Unforgettable Memories

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

Life is so complex and so beautiful. Living here for two months has opened my eyes to more wonders and interesting things in this world and I have loved every minute of it. I always find it difficult to reflect upon an experience when it only just happened. Generally it takes me months or years later to discover the real impact it made on my life. This trip will stay with me for the rest of my life and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I had to come here and volunteer.

My final two weeks of placement were a great ending to my volunteer stay. On my last two Thursdays, I treated my children to art class. I bought paint, paint brushes, plates (for mixing colours), cups (for water), newspaper and large papers for the children to go wild. I am not sure whether the children in my class had done painting before, but their faces lit up and they were all excited to use their creative minds. I brought out the primary colours and taught each of them about how to mix two different colours to create a new one. They got excited over purples and pinks and oranges, swirling their brushes and mixing until the paint turned into a dull grey. The other teacher and I let them go wild, and they painted houses, fruit, flowers and people and many more. It was heartwarming to see that a lot of them had written the names of me and my teacher, saying that they love us. I hadn’t realised just how much they liked me before then. It was a beautiful moment to see all the kids getting stuck in, enjoying being creative and having freedom to make whatever they wanted. It has definitely been a big highlight of my volunteer work, because it really showed me how important it is to give kids a creative space. Apart from painting, another highlight of working at my school is Friday sports activities. All of the teachers and students walk to a dusty and dirty field next to the school to play games, dance and hang out with their friends. It’s a great chance to laugh, relax and watch the children enjoy themselves. My favourite thing to do is to get some of the students into a big circle and sing songs and dance together. It’s interesting and lots of fun to listen to their beautiful children’s songs, and the best is getting to dance with the kids because they know how to shake their hips!

I have had an eventful and enjoyable last couple of weeks with Twiga House. Our numbers have slowly decreased, meaning the house is more quiet, but a lot of us have gotten closer because of it. Some notable moments include going out to dinner to say goodbye to a few other volunteers, as well as singing our hearts out in the car on the way. One night, a big group of us pulled mattresses onto the front lawn and we lay under blankets, looking up at the stars. It’s moments like those when you stop and appreciate how wonderful life is. I had a moment like that a couple days ago, when I was looking at the sunset over Twiga House, realising that I could never have this exact same experience again, and how much I will really miss it. One night after placement, a group of seven of us went to an orphanage called “Cradle of Love”. This is a place where 20 abandoned or orphaned children, aged 0-2 are taken care of by a large team of the locals. The orphanage was beautiful and modern, and was originally opened by an American. Cradle of Love is funded off donations, and the babies are in good care. When the children reach to the age of two, they are taken to another orphanage, or in some cases they are adopted. We got a chance to feed the babies, hold them and play with them. They were all so beautiful and it made my heart break that they no longer had parents. I just wanted to take them all home, but I know they are in good care, and that is what matters. Cradle of Love has to be high on my list of experiences so far! Those kids really touched my heart.

My last weekend in Twiga house was spent doing cultural trips! On Saturday, five of us got in a small jeep and travelled 3 hours to a Maasai Village. The trip there was amazing! And we got a mini safari, by seeing zebras, a jackal, some antelope and large birds. The Maasai are a tribe in Tanzania who are very traditional and are known travellers. The village we visited was far away from town, and the people there live in huts, barely have electricity and do not have a lot of water. Twiga’s security guard is originally from this tribe and was happy to come with us so he could see his family and friends again. The visit commenced with some welcoming songs, and the tribe jumped to the beat. Maasai are known for their tall jumps and it was amazing to see. We all got to jump with them, which was pretty funny. The next part of our visit was the goat slaughtering ceremony. The tribe brought out a live goat, and prepared to slaughter it for a feast. Jonas (one of the volunteers, from Germany) was the one who offered a hand to the tribe and slit the goat’s throat. The rest of us were too terrified to look at the scene. It is traditional for the Maasai to drink the blood, and therefore we were all offered blood, so Jonas had a sip, Taylor had a drop, and the other three of us were to freaked out to try any. The tribe members cut the goat up, cooked it on the fire, and served it to us for lunch. Before we left, we had a spear throwing competition, which ended with Taylor accidentally breaking the spear. It was a very interesting experience, especially seeing how muddy the children are and how different they live from us, which was eye opening. On Sunday, I spent the whole day visiting houses of three of the teachers from my school. This was a wonderful experience because I got to meet their families and children, and I got a glimpse into the life of a Tanzanian. Their houses were simple and their families seemed happy. I am so happy I got to see them in their homes and share time with them outside of school. Rachel was the last teacher I visited, and she lives in the area near a mountain called Mount Meru. Her house is located in the jungle! It was such a beautiful view and I got to see the best sunset from within the jungle! I hope I get to visit her again one day to explore her surroundings.

