Jambo! I am here in Maji ya Chai and can't really explain how amazing this experience has been but I will try as best as I can! I just want to say the people here are incredibly warm and welcoming and the children have so much love to give. We may not have internet again so this might be it until I get too Amsterdam on the way back. So far on this trip I have already grown up... waking up at six every day I have to do my own laundry, hang it to dry and every three days prepare breakfast and do my own dishes. I am incredibly grateful to be here and be thrown into a new, unique culture that has really opened my eyes to the world.
June 12th, 2010
Over an eight hour flight from Houston to Amsterdam, another from Amsterdam to Arusha, Tanzania, and a forty minute bus ride on a one lane, two way road- still not really sure how that worked- and we were at our final destination, a village called Maji ya Chai. We pulled up to the gate of our fenced-in compound and I could just barely make out the shape of large trees in the extreme darkness. I later found out those trees bore figs, mangos and avacados, two of which I have tried and found to be incredibly fresh and refreshing. A black tarp covered the bars of the gate to keep peeople from the outside looking in and with the majority of the light coming from the sky, I could just see the outline of the guard house to the left on the inside of the fence. Once inside, I took in the building that would be my home for the next week. It is different than I thought it would be, not better not worse, just different. The rooms are very small with two or three sets of bunkbeds on the barren, concrete floor, on each bed sat a thin mattress and traditional Masai blanket. The bathroom has three showers with one temperature- breathtakingly cold- good thing I won't be showering often! Each room is named in Swahili, mine is called mnazi, which means coconut while the boys room is cleverly named ndizi (banana).
Tonight after taking our bags into the rooms and setting up mosquito nets, we went into the kitchen where the "mamas" had prepared a meal of pasta and chicken and ate while our leaders Erin and Peter gave us a general overview of the rules. To conserve water, if its yellow let it mellow, and to prevent stomach problems ONLY drink water boiled by the mamas. Don't even brush your teeth with the tap water! We finished the talk and meal, washed our dishes and went to bed to the sound of buzzing mosquitos and bone-rattling snoring, compliments of one of my bunk mates. Tomorrow I do not know what is in store except that we will be going to a church service, and I can not wait to see how others worship the Lord.
June 13th, 2010
I slept for about three hours last night and woke up at seven (we will normally wake up around 6 or 6:30) to shower with Cam. It was ICE COLD and hilarious to listen to us as we shrieked when the water hit us and we shimmied out of its numbing way. We went to breakfast and two of my fellow students made eggs while the mamas made pancakes. One issue I will have with this trip is that we take turns helping prepare the meals with the mamas. My cooking abilities are limited, to say the least, so that will be a challenge! Erin and Peter distibuted kangas, traditional Tanzanian skirts that can cover shorts or pants, incase girls didn't have dresses to wear to church. We changed into nice- and when I say nice I mean a long dress covered with a white tshirt, a Patagonia fleece, and Chacos- clothes and headed out with one of our guards, to the church. That walk was the first time I actually FELT like I was in Africa. We weaved through donkeys, goats and chickens down the road lined with sunflowers following the sun, happily greeting any person we saw with "jambo", or hello in Swahili. I could hardly contain myself when I began to see beautiful, barefooted children roaming freely. Older watotos, or children, around the age of eight would be taking care of their two year old siblings, giving them piggy backs. They would run up to me and shake my hand or even walk with me, gripping two of my fingers loosely. I can＊t wait to adopt! We passed women, which we addressed as shcmoo mama, with actual trees balanced on their head and men on bicycles. After walking for 20 minutes we had a trail of children following us to the church, where at first there were only a handful of people. Although I could not understand a word the preacher was saying, I could sense his passion and love for God and the people around us. Women in brightly colored dresses swayed and prayed to the music. Towards the end of the service, our group sang ※Amazing Grace§ in front of the congregation and recieved claps and cheers in return. One thing had my shaking I was laughing so hard though, and that was the keyboard music in the background, manned by a self-designated DJ who would sporadically chime in notes extremely off key and rhythm. Most of the time I was trying to stay focused on the singer or speaker, not the chicken running loose in the back of the church or the woman who swatted it down when it tried to fly out of the window. The church service I attended in the village of Maji ya Chai and the ones I regularly attend at MDPC were vastly different in many ways, but the fact that the main purpose of both was to worship a loving God people believe trust is the most comforting thought as I lay here enveloped in my mosquito net tonight. After church we came back to the compound to eat and then had an hour and half of free time where we set off in groups of three without supervision to roam the vision. I started playing soccer in a swampy field with Rachel and Camryn and local boys and ended up watching a two year old boy, Jaribu, as his big brother played. He wasn＊t the happiest camper but eventually warmed up to me and after a while he wouldn＊t let me put him down. I ADORE the children here! We came back to the compound, had dinner, and spent the remainder of the night at a bonfire discussing the community service tomorrow- digging trenches for the local water supply.
