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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