My last goodbyes to everyone have been filled with laughter and parties! Last Thursday night before going out to our usual nightclub. The volunteers at Twiga House rented out a sound system and we threw a massive party filled with music and (attempted) karaoke! It was one awesome night and we all had a blast. It was probably the best way to end my fun times with the other volunteers. This week was time to treat my own children to a party! I brought packets of biscuits and lollies for every class in the school to enjoy and they were all so thankful and happy to receive it. For my class, I brought them biscuits, lollies, fizzy drink and stickers. They were over the moon! I love those kids and I cannot think of a better way to end my placement than to treat them will some well earned sweets. They deserve some laughter and fun before I leave.

My last day of placement was by far the hardest day I have experienced on this whole trip. After treating my kids to some sweets, I sat down and talked to them for a while. When they all gave me thank you letters filled with sweet messages and I love yous, I broke down. I was heartbroken that I had to leave the sweetest, most beautiful children, with the thought that I might never see them again. I cried, and attempted to stop the tears, but they kept coming and eventually caused all of my children to cry too. They realised at that moment that I was really leaving them. The director of the school called me into the office, and as I tried to hold back tears, he presented me with an achievement certificate and a traditional Maasai outfit. We took photos together and the children of class 3 came out to take a photo with me too. I hugged each and every one of them, told them I loved them and left in a mess of tears. They really did not want me to leave and I so desperately wanted to stay. I had not realised how much of an impact I made on their lives. It is so hard to think in the moment that you’re making any kind of difference when all you think you’re doing is teaching multiplication or adjectives. I had not realised what a difference it made to have a teacher that was fun and nice and wanted to get to know you and help you, even when she barely speaks Swahili and is not the best teacher ever. I think what I discovered from this experience is how much the little things matter, and just those small moments of fun and surprise can make a difference in so many young hearts. Although we had a very sad goodbye, I hope the children part with happy memories of fun times and many things learnt. I know I only have amazing memories from this beautiful place. I will miss that school so much, and I will miss all the amazing teachers who are so welcoming and do such a good job of making that school a great place.

With this, I want to leave you with two lists…

Ten things I will never forget from my last two months:

  • The singing and dancing of my students in class when they should be working
  • Squished, hot and annoying Dala rides
  • Riding a piki-piki (motorcycle) for the first time, and then doing it on a regular basis
  • Disgusting tea/disgusting African donuts (Mandazzi)
  • Amazing sunsets and incredible mountains
  • George’s, George’s and George’s (too many trips to this delicious restaurant)
  • Dodgy car rides where the bottom of the vehicle scraped the ground
  • The time an old, Indian man (Trump-loving as well) chatted to me and Kendall for a good 30 minutes on the street in Zanzibar
  • The time Jonas broke an outdoor lounger at the Peponi resort
  • And of course, our many Thursday nights at the nightclub Via Via, going home at 4am and eating chapatti.

Ten things to know if you’re thinking about volunteering in Arusha:

  • Don’t go into the first Dala you find in Kilombero main station (this could leave you waiting 30 minutes while the dala workers try to fill it up with as many people as possible). I recommend finding one half full.
  • Don’t give your phone number to just anyone you meet (you might find that they will call you at any time of the day and beg for your love even when you tell them you have a boyfriend).
  • Never miss a good photo opportunity.
  • Other people need more money than you.
  • In saying that, don’t settle for the worst at the markets. Any price can be bargained down.
  • Don’t be afraid of the pikis (motorcycles). They’re not as bad as you think! They are actually quite peaceful to ride.
  • Take a full water bottle with you everywhere you go! You will definitely need it.
  • Don’t stay in a taxi that won’t turn on (because you’ll end up waiting, having other people push the car, find out it doesn’t work, and end up paying the driver for not taking you anywhere).
  • If you’re anything like me, do not skimp on the insect repellent! It is a must.
  • Do not forget to enjoy every single last moment! Africa is a wonder and you’ll enjoy it more than you’ll ever thought you would!

