Sunday, 6 January 2008

On the way home

Stuck in J'burg because my flight to Perth got cancelled. I feel a bit sorry for the airline - Qantas has had to put four hundred of us up in a hotel. It's a pretty sweet place. Absolutely huge. They gave us maps to get to our rooms! And we got dinner and breakfast, so it hasn't ended up being too bad.

Anyway, if all goes well they're putting us on a flight this afternoon, so I should get in Monday night.

No more internet time...

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Been in Arusha. Back in Dar now. Had a great Christmas. Staying with the McGarvies. They are my family. Lots of stories to tell. Later. Home in a week. That is both good and sad. More later. Just letting you know I'm doing well.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Ah Kezi, my sister. I wonder what you're doing right now. I'm sending you some nutrigrain and vegemite little one. I hope you're not sad anymore. Just think of '09. It's not so far away, and then I'll get to show you round my side of the world.



Jo, Kezi and I mucking round with the camera. Far out I miss them. I know I've been saying I'll keep updating these pages, but it's really tough. As soon as I start looking at photos I start thinking of all the people I miss. It'll come, but it'll be little by little.



Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Mt Meru - Ch.1

How to climb a mountain hopelessly unprepared
This is not a recommendation. This is a simple statement of facts.

. Decide quite spontaneously one morning to climb the mountain. That day.

. Be in cahoots with someone equally as insane. This is probably the most important factor to take into account. Without such a partner, there will be all sorts of nasty disagreements about the sensibility of winging your way up a 4,562 metre summit.

. Realise that the only footwear you have in the country are a pair of thongs and a pair of cleats.

. Realise this five minutes before you set out.


to be continued...

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Jan and Corneel are in the computer room with me. We swapped blog addresses*. Then they informed me theirs is in Dutch. Pah. Useless. How am I meant to read a site in Dutch?

Nah, those two are great. Given how many comments I got on a two line post, I thought I'd do you the courtesy of expanding a little...

Later. Because I have to go do stuff now. Why does that always happen?

*Nicole, they're called URLs nowadays.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Mish is getting deported!

Ok not really. But I am on my way to the immigration department to put in an appeal for my working visa which they are refusing to allow for various reasons and which has thus far prevented me from getting a residential permit. So I've been here on a tourist visa, which is fine for three months... and as of today I've been here for three months. So, either they let all my paperwork go through, or else I have to leave the country and re-enter to get a new visa. Fun stuff. I don't really mind, a spontaneous trip up to Kenya or South to Malawi will be interesting, but still, it's a bit of a pain, we're talking a twenty hour round bus trip. You'll know in a day or two how it went I suppose...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Cry me a river



So. You know how I was telling you about the rain yesterday. Well, it rained all night, and we woke up to find the garden under water, and the road a river. Seriously. We're talking knee deep and flowing strongly. Awesome.

 
And this is Tessa's bright idea for getting to the McFarlane's house (who were on carpool duty) without being soaked by the rain...

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Can YOU dodge a wrench?

Yep. We’ve well and truly hit the rainy season. First swimming class of the day was cut short again – one of the power lines dropped across the track that runs around the back of the school, and was shorting out and flashing a freaky amount of sparks in noisy bursts. Given that this was all of twenty metres from the pool, we got the kids out pronto. I wasn’t doing so well with the teaching anyway, as the rain was so heavy that the kids couldn’t hear me properly, and it was getting to the point where visibility was so poor that it wasn’t safe to have that many children in the water.

The whole school is off power right now. Power in Tanzania = unreliable. Power in Tanzania when it’s raining = well, to take a note from Hui’s economic’s analysis, 100% reliably not there. The only reason I can be typing this is that the computer room can run off generator power for about four hours, so right now it’s kind of a nice place to be. It being so overcast, the rest of the classrooms are pretty dark and uninviting. No internet though – that’s the first thing to go when the power shuts off. I shall be posting this up at a later time.

Wow. I’ve been here for sixteen minutes and it’s still pouring. Given that it started about ten minutes into the swimming lesson, that’s about fifty minutes of heavy rain. This is ridiculous. Ridiculously cool, but still ridiculous. It would be nice if it was raining like this in Benalla.

---

Ok, next swimming class was cancelled too, because it was still raining too heavily. So instead they just had PE. Brandon was taking the class of course, but I figured I'd stick around. We played dodgeball for an hour and a half. It was awesome.

It has now been raining with great enthusiasm from 7:45 until 11:15 and doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. Very cool. Except for what it does to the roads around here. Bet you there'll be a lot of cars bogged today...

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Blur darter!

Was leading the fasa fris session this afternoon, when the boys noticed that the gardeners were behaving rather oddly. One of them would charge full speed down the path, hit a certain point, screech to a halt, and dash back the other way. I have since made the assumption that they were daring each other to see how close they could get to the ‘thing’ (soon to be revealed) but at the time it just seemed very childish.

I immediately deduced that as I don't possess enough control of these kids to keep their attention in said circumstance, it was to my tactical advantage to shout out loudly "oh cool! Let's go see what they've found!" drop the disc and rush off. Turned out they'd disturbed a huge lizard - Tanzanian's are quite superstitious about lizards, and this fellow was likely to have had his head squished in as soon as they'd gathered up the courage to get close.

Friday, 9 November 2007

International Day!

I haven't uploaded any of my own photos yet, it's a time consuming task, but I will scam some photos from Jan and Corneel's collections to show you a bit of the colour...

The Australian contingent:


Traditional Tanzanian dance troupe:

Korean fan dance:

Sunday, 28 October 2007

I am in Zanzibar. It is cool. I will tell you about it when I am not paying for internet time. Zanzibar is too cool for me to sit on the internet anyway.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

This is Epiphany. Indescribable in words. But maybe, just maybe, you'll get a sense of her exuberance. Most joyous child I've ever met.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

I'm sitting next to Eliza in the computer room as the kindergartens play with the paint program. Did I mention how much I love that kid. She is so sweet, such a beautiful child. She's drawing a face, white outline on a green background with long blonde hair. She started putting blue streaks all down the girl's face. I asked why she was crying.
"She's not crying. It's just raining on her face."
The kid next to me on the other side has drawn three faces of different sizes that look remarkabley like monkeys.

Afterschool today we're going to dinner at Artemis' place. She's one of the grade 1s, their family is Greek so they've apparently been wanting to invite Zoe (and by default me) over for a while. It'll be fun, but some small part of me would rather the evening at home.

This morning I had grade 2 swimming followed immediately by the grade 4s. Both classes went really well, we're getting into a good rhythm. The kids know what to expect now, and are showing such improvement already. I am getting a ridiculous tan from all these hours in the pool. Silly really.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Tanti Aguri Gammi

Savana, Lucy and I didn’t get to sleep until three in the morning. We didn’t talk about anything all that specific, they just brought up teenage girl kind of stuff. It felt a little weird actually, to be playing that kind of role for them. Shouldn't have really, given Cath is the same age, but still. Anyway, we had a fun time, I had answers for some of their questions, they gave me a rundown of the social acrobatics of their class. Quite interesting actually, because many of them have been in the same one class with the same kids since they were in kindergarten. They were telling me that most of the boys were at the same maturity level that they were at in grade four. Funny that. An international tendancy perhaps?

