Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tanzanian Nutella

I just found Nutella at the Arusha supermarket, and am a very happy person.

We are enjoying our last day in Arusha for the weekend! Today we visited many markets & shops, just relaxing in the busy city. In about an hour there is an SIC barbecue at the office, and then we will leave for Mt. Meru University, where we have been staying for orientation.

Off to another week of classes!

On Friday I move into my homestay in the village. I won't be able to update my blog for another two weeks, so feel free to call me if you can! I also get texts!! (comment on my blog and my mom will send you my number)

Peace & Love,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ninakupenda Tanzania!

Greetings and Mambo from Tanzania!

What a jam-packed week i've had. I'll start from where I left off in my last blog (but I only have 20 min. to type at this internet cafe).

THE WATERFALL HIKE! UGH! The most challenging and difficult thing I have ever done in my life. However, I couldn't be more proud of myself. I had no idea I was capable of such things. We began the 12+ hour hike up Mount Meru on Sunday, and it was obvious the hike was going to be a lot easier for people in the group than myself. I am not a soccer player, gymnast, dancer, or rugby player (as almost EVERYONE here is). Needless to say, I was very slow. This hike was up a very steep path with such thick mud that I slipped and fell on my face (no joke) 32 times on the whole hike. I wish I had more time to be descriptive. It was all exhausting and terrible at first; we were following Tanzanian guides to this waterfall that brought us UP a mountain....then DOWN a mountain valley....then back UP again...then down again. PHEW! I was not prepared for such a trip. However, I finished and it was worth it in the end.

I was awe inspired by the communities that live on the mountain and make that same hike every single day. Could you imagine if your life were like that? If you were carrying heavy loads of supplies to your house up a 6+ hour hike. Of course, when I was busy falling on my face in the mud, there were Tanzanian women carrying loads of goods on their head, barefoot, passing me on the path. So you could really tell the cultural divides along the hike. It was clear I have been taking my commute for granted my whole life.

Again...sorry for the poor writing. I have a short time to write this and a whole week to write about.

So on Monday we moved to Mount Meru University in a more-rural area of Arusha. It is a beautiful campus full of life and spirit. I can tell I am really going to enjoy orientation. We were divided into smaller rooms and live with some of our Tanzanian teaching partners.

Let me explain a little about them...

SIC has young adults from Tanzania work as our translators when we are teaching in the villages. But they are so much more than that. The teaching partners have become some of my very dear friends. They work so hard to know allllll the material we are learning about HIV in both Swahili AND English. They are such kind and caring people who love to learn. I don't know what I would do without them. I find myself hanging out with them more than the other volunteers because I know how rare of an opportunity it is -- I can now say with utmost confidence that friendship knows no country.

Every day we have 8 hours of class: HIV biology, Tanzanian history and culture, myths and facts about HIV, anatomy, etc etc etc. IT'S A LOT OF WORK. I haven't had 8 hours of straight class since high school. It's incredible how much I am going to learn before going into the villages. It's true that you need 10 weeks worth of knowledge before you teach for 6 weeks. I feel more prepared than ever.

Of course, after 8 hours of class we need to unwind and play some games!!! It's great the kind of things you can do without electricity and technology. At home, I'm sure any of my friends would be board of playing games after 2 hours...but here we played for 4! We were taugh Tanzanian games & songs...I have also earned the nickname "Miss Games" from the Tanzanians. I have taught the whole group of volunteers about 5 games we learned at DA in our theatre classes. The Tanzanians love "biddy biddy bop"!!!! They play that and "zip zap zop" all night long now. We also play scrabble on a nightly basis.

I am working very hard to prepare myself for a rigourous 6-week teaching span in King'Ori Ward. We will be spending over 80 hours in classrooms, not including the many community teachings we will do.

I will update you as soon as I can. I love you all!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hakuna Matata

Greetings from Arusha's internet cafe!

Today has already been a long day of walking and shopping, so I tried my hardest to find internet for some relaxation and "peace of mind".

Let's start with yesterday:

After 20-something hours of traveling, I arrived in TZ around 8:45 pm (their time). Fortunately I met up with 2 other girls who were also part of SIC and we all went through customs together. We found our Impala Shuttle driver who was going to take us to the hostel, and loaded our very heavy backpacks on what looked just like the truck you ride on in Disney Animal Kingdom's Safari joke!

It was about a 30 minute ride to the hostel and that drive was probably one of my favorite moments yet. I can safely say...I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MANY STARS IN MY LIFE. The sky is glamorously paint-splattered with shining stars that make you believe you can see into 3 galaxies. It was (hands-down) the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I cried. Literally.