This is not the end of my trip. My parents and my sister arrived in Arusha yesterday and we are spending the next two and a half weeks together. Tomorrow we start a four day safari, which is incredibly exciting! I will make sure to let you know all about my last leg of the trip.

Thank you for reading, I hope to talk to you soon!

Until next time,

Ailish

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Island in the Sun

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

A holiday away from holiday! This week I went to Zanzibar! If you haven’t heard of Zanzibar, it’s a small island off the East coast of Tanzania and it’s beautiful.

Six of us took a one hour flight from Kilimanjaro airport and landed in Stone Town, Zanzibar on Monday afternoon. I was with a group from Twiga house- Kira, Jonas, Eden, Kendall and Bree. Jonas was the only male, but I don’t think he minded. We arrived to crazy hot and humid weather, immediately sweating through all our clothes before we had reached our accommodation. We were staying in a hostel in Stone Town for one night, which was fortunate because they messed up our booking and Kira and I had to share a bed in the wet heat. Stone Town is a beautiful and historic city. Streets reminded me of Europe and the atmosphere was lively and loud, but the locals were less interested in us as white tourists than they are in Arusha. I think they are used to tourists being in their town. The majority of the population of Zanzibar is Muslim and Arab culture is very much alive. On our first night we had a tour of the slave market where we heard a bit of history on slavery in Zanzibar and Africa, we also went into a tiny, prison-like, concrete room that stored 50 or so slaves, and it was hideous and frightening to go into somewhere so inhumane. After our history lesson we wandered the streets, getting to see the old fort, which was built in the 17th century by the Omanis to protect themselves from the Portuguese. We ate at the food markets by the harbour, watching the massive stray cats searching for food.

Our second and last day in Stone Town was an interesting experience. We spent all morning enjoying the sights, walking the streets, checking out stores, seeing the historic Hamamni Persian baths and seeing more food markets (and almost vomiting from the smell of the meat). When we were hot, exhausted and ready for food, we went on the hunt for a place to eat. We tried out one place but decided against it and kept looking, and finally settled on a place to eat. The restaurant looked nice enough, and we were too tired to notice that the place was empty. We ordered our food, got room temperature soft drinks (because they didn’t use a fridge to store them), and waited for our lunch to come. We continued to wait, and wait some more, and grew more and more impatient as our hunger turned into hanger. We eventually started taking bets on when the food would come, and in the end it took one and a half hours. The food was awful. Most of us couldn’t finish. Four of us ordered hummus, and left the bowl full because it tasted like play-dough. Three of us ordered a plate of samosas each, and they came out with one plate of 5 for us to share, saying that they had run out. In the end, the meal had somehow made me more hangry. But because I wanted to buy art before leaving the city, I couldn’t stop to find another place to eat and ended up finding a dairy to buy a block of chocolate. It was not a fun experience, but funny to reminisce upon (this is Africa, right?).

 

That afternoon we took a taxi to a resort called Kendwa Rocks at the beach. We were staying in a massive dorm room which was cooled by fans, but still remained too hot to handle. I found myself constantly sweating. The beach we were staying at was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. The sand was pure white and the sea was bright blue and clear. We spent the rest of the week relaxing by the beach, sipping cocktails, eating ice cream and finishing our books (I 10/10 recommend Dark Places by Gillian Flynn). On our first full day there I checked out the resort’s spa, and decided to get a full body massage with Kendall. It was the first time I have gotten a professional massage and I do not regret it! What a relaxing and wonderful experience. I just wish it was cheaper. On Thursday we took a two hour boat trip to Mnemba Island, which is owned by Bill Gates so we wouldn’t actually walk on the island. I learned how to snorkel for the first time and got to see fish (cute little dory) and coral. It wasn’t the most amazing underwater views but it was an awesome and beautiful experience. I got super bad sunburn and got sunstroke that evening but I slept it off. The rest of the week was spent relaxing, sleeping in the shade and enjoying the cool, clear water under the hot and humid sun. We sadly had to say goodbye to Kendall and Kira as they had to leave for their home countries (Hawaii, US and Toronto, Canada).  On our last night on the island, Kendwa Rocks hosted a “full moon” party for hundreds of people on the beach. There was a barbecue dinner, live music and then a DJ set and we danced all night.