Went over to school to try and skype call home. Took me about an hour and a half to get the connection working, and there was a huge delay in the line, but hey, got to say happy birthday to my little sis, so it was worth it. We basically just ended up taking turns talking, because my responses to her questions would get through to her a couple of minutes later, by which point she would be talking about something completely different. But that's ok. It's all about hearing her voice.

Walked to the Afrikana junction with the intention of getting a biketaxi. I shall have to explain what they are to you. Takes about fifteen minutes to walk there, and just as I got to the corner Cindy drove past with Kezzie and asked if I wanted a lift the rest of the way. That was neat, I haven't been on one of the bikes yet, and they can be a little intimidating. It is very rare to see a white person on one, let alone a white female, so you get a whole lot of attention from everyone you ride past.

Leah’s party. Kids flattened. Bumped heads and bleeding lips. Island adventure story. Went home feeling a little drained. Too little sleep, too much day/sun, not such good food, predictable result I suppose....

Friday, 12 October 2007

For I have learned to be content

God has blessed America.

*Note: This theme came from Youth group, it was the discussion topic for the night, and my thoughts on the matter shall be coming soon...

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Why drive when you can walk?

I went by myself to Mbezi Chapel again this week. It's only a ten minute walk, and really a pleasant way to start off a Sunday morning. I don't think I even wrote it up properly the first time I went, (in my second week here) but the service is done entirely in Swahili and last time I understood a grand total of about three words. Well, today I could actually get complete sentences every so often, enough to vaguely follow the general idea of it. Neat!

Afterwards I went with Suzy and her dad to their place again, where Ruth had prepared lunch for us. (Zoe had gone to Vineyard today, so arrived later with Karen's family). Spent the afternoon playing with the kids and trying to windsurf. Fun stuff.

Aaah, Eliza is such a gorgeous child. She is absolutely beautiful both in character and looks. Every day at school she runs up to give me a hug. She's not demanding, just so amazingly sweet and friendly.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

If you could see through my eyes

The five of us from the compound (so without Brandon and Rachel) drove to Slipway today. Slipway is a local market sort of area, a whole series of stalls and little shops selling bead work and carved pieces and artwork and clothing and all sorts of traditional Tanzanian crafts. It's a lovely place, I really like just wandering through there, but you tend to get a fair bit of attention. Not so much because of being white, it's an area catering specifically for white tourists, but simply because they want you to buy from them, and for that you need to be looking at their stall in more than a general context. This photo is of one of the Slipway artists working on a set of name plates in Tinga Tinga style. The artwork here is amazing, I have great admiration for their technique.


We had lunch at a place on the wharf. I gave some of mine to a stray cat. He wasn't as skinny as the cat that hangs round our place, funny that. I have a feeling he picks up lots of scraps from people. We were just leaving when I heard my name called out, looked round and it was Aishi and Dorothy and another friend of theirs. Had a bit of a chat to them - they were in town to sit practice examinations.

I look at Dorothy, and I see a tall, beautiful, native Tanzanian, star of the soccer team and a hardworking intelligent girl. She has two sisters, one who graduated last year, and Angela in grade four. Her father works at Hopac and by this has put the three of them through school. Her older sister won a scholarship to Harvard last year. Dorothy is likely to do very well too.

They don't have running water at home.

See what I meant when I said Hopac was an unusual school. To be offering not just an education, but an education at the level where students can compete internationally, is a pretty amazing thing.

The whole Slipway trip had taken longer than we thought, (correction, longer than we hoped. We're way past the stage of honestly expecting an excursion into town to take less than six or seven hours all up), and Zoe and I were due at the O'Neil's for dinner, so we decided to drive straight there rather than go home first.

Apparently it was the best day of Tommy's life. Makes you feel good hey. Played Yahtzee, In a Pickle, kids went to bed, chatted to Steve and Denae...

Monday, 24 September 2007

I worked with Ju on his own today. A good decision I think, because it allowed me to see exactly how much he relies on Ha to cue him into what I’m asking of him. He was a little obnoxious, but we were still mostly productive. I’m never confident that he’s trying to remember, trying to understand, what we do in the lesson though. Ha on the other hand has picked up so much since Rachel and I started working with her. She’s got a very clear grasp of the language. Ju is still at the parroting stage. But that’s ok. We’ll get there. So, when I went in to get him out of the classroom, Julie suggested that according to what the rest of the class had been doing I should go over suffixes with him. Yeah. Not that I don’t have faith in his intelligence, but there wasn’t a chance of him being able to process something like that yet. I mean, the word ‘child’ had to be defined, let alone getting to the stage of dealing with ‘childish’. We had a fun time learning about neat vs messy though, and making different choices relative to the word ‘or’.

Zoe had promised her class I’d come by in the afternoon to talk about another animal. I decided to go with seals because they’d been demanding that for a while. It was fun, although I’ve since found that my seal drawings are not considered up to scratch by six year old standards. As if! I thought they were fine. Ok, maybe not as good as my sea otter, or clownfish, but hey, they were clearly seals. Gosh. Give me a break! Anyway, we got into a detailed description about thermoregulation and the adaptations necessary for living in the cold ocean. I’m constantly amazed by how well they handle the concepts I’m throwing at them – I mean, I simplify the way I present them, but still, some of it’s complex stuff. We somehow finished up the session talking about pupil dilation and how your eyes regulate the amount of light that enters. They’re all going to go home and get someone to turn on and off the light while they stand in front of the mirror. Haha.

I haven’t written it up yet, but on Saturday afternoon Jess, Marie and I went down to another local school to talk about teaching there one afternoon a week. Well, at three o’clock today we walked over and spent an hour with the kids there. The school is. Oh I can’t describe it right now. Check back later. So so different. So so barely there in any physical sense, yet at the same time as big as any other primary school. Anyway, at the time we got there it was a break between teaching, which in a way was perfect for us. We spoke with the African lady in charge of the school, who knew a little English, and she said we were welcome to do what we wanted with the kids. For Zoe, this may have meant eat them. Thankfully, the rest of us are not so cannibalistically inclined.* So we called over the eight or nine kids hanging round, and took them out into the little dirt patch of a yard so that we had a bit more room. First we took them through some basic greetings, just to get them talking and such. Then, using a stack of laminated label cards I’d made, we played a cool body parts game. This involved me dragging one little boy to the front, where I told him to stand with his arms out like a scarecrow. Poor kid. He had no idea what was happening. Jess then started handing out the cards with a little bit of masking tape, while Marie instructed the kids to stick them on the correct place. Each child got a sweet for sticking a label in the right place. I have no objection to using bribery to get children on your side. Anyway, it finished up with this boy being absolutely covered in white labels, they all found it hilarious and it set the attitude of the lesson off so well...

Inside joke. Sorry.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

So, I quite enjoyed typing up some of the Swahili of yesterday. But I figured it was unfair to throw you into it without giving you some of the basics...

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Ok. Begin lesson. Enjoy. Or suffer through. Either way.

First of all, background information – in Swahili, words tend to have all the determining factors attatched. As a language Kiswahili is phonetic, so the spelling and pronunciation isn’t too much of a challenge. It’s just the structure that takes a bit of getting used to.

