therapy services in Tanzania.

BCC Newsletter March 2014

Johann asked me if I’d like to visit any of the other centers, and he suggested I do it before Sheila leaves. Josefine and Astrid, two of my friends from the hostel with whom I also went on safari, recently switched their volunteer project to BCC, so on Monday I went with them to their center in Pasua (another “suburb” of Moshi). It was certainly a change from my own center. I was surprised at how much bigger it was, but how little toys/supplies they had. However, they did have a few wheelchairs and a nice walker rather than the homemade one we use at our center. There were two supervisors, a man and a woman, who were nice but didn’t speak much English at all. There were 6 children at the center. Two of them were fairly active and could speak a bit. It seemed that they only had some cognitive/learning delays. They were Anisa and Stanley. Another girl, Husna, was small and had some trouble walking as well as a cognitive disability. I fed her lunch. One boy, Nelson, was older and had Down’s Syndrome. He loved to play the drum that was at the center. He was also aggressive at times—I don’t think he realized his own strength. We drummed along with him and the three of us harmonized a couple songs. Another girl named Rukia had difficulty walking and constantly sucked her thumb. The most severely disabled child was named Yakobo. He couldn’t speak or stand; I believe he had Cerebral Palsy. I did some stretches with him. Overall, I enjoyed the center and it was interesting to compare the two. The children at this center are definitely more physically active than at mine.

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Back in my third blog post I mentioned that Mediatrice, the OT, suggested visiting Gabriella Rehabilitation Center in town. Today I had the chance to visit with the girls from the hostel who are doing internships there. I was mostly interested in seeing the therapy section, but I was very impressed by the facility as a whole. It’s a pretty big place with a therapy room, craft room, classrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, dining room that’s also used at the drama room, a playground, garden, and chickens and goats. There’s also bedrooms because part of the program is a boarding school. There were around 40 children there, most between the ages of around 5-20, but some 20+. All of them had developmental disabilities including autism, ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, and other learning/cognitive delays. Very few had physical disabilities. There were also a lot of staff (all locals) and a few volunteers, including an OT student from KCMC. All of the children attend school lessons and/or therapy, and the goal is for them to “graduate” and be able to function independently and integrate into society. The activities are organized by a daily schedule. There’s also an activity chart which categorizes all of the children into various tasks/responsibilities depending on their individual abilities and strengths. Lotte, my roommate and one of the interns, said that the program appears more organized than it actually is because it is a big challenge to carry out all these activities with so many children and a range of disabilities. But still, the program has a very good foundation and a lot of creative ideas. The therapy room had a lot of supplies for both gross and fine motor skills. There were mats for stretching, stability balls and small trampolines for balance exercises, a mirror, and another wooden device used for balance. I observed the OT student, Gertrude, do some tactile stimulation with beans and sand, similar to what I use at BCC. I also did some fine motor and hand-eye coordination activities with a few of the kids, and I observed the gross motor activities. I really enjoyed my day at Gabriella and all of the kids were so fun and happy. I might return for a day in a couple weeks because it is “Therapy Week,” when new children from the community come to be assessed and then the program determines whether they should come consistently for therapy or if they can complete a therapy plan at their own home.

A couple weeks ago I was walking toward town to go to the ATM, and there was a line of cars backed up on the road of the hostel. I saw a policeman in the street and some people on the corner. I thought there’d been an accident, but then I saw a couple others from the hostel and apparently the Tanzanian president was driving by so the roads were blocked off. Several police cars drove by and then a swarm of vehicles sped down both lanes in one direction. It was interesting. I thought about how much more commotion there would be if the U.S. president were driving through my hometown. Definitely a contrast!