Zanzibar was an absolute stunner of an island and I am beyond happy I got to see it and enjoy it for a week. Again, I am so blessed to be here and every day has been amazing. I wish I could spend more time on Zanzibar, but alas, the holiday has to end at some point. Now back in Arusha, these last couple of weeks are a time to enjoy placement and do as much as I can while I’m here. Twiga House is much more quiet since so many people left, which is sad, but still nice to be here. It’s unbelievable how quick my trip has gone by, and I hope it continues to be as joyful and as peaceful as I have felt so far. It’s still hard to believe I’m here and I am having the time of my life. I feel like I say this every blog post but I can’t help but to reflect upon how grateful I am to be here. Thanks for reading! I hope to bring you some more content next week (maybe not quite as exciting).

Until next time,

Ailish

Blessed

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Oh hey there, we meet again! I skipped a week of blogging, so we have a lot to catch up on. This time last week I was sipping on a Piña Colada in a pool, so there was no chance I could whip out my laptop to write a quick entry.

Since we last spoke I spent a couple more weeks dealing with my cold. Today is the first day I felt almost normal, so that’s a good sign, because it was draining my energy. I also took out my African braids after one week, which is a shame but it was giving me a headache and my braids were getting messy. During this time we also had to say goodbye to eight more volunteers from Twiga House, which is always a sad thing to do when you’ve become so close. Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to Kelly, one of my close friends, and next week I say goodbye to a couple more friends. Twiga House is like one big family. We do everything together and there are so many people to get to know that you are never bored.

I have seen a lot of progress in my interaction with my class at Jitihada School. I now know the names of every student in my class, which makes teaching ten times easier. The children are relatively well-behaved and listen to me when I use my angry teacher voice. The age I am teaching is between ages 8 and 9, and they are keen to learn. On Thursday I gave my students an English test because they had finished learning about adjectives. After their test I was supposed to teach them Maths, but they all asked me to give them a Maths test. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. My class now has their own real teacher whose name is Abswai. He and I are working together to teach the class. I am teaching English and Maths, and he is teaching the rest. For the last two weeks of my placement we will be teaching art on a Thursday afternoon, which will be heaps of fun. We intend on using the children’s art to decorate the classroom. I cannot wait. I am really enjoying teaching here, but of course I don’t have to do all the preparation that you would normally have to do as a real teacher, so that makes it a lot easier.

Last Friday eleven of us took an eight hour bus ride to the coast of Tanzania. The bus ride was not as bad as I expected, and we took a “luxury” bus with air conditioning and a couple of screens that displayed music videos. We arrived in an area called Tanga, and took a 45 minute taxi drive to a resort called Peponi at a beach on the Indian Ocean. Peponi was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. We all stayed in five different tents, and I got the pleasure of staying in a luxury ‘Safari’ tent because the resort could not provide enough budget tents. So we got to stay in a fancy tent for the price of a budget one. Three of us shared a massive bed, and we got our own fan, which was well needed in the 33 degree heat. We spent two full days (Saturday and Sunday) in Peponi and we all stayed in our togs and walked barefoot all weekend. It was the dream.

I spent the weekend relaxing, sleeping, eating and swimming. There was a pool at the resort which was a cool temperature, good for the hot and humid weather we were dealing with. Most of us got burnt from the weekend, which was not surprising. The most surprising part of the trip was when we took a dip in the ocean to discover that it was like a hot pool. Swimming in the ocean was like taking a hot bath, it was incredible. The highlight of the weekend was on the last night when Andrew played a song for us on his ukulele. He wrote a song about Twiga House to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock. It was a brilliant song that truly describes the Twiga House experience and we all recorded it on our phones so as not to forget it. On Monday we sadly got on a bus and left for home in Arusha. We also had to say goodbye to Andrew and his Ukulele which was a sad moment. The bus ride home was sad and tiring but I got introduced to a podcast called “Gilmore Guys” where two guys analyse each Gilmore Girls episode (10/10 recommend). That had to be my best weekend so far!

