Habari tena – from Arusha
I wasn’t really ready to leave Kikatiti – it had just begun to feel like home – but I’m excited about going to Mahale. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been here three weeks, either.
I’m in Arusha now. I’ve got a private room in the Meru House Inn (I splurged and spent a whole extra dollar for the luxury; at $7 I thought it would be ok with my budget) which is a great place. Arusha is a lot smaller than Dar but it’s quite international (it’s the stopover for all safaris and climbs) and even seems to have a large traveling-volunteer population. (All of the internet cafes and bakeries have discounts for volunteers, too.)
A couple of nights ago I opened up the pack of Sticky notes I’d brought (as teaching supplies, though I couldn’t find a use for them) and Sharpies asked the kids to write me notes (English or Kiswahili or pictures). We all piled into my room for the light – the room is bigger than I need alone, but it’s still a small room, but we got nearly 40 people in there. The pile of “slippers” (flip-flop) sandals on the doorstep was impressive. The walls of my room were utterly covered with notes. (Packing them up this morning was sad.) It was a nice change from the boring off-white – but the notes themselves… They’re all so sweet – saying that they love me, that they will be sad when I leave, welcoming me, saying that they love me (there’s a lot of those), or that I am a good friend. It’s wonderful, but all the adoration is a lot of an ego-boost to see first thing in the morning.
That night I was kept awake by rustling noises. One of the worst feelings is laying in bed at night (under the mosquito net, with it all tucked in, once the electricity has run out for the day – there is electricity at the orphanage only for lights, and it’s solar, so if it’s been a cloudy day we’re out of luck) and hearing something rustling. You’re fairly certain it’s your trash bag, you know you’ve left nothing edible in it, and you don’t know whether it’s just a bug or a mouse or a rat, and you really don’t want to try and deal with it because there’d be nothing to do but chase it around the room. It kept me up half the night and when I woke up I realized it had just been the sound of Stickies falling off the wall. (Then I stepped on a giant cockroach/beetle – I can’t tell them apart which is rather sad – and decided it was time to stop thinking about it.)
The “party” in my room became a bit of a tradition. The next night a few of the older ones were in my room again. I asked Hadija if I could tape her singing; neither she nor Amadeus wanted to sing the traditional songs but they did modern ones – rap and hip-hop – and I got a little bit on tape (the worst filming ever, as I had three kids on my lap and others bumping my elbows and I’m no cameraman to start with) before the battery died.
They are amazed by a lot of my things – and I’m amazed at which things impressed them. My camera and cd player were understandable – but they even wanted pictures with my jump-ring of hair bands or my big bottle of water. The cd player was a big hit – I let them listen to it some last week until the batteries died. I left it with them, as I don’t use it at home, and getting batteries has been a bigger hassle than it’s been worth, anyway. I’d already been considering leaving it, but the deal was clenched when I found a note outside my door asking for it, the deal was clenched. (The note read: “Be nisi Noela. I love yur radio. Gev my radio,” with a heart with an arrow drawn through it. I’m not certain which of the older boys left it but I hope for the sake of their spelling it’s not one of those already in secondary school.)
Last Sunday Samuel took us to his church (Pentacostal). It was a tiny wooden building hidden thirty minutes down an incredibly bumpy road, across a field, a stream, and through a forest. You could see daylight in between every last plank of wood in the walls – but the roof was solid. The pews would have held about 40 people but we stood and fit about 80 in. They had a microphone system (operated by a generator humming outside far louder than the speakers) and old sparkly Christmas decorations. There was a lot of singing and dancing and afterwards an auction. (The Church is raising money to continue building a new building – they say so that they will have the space to dance as they like.)
We’ve been having some discussions here, regarding the various styles and philosophies of teaching English via immersion and whether I should be speaking Kiswahili at all with the kids. The Irish girls have gotten upset at me speaking Kiswahili to the kids. They felt that I was interfering with their attempts to help the kids by forcing them to communicate in English. Maybe they felt that I was putting my desire to learn Kiswahili ahead of the need to have the kids learn English. It’s made intersting discussions, and is thought provoking.
I think that, often, especially afterhours in the dormitory, actually communicating is more important than discipline, and that blathering away when someone can’t understand a word I say doesn’t do any good. But apparently total immersion is an important strategy in Ireland for teaching language (Irish Gaelic). I did stop translating for them (I hadn’t even really been doing it consciously, but I guess it upset them quite a bit) and tried to use both English and Kiswahili together with the kids. It made it a little difficult to deal with my friends Elaine and … but we agreed to disagree and got it all sorted out between ourselves. An unfortunate outcome was that I slowed down a lot and got more self conscious speaking any Kiswahili.
Click here for more details about education in Tanzania, and more of my opinions about language, as it applies to this journal entry.
Two new volunteers arrived a few days ago. Chad and Malichi, an American couple from Conneticut. (She’s 18, he’s 20, they’re in different colleges but met in boarding school.) They’re quite relaxed and laid back, which is nice. (They’re spending the night at the Meru House Inn, as well, though they’re back to Kikatiti for three weeks tomorrow.) Cory was back from his safari so we were all gathered together for a night – the “party” moved to Cory’s room and I didn’t feel so bad for having had the older kids in mine when he did the same. (Chad and Malichi had also done the language program in Dar and Cory has quite a bit of Kiswahili by this point, so having them come and hearing them use their language was also reassuring.)
The school had a big celebration on Friday. We weren’t expecting anything, and certainly not as big a deal as it became. The headmistress asked the girls not to leave without seeing her (they normally run off at break) and Janet took a list of our preferred sodas, so we knew something was up. The entire school gathered in the back field, they had a table with a cloth for us to sit at (with almost enough chairs; I shared half a seat on one side with Beatrice, a teacher, and half a seat with Cory). The kids played drums, bells, and whistles, some did a “tribal dance” and both the headmistress and the headteacher gave speeches. I was appointed on the spot to speak for us (the headteacher asked and everyone looked at me and I wished I’d known ahead of time) and gave a very brief speech. (Speech and Debate and speaking extemporaneously have payed off for something – I was able to and wasn’t terribly nervous and I think I said most of the right things.) They made us promise (again and again) not to forget Chem Chem Primary School or Kikatiti.
After school I went to the Kikatiti market with Janet and Vicky. I’d gotten quite close with them and I’ll miss them a lot – Janet gave me her bracelet (off her wrist) and I felt bad that I didn’t have anything to give her back. The market was a lot of fun and I’m glad I went. I met up with the others in Usa – I’ve gotten quite decent at navigating the dalla-dallas and sorting things out on my own, but the only thing worse than getting off at the wrong stop and having to walk is getting off at the right stop, thinking that it’s the wrong one, and doing the walk twice.
Monday morning I’m going to go see the Rwandan War Tribunal, as the ICC hearings are open to the public. I’ve got a couple of days here to sort out just where and when I’m going next.