Photography class at the Center

Saturdays at the Center are always busy — the younger school children who can’t come during the week are out in full force on Saturday mornings — but this week was another level of busy. It was downright crazy. Suzy and Stephen, photographers extraordinaire, showed up with boatload of cameras to donate to the center and to use to teach the boys and girls photography. Here’s Stephen teaching the kids how to take portraits:

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Nixon, next to Stephen and wearing the camera and backwards cap, is a film student here and was an enthusiastic student and apprentice. It was so fun to watch the kids pose for their portraits.

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Suzy was on the other side of the yard working with another batch of budding photographers.

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Much to our dismay, Shay and I were a popular target:

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So was Stephen:

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But, really, nobody was safe.

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After a few hours at the Center, the photographers packed up their cameras and headed to the football pitch for some action shots. How great do the kids look in their brand new donated uniforms? I worry, though, that those socks won’t stay white for long.

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The other exciting development at the Center is that the crazy talented Heather finished the new logo and had a rubber stamp made in town (hand carved!). Love it!

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Lots more happenings to share with you over the next few  days, but I’ll sign off with one last photo, because she’s just so darn cute.

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Overwhelmed by generosity

Tanzania

What a day we had at the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls center yesterday! Some truly amazing donors came though in a way we couldn’t have imagined even in our wildest dreams. Take a look at the haul that came in yesterday and took us more than two hours to inventory and log into our donation books:

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And we put all the boys and girls to work counting and labeling each and every item. Check out those brand new basketball shoes! And the hygiene kits my beautiful friend Kimberly made. My sister sent some of her boys’ basketball shorts and some art supplies. Heather and her friends back home showed up like Santa Claus with dozens of brand new soccer uniforms, soccer cleats, socks and more art supplies. Her sister Whitney Haynes (please do check out her beautiful work) sent some jewelry making supplies for the Hard Life boys to make magic with.

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donations

We were all in tears and and are so very grateful to our friends and family for helping these kids who so desperately appreciate this opportunity they’ve been given. There are more donations and programs to come this week. I’ll be sure to share that with you.

In other news, Heather, (do check out her work, too!) Shay and I attended the weekly leaders’ meeting and it was so fun to see the boys in action (currently just boys, but we hope to identify some girls who would be great leaders going forward)  and hear how things are going. Here we are:

leadersmeeting

Then Heather went to work to create a new logo for the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls club that will incorporate the Worlds Collide, 1Ndoto and Hard Life logos. I’ll show you the final product when we have it. It’s so exciting to see this all come together right in front of our eyes.

heatherlogo

We also conducted some one-on-one interviews with some of the boys and girls at the center. I’ll share those with you in the days ahead and I know you will all adore these kids just as much as Shay, Heather and I have come to.

As always, asante sana for your advice and support and good will. It’s so very appreciated.

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“Together we can dream that when worlds collide anything is possible.”

kili

It’s been such an amazing few days here in Tanzania that it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll do my best…

I arrived back in Moshi late Thursday night and was thrilled to see Shay and Mussa at the airport when I finally made it through immigration and baggage claim. Then it was off to Shay’s new home in Rau village, about 5 miles from where she was living last time I was here. Great house, but oh so different from Shantytown. But I’ll save that for another day.

Friday night more fun arrived on the nightly KLM flight into the Kilimanjaro airport. “The Heather 5” came barreling in from Canada and, despite almost 24 hours of continuous travel, most of them were ready to drop their bags and head over for some “shaky shaky” at Glacier.

The Heather 5 includes: Tom and Jim– businessmen and philanthropists who came to see the new center and also participate in Dr. Karen Yeates’ medical caravan (more on that later); Suzy, photographer extraordinaire and with a laugh that you seriously have to hear to believe; Stephen, physiotherapist, photographer, artist and kick-ass dancer; and Heather, our partner with the new boys and girls club, talented painter and a ball of energy, creativity and ideas that never seems to slow down. I don’t think I can explain how exciting it is to have this gang with us.

Saturday morning, all of us a little worse for wear, we headed to the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls Club for a surprise welcome ceremony.

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There was dancing, dancing and more dancing. And also some world-class jump roping by the spectacular boys and girls of the center.

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And I was thrilled to see some of our students from House of Learning who have started coming to the center. Here’s Vanessa and Caroline. So wonderful to see them. We hope to be able to find more of our old students and have them join us at the center as well.

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George, one of the leaders at the center, proudly toured us around his garden — which is coming along beautifully, don’t you think?

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Suzy got down to business documenting everything and Stephen taught proper weight lifting technique in the weight room.