I have another awesome and exciting week ahead of me! Tomorrow a group of us leave for Zanzibar for six days. I am so incredibly blessed to be able to live the dream in this beautiful country and I have had the time of my life. Less than one month remains of my volunteer stay and I know it will be so difficult to have to leave. I just have to make the most of it. I hope you are enjoying hearing about my adventures and I cannot wait to tell you about my next one!

Until next time,

Ailish

New Challenges

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Life is good. I’m in a dream destination, hanging out with a variety of interesting and cool people and I’m learning a lot about a new country. In saying this, life can be very difficult when you are sick. It has now been ten days since I got a cold, and I have still not recovered. I don’t like complaining, especially when I am fortunate enough to be travelling overseas, but it has taken a toll this week. I have not been at 100% and it has affected my energy, especially when working at the school. A lot of people have been sick in Twiga House recently. Some have colds, and some have had to go to the hospital because of high fevers. It has definitely brought our moods down, which is not nice considering how fun this place is and how happy I have felt being here. I’m recovering very slowly, so I have no clue when the cold will go away, but I’m hoping it will be sometime this week.

I made a hard decision this week. I had been struggling with the transition from my first school (Miale) to my new temporary school (Jitihada). Miale had closed down for a week, so I got the chance to teach at Jitihada and experience a different type of placement. I really struggled at Jitihada this week because I felt as though I had only just adjusted to Miale School, and then I had to move and start adjusting to another. The teachers at Jitihada threw me into a class on Monday with no instruction, and I had to ask them for a textbook because I had no idea what subject they wanted me to teach. I immediately fell in love with the kids, which is not hard in this country, and because I was teaching class 3 (ages 7-8, I think) I found it wasn’t too difficult to teach the subjects. For a couple of days I observed one of the other volunteers to get an idea of how I could teach certain subjects, and it helped me gain a lot of perspective. James has his own class and he has a deep connection with his students, which is inspiring to see and made me realise how much I wanted to have that. I spent a few days contemplating about whether I should stay at Jitihada for the remainder of my stay, or go back to my placement at Miale when the school reopened again. Miale was great in the respect that I got to see a variety of classes and teach different subjects to different ages, but on the other hand at Jitihada I would stay with class 3 and grow a deep connection with my own class. After seeing how much I enjoyed making a connection with the kids in that class and started to learn their names, I decided that I wanted to stay at Jitihada for the remainder of my stay. I know it was the right decision because the kids make me smile every day and I really enjoyed seeing them develop. Friday was the best day because we spent the afternoon on the field playing games, skipping and running, and the kids were so interested in playing with me. I had a great time.

This week was another interesting week because I got my hair braided! A couple of us had been talking about getting our hair braided for a while, and we figured why not do it now that we are living in Africa? When else can you get something as cool or as authentic as that? We had a lady come to Twiga House on Thursday and she braided mine and Kendall’s hair. Kendall got box braids, which took over four hours to do. The stylist started at 11am and was still braiding until 3:30pm. Kendall’s braids were painful and heavy but she looks great and she is happy she got them. My braids took a half an hour to forty minutes to do and I got 5 braids. They weren’t that painful and I am so glad I got them. They turned out looking much better on me than I thought. The stylist used fake hair to make it longer and thicker and I am happy with the result. I have converted to African life! It’s awesome and I’m hoping to get it redone before I leave the country. When else can I get it?

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This weekend has been really relaxed, which is definitely what I needed. A couple of volunteers left today, so we went out for dinner last night at George’s (we love that fancy place) to celebrate. Today was a little more eventful because six of us went to the Snake Park in Arusha, which is a small zoo full of different types of rescued snakes, crocodiles, birds and turtles. We got to hold a snake and a turtle, which was very cool but very freaky. It was a nice, short tour and the weather was a bit rainy but not as bad as we thought it would be. At the end of the Snake Park tour, a member of the Maasai Tribe showed us around a small museum-like stage of a Maasai Village and told us some of their traditions. Maasai Tribe is much too old school and scary for my tastes, and I don’t want to go into detail but we were all shocked by the things he was telling us.