Verbs have prefixes to denote the subject. There are various noun classes that group together similar types of noun and generally behave in the same way. For the M/Wa class of nouns, the prefixes are as follows:

ni – I
b – you
a – he/she
tu – we
m – you (pl.)
wa – they

Most of the other classes of nouns only have a singular (it) and a plural (they) verb prefix. I think this is because the M/Wa class deals almost entirely with nouns referring to people, whereas the others don’t.

The nouns themselves also have prefixes. In the M/Wa class, the root of the word will either be preceeded by ‘m’ if singular, or ‘wa’ if plural.

For example:

mtoto – child
watoto – children

If the noun starts with a vowel however, the prefixes change slightly. The singular prefix will be mw while the plural prefix will depend on the vowel. Wa for a words and we for words beginning with e or i.

For example:

mwana – daughter
wana – daughters

Actually my simplification of the plural vowel prefix isn’t technically correct. For words beginning with a, the wa + a forms wa etc.

There you go. That’s the only noun class I’ve learnt in a grammatical sense. I have no confidence in my ability to disect the others yet, so you’re being spared further grammar for the moment.

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The days of the week are easiest to learn in conjunction with numbers. Take the first day of the week as Saturday…

One – moja

Two – mbili
Three – tatu
Four – nne

Five – tano
Six – sita
Seven – saba
Eight – nane
Nine – tisa
Ten – kumi


Saturday - Jumamosi

Sunday - Jumapili
Monday - Jumatatu
Tuesday - Jumanne
Wednesday - Jumatano
Thursday - Alhamisi
Friday - Ijumaa

I like numbers in Swahili. They have a pleasant harmony. Look at four - eight for instance, nne – nane. And then 6/9 is sita/tisa. Neat.

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Hmmm… I have a feeling everyone but Mike may have tuned out long ago. Ah well. It’s been bugging me that I haven’t felt like I was learning enough, I just had lots of random words and limited capacity for sentence composition. But writing it out for you guys really forces me to get it clear in my head, I process the language much better this way. And I’m broadening your education. So I’m going to keep doing it every so often, and you shall just have to deal with it. I’m not forcing you to read it anyway. :-P

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Nimechoka

Jess has lent me her laptop for tonight so that I can get a whole lot of typing done to upload later. It’s becoming too hard to fit in time to write at school, so this is a good solution.

Tommy came up to me at the beginning of lunch break with a book in his hand. I thought he was going to tell me another impromptu joke, but instead he asked if I’d read with him. It’s so nice when the little monsters of the class show a really sweet side. Anyway, despite numerous interruptions from other kids wanting my attention, we made it through the whole reader by the end of lunch. I kept asking if he wanted to go off and play, but he said he’d rather read with me, and I didn’t mind spending my time that way. I was so impressed by his persistence though – it took us twenty minutes to get through the one story.

I got the impression that the rest of the kids weren’t happy with the fact I was concentrating on someone other than themselves, so I figured I’d make them all happy and spend some time in the classroom. I’ve been staying out of there recently because they tend to get a bit distracted in the euphoria of having my company. (I know, I know, you all feel it sometimes). Miss K set them up listening to a tape (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) (except it was a silly tape because it wasn’t accurate to the book) in what was supposed to be their quiet time. However, Jordan was being particularly hyperactive, and by the very nature of this was stirring up those around him, so I sat with him and helped him with a little project he was doing. He’d decided that he wanted to collect information from and about everyone in the class. So was going around loudly asking each kid one by one how old they were, what their favourite fruit was, what their favourite toy was, who their ‘friend’ was, etc. This of course, was not all that good an idea when the rest of the class was meant to be lying down resting. Luckily, I convinced him that I knew what everyone liked, so spent the next ten minutes rattling off ‘pineapple, teddy, Jake, mango, Frisbee, Jua…’ Yes, I got him to put Frisbee on the list.

Anyway, the class was getting more and more fractious, and Zoe was feeling the strain of a long day, so asked if I wanted to take them for another session. Ah, being put on the spot. Just what I love. Frantically searched through mental database of sea creatures...


S.O.
S.M.
F -> G

J. D.

As we walked in the gate, we ran into April and Marie chatting to Hamisi in the guard house. He's a pretty friendly guy, and must get bored on the night shift, so we stopped by as well. Turned out he was correcting Marie's Kiswahili homework while at the same time getting her to add words to his English vocabulary. With our addition to the group, it soon turned into a somewhat impromptu Kiswahili lesson. Which was awesome, I really enjoyed it. So I thought I'd share some bits of what I'm learning, haven't given you much at all. Mike especially will appreciate this I suspect. It's so much like those linguistics assignments we did - working out the grammatical structure and rules from a series of sentences. Hamisi's English is pretty good, but he couldn't explain the grammar or tenses all that well, so used examples to convey his point.

So if we look at the sentence:

Adam is cooking an egg.
Adam anapika yai.

The verb ‘to cook’ is kupika. In the form anapika we divide it as such a/na/pika, with the ‘a’ denoting he/she, the ‘na’ giving the tense, and the ‘pika’ being the verb root. Yai is egg – if we wanted to make it plural we would add an m.

ie. Mbili mayai – two eggs.

There are probably quite a few inaccuracies. Not only was it challenging to follow Hamisi’s grammatical instruction in itself, but I really don’t have an extensive enough vocabulary yet. I know lots of random words, but no verbs. Useful hey. But yeah, most of the grammar I was assuming from the sentence structure.

The dog is barking now.
Mbwa anapigakelele sasa.

The dog barks everyday.
Hua Mbwa anapigakelele kilasiku.

From what I could gather, barking is actually formed by two verbs in Kiswahili. Kupiga – 'to do', and kelele – 'a bark'. So effectively you’re saying ‘to do a bark’.

As I mentioned, Hamisi’s English wasn’t always technically correct, but I believe the ‘hua’ was the key part in changing the tense of the sentence, rather than a change in the verb structure. He couldn’t really explain that bit though.

Je umechoka? - Are you tired?

Sijechoka – I’m not tired.
Umechoka – You are tired.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Asante sana squash banana

I wonder if anyone can tell me first of all what movie that line is from, and secondly who says it. Zoe and I watched the dvd last night on Jess’ laptop, and were amazed to find this particular character lapses into Swahili every so often. We just looked at each other and burst out laughing. It really was funny to be watching this particular movie at this particular moment in space and time in this particular current location.

I was reprimanded a while back for not putting up photos which I was in. You almost didn’t even get the one of the cliffs of Moher. So I have finally got a few photos to put up, and will take this request into account. There are two with me in them. That should last you another month or so. Haven’t got many photos of the area yet, but they’ll come. Patience.


After dinner we wandered over to Rachel and Brandon's house, as I'd found out earlier that they were both avid card players...

Cannot get the computer to upload photos. You shall have to continue to be patient...

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Haven of Peace Academy

What on earth did I do on the 15th?

I think I should describe HOPAC to you. It's the one thing I haven't talked about so far, yet the nature of the school is so integral to all I'm doing here. Actually it's not the one thing I haven't talked about so far. There are many things I haven't talked about so far. But I'm trying ok!


This is Zoe standing in front of the Baobab tree in the playground. It is one awesome tree.

