Saturday, September 29, 2012

Visiting a Village Church

Last Sunday we went to the church of one of the families at school. My student Naomi and her family live outside of Moshi in a small village, and it takes her, her sister and her father over an hour to get into Moshi to come to our school.  We teachers were invited to visit the church with Steve, the school administrator and Ryan, our fearless missionary leader.  We drove out to join the service, which was well off the beaten path and held in an unfinished house.  The brick outer walls were the only complete part of the structure – the makeshift roof was a tarp, and the wooden benches inside were on dusty, uneven ground. But as we walked into the church, all the details of the building faded and we heard their joyful worship.  About 40 people were singing in Swahili, their acapella voices  probably audible to the whole village around them. They were dancing and clapping, and their worship was contagious. We sang for probably an hour, trying to pick up the Swahili phrases and sing along.  

The service went on for much longer after that - Steve gave the sermon, and then recruited us teachers to come up to the front and minister to anyone who needed prayer or healing, etc.  It felt like nearly another hour of that, praying for all those who came up.  They were encouraged by it, and it was really interesting, since we didn't have enough translators, people came up asking for prayer, and we had no idea what they were saying.  But the Holy Spirit led us, and He knew what they needed.  =)  It was a blessing to be a part of their lives, even for a brief moment like that.

After the service, we stayed and played with the kids - they don't mind the language barrier so much and they had such fun having their picture taken!  I want to print some copies to bring to them next time we visit! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Camping Trip!

On the way to Chala
To celebrate our successful first week of school, the whole group of us (teachers, missionaries and their families) drove out to Lake Chala – a campground on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. It’s a remote and beautiful place, and the lake appears totally out of nowhere – it’s in an old volcano crater, so it’s isolated, no water flowing to it or from it, just underground springs that feed it.

Our campsite!
It felt like any other camping trip for only about an hour – about 5 minutes from the entrance to Lake Chala campground, Stacy (one of the missionaries) stopped the car and said, “everyone be quiet – there are elephants right outside” and sure enough, I looked and just off the road was a herd of elephants – probably about a dozen of them stomping through the bush parallel to us. We quietly opened the car door and leaned out to take pictures – we couldn’t attract too much attention or they might feel threatened and charge.  I was totally taken off guard – in a whisper shout I was like, “HOLY CRAP, ELEPHANTS!!!!!” and tried to get as many pictures as I could. And from that point on, I just kept saying to myself, “I’m camping. IN. AFRICA.”  
My housemate/fellow teacher Holly and me

Camping was cheap too! About $2 per person, to camp overnight – you can even rent a tent to be all set up for you when you arrive for an extra charge of about $10.  It was great. The area is just beautiful – grassy woodlands, a clear blue lake and the most amazing night sky, complete with more stars than I’ve ever seen and the milky way.

The best part of the weekend was our hike down to the lake. Since it is in a crater, they’ve created stairs that zigzag down the crater wall, and you hike straight down for about 45 minutes. About 5 minutes into the hike, we came to a point that overlooks the bush area opposite the lake. About 100 yards away there was a watering hole in the middle of a huge expanse of dry bush land. The watering hole is quite the popular location – when we arrived there were hundreds of baboons running around the edge of the hole, having a morning dip. A little ways away were dozens of elephants on their way to the hole. It was surreal to see! One of the kids, a typical teenager, looked at it for a minute and said uninterestedly, “So…can we go now?” I laughed – I could have stayed for hours and watched the scene at the watering hole.

Baboons at the watering hole
Elephants on their way to the hole
Lake Chala
All in all, a wonderful trip to end a good week of school!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Typical Tanzanian Lunch

I am happy to announce that I love African food – this is a picture of a typical meal that we eat for lunch every day – it’s usually beans/rice, or lentils/rice or beans with a thick kind of tortilla called chapati (“cha-PAH-tee”). It’s simple and delicious. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Day of School!

The first day of school was Monday September 10, and the weekend before it, I was feeling SO nervous. I’ve never taught a 5th/6th grade classroom before (or any classroom, for that matter) and certainly never one in another country. I planned the first week of school minute-by-minute, all weekend long, so that I’d be ready to be the best teacher ever.  Even with the overkill planning, I woke up early on Monday, with my first day of school outfit ready, to double check my day’s schedule. I got to school and to my classroom, and prayed a quick prayer that God would calm my nerves and make this day a great one. The kids started arriving – (I only have five students to start) and the day began.  I have two of the missionaries’ kids and the rest are Tanzanian.  One of my students speaks no English at all, poor thing. She is a trooper though, and works very hard to compensate for the language barrier.  The kids were shy the first day as we got to know each other, and learn what they like, what they don’t like. I am blessed to have a very creative class, which fits right in with my gifts, and so I had them decorate their journals the first day and they loved it. The school’s philosophy is to let the students be creative and self-led in many ways.  So we are trying to avoid having them sit in their desks all day, and do as many activities as possible to keep them engaged.
My classroom before

I had to think on my feet quite a bit that first day. The students had lots of questions about the upcoming year, and I didn’t always have an answer for them. Even with my crazy planning, some activities took much less time than I thought they would.  A small class goes a lot quicker, I think! We would end something, I’d look at my watch and go “Oh! Well we still have more time…ummm…it’s free reading time now!” We ended up playing a lot more games than I planned but I think it endeared me to them, they all had a good time. 
My classroom after!
Another after shot - my classroom wall
Before I knew it, it was lunch, and then their afternoon every day is full of elective classes and fun activities. They go to Drama, Art, Swahili or ESL, Music, etc and so my time with them was pretty much done.  I know any teacher reading this is jealous of that, and I am not complaining at all!!  My first day ended and I was so relieved to think, “Hey that wasn’t so bad, was it?!?” The rest of the week was much easier (though still stressful at points!) after I got over the anxiety of that first day.


A few months ago, if you asked me where I would be on September 1, 2012, the last answer would have been eastern Africa. I’ve always wanted to come to Africa but in my mind, I’ve always pictured that trip as a short visit, or a missions trip-type endeavor. But here I am, on September 1, in my first week of living in Moshi, Tanzania for the next 10 months! This blog will chronicle my experiences teaching 5th and 6th grade at a new little school here in Moshi.  It’s an exciting time, and I’m entirely confident that God has led me here to join this group of people who love Him and love the people of Tanzania.

After seven weeks of preparation, I still had lots of questions about how exactly this all was going to work. Where would I live, who were my new co-workers (and housemates!), what would my typical day be, what about the weather, what is the city like? But there were too many questions to get them all answered and despite my love of all things organized, there was also something liberating in the unknown. All the friends and family who asked me, I had to shrug and say honestly, ‘I don’t know.’  I could worry about the details, or I could let it go.  I could think about all the ways things could be terrible, or I could put my need to know on the back burner.  So that’s what I did, I exercised that muscle of trust and just decided to go with the flow!

Of course, there were still some nerves involved as I packed up everything I would need for a year, and left my comfortable routine at home. I would miss my family, my friends, my bible study, my co-workers (and residents) at the Village of Hope, all the people in my life. It was a bit of a blur as I spent a few weeks getting ready; I think it really hit me that I was leaving about six days before my flight. I started to realize this would be the last time I ate here, or went there, or saw this friend. There was a brief moment of panic as I realized what a big commitment I was making – a year is a long time! And I knew only the basics about what I was doing! But I did it anyway, and I am here!  So far, so good! Tanzania is beautiful and the people are friendly and so welcoming. Our house is amazing, and the other women I live with are wonderful Christian women who are also teachers at the school.  God has rewarded my step out in faith, and given me a fun first few days.