This past weekend a group of us went camping at Lake Chala, which is about an hour drive from Moshi. I’d heard the lake was beautiful and this would likely be my last weekend trip, so I was excited. When we arrived, we checked out the view and then relaxed by the campfire. The next day five of us decided to hike around the lake. We heard it was possible to go all the way around but that it took 4-5 hours and that we’d have to push through thorns and bushes. We were a little unsure, but we decided to go for it. The project manager at the campground told us it takes more like 3.5 hours. The hike was actually really nice and we had some great views of the land and the lake. Part of the lake and its rim is actually in Kenya, so I can now say I’ve been to Kenya! It was really cool. We had to be a bit adventurous by climbing over some locked, sketchy looking fences that we weren’t clear if were the border or what. You know, just casually crossing national borders in Africa with no money or documentation…ha! We also got stuck in some nasty bush/thorny areas and had to backtrack a few times, but we got some good exercise and ended up finishing in just under 3 hours. When we returned we had a refreshing swim in the lake, which was clear and blue. There happened to be a wedding reception taking place at the lake/resort that day, so we got to witness part of a Tanzanian wedding! So neat and the bride looked beautiful. Afterward we ordered dinner at the restaurant and during dinner I found out some special news: I became an aunt! My sister, Kelly, had her baby girl, Eva Rose, on the night of May 2nd (May 3rd in Tanzania). I cried when I saw the first few pictures and I couldn’t wait to get back to the hostel to talk to them and hear all the details! Since then, I’ve been able to meet my beautiful little niece via Skype, and I’m so happy to be an auntie. I can’t wait to meet her in person and hold her for the first time.

Lake Chala

Lake Chala

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Kenya

Kenya

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The next morning at Lake Chala we woke up early to see the sunrise, which was beautiful but partly covered by clouds. There was also a great, clear view of Kilimanjaro in the other direction, behind another mountain. Then we went for another swim in the lake and relaxed the rest of the day. It was a wonderful weekend in a beautiful place!

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Sunrise

Sunrise

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Yesterday I received a letter from my sister, Kimmy. It was so nice to hear from her and to receive mail! And she did the sweetest thing—she compiled short messages from all of my family members and closest friends and sent them along with her letter. It was so special and wonderful to hear such kind (and funny) words from the people I miss dearly! I will definitely be sad to leave Moshi, but I sure have a lot to look forward to back home.

My beautiful niece, Eva Rose

My beautiful niece, Eva Rose

Serengeti Sunrise

Last Thursday six of us from the hostel set off for our four day safari in Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater. It was incredible! We booked the safari through African Scenic Safaris, which is owned by the same owners of Hostel Hoff. Our guide was named David, also known as “Bush Master,” and our cook called himself Mr. Delicious. They were both awesome. David was clearly an experienced guide and shared a wealth of information the whole trip. He was able to answer any question we asked. He also had a great sense of humor, as did Mr. Delicious (Charles). We lucked out with great weather and we got to see every animal we hoped to see!

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Day 1
We left Moshi at 9am and stopped in Arusha to get some snacks. It was cool to see part of Arusha, which is about an hour and a half from Moshi. On the drive David told us all about the country’s agriculture, the Masai tribe, and much more. The main crops in Tanzania are maize, bananas, coffee, and rice. I found the info about the Masai people very fascinating. They believe in two gods: one is a female and associated with the color red. This god is feared because she brings drought. The male god is associated with black and is praised because he brings rain to the land. Masai women do much of the labor, such as building the homes and collecting water, and young boys are responsible for herding cattle. Both boys and girls undergo circumcision (and what we would consider genital mutilation for females). They dress in black and paint their faces white after they’ve had the procedure, then they stay in the jungle for two months for some type of training. Once they’ve recovered, they paint their faces a different color for some amount of time.

David is called the Bush Master because he claims he “speaks the animals’ language.” Later he explained that this means he knows their behavior and how to approach them in the vehicle. Our first destination was Lake Manyara. When we arrived, we headed to our campground and stopped at a viewing point. The view was beautiful. Then we headed to the National Park for the game drive! This was our “introduction” to the wildlife. The first animal we saw was a giraffe! We also saw zebras, elephants (one very close up), buffalo, impalas (gazelles), wildebeests, warthogs (Pumba), tons of baboons, monkeys, ostriches, flamingos, toucans, and some other birds called hornbills and widow birds. So many animals! The park was jungle-y with some open space toward the middle on the lake. The safari Land Cruiser was very comfortable, but we spent most of the time standing on our seats because the roof opened up so we could watch the animals as we drove! So fun in the breeze. We all had binoculars and cameras, of course. After the game drive we had a nice meal and played some cards at the campsite.

