Sunday, August 28, 2011

In The Jungle The Mighty Jungle...Ok So It Was More Of A Grassy Plain

Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My!!!

Not really it was more like Lions, Elephants, Cheetahs, Giraffes, Zebras, Wildebeests, Gazelles, Warthogs, Hyenas, Dik- Diks and others OH MY!!!!

The Safari was INCREDIBLE!!!! In an effort to save money Nikki and I did a camping safari which was great. We used Base Camp Safaris whose price was very affordable especially when you compare with other companies and they really did take care of us. Even though we slept in a tent we had a guide that took us everywhere and a cook, who made the best food ever. No hot dogs or chili on this camping trip.

We started the safari at the Tarangre National Park which was our favorite park because there was not a lot of people there and lots of elephants and other animals too!! Following that we spent two nights (2 1/2 days) in the Serengeti which is spectacular bit with lots of people. Our guide Victor was good at getting away from the crowds and seriously had supersonic vision. While driving, he would see animals in the tall grass almost a mile away. I still don't know how he did it; Nikki and I were quite impressed. We had a great time with Victor but one of our most memorable parts of the trip to the Serengeti was when we were taking photos of monkeys and one little apparently had enough of the paparazzi and through poo at the windshield. I kid you not our guide said "OH MY GOD, WE ARE LEAVING!" it was only funny because it didn't hit any of us.

We saw lots of lions, a cheetah which was having a rest and we were able to pull up right next to it, baboons and hippos and many other animals. We also spent a very cold night (yes COLD IN AFRICA) at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and then visited the crater for a good portion of the day, we didn't have a lot of luck there because it was a cold day and even the animals were thanks I'm going to hide and stay warm. Enjoy all the photos!

The Rest Of My Time In Africa

I made it home safe and sound and before Hurricane Irene decided to show her face. Seriously people, an earthquake and a hurricane in 2 weeks? I think I might go back to Africa, it appears to be safer :) It's great to be home but I do miss all of my wonderful friends and the children in Africa. I have so many photos it's going to take me years to get through them all but I figure many of you will want to see my travel photos so I am going to break this up into a couple different posts for you, enjoy!

On Saturday August 13th I met Nikki at the airport with my friend Ally (he's the taxi driver that looked after me when I arrived in Tanzania.) He took us to Moshi (the town near Mount Kilimanjaro) where we stayed overnight and then spent the next day on Kilimanjaro (ok just the base of it, but still we climbed some of the mountain!) We hiked to see a waterfall; we took a cultural tour of the Chugger Tribe and walked through a banana & coffee plantation. All pretty cool stuff, we were with two girls from Amsterdam were with us and our guide Praise was great. It was a great day on the mountain even if we didn't make it to the summit.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ending How I Started

I started out this trip with tears in my eyes when I said goodbye to my husband at JFK. I have ended this volunteer experience the same way only with a river pouring out of me!

I thought goodbyes in Ghana were bad...they were nothing compared to what I just experienced saying goodbye to my new family of 70+. All week I have been a weepy mess, each evening when I say goodbye I get a little teary eyed but tonight was a constant stream of tears.

The orphanage had an amazing celebration dinner for me. It started with me doing a ribbon cutting into the dining area followed by wonderful songs that all of the children and staff sang. We ate dinner and then they presented me with gifts, a speech by Mama Warra, a prayer for more safe travels and more singing.

When it was time to actually leave the orphanage the oldest children walked me out with tears in their eyes and many, many hugs. This has been the best experience of my life and it is with a heavy heart that I leave. I know now that this will not be my only trip to Africa, I will return, I have too. They are my family now and I love them so much. It is a good thing that Chris and I got married in December because I don't know if I would have returned to the US for a while.

I have to share this quote which is how I feel right now: "There is not so much comfort in having children as there is sorrow in parting with them." ~Proverbs~ Even though these are not "my" children they will always be in my heart and I will think of them every day!

To end on a happy note, tomorrow I meet up with my best friend Nikki, I am so excited about I could burst! Monday morning we will start our safari and then relax a bit on the island of Zanzibar. This might be the last post for a while but I will add more photos and such as soon as I can so make sure to check back!

