Monday, October 31, 2011

Doto & Kurwa

Welcome to the "Meet the Children" series here on my blog! Every single one of these babies and toddlers have such different personalities and characters. I have grown to love and enjoy everyone of them! There are times when I don't necessarily enjoy a few of them...the temper-tantrum throwers to be exact, but they all have their adorable and lovable moments too. Since you are not able to meet these kids in person and witness for yourself their first steps, sweet giggles, jabbering, screaming, slobbering, stinky diapers, biting, and pulling your hair, my goal is to introduce you to them, as realistically as possible, through pictures and a bit of writing.
These kids come from a variety of different backgrounds and tribes and I find their stories to be very interesting. As sad as some of them are, it's amazing to see where they come from and why they are now here at Cradle of Love. One thing is for sure -  if they were not here, they wouldn't be alive right now. They are blessed to be here and I feel blessed to know them. I love being a part of their every-day life and watching them grow. They probably won't remember me when I move on and they grow older, but I pray that God will pour His love through me and into them while we're together and create a basis for their characters to build on - a Godly basis of love, security, and confidence that they can carry through their childhood years no matter where they are or what their future holds. I pray that God will give each one of them the assurance of His fatherly love and guidance and provide the opportunity to get to know Him as a friend.
The pictures above are of twins, Doto and Kurwa. They are extremely sweet children. Neither of them fall into the temper-tantrum category, which is a lovely characteristic. They are helpful, selfless, a bit timid at times, and very funny. Kurwa is brighter than Doto and has been attending pre-school for a few months now. Doto has just joined us, though, and is catching on quickly. Kurwa has meat on her bones, and Doto is like a little string bean. Doto actually reminds me of Sid the sloth from the movie "Ice Age." I'm not entirely sure why, but maybe it's the way he talks or his facial expressions. He has giant eyeballs that almost pop out and a huge forehead to compliment them. You have to admit he's cute, though, and if you heard him say, "I love you," you would just melt right into a puddle. Kurwa has the cutest laugh and sparkling eyes. She can count to 10 in English and Swahili and she's a fast learner. I don't know if it is because her cloth diaper is so big or what the deal is, but her walk is much more of a waddle...quite similar to a penguin.
Doto and Kurwa are here because their mother died at childbirth and their father is so poor he cannot take care of them. They will move onto another children's home or orphanage with in the next year.They're two-years-old now and I love them to bits!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fun in the Pool

Usually, it’s just the kids that get to go in the pool, but I decided that it would be fun if I joined them this time. Though there wasn’t much room for me, we had a blast and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kilimani, Here I Come!

“You will start on Monday, then!” were Mama Minja’s excited words to me as she handed me a stack of books.
“All by myself?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes. Mwalimu Mwasha is leaving this weekend, so her classes are now yours.”
Mama Minja, the head teacher (principal as we would call it) had just given me a tour of all the 12 classrooms at Kilimani Primary School, jam-packed with students dressed in light-green uniforms, many ripped and tattered but still hanging on to their bodies as if for dear life. I don’t feel that I can describe the school to you good enough to create an appropriate mental picture in your head. So you will just have to wait until I can take pictures. From classroom to classroom, Mama Minja took me in and introduced me as Mwalimu (teacher) Bethany from Canada. They would all stand up from their wooden benches and chant, “Good morning, Madam. How are you doing, Madam?” It was so well practiced that it didn’t really sound like much of a question, but I answered them in my best Swahili, which made them snicker as they sat down. 