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Bush Master!

Bush Master!

Sunset over Lake Manyara

Sunset over Lake Manyara


Day 2
On Friday we drove through Ngorongoro and saw some of the same animals. We stopped to view the crater and it was exceptionally beautiful. Then we headed to the Serengeti! This was what I was most looking forward to. I was so happy when we entered the park; it felt unreal. A friend of mine showed me a song called “Serengeti Sunrise” a few years ago and every time I listen to it I feel so alive, relaxed, and happy. Of course I listened to it a few times while driving through the park, though I certainly didn’t need the music to elicit those feelings. All around were my favorite “African” trees—the low flat ones that you see in the Lion King. There’s also one that looks similar on the base of Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo. I found out they’re called Acacia trees, and there’s many different types. But the most common in East Africa is known as the Whistling Thorn.

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Zebras in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Zebras in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

David and a zebra carcass

David and a zebra carcass

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The land in the Serengeti was flat and vast savanna/grassland but there were also some rocks and mountains. We saw a cheetah and her cub almost immediately after we registered and entered the park! Soon after, we encountered a big male lion under a tree and got so close to him! We also saw a leopard from a distance. One of the highlights was witnessing a lion hunt and kill a wildebeest. We came across a group of teenage and mama lions chowing down on a small wildebeest (this was considered a snack, David told us). As we watched for a while, a huge pack of wildebeests were migrating by. The lions began to creep their way through the tall grass to stalk their prey, and two of them attacked. Only one was successful. We were so lucky to see this; it was fascinating. Circle of life right there. It was also nice that we only had about 3 other vehicles next to us watching. During the high season there could be up to 30 or 40 cars competing to see the same thing.

Mama cheetah stretching with her cub close by :)

Mama cheetah stretching with her cub close by 🙂

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In addition to the cats, we saw two new types of gazelles called Thompson and Grand Gazelles. Also vultures, eagles, storks, topi (an animal unique to the area), dik dik, and a white bearded wildebeest. It was a busy day! We set up camp in the middle of the Serengeti that night, drank some red wine with dinner, and watched the sunset. The stars were perfectly clear and vibrant. It was exciting but also kind of creepy to camp in the middle of all the wildlife! The extent of the advice we were given in case of any animal encounters by the tents was to shine our flashlights at them to scare them off and not to provoke them by making any loud sounds or sudden movements. Luckily we all survived through the night, but none of us slept too well due to all the noises.

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Sunset in the Serengeti

Sunset in the Serengeti

Our campsite in the Serengeti

Our campsite in the Serengeti


Day 3
The next day we woke before the sunrise and set out on an early morning game drive. We witnessed a beautiful sunrise on the horizon as we drove along. Today we saw several new animals that we hadn’t yet seen, including hyenas and baby hyenas, which are actually so cute! Plus we saw hippos, meercats (Timone), and several types of birds such as cranes and guinea hens. We also spotted another leopard at a closer distance. It was feeding on a carcass in a tree, and we watched it for a while until it jumped down. Soon we visited the Serengeti National Park Visitor Center and had a little tour that included some interesting information about the park and wildlife. After our game drive we had a big brunch then packed up camp and headed back to Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We saw more animals along the way. That night we camped on the rim of the crater. It was much colder there, so we had to bundle up. Again the sky was so clear and the stars and moon were shining. We would get up the next morning for a 5am breakfast and early game drive in the crater before heading back to Moshi.