Friday, 14 September 2007

This is what I see

A house is a room where a room is a house
Mud brick and thatching
Or concrete and corrugated iron
It makes little difference
No one here lives under a roof
Life is lived in the front yard
On the side of the road
Spiderweb displays hang between trees
Clothing shoes sports equipment spare parts for bicyles

Things that seem part of Africa
And things that should be a thousand miles away
Little fires in the dust drift smoke
Drift memories of camping
Men idly poking corn cobs
Turning slowly over glowing coals
Sweet potato too
Manned by the women
Slowly roasting
Everything slowly
Oranges balded in a single spiral of peel
Sugar cane stripped by a stroking knife
Ah the street food of Tanzania
Part of the scenery until the night comes
Then the darkness is made by the glowing coals

White Sands

All the kids collected outside the classroom before the end of first break, every single one of them was there and lined up. Ok, lined up is a generous way of putting it. But they were there! Quite amazing, just shows you how excited they were about the excursion, because every other day they’re late back to the room. In typical African fashion, the busdriver was nowhere to be seen. Turned out he’d gone to sleep in the shade. Once this small detail was remedied we all squished on board and were off to White Sands beach. The non private section. Anya and Jahn had kindly allowed us the use of their house as a starting point, and were an enormous help throughout the whole excursion.

I will tell you more about it, but I think photos are the more pressing demand at the moment...

Ah ha! Finally got them to work. I am good. So, this first one is a view of the shore from out on the reef. It was low tide obviously, and we were exploring all the rocks and coral and seaweed and shallow pools.

Here we have a lionfish. How cool is it! That was the best photo I could get sorry, for a start I was trying to keep six or so kids from catching it in their nets (you do not want to pick up a lionfish) and then I had to deal with the reflection on the water and yeah. Seriously though, coolest fish ever. Not sure what kind of crab the second one is, but I will look it up for you sometime. It looks small in the photo, didn't give you anything to match it to scale, but it's about as big as my hand. Also very cool. Although not quite as cool as the lionfish. Doesn't have the 'danger' factor you see.
This last photo (only included so that people don't bite off my head) is of Jordan and myself. Jordan is one of the kids I spend a lot of time working with individually, as he is somewhat hyperactive and can become high maintainence for Zoe when she's trying to look after an entire class. I get on really well with him, he's a great kid but has attention issues. Still, I discovered early on that the one way to get and keep his focus is to talk to him about animals, of any kind or size. Perfect. I can do that all day. So he has enough respect for me now that he does occasionally listen when I need him to behave, and we end up having some really good times together. For example, while on the beach I stuck with Jordan most of the time, and he was constantly asking me what something was (sadly my knowledge of East African sea life isn't as thorough as it should be) or grabbing my hand to pull me over to look at something. He was completely in his element.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Who'd want to be a cat anyway?

There's been a street cat that has wandered into the compound a few times, absolutely starving and apparently with kittens. I tried to feed it once, but it ran away, however I was more worried about what this could potentially mean for my poor scrawny chicken. I mean, he doesn't look like he'd have a hope in the world against a cat. Today it came wandering in again, yowling pitifully and clearly needing some extra body weight. So I went inside to get it some food, turned around and almost stepped on it as she'd followed me in out of desperation. A huge difference from her nervousness of the other days. Anyway, I took the food outside, and she gulped it down. Didn't want to make her sick so ignored her complaints of 'more, more', and just sat there enjoying the sun for a while. All of a sudden the still not yet named fowl wandered round the corner. So I got some food for him, and put it out. He walked over in his slow casual way to claim his meal, while at the same time the cat decided this was a good opportunity for it. All was fine, until they hit that point where they entered into each others' bubble of personal space. Uh oh. Both animals froze, and for a few seconds there was this stalemate while each tried to work out the other's intentions.

Picture this. Cat takes two steps towards chicken. Chicken leaps at Cat. Cat changes its mind. Sits down and steadfastly looks anywhere but at chicken. Chicken remains fluffed up for a bit longer, then decides cat is only mild threat. Eats food. Cat watches in misery.


It was hilarious. My chicken is actually tough! How cool is that. The best thing is I no longer have to worry about leaving him out during the day. I figure he's earnt his independence now.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The humour of a child is beyond me

I got up half an hour earlier to watch the sunrise. Sat on the roof and watch the sky change colour. It was nice. The view is looking out towards the ocean, and that's Rachel and Brandon's house in the foreground. Well, the roof of it anyway. Our roof is the same - concrete, hammock, thatched shelter thingy. The trees are palms and a baobab.


Mama Mwazo came just as I was about to leave for school to clean the house. She does all three of the houses in the compound. It's strange having her, and Mama Linda who cooks pizza for us once a week, and Armani, and the night guards. But as Jane explained, Mama Mwazo needs the work even if we don't feel we need it done, and the 4500 shillings she gets a day (if you remember what I said about Tanzanian shillings to Aussie dollars, that's about $4.50) is what she feeds her family on. And it is nice to have them around. Same goes for Mama Linda with the pizzas etc. Anyway. I'll try and explain that better later. Put the Demented Scruffy Bird outside, went to school.

Rachel had Ju Yeong and Ha Yeong yesterday, this morning was my turn again...

Tommy ran up to me again.
“I have another joke!”
I gently prise a cluster of hugging children from my waist.
“Ok, I’m ready. Tell me the joke.”
“Why were ten people walking down the street?”
“To talk to me?”

Hey, it was worth a try.
“No. Because one of them was you!”
I decided to persevere in the hope of greater understanding.
“But what were the other nine doing?”
“Talking to you!”

You can never win.

“I have another joke!”
“Tell me Tommy.”
“Why do people have two hands?”
“To talk to me?”

Luckily his six year old mind has no ‘smartass’ recognition factor yet.
“No. So they have a left hand and a right hand and one ear!”

I really don't get it.

As I walked off I heard some of the kids clamouring for him to tell them the joke too.
“Ok. Why do people have hands…”


It does make me laugh, he's making these up on the spot and his concept of a punchline is simply that it's a conclusion of some sort, regardless of any assumed need for a twist. In fact, the whole 'walking down the street' theme I think he picked up off the shirt I was wearing the first time (has a picture of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road on it), and he paused and looked at my hands before starting today's second joke. Funny kid. I look forward to tomorrow's.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Again, I got up early to put the chicken outside to browse - we'll let him have the run of the compound when he's settled in, but for now he stays inside while I'm at the school. So I had breakfast, got all my stuff together, went outside to find him, and he was gone! Aaargh! I freaked out, how could I have lost my chicken after only three days! So I went round and round the compound garden even though the guards keep it so neat and tidy that there are no dark corners and if I didn't see him the first time I wasn't going to the second or third. Finally I went and found Armani and fumbled out the Swahili for "chicken" and "where". (I may have picked up quite an extensive vocabulary so far, but I am hopeless at putting sentances together). He smiled at me, and pointed at his feet. The demented scruffy bird was just hanging around him quite happily, and apparently (from what Armani seemed to be saying) (he speaks English to the same extent I speak Kiswahili) (ie. doesn't) had been doing so all morning. Ha. I think we're giving the guards the impression that mzungu are eccentric. I mean, we have this chicken as a pet that clearly should have been cooked up long ago, we take them biscuits or fruit at all hours of the day and night, and we scurry across from one house to the other with pots and jugs and various other implements long after we should have been in bed. <-- Because we still don't have a functioning stove and have to rely on April's household to fufill that purpose.

