Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Tanzanian Coast

As part of volunteering to be a teacher here, Hope International School pays for a monthly outing/excursion. This has become one of the best parts of being here - getting to see parts of Tanzania and its culture. Tanzania has such diversity in its different parts - in one area it will be so flat, dry and dusty, and in another green lush mountains pop out of the landscape.  So the driving is always interesting, even a long road trip like the drive to Tanga. It took us about 7 hours to get from Moshi to Pangani (a village) in Tanga. 
On the drive
I love all the sights in the small villages - people sitting out on the porches with each other, just visiting and staying cool in the shade, women carrying all kinds of things on their heads, the kids weaving through the homes, racing metal rings by pushing them with sticks. People are friendly, they'll wave and smile, and the kids especially always stop and shout their greetings. It always makes me wish I had an unlimited supply of little candies to toss to the kids as we pass.  They're so sweet. 

Friendly kids as we pass
Anyone want to stay at this "hotel"? I'll pass...
After many stops with our caravan, including plenty of middle-of-nowhere-bathroom experiences (seriously, I am now such a pro at peeing behind a bush, do you think I can put that on my resume?), we arrived at Peponi Beach Resort, outside of Pangani. Quiet place, very simple, but a great spot to relax by the beach! They had both bandas (bamboo rooms with fans and nets) and campsites. Some of our group stayed in the bandas, and we stayed in tents in the campsites.  The campsites were a mere 5000 shillings a night ($3.50), crazy! There is a restaurant and pool on the grounds, and hammocks all over the place. The beach was 30 feet from our campsite, and the water was warm and clear. The beach at low tide was even better - the tide recedes so far that you can wade on the sand for about half a mile out. The creatures and shells we saw were so fun.  And the water was a relief, as it was the hottest and most humid it's been yet here in Tanzania. At night even, it was easily 90 degrees outside and so humid. 

On the beach at low tide, you could walk out to this swampy grove of trees that was so cool to see. There were small popping sounds as bubbles from underneath made their way to the surface and popped in the wet sand. The ocean breeze blew through the leaves and it was such a unique combination to see leafy green trees growing in the sand with little waves lapping at the bases. 

The odd grove of beach trees, loved them!
One of the days we were at Peponi, we paid 17,000 shillings ($12) to go out on the little sailboat for a snorkeling trip.  Now the last boat trip I did was last year in Australia, visiting the Great Barrier Reef. Well let's compare the two - GBR: $185, extensive safety talk and regulations, long explanations on how to use the mask/snorkel/fins, marine biologist on board to explain all the sea creatures and why we don't touch the coral, ratio of 1 staff member to every 5 passengers. Peponi boat - $12, leaky sail boat in which one sailor was regularly bailing water out of the bottom, 30 passengers to 2 sailors, no safety talk, no life vests, we got to the coral area and they just dropped the anchor and said "karibuni!" ("welcome!").  Ahh I was cracking up at the differences! Truly an African experience.  But I loved it - the sail boat was really cool, a patched sail and some careful steering led us to a white sandbar, with beautiful clear water. The sandbar island is under the water most of the day, but at low tide, it makes its appearance, covered in sea stars and shells. We had our lunch picnic there, and everyone walked the entirety of the place, seeing all there was to see.  After lunch, we stopped one other place to snorkel around some coral.  After my GBR experience where I was sunburned worse than I ever have, I put on a tshirt and leggings to snorkel here! Everyone laughed, but at least I didn't burn!

The dhow took us to this sandbar island for lunch
If you look carefully, you can see my skin burning! =) 
Pepi, the sailboat 
On the sandbar, a crazy looking starfish
Snorkeling time
The trip to the coast was over too fast, and we made the long trek back. School began the next day and we are now back to our regular full-time routine!  I don't miss the heat at that beach, but I do wish we could have lunch on that sandbar island again!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Wintry Cruise

Last month, through a wonderful turn of events, I had the privilege of joining the Penner family on their Rhine River Cruise through Switzerland, Germany, France and the Netherlands. A Christmas-y break from Tanzania was just what I needed! I was able to get a week off school and gather some warm clothing here at the Memoria used clothes market in Moshi. It was such a fun trip to look forward to - on humid 90 degree days I would think "this time next month, I'll be in a cold Christmas market, wishing for something hot to drink!" Time moves slowly in Tanzania, it's a simpler lifestyle, so on some days the cruise seemed very far away.  I was so excited to see new places, new faces and just get away for a bit. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite shots and events from the trip!