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Such a great day. But since this is Africa you need to expect the unexpected. Which for us this day was a flat tire. And because this is Africa it involved 2 hours in the blazing hot sun waiting for our tire to get fixed. The blue car is ours. Ah, it’s good to be back.

flattire

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A new year and a new beginning…introducing the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls Club

Pole sana (sorry) for not updating this blog like I promised. I’m not very good at resolutions but I will try to be better at sharing news about 1Ndoto with all of you in 2014.

I can’t believe that I’ve waited this long to share our big news, but here it is: 1Ndoto has teamed up with two fabulous organizations doing some truly inspiring work in Tanzania and in collaboration with Pamoja Tunaweeza  and Worlds Collide, 1Ndoto recently opened the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls club!

Shay and I couldn’t be more excited to be partnered with these wonderful organization in establishing and running the center. I promise to update you lots in the coming weeks about what we have in store for the Boys and Girls Club but, in the meanwhile, here’s just a brief overview of what we’re doing:

With a mission of empowering vulnerable and at-risk youth to reach their full potentials as productive, self-sustaining and responsible members of the community, the Club seeks to: provide a safe and healthy environment for the kids to learn and grow; provide inspiring community role models; offer life enhancing programs and development experiences; and to offer hope and opportunity. We’ll accomplish this through several projects grouped into the following categories: education and career training; character and leadership programs; development ofvhealth and life skills, the arts; and sports and fitness.

Classes in art are already in full swing:

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A garden to provide food for the center and also to supplement its income has been started:

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Soccer and basketball fitness programs have begun:

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The kids even got to celebrate Christmas together:

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Shay’s been there since the Club’s inception and its grand opening in early December and I’m thrilled to be heading to Tanzania in 11 days to experience it for myself. Dr. Karen Young of Pamoja Tunaweza and Heather Haynes of Worlds Collide will be in Moshi at the same time and we’ll have some invaluable in-person collaboration time. I can’t wait to see what we come up with for the future of the Club!

Wanna know how you can help? Glad you asked 🙂 The Center has developed a wish list of things for projects already in place and for projects they’d like to introduce in the future. Take a look at some of our wishes and let us know if you’d like to help out with any of them.

The boys and girls have overwhelmingly voted to begin a cooking program at the center to both feed the children and provide extra income by selling what they make. For this we need some basic cooking items: baking sheets, baking pans, utensils, mixing bowls, etc. We also need to purchase an oven (about $400)

Any arts and crafts items.

Most of the kids served by the center can’t afford school fees and rely on the Center for learning skills that will allow them to support themselves. And most of those kids spend all day at the center instead of going home for lunch. We would like to start a lunch program so the kids can eat at least one healthy meal a day. We estimate this to be about $200 per month.

The kids would also like to start a tailoring program and need sewing machines and sewing supplies.

Fitness items are in great demand and we’d love to get some basketballs, soccer and basketball shoes, volleyballs and a volleyball net, boxing gloves, fitness clothes and jump ropes and anything else sports and fitness related.

Educational supplies like books and posters for the walls.

It’s a big ask, I know, but many of you have asked how you can help. Any support you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I plan to get started on another super fun fundraising event for the Spring and hope to be able to raise enough money then to fund many of these items and programs.

Much more information and many more photos to come! If you have any questions about the Center, our partnership with Pamoja Tunaweza and Worlds Collide or how you can help, please let me know.

Asante sana!

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So very glad to be back :)

My my my, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been here.  I’ve missed this blog — this place to talk about 1Ndoto and where I can share  stories of some wonderful children across the world with my friends and family at home and even with people I’ve never met. I’m back now and I’ll share a little about why I’ve been gone.  I’m taking a big turn here away from 1Ndoto and my friends and travels in Tanzania to talk about me for a bit. If that doesn’t sound interesting to you (and that’s  more than okay if it doesn’t), check back here next week and I’ll be back to business.

If you’re still with me, thank you. I’ve been on a journey these past couple of months and I figure it’s time to share. Mostly because talking about it helps me, but if it helps anyone else, that’s pretty great, too. So, ok, here goes: I was depressed. Not just sad or bummed (which is how I previously used that word), but clinically depressed. It took me a couple months to realize it — and for those couple of months, I wasn’t fun to be around.  Maybe some of you noticed, maybe you didn’t. I did a pretty good job of keeping up appearances. But, I finally decided I needed to do something and I went to see a therapist. That therapist almost immediately said to me, “it sounds like you’re depressed.” What?! If she picked up on that in five minutes then things must be really bad. Thankfully, it wasn’t really bad, or terrible or incurable. And  now I’m back. And I feel great. And I’m grateful to be back.

