One month Africa anniversary

As of tonight, we will have been in Tanzania for one month! Somehow the time has flown by (except when we were waiting in line at the bank) and we can hardly believe we only have a bit over a month and a half left. We’ve decided to do a little reflection on the past month here and look forward to what the remainder of our time will bring us!


Favorite moments:

  • Hiking part of Kilimanjaro.
  • Being able to make a small difference.
  • Meeting people from all over the world and hearing their stories.
  • Playing soccer and catch with the children during recess.
  • Teaching mathematics.
  • Negotiating furniture prices.
  • Running, ignoring all the stares and chanting my “Jambo”s.
  • Exploring a whole new culture, unlike anything I have seen before.
  • Eating a dome-shaped Kilimanjaro pizza on my birthday.

Biggest challenges:

  • Coping with the heat and keeping my sugar levels up.
  • Being too tall for local public transport.
  • Most of all (even though I was warned): dealing with the slow pace mentality and the short-term thinking.
  • Setting aside my own career goals to focus on helping others.

What I’ve learned:

  • Teaching mathematics is more fun than I thought.
  • It is important to find a balance between helping others and focusing on myself.
  • Always carry snacks; you never know how long it will be until your next meal.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • Finishing the library and having children over for tutoring and extracurriculars.
  • If financially possible: a safari!
  • Valentine’s day.
  • More running.

Goals for the next month:

  • Create a hotel information booklet.
  • Track progress of building our library furniture.
  • Finish all the drawing and painting.
  • Finish the Kilimanjaro half-marathon.
  • Continue my research on financial education and interviewing teachers and trainers.


Favorite moments:

  • Our last long run–nearly 11 miles on a dirt road under the shade of banana trees, alongside bubbling streams, fields of sunflowers and Kilimanjaro.
  • Reading with the kids at recess.
  • Sitting in a restaurant on Joost’s birthday in the pitch black when the power went out (sometimes you just have to laugh).
  • Going out to dinner with two of the students.
  • Being invited to one of the students’ homes after running with him.
  • Sitting on the edge of a roof, feet dangling over the edge at a house party. Beer in hand, yard lit by candles and lanterns (for when the power inevitably went out),  brilliant night sky above, singing along as someone played ‘Wonderwall’ on guitar with volunteers and expats from around the world.

Biggest challenges:

  • Patience.
  • Not eating my weight in carbs (a difficult task here, where diet staples include white rice, potatoes, white bread and butter).

What I’ve learned:

  • Always make a contribution when you see a toilet–they aren’t always easy to come by.
  • Kids are so much funnier and wittier than adults give them credit for.
  • SPF 70 isn’t strong enough for the Tanzanian sun.
  • Teamwork: Joost and I operate verrrry differently, so designing and decorating a library together has been quite the experience!
  • It is possible for dust and dirt to permanently embed itself under your skin.
  • Pinterest is AMAZING!–who would have guessed it’d take a trip to Africa for me to finally hop on the Pinterest wagon?! Sweet mother, there are a lot of creative people out there. We’ve found a lot of great ideas for the library… and I’ve also finished planning and designing meals for the next seven years, enough bedrooms for a family of 20 and travel plans to last a century.
  • Foreign aid and development is a tricky thing.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • Getting the library furniture! I can’t wait to have a place for the kids that is truly their own–a place where they can relax, read, study and do arts & crafts. They currently have classrooms filled with desks and the great outdoors, but no place to come and be quiet if they don’t feel like roughhousing during recess.
  • The Kilimanjaro half marathon.
  • Meeting more people from around the world.

Goals for the next month: 

  • Draw and paint the Taj Mahal. No, really.
  • Practice patience.
  • Stop drinking soda (I never drink soda at home, but for some reason I find myself reaching for Fanta on a near-daily basis here!)
  • Finish the hotel information book for guests.
  • Develop relationships.
  • Finish the Kili 1/2 in under three hours–far slower than we would run a half usually, but we’re 3000+ feet above sea level and there’s an elevation gain during the first half of the race of nearly 900 feet! As I was writing that, I changed my mind: Finish the Kili 1/2 alive.

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