Thank you all so much for your love and support throughout this journey!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Walk Around Town

I figure before I leave Karatu Saturday morning I should give you all a taste of where I have been living for the last 2 weeks. Since I can't seem to get blogger to format correctly Here is the rundown:

Photo 1: A local boy playing in the street.
Photo 2: Fabric being sold at the market
Photos 3, 4 and 5: The view from my walks with the children
Photo 6: A Building near the orphanage
Photo 7:A house made of mud - which is what many of the houses are made from here.
Photo 8 & 9:Rush hour traffic
Photo 10: A local brick making "factory," where were you in Ghana :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Children of Shalom

“When you put faith, hope and love together, you can raise positive kids in a negative world.” ~Zig Ziglar

A week has passed since my arrival. I’ve talked about the organization but I have yet to tell you about the work or the children.

Each morning I begin assisting in the preschool classroom. In Africa children are placed by levels not age so we have a range of children from ages 3 – 7, which means that the teacher has to teach 3 lessons at once from basic counting to subtraction; I try to help by going around the room and assisting the students, even if it’s just refocusing them. I have taught some children’s songs like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” while they teach me Kiswahili, it’s a fun lesson for all.

After class is over I usually spend a couple of hours coloring, as it’s something they LOVE to do. I am mostly the “captain of colors” giving each student one color at a time, that way one child doesn’t end up with all of the colored pencils. This is one of my favorite times of the day because they are always so excited to show me their artwork and there is an unending call of my name “Eliza! Eliza!”

When the older students return from school and I work with them on their homework and do some English lessons. They are such a great group and so anxious to learn, when I have finished my lesson for the day they always want to continue so there’s a lot of improvising but they don’t mind. The day usually ends with a long walk with the older students or playing with the youngest children.

The best part of this orphanage is that the students look out for each other. There are your everyday quarrels over a puzzle or colored pencil but all of the kids protect and love one another, something they have been taught by the staff here. There is so much love you can’t help but smile when you walk onto the property.
I’ve only been here a week but I'm already in love with these children. Here is an introduction to some of them:

Charles is one of the oldest boys at the orphanage and I have deemed him “the protector.” While on our walks he keeps track of everyone making sure we don’t leave anyone behind, including me! On our first walk my youth leader instincts came out and I was trying to do head counts and watch where they were all going and where they were climbing, pretty much a lost cause. Charles saw that I was nervous, thinking it was because of the hike he said to me, “Don’t worry we won’t let anything happen to you.” He also walks me to the house if I am leaving alone, even though it’s only a 3 minute walk so that I make it home ok. Charles is lucky enough to have a sponsor who pays for him to go to the English Medium School, so he is getting a better education and his English is great. He is also an amazing “football” player!

Rosa and Anna: These girls are also two of the oldest children at the orphanage so they actually stay with me and Mama’s daughters at the volunteer house. They always want to wait on me and help me out, even though I have told them 1,000 times they don’t have too! They are sweet girls and they are also teaching me Kiswahili and helping translate to the youngest students who don’t know English yet.

Jonny is one of the HIV positive children, he’s in the preschool class and has the most infectious smile. First thing I must do when I walk in is to give him a high five and the smile he gives afterwards just makes my heart melt. He LOVES having his picture taken and also, taking a colored pencil using it for 1 second and returning for a new color.

Clemente – If I were to bring a child home with me he would be it! When he came to the orphanage he could not walk due to malnutrition, he had burns all over from witch doctor medicine in an attempt to "chase out" the evil spirits so that he would walk. Clemente is now about 3 or 4 years old (no one is sure of his actual age) and runs around everywhere. He is in the preschool class and he spends the entire time following me around. When I say following me around I mean attached to my leg at all times! I have accidentally stepped on him about 5 times but he usually doesn’t even notice as long as I am right next to him. When we are playing he is on my lap or chest or leg or wherever he can be. If another student tries to get near me he gets very mad and when it is time for me to leave at night we have to come up with tasks for him to do while I “make a run for it.” I don’t know what I am going to do on Friday when I have to say goodbye. If anyone tries to take him away from me he screams and yells Mama which is the only thing he says that I "understand" however, though I don’t understand the words he is saying I understand everything he is saying to me.

There are so many more students I could go on for days and when I return I am sure I will.