I flew into Frankfurt, and we took the train to Mainz the next day to catch the Mainz-Stuttgart football match. Great fun, the fans alone were worth the price of the ticket, they were so enthusiastic.

Our home away from home for a week!

Gateway to the Black Forest - cute little town where we hiked through some vineyards. Note the cheese!! Much missed and ahh what a reunion we had, me and cheese. =)

Snowy hills, tiny villages celebrating their 1000th anniversary of existence, cuckoo clocks and Black Forest cake!

France! Loved the cathedral here, and all the history! Great Christmas market too, where I filmed a video for my class in Tanzania, who were studying France that week.  Emailed it over to them that night, gotta love first world technology (miss that too!).

Little university town that reminded me of Oxford, I liked all the little narrow cobblestone streets! Went to a grocery store here and was totally overwhelmed by all my choices! I could have spent way more time shopping than sightseeing, but I settled for buying spices and chocolate.

Early one morning, we sailed a long stretch of the Rhine, passing by probably 30 castles in just a few hours. The cold cloudy morning meant it was a chilly view from the top deck, but worth it for pictures! Every 30 minutes, I would go down to thaw out, I must have gone through 10 cups of tea! 

Beautiful Cologne, huge cathedral where we sat in a German midday mass, shivering in the church that I kid you not, was colder than outside. Best Christmas markets in the whole trip too - huge and such great selection of fun foods, crafts, music. To warm up, Anna and I visited the Lindt chocolate factory, which had over 100 types of truffles, including wasabi (?!).

Onto the Netherlands! Gouda cheese I missed you too! The windmills were a neat sight, and climbing the steep, narrow stairs up into the top of one was a challenge as the wind outside swayed the whole structure. 

Our final stop! I wish we had more time here, this city was so beautiful and fairly easy to navigate too. It was one of the only places we visited that didn't have major damage from WWII. Learned a lot walking through Anne Frank's house and hearing more of her story. Reluctantly took the train to the airport and started my long journey back to Moshi.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Unit Study on Brazil

My 5th and 6th grade class has been working through many countries of the world, and we recently finished learning about South America by studying Brazil! At Hope International School, we've been using My Father's World curriculum, which has some great guidelines for studying each country. In this two week study, we covered a lot.

  • For science, we studied the Amazon rainforest, made a "Rainforest in a Bottle" with a layer of gravel/sand, damp soil and a plant.

  • We watched a video of how chocolate is made, and learned that 70% of cocoa farmers and their families have never tasted the end product (a chocolate bar) of their labor!
  • I created a Rainforest Treasure Hunt and used the clues to lead them to some prizes on our campus.
  • For our read-aloud time we read The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee, the story of the five missionaries in Ecuador who were killed bringing the gospel to the Waorani people. During reading time, the kids did some detailed coloring sheets of rainforest animals (found here) and also made paper airplanes like those used by the missionaries.

  • To help us learn the countries of South America, my class created a mnemonic.  To use this mnemonic, you start at Brazil and go counter-clockwise in a spiral: "Brian failed geography so Grandma very calmly, extra patiently, called a university professor, begging." (Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia)
  • As part of their project for the unit, students had to plan a trip to Brazil, using travel websites. They had to research flights and hotels, plan a schedule of sights they wanted to see, and estimate the total cost of the trip in our currency and in the currency of Brazil. They loved this project.
  • We went to a sugarcane plantation and factory! Despite being the most dangerous field trip of ALL time (this is Africa, remember!), they had a such a good time seeing all the fields, machines and packaging. They of course loved tasting the sugar at various stages.  However, all of them declared that they could never work there because of the heat, the noise, and the smell (it smelled strongly like molasses). =)

  • Finally, for the end of our unit, we made Brigadeiros, a Brazilian chocolate treat. We ate them between matches of futbol. 

Overall, we had a great time in this unit!