Hello friends & family! In addition to Katie’s record of our sunny Zanzibar adventure, I would like to share our impressions of the grand library opening with you.
After a modest delay, for African standards, of just over a week, our furniture was finally finished. Finished, though, in a sense that when you arrive at the fundi (Tanzanian handyman/furniture maker), all the separate parts are still scattered across the workshop, and the promised 30 minutes to have it all be put together soon turns into a 3 hour wait session. Hakuna matata, karibu Tanzania. The excitement to complete our most fun project took over anyway, and we made ourselves comfortable watching the fundis babbling in Swahili with the occasional English curse when something would not fit.
We loaded up a little pickup truck to deliver the first batch of chairs and tables to the school, biting our teeth over the delicate paint finish getting a beating. Some of the pillows on the chairs did not exactly fit right, so when the night arrived we postponed transferring the rest of the furniture until next morning. After an exact repeat of the waiting situation described above, we loaded up our car and the pickup truck again, and headed back to the school. Seeing the whole thing come together was very exciting for the both of us, but a lot of work remained to be done…
Namely, the little donation piles scattered around the room and the giant pile of unsorted books all needed to be put in place. Our cabinet design turned out to be great for sorting, so we labelled each drawer and got to work. Two days of organizing, carrying, sweating and laughing (over the many random things that got donated over time) resulted in an empty floor, and things were starting to look a lot better. It was interesting to come across many of the books that we read in our own childhoods, for me only to be recognized when I saw a specific page or sentence. Never thought I would run across my earliest childhood memory in Tanzania. Katie, in turn, was just as excited (“ohmygosh look at this one!”), having been quite the book junkie in her youth.
Yet when we came close to putting the last books away, suddenly “boss ready Teddy” (as we like to call our awesome manager) brought in 4 (4!) more suitcases of donations! Even though we appreciate the fact that this school has received a lot of love over the years of its existence, we were dismayed. After some power-book sorting and turbo-pencil sharpening, we got it all in, and turned to arranging the furniture. We created a little reading corner with the couches, and set up the tables for arts, crafts and tutoring.
The day that we left for Zanzibar, we planned the opening of the library in the morning. One by one, we invited the classes to the library, talking about the rules and reading some books together. To make it more fun, and to reward them for listening well, we put to use many of the necklaces, slap bracelets, visors, wristbands and sunglasses as a gift for the children. It was great to see all the smiles, and I personally would have never imaged reading “The Rainbow Fish” and “The Lorax” to thirty 8-10 year olds. For 3th grade we had a special event in mind, which involved some silly outfits and funny dance moves that have been sweeping Youtube recently. Probably not very hard to guess 🙂 If it turns out ok, you will find a video of it on this blog soon!
Lastly, to provide some perspective, one of the first library-experiences that we had (while it was still under construction) will stay with me for a long time. Siggie, one of the brighter 4th grade students and a class-leader, came in one day to put away the soccer ball. He spotted the world-map puzzle that I had just put out on the table. I asked him if he wanted to try it, mixed up all the pieces for him, and stepped back to see what would happen. Although it did not take him long to figure it out, initially he was unable to put together two pieces. He tried to slide the two pieces towards each other, not lifting either of them. Furthermore, it took him a while to learn that the pieces with two straight edges go in a corner. He and some of his friends got the puzzle together soon after, but that brief moment of confusion showed that he simply had never seen a puzzle before, or dealt with the concept of fitting two objects together as a game. Young children, even babies, in developed countries are introduced to these things much earlier. Siggie, being in this school, is lucky to have many opportunities, being it a puzzle or good English education, that his age-fellows do not have. We realize that schools plays such an important role in developing a basic intelligence, which could be the difference between a bright future or living in poverty.