At the hostel we greeted our SIC coordinators and staff, and they showed us to our room. 11 girls sharing one room....haha total fiasco! It feels just like summer camp. We knew once it got dark outside we couldn't leave, so all the girls were trying to keep ourseleves occupied with silly games and stories. I won over a few people by bringing scrabble! We each have our own beds with fairly comfortable mattrasses, quilts, pillows and bednets. I kinda liked sleeping in my bed one could see in it for the times I drooled on myself as I slept. ;)

We woke up around 7 am and there was certainly no need for an alarm clock at the hostel. At 4:30 am a friendly Rooster actually crowed when the sun came up. (Carolyn: Rockadoddle? Perhaps?) Then around 6:30 I woke up to the beautiful sound of a man singing. Apparently every morning the nuns have a call to worship and are awoken by this man's song. It was very peaceful and I quite enjoyed it.

Complimentary breakfast was served at the hostel and I had some good tea. Yes, Colin...I enjoyed my tea. It just felt good to be drinking it with my breakfast in this exotic location. Speaking of exotic...all the plants are exactely what you'd dream of. I hate to reference disney again, but it looks just like adventureland in the Magic Kingdom. I'm so lame.

After breakfast I entertained my roomates with "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" electronic game. We failed 3 times at second grade questions. This coming from Harvard, UCLA and BU students hahahahaha. It was a blast! Who knew that Lake Ontario is the smallest of the great lakes? I mean come know your first guess would've been Eerie.

So we hit up the SIC office for a little health and safety class around 10am. It was hysterical because the first thing they did was pass out this massive and neaon-colored dildos as an ice breaker. These are the same dildos we will be using for condom demonstrations in the villages (and no matter what, everyone will always it's good to get it over with now). We passed around the dildos as "talking sticks" and introduced ourselves. SUCH A GREAT GROUP OF VOLUNTEERS. These are going to be some amazing new friends.

The rest of the day has been spent wandering through the markets and making new Tanzanian friends. Out of the 3 new Tanzanian friends I made, only one asked me for money and that was after he translated for me and wanted a tip. Our coordinators told us about how [on weekends] when most Tanzanians are not working, they love to wander around the city. In order to practice their english, they strike up conversation with Americans. Harmless questions like: "do you like swimming?" or "how do you say _____ in english?". It's actually fun! Then we generally ask them questions about how to speak in swahili. Then when we get to a certain intersection and they've walked enough, they'll hoot "kwaheri!" which means "goodbye".

I bought soooo much fabric today to make skirts. Unfortunately the tailor is closed, so I won't be able to wear them until next week. Carolyn and Mom can look forward to some Africa skirts when I return.

Tonight is opening dinner. Apparently all our meals have BREAD! :)



Friday, June 19, 2009

Amsterdam keyboards are very difficult

Hello from Schipol -- Amsterdam!

I spent 3 euros to get online for 15 minutes. I am one flight away from Africa! My plane doesn't leave for another 2 hours so I thought this would pass the time.

So far my flights have been pretty smooth. On my flight from Jacksonville to Detroit I had several embarrasing "sara" moments, that would only make Ross proud. These included: too large of a carry-on had to be stowed in the overhead...consequently I forgot several things and had to ask two very nice gentlemen to constantly get up and down from their seats. I dropped my very important Malaria pill under the person's baggage behind me. My ipod somehow slipped into a whole through the seat-pocket and into the man's seat in front of me. I had to ask this man to stand up so that my hands wouldn't be crawling around by his rear-end to retrieve it. And all this concluded when my backpack's zipper broke and all my stuff when flying.

All this on a 3 hour flight.

I'm waiting for Ana to go to the gate so we can chat before we start boarding. So far no sign of her. I hope her flight was delayed!

Alright I must be off. Next post from AFRICA!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Welcome to where various parts of me are going to exist electronically for a bit. Eventually, this will be full of insightful and inspiring stories. As for now, this travelblog is the place where you and I have come to observe the wanderings of my recent adventure to AFRICA. I'm a student volunteer (hi), trying her best to educate the world on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

I can't remember the last time I have been this nervous to go anywhere. Spending time in Africa has always been a dream, but to volunteer there is even more overwhelming! I've never done anything of this magnitude. As challenging as I know it will be, it will be all the more rewarding.

My flight leaves from the Jacksonville airport around noon this Thursday. I won't be in Tanzania until Saturday at 8 pm (their time). Speaking of "their time"...there is a 7 hour time difference, one day ahead.

If you want to write to me [WHICH I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE :) ] here is the address:

Support for International Change

PO Box 16390

Arusha, Tanzania

East Africa

Things may take 2-3 weeks to arrive and there are no guarantees, but it's worth a shot. I would appreciate even the smallest, most simple mail. I'm sure it would be great to hear from you. Just keep in mind it takes a while to arrive in TZ and I'm only there for 8 wks.

I will be able to update this blog at least once a week, so please keep updated! I will outline all of my adventures and day-to-day experiences.

Once again, thank you for all my support. Especially to my parents, who have put more energy into this trip than anyone. And to my Colin. His encouraging words have gotten me through my worst nerves and fears.

God bless and take care!