I had been wanting to get out and do some more volunteering somewhere else to get some more experiences and meet more people. My volunteer contract with Cradle of Love requires me to work 40 hours a week, but I am allowed to arrange those hours how I need to, so I was determined to get a teaching position part time in the mornings. There are two schools across the field from Claire’s house, a fifteen minute walk from Cradle of Love. Laganga Primary School has 1, 075 students and Kilimani Primary School has 900 students. Laganga Primary school has dark green uniforms and Kilimani has light green uniforms. I talked about a volunteer teaching role with the head teacher of Laganga on Thursday, but she said they had no openings and I should try Kilimani next store. I was a bit discouraged, thinking Kilimani would give me the same answer, but it turns out that one of their teachers is leaving for two weeks and they were desperate for a teacher. All of the classes are taught in Swahili, so that puts some limits on what I have to offer, but there is one subject in which I feel fairly competent and that’s English. What I had in mind was to help out in the English classes, tutoring, or grading or whatever else needed to be done. But since the teacher is leaving, I will be teaching Class 6 English to 120 or more 11-14-year olds starting Monday. The class is split into class A and B, so thankfully there are only about 55 crowded into the small concrete classroom at once. I will have two or three class periods every morning depending on the schedule. To be honest, I’m terrified. A few days ago I had this impulsive feeling that I needed to start teaching right away—I needed to be busier and I needed to be doing more. I was confident in my teaching ability and sure that I had much to offer. “I am an Education major in University and I speak fluent English! What more could they want!”  I thought. Now as I sat in Mama Minja’s office, all of my proud confidence was draining. What was I thinking getting myself into this? “I must make lesson plans, grade 120 papers every day, and keep all of these energetic and mischievous kids in line. I’ve never taught a class in my life. This is legitimate teaching of which I currently know nothing of. Sure, I’m an education major, but I’ve only completed my first year which was full of generals! I know nothing of classroom control, standing up front and giving a lesson on the chalkboard, activities, or anything. Yikes. These kids are learning English, but they don’t speak it fluently and maybe my words will go right over their heads. How will I explain things? What am I going to say?”

Those were my thoughts as I sat in the office looking at my stack of books to read and draw lesson ideas from. A young student came in and brought the head teacher and I some Chai tea and Chapati so we ate and sipped as I asked her a zillion questions. She’s a wonderful woman and we ended up getting to know each other quite well on Friday morning. She boosted my confidence back up a little and encouraged me in my upcoming task. I don’t know if she realizes that I actually don’t know how to teach yet or not because I came into the job pretty confident. But I hope that no one will find that out! Me and God together are going to rise to the occasion and teach these kids English! I really am excited and I know I have a lot of learning a head of me. So, I’m going to stop blogging now, and start on tomorrow’s lesson plan!

Banana Muffins

A week ago, we made banana muffins for preschool! The kids got to stick their fingers in and mash the bananas, taste the salt, taste the sugar, taste the flour, taste the butter, etc. They LOVE tasting things. In fact, they eat everything. In class, they eat their crayons, their paper, glue..whatever you give them! Their favorite thing to do is pick up garbage off the ground and pretend it's gum. That's probably my fault because I'm always chewing gum and they want to do what I do. But that's besides the point! What I want you to know, is that they had a fun time cooking and eating :) Of course the power had to go out right before we put the muffins in the we had to wait and play some counting games and hope it would turn on again. Thankfully, it did, and the banana muffins were delicious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dust or Mud?

The rainy season is in full swing. Last month, when people talked about the rainy season coming, I thought it would be like a sprinkle of rain every now and then, but was I ever wrong. When it rains here, it pours! African rain sounds different than our rain. It’s almost as if you can hear every individual, fat raindrop splash to the ground. This raindrop choir produces a big, full, and beautiful sound which Iove! It rains all night, all morning, takes a couple of breaks in the afternoon, and then rains hard most of the evening. The farmers depend on this rain to water their fields, giving them just enough money to live off. Many women make money for their families by selling fruit and veggies in the markets and on the streets, so the rain is vital to their produce too. All the Africans love the rain because with it, comes cooler weather. The only disadvantage to this rain is the mud it creates. The main road is the only road that is paved. Every other road is dirt, so when it rains, these dirt roads turn to thick, deep mud pits. Trucks get stuck, people slip and slide, my shoes get 6 inches of mud caked on the bottom so they feel like bricks, and it is extremely treacherous.  When I walk back and forth to Claire’s house, I have to slop through the mud until I get to the main road. When on the main road, the big trucks and busses go whizzing by splashing large amounts of muddy water on me. That is when I wonder which I prefer. Dust or mud? For the first month and a half I was here, it was hot and dusty. During that time when I walked along the main road, I would get a load of hot dirty dust in my mouth every time a big truck or bus would whizz by. I would be left blinking like crazy to try to get the dust out of my contacts so I could see again. And every time I took a step, I would leave my own cloud of dust, some of which would settle on my feet leaving them a nice grayish black color.
As much as I love to hear the rain and the cool air is refreshing, I’m through with the mud. I think I prefer the hot, dusty weather. I hear it will be coming back around the beginning of November and I’m looking forward to it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Selemani has a Mommy!