June 14th, 2010
Today we woke up at 6:30, and although the snores rattled my bed once again, I slept well and only had to brave the bugs once to make a trip to the bathroom. Breakfast, prepared by a group of us, was pancakes and eggs. The juice here is so good, too! I wore some flattering zip off cargo pants and a bandana to work on digging trenches. The purpose of the project was to dig up the old pipes, make the trenches wider and deeper, and replace the old pipes with new, larger ones in order to give a cleaner water supply to the village. The starting point was a well about a mile and a half away, so we each grabbed either a shovel or pickax and waded through the surrounding children to start to work. We worked from 9-12 with some local men who not only aided us in the labor but also helped us with our Swahili. After lunch we had a Swahili lesson with Mkalla for an hour and then worked from 2-5. My back and arms killed but as cliche as it sounds, it really was worth it to give the local people cleaner water. When we got home we had a meeting and then left to take pictures in the village. Most people loved being photographed and liked TAKING the pictures even more. So I let the kids take the camera but wrapped the strap around my wrist to prevent any accidents! At the soccer field a majority of the children gather, and it is the location I met Salma, a 12-year-old school girl who knows some English and my baby boy, Jabeal. Salma walks with me everywhere and has a beautiful smile and laugh while Jabeal, a pouty 2-year-old who occasional babbles and smiles runs up to the group whenever he sees us passing. The hardest part about leaving the village will be these two babies. I took about 200 photos within that hour time span, working as much with the fading light as I possibly could. At night I uploaded my photos and ※10 Best§ to the National Geographic harddrive and crashed. Tomorrow I will be waking up at 6 to make breakfast... I can＊t even make a frozen pizza without it turning out poorly.
Right now I am exhausted, but today was incredible. I woke up at 6, yes Mom and Dad, 6, and to make breakfast, yes Bailey, I cooked- omlets and pancakes to be exact. Well technically I just cut up tomatos, grated cheese and cracked eggs but I helped with all of the other stuff! After breakfast I put on the same clothes from yesterday, still covered in dirt and we went back to digging. My back was so sore, but working in the morning actually helped. We dug so much and made so much progress I really was proud and impressed with our group. For a lot of the time we were literally in the jungle and the local men working with us constantly were using their machettes to chop away trees and brush while occasionally hacking into a tree root that halted any progress we were making. At 12 we went to our Swahili leasson, ate, and then went back to work. After a man intrigued with us and a dozen kids tagged along to the work site, we got back to work until we finally finished our portion. Seeing the new pipe being put in the trenches was such a satisfying feeling. Camryn and I went back COVERED in dirt, took a shower, and then ran to get our cameras to take shots of the drumming group who came into the compound to perform. Although I was captivated by their short, quick foot movements, vibrant colored skirts and rythmic drumming, I couldn＊t help but be distracted by the local people peeking through the bushes to watch. They were just as amused as we were! They finished and we thanked with them with, asanti sana, or thank you very much and began working on editing our photos. Right before dinner, about six students from a local school came to meet us. Ernest, the boy who sat be me ended up rapping in Swahili and we returned with showing him the stanky legg. One thing that was evident to me was that both of our cultures have a deep appreciation for music. They knew many American singers and rappers, but their favorite was Bob Marley, a music icon well known around the world. We also talked about soccer, another common connection between our connections and then they went home. Later we sat by the fire discussing tomorrow. We will be going to a leprosy clinic and into Arusha to upload this blog. Badai (see you later)!