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Wildebeest

Wildebeest

Hippos in the water

Hippos in the water

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Leopard eating in the tree

Leopard eating in the tree

Hyena crossing

Hyena crossing

Baby hyena

Baby hyena


Day 4
On our final morning we woke to the most stunning sunrise I’ve seen. The sunrises were honestly one of my favorite parts of the trip. I just love how sunsets and sunrises are a form of beauty that never ceases because they occur day after day. This one was three or four layers of different shades of orange and blue, and our view of it directly above the crater was perfect. The Ngorongoro Crater was formed several million years ago when a volcano erupted and caved in on itself. It’s around 2,000 feet in depth. There’s much wildlife in the crater, but some of the animals that can be found along the rim and in the Conservation Area aren’t adapted to live in the crater, such as giraffes because they can’t migrate downward due to the steepness. If they did so, their long necks would bend forward and all the blood would rush to their heads. Of course they bend over when they eat, but the journey down into the crater would be too long for them to physically manage it. One animal we anticipated spotting in the crater was a rhino. They apparently are hard to spot due to their shyness. David told us they were one of the most heavily hunted animals by poachers, so they’re very cautious animals. We got lucky and saw one from a distance! We needed our binoculars to see the horns clearly, but we were satisfied because that topped off the fifth animal we’d seen of the “Big Five.” The Big Five are the game animals that are considered the most dangerous and most difficult to hunt in Africa. This includes the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino. Aside from the rhino, we came pretty close to some more lions. Typical cats basking and napping in the sun all day. At one point there was our car and one other vehicle and one of the male lions came right up to our windows and was rubbings its face along the tires. Too cute and so neat to be so close to him. We saw lots of other animals in the crater, including the heaviest bird in Africa called the Kori Bustard. Apparently it might even be the heaviest animal capable of flying because its bones are fused together. On our way out of the crater we were bid farewell by a bunch of baboons on the dirt road, then we made our way back to Moshi. We had a nice view of the peak of Kilimanjaro as we approached.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

Sunrise over the crater

Sunrise over the crater

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Overall, I’m so happy with the safari and lucky to have witnessed such beautiful nature and wildlife. And I’m glad I went with a great group of girls and wonderful guide/cook! It was a fascinating experience that I’ll never forget!

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Land of Coconuts

Last Wednesday I found out from Violette and Sheila at BCC that I had Thursday-Tuesday off for Easter holiday. I was surprised that they hadn’t told me sooner. I figured I’d just relax over the long weekend and go on a Mount Kilimanjaro day hike, but then I decided last minute to join a group of 6 girls on a trip to Pangani. I was hesitant at first because it was raining in Moshi and I felt rushed, but the girls convinced me, and I’m so glad I went! Pangani is a small village on the coast of Tanzania, and it’s also home to the Pangani River. Pangani was one of the first places after Zanzibar where slave trade began. Colonists invaded the coast and made their way up the river. The town is also known for its coconut plantations.

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We took a six hour bus ride from Moshi to Tanga, then we took a dala dala to our resort which took about an hour. We stayed at Peponi beach resort, which is actually about 45 minutes from the town of Pangani. The dala dala basically dropped us off in front of the sign, but we didn’t see any resort…luckily it was still light out! We followed a dirt road and eventually came to the resort, which was very secluded and peaceful. Since it’s low season, we nearly had the place to ourselves; it was so relaxing. There were nice looking “bandas,” like bungalow/huts, and tents, which we stayed in (the budget option). Our tent was literally 10 seconds from the ocean. There was also a pool and bar, which was nice. We saw monkeys and snakes! As soon as we arrived we jumped in the ocean, and the water was so warm—nearly like a hot tub! It was also quite shallow and seemed as though we could walk out for miles. All over the sand were little holes where crabs would crawl to and from. There were also lots of pretty shells. A couple of the girls saw a jellyfish. It’s so neat to say I’ve swam in an ocean besides the Pacific—the Indian Ocean. On Friday we swam, tanned, and relaxed most of the way. After lunch we took a walk down the beach. There were many wooden boats and some people from a nearby village. Each morning we woke up around 6am to watch the sunrise. It was so orange and stunning each time. We also went for a couple morning jogs down the beach. We got very lucky with the weather—it was hot and sunny every day and no rain. I definitely came back tanned! There were coconut, pineapple, and palm trees everywhere, giving it such a tropical feel and peaceful vibe. I felt so happy and worry-free. I started reading the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle during the trip. It’s somewhat of a guide to spiritual enlightenment and discusses disdentifying yourself from your mind and focusing more on the present rather than in the lapse of past and future. It asserts the realization that we live in an eternal now—essentially promoting the concept of “live in the moment.” I felt like I was really able to do this this past weekend, and I actually have felt this way my whole trip so far. It really is an enlightening feeling. One night in particular we sat out by the pool and watched the stars. The sky was so clear, and I truly believed that nothing existed except that very moment.