Claire has been EXTREMELY excited to go and collect her son from the orphanage. When the official letter was finally written and everything was set, we scurried around getting everything prepared to pick Selemani up from Happy Watoto orphanage. With a big smile on her face, she hopped on the dala dala, clutching her letter of permission to pick him up. Upendo, our social worker, came along as well as me, her volunteer photographer for the event. There seemed to be more dala dala stops than usual, and we had to wait for a long time at some of them, making her a little impatient. At one of the stops, a man squished in beside me with a chicken on his lap. It was kind of a cute chicken, but it stunk. Later on, he put it on the floor in between our feet. It kept flapping its wings, tickling my ankles. About 5 minutes before our stop, it peed on my feet…rather unpleasant.
It was a sweet orphanage. They are under-staffed, but have a nice set-up and well-trained children. The kids had all just had their heads shaved and had uniforms on, making them look a lot alike. It was a tearful goodbye for the caretakers of Selemani, and he could tell something was going on. He whimpered all the way home, but soon warmed up to everything once we arrived at Claire’s new house. I don’t know if I mentioned this already, but Claire asked me to move into her house with her for the first couple of weeks for comfort and moral support :) So Auntie Beth has moved in with Claire and Selemani!
For the first night with Selemani, we had no electricity, so we lit candles, played with toy cars, made pancakes and sat on the kitchen floor eating them! It was a cozy welcome home night. Selemani wouldn’t change his clothes to go to bed, so he slept in his shoes and clothes with Claire in bed beside him. This was his first night without being surrounded by other children in an orphanage. There are a lot of new things for a 2-year-old to get used to, but I think he’ll settle in well. He is already calling Claire, “mommy,” which makes her glow with joy. He’s super cute and babbles away in Swahili as he plays with his toys. I wish I could understand all that he says…I’m working on it, but not really excelling in my Swahili yet. I need to work harder.
It’s been a week now, since we’ve moved in and we’ve encountered many exciting things already!
  1. Selemani wet his bed a couple of times, soaking everything.
  2. The tap in the kitchen sink has so much water pressure, that if you put a dish under the running water to wash it, water sprays EVERYWHERE, so doing the dishes is an exciting job!
  3. The matches in Africa are so junky that it takes about 10 before one works or lasts long enough to light the stove.
  4. The kitchen floor was moving on Tuesday night. Literally thousands upon thousands of ants were having a party in the kitchen. Since we didn’t have the option of screaming and getting Dad to take care of it, Claire and I had to muster up our courage and kill them all ourselves! Then drench the floor in bleach once again.
  5. The kitchen table and chairs she bought feel like they’re going to break whenever you sit on them. (Not because we’re fat, but because they’re junky—they look nice, but won’t last long…that’s how everything in Africa is.)
  6. There’s a lizard family that lives on the walls in every room. (They’re cute and don’t do any harm, I just thought I would mention them.)
  7. The croaking from the toads are SO loud and constant at night that it’s almost like having the generator on back at the orphanage. The crickets, birds, chickens, and cows also like to make themselves known by talking loudly in the evening.
  8. The mud is so thick that the taxi cannot take us to the house…last night I had to get out and walk the last portion of the way.
  9. This morning, I woke up with ants IN MY BED. It’s one thing to have them all over the kitchen floor, it’s another thing to have them in my oatmeal, but I did not appreciate them in my bed. Dead ones and live ones. The dead ones were obviously dead because I rolled on them in my sleep and squashed them. I don’t like the thought of that. Did I eat them in my sleep? I don’t know. I don’t like the fact that I don’t know either.
In general, I love living with Claire and Selemani. I’m enjoying being “Auntie Beth” and looking forward to the surprises that next week will hold! Selemani is doing really well and I’m happy that he has a mommy now who will provide unconditional love and support for him for the rest of his life. There is one less orphan in Tanzania!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day Hike on Mt. Meru

                                                                        Mt. Meru forest
                Triumphant Claire                                          Many Colobus monkeys live in the trees
There was a mixture of forest and jungle,both of which were beautiful! The jungle was like a giant playground.

