A Look Back

It’s hard to believe, but as of today, we only have one week left in England. The past six months have gone by so quickly. Oh, who am I kidding? The past year has gone by so quickly!

It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in front of a computer screen in Australia and Joost was sitting in front of a computer screen in the Netherlands and we were discussing the possibility of traveling and being on the move for a year. At the time, we laughed, thinking that surely, surely it was impossible. Visas and finances and jobs and timing–it was too much. But somehow, everything came together, and in the past 12 months, we’ve lived in New York, Minnesota, Tanzania and England. We’ve taken trips to Missouri, an impromptu vacation to Memphis (thanks Sandy), Holland, Zanzibar and Scotland. We got engaged. We traveled; we ate; we loved; we ran; we challenged; we saw; we met; we learned; we adventured. It has been one of the most interesting, wonderful years of both of our lives.

It’s hard to write a recap of the past year. So much has happened–I could fill books with our experiences (oh hey, maybe I should get on that). So, we decided to go list form for this post. Joost’s up first.

JOOST

6 Words to describe the year: 

Unconditionally. Gezellig. Adventurous. Mouthwatering. Heartwarming.

5 Favorite memories: 

The overwhelming experience of Times Square on a Saturday night. Hiking the upstate New York mountains during fall and taking a nap at the summit. Giving and receiving happiness while opening the school library in Tanzania. Proposing to Katie in Christchurch Meadows, Oxford, and promising to spend the rest of my life with her. Eating Katie’s delicious meals!

4 Greatest struggles:

Being away from friends and family. Adapting to the pace of life in Tanzania, and saying goodbye to the kids. Tying all the financial ends together–spare change jars for the win. Trying to avoid a perpetual hunchback at my work desk.

3 Greatest achievements:

Working towards my career in mathematics. Running the Kilimanjaro half marathon. Creating a happy home and life in general for me and Katie in the UK.

2 Favorite places: 

Comfy chair on our balcony in Tanzania, overlooking Kilimanjaro.

Our kitchen in England, where Katie’s cooking magic happens.

1 Thing you’ve learned:

In marrying Katie, I’m a lucky man.

KATIE

6 Words to describe the year:

Blessing. Seek. Love. Change. Awe. Gratitude.

5 Favorite memories:

I can’t believe that I included this, because it’s so hard! I’m cheating a little completely and including multiple favorite memories from some of the places we were.

New York: Times Square. Discovering the Highline. Roommate dinner nights. Hiking in upstate New York during fall (gorgeous). Lion King on Broadway. Wafels & dinges food truck. Passenger concert. Apple picking.

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Tanzania: Opening the library. Singing Rihanna songs with the girls. Seeing our kids kick butt at the running races. Coloring for hours. Laughing as the kids patted their full, distended bellies after pilau day. The Kilimanjaro half marathon. Long runs on dirt roads alongside fields of sunflowers, small villages and baboons. Date nights in town. Avocados the size of my head. Cooking for the staff. Giving kids books. Trips to the markets with Teddy and Inno. Running with Jordan. Hanging out with Adam and Terry and the Stella Maris staff. Going to a party with a bunch of other expats and volunteers in the area, sitting on the roof under a brilliantly starry sky with a beer in hand while someone played guitar and being overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude.

 

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Zanzibar: SCUBA diving. Eating fresh seafood on the beach. Sunsets.

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Europe: Edinburgh half marathon. Long runs along the Thames. Ben’s Cookies. Visits from friends and family. Joost proposing. 20 miler in Lake District. Roadtripping in Ronald’s adorable classic mini cooper. Joost surprising me with a bike. Date nights. Cooking for Joost.

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4 Greatest struggles: 

Visas. It seems like we are in a constant state of waiting for visa approvals to be processed!

Navigating cultural differences in response to our engagement.

Finances. I will be pleased when we are both allowed to work in the same country! One intern salary is pretty tough for two people to live off of in England.

Isolation. Being on the move can be lonely; it can also make it hard to relate to friends from home and vice versa. We have also been living in a very small, very isolated, very weird, not particularly friendly town here in England, which made it difficult to make friends. I am an extrovert, so all this alone time has been a challenge!