All in all, it has been a challenging but satisfying week, and I wish I could tell you about more exciting adventures, but I think those await for the next few weeks.

Thank you for reading and I will talk to you soon.

Until next time,

Ailish

Rejoice and be Glad

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 

Pure joy. How many times can I say I have felt pure joy in my life? I think it happens on a rare occasion, but this week was one of those weeks where I could not stop smiling.

What is  a better way to kill Monday-itis than to celebrate your own birthday? Once I got home from placement, my birthday afternoon began with one of the housemates presenting me with a pink birthday hat to wear all evening. My Twiga House friends took me out for dinner to a restaurant called George’s. The restaurant was fancier than a lot of the places I go to at home, with friendly staff, a picturesque setting and outdoor tables and sunshades. The bathrooms were also very fancy, with mini handtowels you could dispose of once you were finished. A good majority of the group got pizzas and I had a burger and fries which were delicious. The meals were so satisfying that we could all only eat half of them, and took the rest home as leftovers. As the night was coming to a close, the staff danced toward our table singing a song in Swahili and holding a mini chocolate cheesecake with candles. When they came to the table they started singing Happy Birthday in English, and even sang my name correctly (apparently Kelly spent a good five minutes explaining how to say my name)! Who could have asked for a more special birthday?

 

The rest of the week was made even better with a change in schedule at my placement. Andrew and I had been discussing how we did not really have a structure to our days at Miale School, and they heard our concerns and decided to give us a timetable. I got given class 3 Mathematics (ages 7, 8 & 9), class 4 Vocational (the arts) studies (ages 9 to 10), class 6 English (ages 12 & 13) and class 7 PDS (physical education in ages 14 & 15). This allows me to see a variety of ages and get to know how to teach different subjects. The children are all so willing to learn and put their hands up, and whenever they see me struggling they smile at me and help me if they can. On Tuesday I was thrown into class 6 English with no preparation and I attempted to teach them the Present Tense from a textbook. I honestly struggled and realised how difficult it is to teach aspects of my native language that I never formally learned. On Wednesday I planned an entire lesson on the Past Tense before I marked their homework from the day before. When I marked their work, I noticed that the children were as confused as I was. I scrapped my idea of teaching the Past Tense and planned a refreshed lesson on the Present Tense. I walked into the classroom and asked my class, “Did you understand yesterday’s lesson?” I got an audible “No!” from the class, and resumed to teach them a lesson on the Present Tense. It was the most rewarding feeling to see a large group of young minds click over and understand a subject that I had explained.

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Andrew and I were given bad news on Wednesday night. Miale School had been closed down for the week on account of the government’s investigations. I do not exactly understand the reasoning behind the school closure, but the government has been going to different schools in the area and asking for money, which has caused a few establishments having to close down. This meant that on Thursday we had to go to someone else’s placement. I’m a bit disappointed to have to change after I had just started to get the flow of things, but it means that I get to see how another school works, which is really interesting. The new placement I am attending is an orphanage school with almost as many classes as Miale, and the children are fun and well behaved. Unfortunately I had just gotten a cold and could barely focus on anything because of my heavy head and blocked sinuses. I ended up having to take Friday off because of how sick I was.

Despite my cold, my second week has been amazing. Saturday was my favourite day. It did not take a lot to make me happy and I think that was the best part about it. I had a sleep in until 8:30am, relaxed for a couple hours and then set out to do my laundry. Washing machines do not exist in Tanzania and therefore everything is done by hand. I got two big tubs, washed in one and rinsed in the other. This calming process takes one hour and a half and is very satisfying to get a load of washing completed for the week. Once I was done, a group of us went to town to have lunch at a burger joint (with all-you-can-eat guacamole, might I add) and finished with gelato for dessert (I had a scoop of tiramisu and a scoop of chocolate chip). The rest of the afternoon was reserved for going to the markets. We went to the secondhand markets where I got to haggle for the first time (I was quite intimidated), stacked with clothes, shoes and accessories everywhere. The next markets we visited were the Maasai Markets, filled with beautiful handmade souvenirs of all sorts. Kelly took me to a seamstress who got me to choose a fabric, then measured me, took my name and will make me an African dress. I get to pick the dress up on Tuesday and I am so excited! The afternoon was spent walking past the stalls, having every store owner trying to convince us to see their products and learn how to haggle like a pro.By the time we came home, I was beaming from ear to ear. I don’t know why, but the day made me so happy. This place just makes me so passionate about life and excited about where I am.