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On Saturday we went into Pangani. We began by hopping on a bus that said they’d charge us 700TSH each, but once we were on they tried to raise the price. We refused and had them let us off at some point on the road. We decided to be adventurous and waved down a big truck and asked if they’d drive us there for 700 each. They agreed, and we got into the truck bed and held onto the railings. It was really fun and refreshing with the breeze! As we pulled into the town, everyone was looking at us like we were crazy. I’m sure it’s not every day that they see a group of mzungos on the back of a truck! We hoped to take a boat tour on the river, but the tourism center wanted to charge too much for our budget. Instead, we found a local guy who spoke English and he found someone with a boat to take us for much cheaper. Rashid, the English-speaking local, is 22 and joined us on the boat and later took us to lunch and around town, as well. Before we could get on the boat, we had to push it into the water from the sand. It was quite a pathetic sight, but a bunch of locals near the harbor helped out and we somehow managed to get it in the water. The river was quite nice but a bit dirty. There were coconuts floating along throughout the water. Rashid said you can sometimes see crocodiles in the shallower areas, but we didn’t spot any. We were exhausted by the end of the day after being in direct sunlight on the boat, and a couple of the girls got pretty bad sunburns. It was so nice to jump in the ocean again when we returned to Peponi.

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the truck we rode on to Pangani!

the truck we rode on to Pangani!

Pangani River

Pangani River

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Rashid!

Rashid!

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Pushing the boat into the water

Pushing the boat into the water

On Sunday we went on a snorkeling trip organized by the resort. We sailed out to some coral reefs. I’d never been snorkeling before, so it was very exciting! The water was clear and the reefs were beautiful. We saw bright blue and red/white seastars, giant sea urchins, interested black fish with two white dots, multicolored fish with bright teal stripes, a sea snake, strange looking long fish, and lots of other intriguing sea creatures. I wish I’d had an underwater camera. After snorkeling, we sailed up to a small white sand island and had lunch there. The water all around it was shallow and aqua blue, it was like paradise. Although I chose to take this trip instead of going to the more touristy and expensive Zanzibar, this certainly seemed to compare and had the bonus of being more peaceful and secluded.

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It was a wonderful holiday and I would definitely like to return to Peponi someday. The food was delicious; a couple of my meals included a bacon and banana sandwich (sounds weird but actually so good), and a tropical pizza with pineapple, bananas, and chili peppers. On the way home, we had some issues with our return bus tickets, but it all got sorted out. The bus was packed and a few of us ended up carrying children on our laps. Not what we expected from a so called “deluxe charter bus,” but TIA. I’m back in Moshi now and I’ll return to BCC for one day tomorrow, then I leave for another trip on Thursday—safari! Can’t wait to see the Serengeti 🙂

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Brief BCC update: Last Wednesday Mediatrice, the occupational therapist, was at the center for her last day of fieldwork. She asked me if I missed home, and if I had expected to see such extreme conditions here. I told her I was prepared for severe disabilities because I’ve worked with similar populations before, but she said she meant in the African context. We talked about poverty and how it can contribute to the cause and worsening of certain conditions. She said that’s just the way it is here because there’s no organization on the governmental level and health insurance is basically nonexistent. She said she’d worked with families living in one room, for example. We both agreed, though, that programs like BCC are good because at least the children can interact together rather than being cooped up and left alone in some cases. Still, there’s not enough resources, but the more the program progresses and the more funding it gets, the better off the children will be. Mediatrice and I hugged and planned to keep in touch. She’d still like me to send her some electronic notes from my studies because textbook availability is so limited in Tanzania. She said that she and everyone at BCC appreciates what I’m doing and she can tell I’m committed and not just here to get “marks” (i.e. to look good on a resume). That means a lot to me and I feel lucky to have met her. I look forward to returning to BCC full-time after my safari.