My trip back to being me has been filled with lots of things: therapy, time with family and friends,  yoga, reading, medication, an Ayurvedic cleanse, mindfulness, and letting go. And I feel gratitude for all of those things. Without any one of them, I might still be struggling. My friends and family provided me with an endless amount of support, encouragement and, most of all, patience. Therapy has helped me learn more about myself and how I got to where I am now. I like to think that the medication has helped me to rewire the circuits that got crossed in my brain. What’s been most surprising to me during these past few months has been yoga.

I’ve dabbled in yoga many times over the past several years and, although I enjoyed it, I never stuck with it. I couldn’t quiet the chatter in my left brain which made it immensely difficult for me to listen to my right brain telling me to relax and enjoy the present (can you tell that I’ve also been reading up on the brain?). The depression gave me an opportunity to come at yoga from a different perspective and things finally clicked. The mind/body element that I would previously ignore became so much more meaningful to me. Walking out of the studio after 75 minutes, I found myself feeling relaxed, rested, present and light. As I drove home, I realized if someone cut me off on the freeway that it didn’t upset me. If I got home and my kids were fighting, I didn’t respond by screaming back at them. I didn’t pick fights. I let things roll on over me without getting angry. I’m much calmer now — and thankfully, much easier to live with 🙂

There’s much more that yoga has brought to me, but for now I’ll bring it back around to 1Ndoto. Yoga teaches us to do good and to be good and make the world a better place.  Shay and I have been through so many ups and downs and highs and lows with 1Ndoto. It’s never been easy — and I’m not sure it ever will. But we’re doing good in the best way we know how. And that feels wonderful. And we’re going to keep doing it. We’ll probably make some mistakes and stumble a few more times, but we’re going to keep at it.

Thanks for bearing with me as I get personal. I’ll be back in the next few days to talk about what we’ve been doing in Tanzania over the past several months and what we have planned for the new year. I hope you’ll be as excited as we are about the future of 1Ndoto.

Namaste and Asante

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Wangu Marafiki!

Haven’t been blogging much lately, pole sana. So to get back into the swing of things, I’m going to take a quick and dirty (and rainy!) trip back to Sunday, May 5th.

May 5th was a special day because I got to see some of my most favorite people. Bertha, Caroline and Venosa were Form 2 students of mine at House of Learning during my first visit to Tanzania in 2011. I got quite attached to the girls and their classmates during that trip and have proudly followed their progress as they passed their national exams and progressed to Form 4.

As I’ve shared here before, the Masalas stopped communicating with us late last year and information about HOL dried up.  A few months ago Shay and I were heartbroken to learn that they had recently closed down both House of Learning and Valley View. Some students were placed in a new school but many more have been forced to put their studies on hold. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you can understand just how devastating this news was to Shay and me.

Then in late February, I got an email from Shay with a photo of a few of the Form 2 girls from HOL. The girls had heard that Shay was in Moshi and working with the Hard Life Art Club (who taught art classes at HOL before it shut down) and showed up one day at an event where Shay was working. We were thrilled to hear from them! Shay has continued to meet with them on a regular basis and provides valuable emotional support. Only one has been able to continue her studies while the others are trying to find a way to get back into school.

Anyway, this morning we had arranged to meet Caroline, Venosa, Bertha and Bertha’s cousin Irene for lunch at Uhuru Park for lunch. Here they are!

uhurupark

 

We’d like nothing more than to get these girls back into school and are currently trying to find out how we can help them get into a school that will help them get back up to speed and prepared for their Form 4 exams. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Later on that day we picked up Baraka for a study session at Union Coffee. Shay met Baraka through our roommate Monica and he has become a dear friend to both of them.  Here are Shay and Baraka working on some chemistry.

shayandbaraka

 

Baraka is a very smart, friendly and outgoing boy who lost both  his parents when he was six. He grew up in a local center for street children and lived there until he was old enough to move out on his own. He now rents a room in a boarding house while attending school. He takes his studies very seriously and has enlisted Shay for a little extra help each week with his Form 3 subjects.

That’s it for today. Hopefully this little blog trip back to Tanzania will encourage me to keep up with the retelling of my recent visit.

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A watoto Saturday

Here we go back to Saturday, May 4th…

Shay and I start our morning with some kahawa and chapati at Chrisburger then head out to Rau to hang out with the Hard Life Art Club. Love these kids:

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HLAC2

 

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We were hoping to see the paper mache project in action but the rainy weather makes it difficult. The materials need time to dry and, well, they call it the wet season here for a reason. Some of the older kids were working on the wire frames for the project, though.