These children scurry up the trees like it's a piece of cake. I tried it, and it's not!They carry big knives to chop the branches down for firewood.
 Mountain life is quite different from city life in Arusha. It's peaceful, beautiful, fresh, and the air is cooler. Little houses and villages are scattered everywhere. These people work hard to support themselves.
 These children are some of the tree-climbers that were cutting firewood. They scampered down the trees to get a better look at us, "mzungus".
                                                       This woman is carrying her bundle of grass home
                                 This is a Eucalyptus forest and it smells a giant spa.
                                                       The sunset over Mt. Meru is spectacular!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This needs Bleach

The fridge was moldy, stinky, and damp. Big scary bugs and ants made their home in the drawers as well as left over matches and crumbs. In the sink, there were some fish bones. On the wooden counter top, there was melted wax, burned spots, and little lizards. The shelves up high contained dust and dead bugs of all sorts.
This kitchen needed bleach and I used it generously! I have never cleaned a fridge so gross or dealt with so many bugs and so much mold before. On top of scrubbing everything, removing bones and bugs, and dumping bleach on everything, we sanded down the shelves and counter top and varnished them. Though the whole process was disgusting, I feel as though I am a much more capable and tough woman now, ready to conquer any more gross kitchens that come my way.
Now you might be wondering why I was cleaning this gross kitchen so I’ll explain myself. (It wasn’t our apartment kitchen. Our kitchen is fairly nice…other than the ants).
Claire, the 22-year-old volunteer from England, and I have become great friends! I love her company and we have a jolly-good time together! She is currently the temporary director of the orphanage while Davona is in the states. When Claire came to Cradle of Love the first time, she fell in love with a little boy named Selamani. She always dreamed of adopting him, but didn’t think it would be possible. As this is her third time back to Africa and she is planning on staying a couple of years, she decided to look into adoption. To make a long story short, she found out that it would be possible!
Selamani will be 3-years-old in November and is currently living at another orphanage about 30 minutes away. In order to start fostering him, Claire was required to get her own house, so that’s what she did! I had fun doing some house-shopping with her. She found a place that is only a 10-15 minute walk from the orphanage and is very nice considering the standards here. It has a toilet instead of a squat pot (which is exciting), two bedrooms, a small dining room and living room, a kitchen and a small rocky back yard. Someone came to touch up the paint on the walls, but there were still a few things left quite grungy. One of those was the kitchen…the task I already told you about. Now we’ve got it all furnished up and Claire can go pick up her boy! This is exciting stuff!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush

                                                                          Lazaro - proud of his pink lipstick and fingers

                                                                                          More berries!!!

                                                                                           Ellinipa makes funny faces
                                                                         intently watching the monkey chase...
                                                             ...she wants the whole handful, but she's only allowed one at a time
                                                                                   Anita and Hope caught red-handed :)
                                                                                               Eric and Rahim
                                                                            Gracie surrounded by children begging for berries

                                                                                Eric with Lilli's stolen glasses

As soon as we step outside, the kids make a bee-line for the mulberry bush! They LOVE these berries. I have always known of the children's song, "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush," but never actually known what mulberries were until I got here! Maybe everyone already knows what they are and I'm just behind the times, but for those of you who, like me, were not educated on the topic of mulberries, they are like long and skinny blackberries with out the thorns on the bush...they're great. Though the mulberry bush gets attacked by babies at least once every other day, somehow there is always a new supply of ripe berries for the kids to eat every time we venture out. They clear off the bottom layer that is within their reach very quickly then, with red sticky fingers, faces, and clothes, they reach up to the higher branches begging for more. The monkeys watch us with curious eyes and some of the brave ones come sit relatively close. Last time we were out for a berry-picking session, Grace, one of the nannies, thought she would chase one of the monkeys. Bad idea. It chased her instead! There was a mixture of laughing, screaming, and crying from the kids and it definitely caused some excitement. I was quite scared to be honest..those monkeys have big teeth and I really thought he was going to take a chunk out of her! I'm a naive mzungu (white person), though. Having monkeys in the backyard is still kind of new to me. I'm sure that's not the first time she has chased a monkey...or been chased by a monkey. She seemed fairly confident in between her shrieks :)