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More Love for Moshi

Time for another update. Everything has been great here in Moshi. It’s been raining more and the weather is cooling down (barely, though!). One night it rained so hard I thought I was going to wake up to a massive flood! I feel even more comfortable in town and with everyone at the hostel. My Swahili is improving, although I still don’t know much of the grammar. The other day Richard taught me some more Swahili words. I saw him while I was doing laundry, so he taught me that “I am washing my clothes” translates to “Mimi kufua nguo yangu.” The more I learn Swahili, the more I keep remembering Spanish for some reason. I think because my Swahili is so limited, when I think of words or phrases that I wish I knew how to say, I compare it to Spanish and often know how to say it in Spanish. This really makes me regret not taking Spanish classes in college. Chances are I won’t need it in the future, but who knows. Plus, I was good at it and enjoyed it. Oh well, can’t let regrets linger!

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I had an incredible weekend. Friday night we went out to a bar called Melindi’s where a live band was playing. Then we went to the nightclub La Liga again. Lot of pictures and dancing with the locals! On Saturday night we went to karaoke at Melindi’s; it was so fun! I sang a few times in groups of two or three…quite entertaining…One of the girls at the hostel, Josefine, is a phenomenal singer. She’s going to music school in London next year for singing. On Sunday, I chose the Angel Card “Harmony,” and I felt that it really applied to my day. A group of fifteen of us visited the Materuni Waterfalls in Shimbwe Village. The waterfall was tall (~230 feet), raging, and beautiful, and I felt so in tune with nature. We drove about an hour then hiked out another hour through gorgeous green landscape. Rufano, our guide, told us lots of stories and facts about the area and all the plants. There were coffee, bananas, cassava, avocados, raspberries, and much more. There was one plant (I forget the name) that Rufano warned against picking off the leaves because it would cause bad luck. There was also an area where he said the local people of the village used to put deceased bodies long ago. We swam in the waterfall and it was so cold but refreshing. I felt so alive. Then on our way back, a group of locals from the Chagga tribe performed a traditional dance for us, and a few of us joined in. It was so much fun. Next, we learned how to roast coffee at a family’s home in the village. The coffee was delicious; I definitely want to order some beans toward the end of my trip to bring home. We also had “coffee chocolate”—coffee grounds mixed with sugar. This day was one of my favorite days in Tanzania thus far! (click on the pictures below to make them bigger)

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I was in town on Saturday and went by a local dress shop. They sew dresses there, so I chose a fabric and a design and I will pick it up on Wednesday. I’m excited to see how it looks. Yesterday I received a card from my parents along with two inspirational quotes cut out. How nice to receive mail here. Apparently it takes about two weeks for mail to travel from the U.S. to Africa. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Local Foods I’ve tried:
1. Chapati: Round bread that you tear pieces off of to pick up other food. Depending on how it’s cooked, it can be more similar to a pancake/crepe or a tortilla.
2. Ugali: Traditional dish made by mixing maize and/or cassava flour in hot water until it becomes like a stiff porridge and eaten by rolling it in the hand to form a small ball which is then dipped in sauce.
3. Maandazi: Semisweet deep-fried doughnut-like pastry, often containing coconut milk and sometimes spiced.
4. Chips Mayai: An omelette made with chips (French fries). It’s basically chips with fried eggs over it. Unhealthy and delicious!

A lot has been going on at BCC that I’d like to mention. One day last week I was feeding Tuma and suddenly Sheila and Violette started yelling at someone in Swahili. It was the man who brings Leila on a motorcycle each morning; I’m not sure if he’s her father. The week before that, Sheila sent them home one day because Leila didn’t have shoes on. Sheila feels that shoes are necessary at the center because the floors get dirty and the kids play around outside. It turns out that Sheila had bought Leila a pair of shoes with her own money, and on this day last week they still showed up without the shoes. Sheila was obviously mad and sent them away again and they didn’t return. I’m not sure if the family couldn’t afford shoes or what, but it seems inconsiderate that they didn’t bring the ones Sheila bought. Anyway, it was the first time I heard someone yell angrily in Swahili!