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Today was a peaceful end to a great week. Most of us slept in, relaxed and read all morning. We took time out to rejuvenate and have time to ourselves. In the afternoon we travelled to a place called Shanga where we had afternoon tea (I had a banana smoothie and a chocolate chip cookie). It was a peaceful and beautiful cafe to relax and hang out. I could not think of a better way to chill out before a week of volunteering.

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I’m excited to see what the next week has in store for me, and I hope you’re enjoying hearing about my adventures too. I am so grateful that I get to be here, and this week has showed me what a great decision I made in coming here.

Thanks for reading, I’ll talk to you soon!

Until next time,

Ailish

 

 

 

 

 

Jambo, Tanzania!

One week done and dusted, and it’s now my birthday! I still can’t believe I am in Arusha, Tanzania and it may take a few more weeks to sink in.

It has only been one week, but I feel like I have already been here for much longer. It’s funny how time works when you’re having fun and in a different environment.

My week started off with my arrival to the Volunteer House on Sunday night. The house is called Twiga (Giraffe in Swahili) and is situated in an area called Sakina. When I arrived I was overwhelmed by the amount of volunteers who greeted me. I was exhausted and desperately needed a shower, but stayed for a while to chat to all the different and new people I just met. I had no idea what kind of living situation I was getting into, but I am over the moon that I get to stay in Twiga House. There are approximately 30 volunteers living in this place, with cooks and security guards who take care of our well being. The volunteers come from all around the world, and currently I am living with too many Americans to count, six Chileans and a few other different nationalities here and there. The ages range from about 18 to 30+, and it has been awesome getting to know everyone and their diversities.

I arrived on the night of the 29th of January and the beginning of my program started on the 1st of February. I therefore had a couple of days to get the hang of things.

I read all morning on Monday until a volunteer called Mark (from Scotland) came home from his placement and asked if I wanted to see town. He showed me how to take the local transportation (Dala-Dala) into the city centre, also known as Kilombero. A Dala-Dala is a mini van that locals use to commute on a daily basis. It should technically only hold about 10 people, but everyone squeezes in to allow maybe 20 or so passengers. There is no such thing as personal space and the vehicle can get really hot. The roads are dusty and bumpy here, and everything works to ‘African Time’- or in other words, slow and steady. In town, Mark helped me to buy a SIM card so that I could buy 20GB of internet for the equivalent of 32 NZD. I got to see the local markets and tried a Mexican restaurant which was delicious. I already started learning Swahili words and I’m gradually getting to know greetings and key words. By the end of my two months I hope that I have the basics of the language down.

On Tuesday Mark offered to show me his placement, so I happily went with him to see what volunteering was like. He volunteers as a teacher at a local school. On Tuesday morning we had heavy rain and on the way to placement I slipped and fell in the mud, which made for a great start to the day. At Mark’s placement I got to help a teacher named Naomi and learned how to mark children’s work. It was a great taste of what I would soon be doing.

Wednesday brought Orientation Day! 15 other new volunteers joined me to listen to all the information about what we will be doing on placement, cultural customs and potential trips we could go on while we are here. We all packed into a Dala-Dala to g0 t0 Kilombero to explore, exchange money and get SIM cards for those who didn’t already have one. I got to meet my new friends (who were mostly American) and we shared stories about why we came to Tanzania and what we hope to get out of the trip. Because most of the volunteers here are American or Chilean, I am also trying to learn a few spanish words every day, which is a lot of fun.