HLAC11

 

They’re making a bird and an elephant. I’m sure Morgan will share some pics with me when they’re completed. And, of course, I’ll share them here.

Some of the kids were playing some sort of board game that involved coins. Not sure what it was, but they were having a blast.

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Some were drawing and some were just having fun hamming it up for my camers

 

 

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I brought the Hard Life boys some paints, brushes and soccer balls that they needed. I’ve promised to bring a suitcase full of soccer cleats next time. Here’s Morgan with a few of the kids on the Hard Life soccer team.

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From Rau we headed out to pick up some very special friends of ours for a sleepover. Here’s Anet, Jennifer, Catherine and Eric.

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We had lots of girly activities planned so thankfully, Eric got some boy time in with Korbi.

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Sadly, the kids hadn’t eaten in a few days so we sat them down for dinner. Nine year old Catherine, the oldest of the four, made sure that the little ones were all settled before she sat down to eat. She even helped us clear the table and clean up afterwards. Love her, If only I could pack her up in my suitcase…

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We had so much fun with them!

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After a busy night of singing, dancing, coloring, eating, beading and running around like crazy people, we piled all four of them into bed where they cuddled up together and fell fast asleep. We were all up early for breakfast, baths and clean clothes then it was back to school for Catherine and Anet and back home for the little ones.

Here’s Anet and Catherine all cleaned up and ready to head back to school. There was a bit of a dispute over the new jewelry which is why Anet is pouting. But aren’t they gorgeous?

sleepover5

 

Broke our hearts to have to take the little ones home. Not a happy or safe place. Shay makes sure to check on them from time to time and does what she can to make sure they are doing okay. The 3 oldest children are all all being sponsored at a local boarding school and we pray that the younger ones can get an education in the future.

Thanks again for following our adventures!

 

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The great Moshi goat chase

Friday, May 3rd: the day the computers died…

Shay and I have our usual morning Africafe on the porch and soon learn that both our computers are no longer working. Mine due to a sudden and heavy downpour that shorted out my keyboard, and Shay’s due to an ominous kernel error — both dire situations in the land without Genius Bars. This electronics crisis is, again, why I’m recreating my trip here a week after my return home (and after a successful visit to the Genius Bar).

Today is one of those days that just doesn’t happen anywhere else but Africa; fun, interesting, beautiful, exceedingly frustrating, a little bit frightening and always an adventure. I call this day our Wild Goat Chase.

Shay now has two roommates at the house who help her with expenses and, more importantly, also keep her company. Korbi, a German medical student, volunteering at Moshi’s KCMC hospital, and Barbara, a primary school teacher who is volunteering her time here at a local secondary school, decided to host a party for some of their local colleagues at KCMC and the school. No Tanzanian celebration is ever complete without the grilling of a goat. Since Shay and I had two crucial things working in our favor –a car and a free morning– shopping for the party supplies fell to us. First up, the market for produce, spices and charcoal:

buyingproduce

spices

charcoal

While at the market our chef, Severin, made some inquires about getting a goat. Since market day for live animals was on another day, Severin started making a flurry of phone calls to track down a suitable goat. As is so often the case, Shay and I had no idea what was going on and for reasons that were unclear to us, we ended up in our car with Severin and Mussa heading way out of Moshi. We were heading to a village about 30 minutes outside of Moshi that was having a live animal market day. We arrived in this village only to learn that market day is on Thursday, not Friday. Back in the car.

Still clueless, we ended up in a beautiful village a little ways up the road. But the man who we were hoping to purchase our goat from no longer lived here. With Shay and me still fuzzy on the details and our car stopped in the middle of nowhere, Severin headed out on foot to find a goat.

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Severin eventually found someone in this village who could sell us a goat. But first, more waiting…

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And, here comes our goat!

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After much deliberation, it’s decided that this goat is too small.

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We’re then asked to follow our new friends back to their nearby farm to choose another goat. Off into the cornfields we go:

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And, after a very bumpy 10 minute ride, we find the goats!

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The bargaining begins…

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…and we get our goat. Into the boot he goes 😦

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But, wow, look at this place!

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All the driving and confusion and waiting are almost worth it.

Back home, it falls to our day guard, Focus to retrieve the goat and tie it up in the yard until the party prep begins.

focusandthegoat

I’m guessing that Focus doesn’t have a ton of goat experience because it quickly escaped and chaos ensued. While our guard dog, Ranger, went nuts and we all ran around the muddy yard like crazy people, Korbi decided to document the fun on his iPad.