There have been fewer children at the center the past week because of the rain and because some of them were sick. This allowed me some time to work more closely/individually with a few of the kids. I helped Leila do a problem-solving task involving arranging legos into a small box so that they all fit. I also had her do a fine motor activity of putting beads onto a string. She was very excited about this. At some points she got frustrated and would hand the string to me, but I gave it back to her and encouraged her to do it independently. I was able to get Tuma to sit more vertically against a foam pad, and luckily it was comfortable for him. I also got to observe Mediatrice, the occupational therapist, again. I watched her do some more intensive stretches with Emanuel (“Ema”). Ema is three and has respiratory problems (lung congestion). Mediatrice positioned him on his stomach on her lap and massaged and hit his back to break up the mucous. Then she took half of a lime and, with gloves on, rubbed the juice inside his mouth. She explained that this is to stimulate oral-motor activity—to strengthen the muscles for chewing and swallowing. She also used some type of gel for this purpose.

Every day at project Violette makes delicious chai tea and fried bananas. I disliked the bananas at first, but they’re growing on me. She also makes lunch every day for the children and the three of us. The meal is always delicious local food, usually ugali or rice with stew and cabbage. I am thankful for all of this. I forgot to mention in my earlier post that most African food is eaten with your hands, no utensils. I’m pretty sure I’m messier than the children when I eat!

On Friday at BCC I met Jacqueline, a woman who sometimes works at the center to cover for Sheila or Violette. She brought her two children, Abul and Rehema. Abul is 10 and I played with him a lot—balls, piggy back rides, etc. It was a change from the normal routine. He also taught me lots of Swahili words! Four students from KCMC, the local university, also came to the center on Friday, and another group came today (Tuesday). They were in either their first or third year of a five year MD program. They came to learn about BCC, disabilities, and community development. They visited four of the centers in total and will compile a report that discusses the setbacks/challenges and positive aspects of the program. Their goal is to raise awareness about BCC and children with disabilities in the community. I spoke with a few of them and one of them asked me if I plan to return to Moshi/BCC after I complete occupational therapy school. I hadn’t really thought about this, but I certainly would love to return after I have more OT experience to see how the organization has progressed and be able to provide more advanced services. Maybe I’ll make a trip back for this purpose and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro! 🙂

A boy who I hadn’t yet met came to BCC yesterday. His name is Richard and he is 6. He’s blind, non-verbal, and cannot walk. He’d been sick and in the hospital for about a week. I want to figure out some activities I can do with him that will be beneficial. I know that people who have a sensory impairment often have heightened perception through all the other senses, so I’d like to do some auditory and tactile stimulation activities. Sheila and I sang to him a bit, and I could tell he liked that.

That’s enough for now! I’ll write more next week. I believe I’m planning my safari for April 24-27th. Happy Easter and/or 420 to those of you who celebrate either.

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Feeling at Home

I can’t believe I’ve been in Moshi for more than a week already! Time really flies. But I’ve settled in very well and gotten to know everyone. I feel comfortable both at the hostel and around town. A couple of the other guests commented that I’ve adapted and fit in easily; this was nice to hear. I’m lucky that everyone is so open and welcoming.

On Friday we had a BBQ and a volleyball tournament at the hostel. Volleyball is definitely not my sport, but my team somehow won, haha. One of the guests, Antonio from Mexico, left on Sunday morning, so we made cocktails after the BBQ and then went out to some bars/clubs that night to celebrate his last night. It was fun to experience the nightlife in Moshi; everyone generally goes out on Fridays. We went to one bar and danced a bit and then went to a big club called La Liga. It’s huge and very popular for both locals and mzungos. I tried some of the local beers, but I have yet to try Konyagi, which is a popular gin here. It was a fun night!

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On Sunday I picked the Angel Card “Depth.” Well…I suppose this can relate to the depth of the hot springs we went to that day! Ha. The majority of the hostel took a bus about an hour and a half to some beautiful springs (not necessarily hot, but perfect temperature.) The water was aqua and clear enough to see the fish that suck away the dead skin on your feet. It was like a free pedicure! There was a rope swing and lots of locals and tourists. It was so nice and I’m sure I’ll return. We drove through some rural areas, which were neat to see. On the way back I saw a salon in town called “Obama Salon” with a picture of Obama’s face! Too funny.