Tommy came running up to me again at breaktime.
"I have another joke to tell you!"
"Excellent, tell me it." Maybe this will shed some light on the significance of the first joke.
"There was a Chinese man standing on top of a building. What was he doing there?"
Pause.
"Uhm. I don't know..."
"Talking to you!"

I still don't get it.

Obviously there is some joke in there, because Tommy was laughing his head off. But then again, that might have been because of the puzzled look on my face. Ah well. He's a funny kid. If he keeps telling me enough of these, maybe the child part of my brain will kick back into gear enough that I'll stop trying to understand them and accept that they're just funny because they are.

Pool is finally filled. But it's green because they pumped up bore water to fill it. Gosh I hope they have a good filter system. Dad, you know that time our pool went bright green because the ducks had been swimming in it? Well, imagine that but more tinged brown, and even murkier. Fun fun. They're giving it a week to settle and such. I shall reserve judgement until then.


Andrea* had invited us over for dinner, so Kenny picked us and their two kids up after soccer and we went straight back to their place. The family is from Ireland, so Zoe spent quite a while telling them about our trip there and where we’d visited. I went and sat outside on a deckchair and watched skinks on a tree trunk.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Most lots amount

Mish is missing Cath more.

This morning I worked with Ju and Ha for almost two hours. Quite accidentally, things were going well and so we just kept doing stuff until break time. And we're getting somewhere! Did some more grammar work, which Ha is really starting to understand. Ju copies it all, but I think it's more a case of him memorising the phrases not the actual concepts. Still, it's a start. I'm still basing a lot of the lessons on little pictures and diagrams, which often seem to be the only thing keeping Ju's attention from wandering. So for example, I drew a whole series of pictures that fitted into a particular category (ie. duck, chicken, eagle, penguin) and had them writing out sentances of "This is a duck" etc. Then they had to finish it off by circling the group and writing "These are birds". They did the same with items of clothing, modes of transport, toys, food. Next we moved onto verbs, which up until now we hadn't had much luck conveying to either of them. But I wrote them out sheets with 'I ________ oranges' and I ________ doors' and the like. They seemed to grasp filling in the gaps pretty well for the most part, although Ju had a tendancy to fill them with random words sometimes. Anyway, enough rambling about them.

Tommy* ran up to me at first break today.
"Miss Phillips, Miss Phillips, I have a joke to tell you!"
I pause in what I am doing, as nothing is more important than listening to a six year old's joke.
"There was a Chinese man walking along the street. And he was walking along when a building fell down next to him. Why did he put it back together?"
"I don't know Tommy, why?"
"Because you were on top of it!"

I don't get it.

Mama Linda is cooking us pizzas today, so we're going to have a good dinner! Yay! I am too distracted writing emails back and forth with Catski to further update this post for the moment. Sorry everyone who isn't Cat.

*Grade 1

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Latido

This morning we were back at Coco Beach Church, because one of the ladies there had organised a lunch afterwards for all the Hopac and IST* teachers to meet. Avril** took this opportunity to cajole me into singing as part of the worship team at the front of the congregation. The worship team being two other adults and a lady on keyboard, all likewise committed at late notice. They have trouble keeping a band or anything together because people move, people go back home, there isn't much consistency. Anyway. It was a little weird, I stopped singing when I was thirteen and since then have sung in front of people on maybe... one occasion. But it was good, I actually enjoyed it, knew all but one of the songs. And it surprised me, but somehow it was still a natural enough feeling for me, that I wasn't bothered at all about being up in front of everyone. Anyway. Wandered down onto the beach with some of the kids to keep them distracted afterwards, went for lunch... aaagh... people serve such good lunches over here.

Went home, Zoe went across to school to do her planning for the next week, I was pretty worn out, finished a book***, started another, finished that too****, got sick of reading, moped round for a bit, was going to go back to reading the last book I'd borrowed on Friday, but no electricity and it was too dark, plus I didn't want to read anymore for a bit, some of the books are quite deep and it's hard to read too many in a row, then the phone rang yay. So no more moping. Zoe got back from school a couple of hours later, so then I made dinner for us both.

Guess what we had. Stale bread with tuna and cucumber. Fantastic! This is the same stale loaf of bread I mentioned many posts ago. It has not got any fresher. However, by pretending to oneself that there is still novelty value in eating such dubious sandwhiches, it is in fact possible to finish the meal. I still find it funny, so we're all good.

Ok that's about my story for the day, more detail later. Like all the rest of these posts.

*Another school in the area
**Principal of Hopac Primary
***A Voice in the wind, Francine Rivers. Very very good, amazing depth.
****Danger in the Shadows, Dee Henderson. Ok, but not fantastic. Then again it may be getting a bad rap because I read it after A Voice in the Wind. Wow you're getting quite the regular book reviews now.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Jess is the most awesomest ever!

This morning Janelle* picked us (Zoe, April, Jess and myself) up at 6:15am to go for a run on the beach. I'm meant to be on complete non-activity time while I'm away, but six weeks of nothing has made me a little fidgety. We went out to the house of a lady with a kid in Janelle's class. She lives on a compound right on the beach, so we set off from there. Jess, Janelle and I were running, while the others walked/jogged with the dogs. We ran for about twenty minutes without talking much, then Jess dropped back to the others. Janelle asked me a bit about how I'd got here, what my plans were, and we had a nice chat about stuff for a bit, but I was just as content to run in silence and watch the fishing boats come in. It was lovely. We only ran for 45 minutes at a fairly easy pace, but I finished up a pretty sore. That was predictable. I'm silly sometimes.

When we got back to the house Lisa made us pancakes for breakfast - delicious! I ate lots of them. One must take full advantage of offerings like that. She also gave us quite a few valuable tips about cooking over here - some ingredients you just can't get, and it's hard to know what to improvise with, so it was great getting the local knowledge. She also wrote out some recipes for us, and showed us how to make maple syrup to go with the pancakes. Good stuff.

So, while we were at Lisa's I had been bemoaning the lack of animal life on the compound. I'm really not used to having nothing around me. I did recognise the impracticalities of having a dog, but surely the three houses could share ownership of a goat? Or even, I said, chickens?

Anyway, we went home, went shopping, went back home, and I thought nothing more of the conversation. I've been complaining to Zoe in a similar vein for days. Then later in the afternoon, we hear the doorbell ring. There is nobody there. Instead, there is a chicken. A chicken!!

Jess bought him from Tegeta market while shopping with Marie and April. They definitely saved that bird from being eaten, I have a feeling the stallholder was pretty surprised at them taking him away alive. They had to carry him in a plastic bag with his head sticking out.