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In the end, Focus caught the goat, Ranger calmed down and Shay and I headed to Mama Clementina to cook bundt cake with the Form 4s. Here’s Shay and me with the girls:

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We were treated to some beautiful dancing and singing while we waited for the cake to come out of the oven (I’ll share those videos another time). And, as it was the first time, the cake was delicious.

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Then it was back home for the celebration!

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Severin is an awesome cook and actually made me like goat. Come on, it looks pretty good, doesn’t it? It’s always an adventure around here.

 

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Back at home and back online

Just got home from the Apple Genius Bar and couldn’t be happier to have my laptop back! Hip Hip Hooray!! As promised, I’m going to pick up where I left off…

Thursday, May 2nd: Today is Jack’s birthday back at home. 13…wow! How did that happen? The kids at Kilimahewa and my friend Mussa helped me make some happy birthday videos to send home. Mama Salma, who helps Shay around the house, also made a video. There’s some stiff competition, but Mama Salma just might be my most favorite person in Moshi. First off, she’s beautiful and always has the most wonderful smile on her face. And if she’s not smiling, she’s giggling or talking to us in rapid-fire Swahili — knowing, of course, that we don’t understand the majority of what she’s saying. Here she is:

ImageAfter our morning Africafe on the porch we headed into town to meet two of the Hard Life Art Club boys, Morgan and David. I plan to write a separate post about the HLAC because they really are a special group of young men and I want you all to know about the inspiring work they’re doing here. Anyway, we met Morgan and David at Uhuru Park, which is in the middle of bustling downtown Moshi and features food booths from the local mamas and is a quiet refuge from the chaos just outside the gate. Like every day of this trip, it’s raining.

ImageAfter some delicious chapati, and a slight break in the rain, we walked to the market so Morgan and David could pick up some supplies for a project that Shay has graciously offered to fund. It’s a paper mache project and we picked up some wire for the forms and a big bucket for soaking the materials . Here are the boys with their newly purchased supplies:Image

After our shopping trip, we dropped the boys off in Rau and headed to Kilmahewa for another computer class. It was a smaller group than earlier in the week and we had to make do without Elizabeth and Veronica, who both got their Form 5 placements and had to head back to school. Teresia was there, however, and did a fantastic job on her own. My favorite part of the class was when one student realized that she missed writing down a key point and had to ask her neighbor to share her notes…which were on her hand.

ImageOh yeah, and a scorpion walked into the class. One of the students quite calmly stomped on it with her shoe and that was that.

After class the weather was starting to clear up and we thought we’d try to catch the sunset. We headed out to our friend, Cuthbert’s hotel, Weru Weru. Didn’t make it on time and had to catch the sunset from the car window.

ImageIt was still beautiful, though. And Weru Weru was still a lovely place to wind down after our day. As Shay, Mussa and I enjoyed our drinks, a few camels stopped to snack on the tree next to us. Yep, this place always keeps me on my toes.

ImageOops, forgot to mention my other only-in-Africa moment of the day. As we approached the keep lefti (that’s how they refer to the traffic roundabout here) on our way out to Weru Weru there was the very typical wedding taking place there. It’s amazing how many weddings take place in the middle of the traffic circle. And nobody thinks it’s in any way odd. So maybe it really isn’t. But here are some photos anyway, because it’s still quite odd to me:

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ImageI suppose that’s it for today. Recreating my days and looking at my photos is really making me miss Tanzania and my Tanzanian friends dearly. But it’s also great to be home here with the family who, for the most part, seem to be happy to have me back, too.

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Saturday morning with the Hard Life Art Club

Spent my last day in Tanzania in Rau Village withe the Hard Life Art Club. Founded by Morgan, David, Joseph and Rogers, who all met while living together at a transitional home for street children, the Art Club is truly a special place. The boys teach painting and other visual arts to the children of the village free of charge. They also sponsor a few football teams and Hard Life Art Club has become a sort of local community center for the children in this struggling village. I have lots more info about the Hard Life boys and a ton of photos. Again, it has to be next week when I have a working computer. My aging eyes can’t take much more of the small iPad and iPhone keypads. Here’s a photo of our visit with the Hard Life kids.

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And now the packing begins. We head to the airport in a few hours. Then I begin my very long journey home. As always, my trip has been full of unique experiences, inspiring stories, great friends and the ubiquitous and unexpected That’s Africa, Baby moments. Until next time…

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