We have been here for just over a week now. Each day, we fall more in love with the kids. We read storybooks, play soccer, run, work on math and English, play games with flashcards, high five until our hands sting and enjoy the sunshine. We are still trying to remember everyone’s name (not an easy task when they’re all in uniform and required to have short hair!) and unique personalities emerge during every class period. The P1 and P2s (first and second grade) have been the most challenging, as their English is still quite rudimentary, but man–those little smiles can melt your heart in an instant.
Most of our time has been spent in math class with Mr. Adam, a long-term volunteer/teacher here. He is originally from the Chicago area, but has been living/working in Minnesota! How strange to come across the world and discuss the bike paths of the Twin Cities over a Tusker beer. We work through addition and multiplication with the kiddos and help with corrections/grading.
Now for a less-fun story: on Friday morning, I was working on flashcards with some of the students during recess. Adam came into the classroom looking stressed, and quickly shooed all of the students back outside. Five officials from immigration had showed up looking for Adam, Joost and myself. They had heard that we were on campus and wanted to verify our visa information. Our ability to volunteer and be around the children was questioned. The Tanzanian government is not particularly clear on what each visa allows–and more importantly, they are not particularly into accurately enforcing the visa rules.
There are two common misconceptions of white people, particularly American mzungus, here in Africa: 1. Everyone is personal friends with Barack Obama. While in town yesterday, a man asked me to say hello to our president for him. 2. We all have loads of cash to spare. What this visa issue boils down to is the officials wanting more money. We will most likely have to pay about $250 each to get new visas–far better than the $900 fine (each) that they were interested in giving us on Friday! Luckily, we had Terry, a smooth-talking, friendly and reassuring mzungu from Chicago to talk us out of the fine that day. There is a meeting tomorrow (Monday) with a representative from the foundation and someone who will hopefully be able to tell us what’s going on and what our next steps will be. Unfortunately, until everything is sorted out, we cannot be at school or around the kids.
It is frustrating knowing that things move verrrrrrrrrrrry slowly here in Tanzania, so it could be a bit before we are able to be back on campus. Above all, we feel both disappointed and guilty that we are not with the kids. We hope to have a consistent and loving presence in their lives for the next 2+ months, and we are saddened that we cannot tell them when we will see them again. In their eyes, five large men showed up on campus, took our passports and then we left school without saying goodbye.
So, please pray for a (quick) resolution and the ability to move forward!
In the meantime, we will be working on a few other projects for the foundation. I’ll be doing some branding strategy for the school/foundation/hotel and Joost will be working on some financial excel math thinger. You know. Something with numbers and stuff. We’ll also continue
dying shuffling running and training for the half marathon! We’ve heard rumor that there are occasional monkey sightings on the roads we run. I think that I just haven’t noticed them yet because I’m too focused on not passing out…
No matter what is happening with the visas at the moment, we have ended every single day dehydrated, dusty, sweaty, sunburned, covered in mosquito bites and so, so very happy.