I am so happy. He may not have many feathers, but they will grow back. He may be scrawny, but we will give him a tough name. We have a chicken! He's pretty tame, wanders round next to me when I put him outside. But he is very pathetic looking. Here is a photo:

We've been collecting name suggestions before the compound reconvenes to vote. Here is what we have so far. Feel free to add to the list if you have any ideas.
  • Henry (not really tough enough for my liking)
  • Charlie the Chicken (the same) (Phoebe, Grade 1)
  • Charlie the Crusher (better!)
  • Fang (my suggestion)
  • Spike (mine) (look, I want him to sound tough ok)
  • Brewster the Rooster (Zoe)
  • Mr Tok Tok (Jake, Grade 1)
  • Chik Chik (Alia, Grade 1)
  • Chakula (Kiswahili for 'food') (mine)
  • Chamchana/Chajio (both Kiswahili for 'dinner') (again, mine)
  • DSB (Demented Scruffy Bird)
  • Fowler (put forward by the DSB himself)
  • Colonel (again the chicken)
  • Tank (Timill)
  • Nugget (Bec!)

I should probably be banned from making any further suggestions. Will let you know the outcome of voting.

Dinner was taken care of by way of us being invited over to the Larmey's house to babysit their kids. Ha. We tried to tell them that we didn't need to be paid - firstly, their four monsters are absolutely gorgeous and it was a pleasure to look after them, and secondly, they were feeding us! But they insisted, and well I guess neither of us really wanted to complain. We had a great night. They've got the most beautiful dog, Ginger, who they rescued off the street a few years ago. But she made me miss Tali. We had pizza, went for a swim, watched a movie... I got shown up by a ten year old. Let's not go into detail there.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Jump leads?

I do not understand my own brain sometimes. I was looking back over all my notes from Ireland and the early days here, and there's a whole series of words and scribbles and little diagrams that I have no idea what they stand for. Jump leads for example. What on earth did I see that inspired such an odd choice of word. And why is my memory failing to recognise the cue in? Usually I can picture exactly where and when I wrote something. Apart from the fact it's in my handwriting, I could swear I never wrote it in my notes.

Ah well. Rather routine school day. Worked with Ju exclusively today, actually got somewhere which was fantastic. Then helped Meg with the girls' soccer team. It's starting to get really hot here. Nice. I like it. Ok I've caught up on about four posts already today, this one shall have to wait to be finished. I am le tired.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Shed a tear for Tony*

Ha. There is a gecko next to the keyboard. He's brown, and about three and a half centimetres long. Just thought I'd tell you that. You get lots of little lizards around the place, mainly halfway up walls (whether inside or outside). I like them. Most are natural colours, but there's one type that has a yellow head, and bright blue body. As in BRIGHT blue. (Had to put it in capitals so that you understand exactly how blue it is). I think it's a type of Cnemaspis. But I'm not sure, will find out at some point. Got no idea what the gecko next to me is though, I don't know enough about them to distinguish any more than the most distinct varieties.

I must apologise for being in a grouchy mood yesterday. And you don't actually have to read Stargirl. I just read it yesterday and liked it, but it's a kiddie book. I also read Divine (Karen Kingsbury) which Renee** recommended. I think I scared her a little by finishing it in one night. But once we get home each night, the only options we really have available to us are reading, writing, drawing (in my case), sewing (again in my case), talking (not so much in my case) and sitting there thinking (far too much of).It's amazing how much longer evenings seem, in a good way, when there's no tv or computer or any of that junk. Of course, does dramatically reduce the timeframe for writing up posts. But I'm really enjoying having the space and lack of distractions. Very peaceful.

So, the usual school stuff. I'm not sure how much of these little titbits you guys want to hear about the kids, I'm happy to keep writing it, but a lot of it has no specific reference to being in Africa so I'm not sure how interesting it is for you. Ah they make me smile though.

I spent almost the entire day in the Grade 1 class, because Rachel was taking Ju and Ha for some individual work so I wasn't needed there. Zoe was getting her class to do some drawing first of all, and I have to admit, I was somewhat of a distraction in the room. Every two minutes one of the kids would run up to show me what they'd done so far, which would mean every other kid wanted some praise too and would do the same whether or not they were finished. I have a photo of Phoebe with her drawing of 'dressing the chicken' which I'll put up at some point. Very cute. (They were reading a book about a girl who was told to do a whole lot of chores, ie. 'draw the curtains', and did them all under the wrong meaning).


Later the class did some maths worksheets - having learnt from past experience that her kids have a predilection towards copying off each other, Zoe handed out different sets of problems to all of them, which somewhat solved the issue. Well, no. A lot of the kids were still copying, completely oblivious of the fact that the questions weren't the same. There's a big range in the class - some of the kids are at a relatively normal six year old level, but most of them are quite a way behind. Means that it's actually quite useful for me to be in the room when they're doing particular topics like maths, because many of the kids don't have the concept of addition yet, and if left on their own they just write random numbers. I guess in their eyes that's all everyone else around them is doing, so they don't even realise they're doing it incorrectly.

Tony got eaten by a rat! :-(

So now I can't draw you a picture of him.

*Meg's tortoise
**Librarian

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Stargirl

You should read it. It's a good book.

Didn't go into school until 10:00 this morning because wasn't feeling fantastic. Haven't really done much so far, but am rostered to tell the Grade 1s all about seahorses this afternoon. Ah well. They can't tell if I'm winging it.

Finally finished the skirt last night. If I ever get around to firstly taking photos, and then putting them up, it's red and white. Either Zo or I could be wearing it. Probably Zo, it has flowers on it which is a little too girly for me. Haha.

Yeah. Maybe I'll add more to this update later. Or maybe not. I don't know what it is about Wednesdays. Seems to be the low point of every week.


---------------

Went to the Grade 1s just before hometime, hoping they'd forgotten I'd promised to tell them the seahorse talk. But of course I had to show up to cover my bases - if one has said to a bunch of little kiddies that one will show up, one must indeed. Sadly, their memories suddenly become better when heightened by enthusiasm, and as soon as I walked into the room there were shouts of "Miss Phillips!" "Miss Phillips has come to tell us about seashorses!" etc. Me giving them big smiles. My thinking 'Damn'. Nah, it's fun teaching them, and they get so caught up in what I'm telling them. I'm always happy to encourage such interest in animals.

So as I may have mentioned, seahorses are not an area of specialist knowledge for me. I drew them a big picture on the board and went over some basic facts. I'm learning to let them lead me though. I was asking them about what the purpose of the curled tail is, and one of the girls answered that it was to hold onto seaweed so the current wouldn't wash him away. Which was a bit too complex for some of the others so we got onto a discussion about currents and how if the water moved <-- this way, the seahorse would be pushed <-- this way too...
Artemis: "Like if you're playing in the waves on the beach!"
Alia: "Our house is only five miles from the beach"
Edison: "We're even closer, you just have to walk outside"
Jordan: "This one time I was at the beach and I found a clam and my Dad helped me open it with a rock because we bashed it like this *demonstrates with fist into hand* and then we got it open and..."
Miss Phillips: "So which way would the seahorse be pushed if the current was going --> that way?"*
...and from there together came to the conclusion that by holding on with his tail, the seahorse could stay X here when the current moved <-- --> either way. (By this stage my diagram was covered in lots of blue squiggly lines denoting water direction and would have made little sense to a newcomer to the room). Then we got onto reproduction. Haha. I asked the class to tell me who has the babies for humans. Puzzled looks.
"Who has the babies in a people family?"
"The Mummy!"
"But who do you think has the babies in a seahorse family?"
"The Daddy!"
They were absolutely delighted to find this out.
I was absolutely delighted that things were going so well. But of course, little kids have big questions.
"Why?"
Thankfully, Phoebe saved me from having to answer this one.
"So that the Mummy can have a rest and swim round with no kids to look after and nothing to do all day"
Priceless.
I vaguely explained the physiological logistics of this, before realising that I was out of facts and they were amazingly not out of attention. Right. Frantic scanning of brain for more information. Looked over at Miss K for permission to end the mini-lesson. Zoe grinned nastily and refused to rescue me. Apparently there was another seven or eight minutes of class time I was meant to use up.
In desperation, I started an analysis of the differences between seahorses and seadragons, given that we'd been talking about species being related to each other last time. This instantly caught the attention of all the boys simply because of the 'dragon' part. In fact, it worked really well - we then got talking about camouflage because I drew a picture of a seadragon in green marker, and added all the leafy growths coming off the body, then drew green seaweed all over it. I was quite proud of how well it conveyed the concept, and they all understood it. Ok. Don't remember anymore, I'm writing this from a day ago perspective** and that's long enough for me to have lost any further detail.