Thursday and Friday were the first two days of my placement as a primary school teacher in Miale School. Andrew from California is also a new volunteer who will be here for one month and he is the other person who will work at Miale School. We have to take a Dala-Dala for about 10 minutes and then walk uphill for another 40 minutes to find the school. Miale school teaches children aged 2 to 15 years old and each class represents a different age. Andrew and I will soon be given a timetable of the different classes we will get to teach, but on the first couple days we were placed in random classes to get a taste of the school. I was placed in the baby class, of ages 2-3. The kids are THE MOST ADORABLE THINGS EVER. They are all so beautiful and smiley and want to look at me, touch me and talk to me. They love giving high-fives and are all interested in my thin, straight hair, my arm hairs and my watch. Everything seems to amaze them. They make me so happy but it can be frustrating to teach such young children because we spend one lesson just learning how to write the letter 2 or say the word blue. It is testing my patience and I am enjoying it, but I hope to get older children next week so that I can be more mentally stimulated.

This weekend was my first trip away! A massive group of us, including almost all of the new volunteers and two older ones, went on a bus trip to an area called Moshi. We spent Saturday travelling on a bumpy road to the town where we ate at a local restaurant and go to see some touristy sights. Our tour guide, Michael, told us quite a bit of Tanzanian history and took us to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro where we got to learn about the different kind of routes you can take. The record for the shortest trip up and down Kilimanjaro is 5 and a half hours. Regular trips up and down the mountain can take 5 to 10 days. The next stop of our trip was to a coffee plantation where we got to see how coffee is made. We watched how the coffee bean is roasted, and we each tried one freshly roasted coffee bean. After that, it was time to grind the coffee! We used a stick and pounded into the coffee beans to the beat of a song that we all sang together for a while. We can’t get it out of our heads now.

We then got taken to a place where we had a steep 10 minute hike to the Materuni Waterfall. We spent a while there, appreciating the beautiful sights, taking photos and some people were brave enough to swim in the river (although I wasn’t). We then got taken to an underground cave where we got to see how one of the tribes used to live to hide from their enemies. It was very hard to walk in but cool to see how intricately they made their cave, even though we got frightened by bats. For the last part of our trip on Saturday, we got to try local beer and wine made from bananas. I could only take sip of each before gagging and not wanting to have any more. I was amazed to see the other volunteers drinking one or two bottles of the stuff, despite the fact that they didn’t like the taste.

Today (or Sunday) was our final day of the Moshi tour. We were taken to the Kikuletwa hot springs which was the most beautiful springs I have ever seen in my life. The water was clear blue and surrounded by greenery. There was a rope to swing on and jump into the water, and so local Tanzanian men were showing off their acrobatic skills. I took a swing and jump into the water and was pleasantly surprised by how nice the temperature was. They aren’t technically “hot” springs but they feel lukewarm or a nice cool temperature. We spent a few hours swimming and enjoying how beautiful the place was.

As I type this I am relaxing in my new home, Twiga House. It’s so relaxing and peaceful here. The people are so lovely and I am quickly making lots of friends. I cannot wait for the weeks to come, because I know this place can only get even better.

I hope to catch up with you soon and tell you more about everything! I’ll be posting some more photos on Facebook soon as well.

Until next time,

Ailish

Into the Unknown…

My trip begins with a 30 hour journey, travelling on four different planes, flying via three different cities, and finally arriving in Arusha, Tanzania on Sunday 29th January at 4:55pm.

If you didn’t know already, I will be living in Arusha over the next few months. The plan is to do volunteer teaching for eight weeks with a company called ‘IVHQ’. Once I’m finished with my volunteering, my family will meet me to go travelling together for two and a half weeks.

I plan on doing a bit of travelling during my volunteer program, and I guess that’s why I’ve decided to start a blog.

I hope to be inspired by the life in Tanzania, and maybe inspire you on your own journeys. This is probably the best way to keep record of my travels and in ten years time I can read this again and remember how much fun I had.

As I write this, I am an hour away from leaving for the airport. I think I am more nervous than I have ever been before travelling somewhere. What waits for me at the end of my journey is unknown, but I think that’s the best part of it all.

I can’t wait to see what this trip has in store for me. I’ll try to keep you updated on what I’m up to as often as possible, but that may be difficult. I guess that’s the fun of it all!

Hope to talk soon.

Until next time,

Ailish