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I’ve been fighting a cold for the past few days which hasn’t been fun. I think it’s going around our tent—it’s easy to get sick in shared environments like this. I had the day off from volunteering on Monday because it was a public holiday, so it was nice to relax and try to get healthy. The weather has still been hot. It rained once in the morning last week but then cleared up, and one afternoon there was a short burst of heavy rain that resulted in a full rainbow. Other than that, it’s been dry and sunny. This weekend six new girls arrived to the hostel, as well as a few new people at the second hostel that just recently opened. It’s only about a five minute walk away. I haven’t seen it yet, but the guests there hang out here often. It’s nice to not be the only newbie anymore. I already feel like I can be a guide/provide advice to the new guests. Most of them are Danish and around my age. I spent some time talking with a few of them, and I’m hoping we’ll all be able to plan some weekend trips and a safari together. Yesterday one girl, Nicholine, and I went to the pool at a nearby hotel. It costs 5,000TSH ($3-4) to get in. The pool felt so refreshing and it was nice to finally work on my tan. The sun is definitely strong here!

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My work at BCC has been good. I’m getting to know the kids better and starting to form somewhat of an attachment to them. I’ve been doing more stretches with Primus, the three year old, and getting him upright in a small therapy chair. His head is too big for his tiny body, so it’s important to adjust him properly so that he maintains good posture and his head doesn’t topple over. I’ve also been doing more textural sensation things with Tuma. I’ve used a bean bag, a rubber spikey ball, and a bowl of beans to rub his feet and hands so he can feel the different textures. I’ve done some more walking and fine motor skills with Quine. Originally, Violette had me spoon-feed Isidory, but I’ve discovered that he is capable of feeding himself, so I’ve let him eat independently as much as possible. It can get messy, but the more he does it himself, the easier it will get. It seems that Emanuel gets the least attention. I was able to get some smiles out of him the other day, and I want to show him equal attention and interaction. He has a personal wheelchair that his mother leaves at the center during the rainy season because it’s too difficult to push in the rain/mud. When she brings him to the center she carries him on her back. I asked if he has any of the small therapy chairs at home and Sheila said no, but the family is welcome to take and use the ones from BCC, but they choose not to. Yesterday I picked the Angel Card “Creativity,” and I’m attempting to come up with some more creative activities for the children. The center has a decent sized yard, so I’m thinking of doing some more sporty activities outside with Brian. Nakumatt, the local supermarket, has balls and some other toys/games; I think I’ll pick some up to bring to the center.

Today is Tuesday, April 7th, and it was a great day at BCC. I got to meet the occupational therapist, Mediatrice, who works specifically with Quine and Emanuel. She’s from Rwanda and she’s currently in her 3rd year of study at university in Moshi (it’s a 3 year diploma course here). She speaks English pretty well, and she was so fascinated by the fact that I came here to volunteer. She couldn’t believe that I traveled all this way, and she said that my work is very much appreciated and needed. This was really reassuring to hear and I told her how much I’ve been enjoying it, and she said she could tell. We talked for a while about her and I told her about my plans to go to OT school in the fall. She thinks my volunteer work here will be a great experience for me and she wants me to come visit a rehabilitation center in town for children called Gabriella Rehab. She knows people from her program who work there, and it turns out that two of the girls at Hostel Hoff are doing internships there. Hopefully we’ll be able to set up a day or two in May for me to come check it out. Mediatrice was also intrigued that I had already studied Kinesiology and Child Development. She asked if I could share with her some of my notes. I wasn’t sure what she meant by this at first, and I explained that I didn’t bring any of my notes from school with me, but I got her email and phone number and said that maybe I can find some things online or some work I did on the computer that I could send her. I think she was genuinely interested in learning about the topics. Hopefully I’ll also get to observe Mediatrice working with Quine and Emanuel again; she came around lunch time when the kids were eating and I stayed later than normal but still didn’t get a chance to observe too much. I did see her do some various walking activities with Quine, though.

Today on my walk to BCC I met a local guy named Sam. He’s a Journalism student around my age or maybe a little older and he knows Mary, Amanda, and Simbo from Hostel Hoff (Amanda and Simbo are the owners). He speaks good English and has a little side business of running day trips to the Materuni Waterfalls. He gave me his “company” Facebook info, so I think I’ll talk to Mary and set up a trip this weekend.

As you can tell, everything is great and I’m loving it here. It’s feeling more and more like home every day. Two months will not be long enough, I’m discovering! More to come 🙂

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