Uhm... afterschool walked with Zoe down the road to get bananas. Yay! I'd already finished the last lot she picked up. Bananas are now my staple here, rather than any grain. It's so different, just five minutes from our place and the whole scene has changed. Will describe it later...

Sandwiches for dinner again. Luckily, because we found it so funny the first time it remains terribly funny and therefore remains edible.

*Smooth diversionary tactic
**Probably noticeable due to the willingness to expand. Clearly wasn't there when I first started this post.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Thank you for the bread

Aaaah, today was so good for both of our mental states. Ursula picked us up to take us to Mbezi Chapel, which is a local Swahili church although a couple of white families go there. It is within walking distance of the compound, but we haven't been before so it was nice to get a lift. I've realised that I've been completely failing to give you any descriptive details to enable you to picture anything I'm talking about. Sorry. So, Mbezi Chapel was an area big enough to fit about eighty chairs (that's really not that many if you think about it), under a big thatched roof. Not really a building at all. I really enjoyed the atmosphere there, although the entire service was in Kiswahili. But I could recognise the occasional word, and picked up a few more while listening. Everyone was so friendly and greeted us afterwards and welcomed us and laughed in delight when we stumbled through our basic Swahili repertoire.

A whole group of us then went to Ruth's house (teacher at Hopac) for lunch. She has three kids, (possibly mentioned before), all absolutely gorgeous girls that I see around school a fair bit. Eliza aged five, Georgie aged seven, and Susie aged 10. The afternoon was fantastic - their house literally backs onto the beach, and Ruth set up a delicious buffet of well, food! What more could one want? After we'd eaten we all headed down onto the sand, where the other girls mainly stayed to lie there and chat, and I spent about the next three hours straight mucking round with Eliza, Suzy and Georgie. A couple of African girls that they apparently knew walked past at one point, and within two minutes we'd convinced them to join in. Ah. It was good to play with the kiddies for so long. Never gives you a chance to think about anything else when your constant attention is on them. Rick, Ruth's husband, was out windsurfing, and brought his board into the shallows to check on us after a little while. Somehow, I found myself bullied (by three kids who's combined ages only just beats my own!) into having a go. Ha. It was hilarious. I really don't have the weight to lift the sail, but despite my complete hopelessness it was a lot of fun. Found out afterwards that Zoe had been taking pictures. Luckily, being stills, they look like I'm actually doing ok, but in reality I spent more of that forty minutes in the water than on the board. Had to stop though because Eliza was waiting patiently this whole time, cheering me on but clearly wanting me to come back and keep playing with her. Lots of dogs - Tiger, Charlie, Spot, Poppy, etc...

At the end of the day Ursula dropped us off at the school so that Zoe could set up the classroom for Monday morning. Walking home we realised that not only did we still lack any cooking facilities, but it was now too late to disturb Marie and the others for the use of theirs. Ah well. We had some stale bread, tuna, a tomato and a small section of cucumber. What more could one need? The whole concept of putting together such makeshift sandwiches for dinner after the amazing lunch we'd had was in my eyes hilarious, and neither of us could stop laughing. In fact, in some strange way, it became one of most enjoyable meals we've had.

While washing the dishes I spiked myself on a knife that someone had carelessly dropped into the sink. I politely informed the only other member of the household that one shouldn't put sharp knives in amongst the general cutlery. I was blatantly ignored, so felt the need to repeat this wise piece of advice with slightly increased volume. I was no longer ignored, but rather laughed at. At this point Zoe would claim that I began brandishing the knife wildly. I must insist that I was merely showing the knife to her so as to bring to her attention the item in question.

We both congregated in my room and ended up spending the next couple of hours in the kind of blissful idleness that one needs every so often in life. Shared Zo's iPod while she read a book and I stitched a skirt. You don't need conversation at times like that.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Mzungu!

We decided to head into more central Dar today, so caught the daladala to Mwenge, changed onto another one, and from there to Kariakoo where they have a huge market. K/koo market was insane. At least as big as the Queen Vic market, but the stalls were much less defined and much more crowded. And we really stood out. Everywhere you walked people were yelling out "Mzungu! Mzungu!" (basically, white person) both as an exclamation and as a greeting to us. Technically not the most respectful way to say hello, but it doesn't have negative connotations. Still, it got quite draining after a while, you get absolutely no rest from the attention. People would even run ahead yelling out that mzungu were coming. My standard response to hearing someone shout "Mzungu!" soon became "wapi!" (ie. where?) just to keep us all laughing.

Yeah. We didn't last all that long in K/koo. Zoe and April and I caught the daladala back to Mwenge, where we walked along to the woodcarver's market. Now there's a place I could have stayed all day. They have a long row of basic shops crammed full with carvings and beaded jewellery, and the craftsmen/women sit behind them in a big open area making the pieces. It was fascinating, I could have sat and watched them for hours, but as soon as you look interested someone attatches themselves to you to convince you how cheap their stuff is. My Swahili does not yet encompass explaining that I just wanted to be left alone to watch. Plus, Zo and April might have got a little bored sitting there...

Friday, 31 August 2007

MP, WD...

Hmm... I threw that title up there when I first started writing this post, presumabley to remind me of a particular point of interest. I no longer have any idea of what they stand for. Will get back to you with a full analysis as soon as I remember.

I was sitting in the Grade 1 class after lunch when Zoe had to leave the room for a minute to grab something from April. All the kids started talking and moving round and getting fidgety, so I thought I should probably make myself useful. So...

Clownfish...

Cindy kindly invited us over for dinner, and said we could stick around for as long as we wanted afterwards to chill out in front of the tv after the hectic first week. We were hooked after the word 'dinner'.

Lemurs...
So let me tell you a bit about the compound and the other teachers living there. I keep forgetting that there isn’t a default level of psychic communication between us, and hence me knowing the background information doesn’t actually mean all of you automatically do. I’ll pace the compound out later, but for now let me just say it’s pretty big. It’s surrounded by a huge concrete fence with barbed wire strung along the top at the front, and shards of glass cemented in around the sides and back. It would be intimidating… except that’s the way all the houses are here. There’s almost two completely separate levels of habitation; the huge houses that belong to those with money – think prison fences, German Shepherd type dogs, night guards – and the shacks and makeshift places everywhere else. It’s frightening really, that a lot of these places look like cubby houses thrown together with bits of wood and iron roofing. And we're living in houses big enough for...

Thursday, 30 August 2007

M is for Moon

That’s twice now that Zoe’s left without me in the morning because I’m too slow to get ready. Ah well. I don’t mind walking over by myself, and I do have a bit more leeway about when I have to get there. I’d rather have a proper breakfast, especially because we still lack sufficient lunch materials. I went straight to the Grade 4 class again, to keep working with Ju Yeoung and Ha Yeoung. This time Rachel came along too (she’s the one who was originally meant to be working with them, but is a lot busier than me so I got the job), and brought some resources to work through. That made a huge difference, she had a picture dictionary and some Spanish/English flash cards. It did amuse me that to teach them English we were using resources intended for a completely different language. It must be hard for them though, because they also learn Kiswahili as part of the school curriculum, which means that they’re learning a new language through a new language. Anyway, we got them laughing and joking and I think they’re beginning to really enjoy the sessions. Which is a good feeling for me, as I’m going to be working on a regular basis with them.

So, I had a break, and went to the computer room to catch up on all this a bit so that you guys don’t get sick of continuous “I’ll finish this post later” references. Obviously, I am there now, so nothing else has happened yet.

AAAAaaargh ok I take that back. Zoe's grade 1s just arrived for their first computer lesson. Helped to get them all into the right program - Letter Detective - and have been going round giving them a hand with it. I realise that they need the stimulation of bright colours and noise, but having 22 sets of sound effects all playing at once is uhm... distracting. They're very cute though. I was explaining to Artemis that she has to match up the right letter so that the monster will eat it and be happy, but she said she didn't want to play that game because then there'd be no ABCs left. Ah, kids think about things in the most beautiful way.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Blah.

Due to the fact that I’d stayed up until two in the morning so that my family could ring me, Zoe didn’t bother with more than the obligatory wake up at 6:30am, knowing full well I wasn’t moving for quite a bit longer. Finally dragged myself out of the house just in time to get over to school before the bell went, not that it would have really mattered me being late as I don’t take a class for roll call or anything. In my semi-conscious state I was unable to think far enough ahead to have scraped something together for lunch. Sigh.

Went straight to the Grade 4 classroom to spend some more time with the two Korean kids...

Other than that I've had a pretty low day. Just felt that way.

Oh wait, afterschool we had the first staff meeting/prayer session - we have one every Wednesday - which was great. It was a good opportunity to spend some time with teachers that we don't cross paths with during the normal school day, and to discuss problems we've been having or chat about what's been working well. Steve (Director) spoke to us about pacing ourselves and not burning out after a few months. Which I think is still relevant to Zoe and I even though we're only here for a few months. I know I'm likely to try and fill every moment of available time with something because of that very fact. The meeting was also a chance for those of us waiting for work permits to get an update on where things are at. Mine is still being held up on some technical issue. Hmmm.

Some of the parents had got together and cooked us a huge lasagne to share across the compound, which was fantastic and quite a relief to us all. It's unbelievable how supportive they are, they're really making sure we know how much they appreciate us being here.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

I spent an hour this morning helping in the grade 4 classroom, working with two Korean kids that speak no english. Ah I'm learning not to make assumptions every day. When they asked me to spend some time helping them each day, I figured that basically we'd be able to communicate even if they didn't understand everything. Instead, it was like starting from scratch. It was a huge challenge, because I found that they were so used to people rabbiting english at them (none of which they can process) that they very quickly tuned out if I just talked at them, no matter how many ways I tried to explain something to them. But that's ok, it was challenging in a good way. They were meant to be writing an outline of something they did in the holidays so as to later write a story about it. But I had no capabilities to explain 'holiday' to them, to ask them what they did, or anything. Still, we managed to work things out in the end enough for them to get basic sentences down, although I have a feeling they didn't really understand what they were writing. So after a while I switched methods completely, as I felt that it really wasn't important whether or not they did the worksheet but instead we needed to get some communication happening.

Funny how you revert back to the things you're most comfortable with,

(Tbc as befitting almost every post I've started so far... sorry! I'm trying ok)

Monday, 27 August 2007

Arrived safely in Africa, though not without another amusing adventure. Ah life is fun when you're terrible at forward planning. Zoe and I had been staying with a family, but have now moved into our house on a compound. Unfortunately, no gas right now so cooking is... a challenge. But we have running water, so I'm happy.

There has been no electricity for a while, hence the lack of updates. Plus I've been trying desperately to settle in (not so easy it turns out) and all that. But, I have been keeping everything written up, and will backdate posts onto here as soon as possible.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes. :-)

Sunday, 26 August 2007

At the exact moment the clock ticked past midnight, I was sitting on a cusion in a house in a compound in a city on the East Coast of Africa making a big giraffe poster for Zoe to put on her classroom wall. First time I've ever done that on my birthday.

She'd already long gone to bed by this stage, but when I finally finished, I found a lovely note attatched to the mirror, made out of scraps of laminated paper that she'd written on while I was drawing above creation.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Don't Fight Africa

All week Cindy has been reminding us DFA. I have no trouble with that concept, although I think Zoe's finding it a little harder. I love the attitude over here - you just accept whatever happens, it's a very calm way of living. Today was our day to move into our house in the compound, and as you can imagine meant quite a few things to organise. Given that we're in Africa, this meant quite a few things to go wrong.

Lisa, another SIL staff member, picked us up early in the morning to go shopping for supplies. There were two ATMs within a practical radius. Neither of them would read Zoe's card. Therefore, we were relying entirely on the small amount of cash we had out. This meant for some strict budgeting, which meant we had to keep track of our total the whole way through. Kind of tiresome in a fun way.

After that we went back to Cindy's, where we packed our stuff, then I went out to play with the girls...

Monday, 20 August 2007

The main agenda for today was picking up Zoe from the airport, as she was due to arrive at 2:30pm. Cindy got really worried that there was something wrong, because after disappearing to my room at 6:00pm last night, there was still no sign of me by 10:30am. Obviously she doesn't know me well enough yet. If you want me up for something, you have to wake me up.

Anyway, she showed me round the SIL headquarters, took me around Dar a bit, out to lunch with some of the other Hopac teachers, then to the airport. She had a book on here, I spent the next hour and a half memorising more swahili from the signs. I have to say, I've seen enough of that airport to last me quite a while.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

This is Africa

So, after nine years of dreaming, I'm in Africa. Really quite an unsettling feeling. I shall give you a view of the sunrise as I saw it from the plane. Didn't sleep on the flight, there was far too much to think about, so I was awake for the whole period of the sky lightening and all that cool stuff, which was nice.


Again, due to my strong dislike of preplanning, I was not particularly well prepared for arriving in Tanzania. I got stuck getting a visa because I only had pounds on me. They wanted it in US dollars. I thinks they're silly. US dollars are not the way to go right now. But of course, it is not my place to complain...

This is Dar es Salaam from the sky. Not a very good photo, but the only one I've got so It'll have to do.