3 Greatest achievements:

Running races around the world and sticking with training for the Amsterdam marathon.

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Designing, painting and opening the library in Tanzania. Those of you who have been reading our blog for a while may remember the glacial pace at which things moved in Moshi, so finishing it felt amazing.

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Learning how to cook and teaching myself (and Joost) about food. People who have known me for years are pretty shocked to know that I can actually do more than just boil water in a kitchen now! I’ve filleted entire trout on our kitchen counter, baked bagels from scratch and acquired a hefty stash of herbs and spices. I have to be honest–I’m pretty chuffed with myself! I never thought I’d see the day that I had both the skills and ingredients on hand to whip up freshly baked honey lavender bread (topped with goat cheese, lemon curd and a sprig of fresh rosemary) or make turkey sloppy joes from scratch, loaded with veggies and spices. We made a conscious effort to eat as much fresh, local, in season food as possible, which was difficult on our budget, but attainable thanks to how many free hours I had to price compare between different grocery stores and find coupons. Grocery shopping involved careful counting, hours devoted to wandering the aisles finding the cheapest, healthiest ingredients and constantly having to google, “what do British people call _________” Almost everything we ate here was made from scratch by yours truly, including pasta sauces, salad dressings and dips. We avoided salt and preservatives as much as possible. I think we can both agree that this is the healthiest and best we’ve ever eaten!

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2 favorite places: 

Bottom of the Indian Ocean while we were SCUBA diving in Zanzibar.

Anywhere I’m with Joost. It sounds cheesy, but after 22 months of being in a long distance relationship, and knowing that we’re gearing up to go back to an LDR while we wait for Joost’s USA visa paperwork to be processed, waking up to his 3D, HD face is incredible.

1 Thing you’ve learned:

We are so blessed to have the privilege of having a place in this beautiful world, filled with beautiful, quirky, imaginative, inspiring people.

Goodbye Africa

We are so sad to say goodbye to Africa and the amazing experience we’ve had here. We realize how unbelievably lucky (and perhaps a little strange) we are to have spent the past three months here. Not every couple can say that they’ve volunteered in a third world country and spent about 23 hours a day every.single.day. together and somehow grown fonder of each other’s company. This experience has definitely brought us closer and taught us a lot about ourselves as individuals, us as a couple, the complicated world of foreign aid and development and the importance of viewing ourselves as global citizens.

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Almost two and a half years ago, Joost and I started dating. I remember sitting on my bed in my dorm room and showing him pictures of my last trip to Tanzania. I told him that I wanted to go back. He responded, ‘I don’t ever want to go to Africa. It is too far from my bed.’

And now, here we are. (mwuahaha…)

Here, we have found joy in living more simply, patience in the midst of challenges and the delight and peace evoked by a child’s smile.

Of course, there are some things we won’t miss: the constant stench of burning garbage, washing our clothes in a bucket, slathering on DEET on date night instead of perfume, the corruption, the need to boil all of our drinking water/water to brush our teeth.

But for everything we won’t miss, there are about five things that we will miss in its place.

We will miss having fresh mango every morning and avocados the size of my face.

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We will miss our long runs. Somehow, I have a hard time imagining a more picturesque running route: dirt roads alongside Mount Kilimanjaro, shaded by banana trees, with monkeys and baboons running across the road and playing in the trees, brightly colored butterflies floating alongside us, stopping for water breaks when herds of goats, shepherded by young boys, overtake the road, giggling children running behind us like the pied pipers of Moshi.

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I will miss Joost’s beard, which he claims will never make another appearance (remember that one time he claimed that he would never go to Africa?…).

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We will miss the other volunteers. From the minute we walked off of the airplane, Adam and Terry have helped us adjust to life in Africa. They encouraged our projects and helped us find ways to contribute to the school. They showed us around town and taught us how to catch a dala-dala, the local public transportation (although we quickly learned that Joost is just too tall to fold into a van already crammed with 20 people). They took us clubbing, to parties, to poker games with other volunteers and ex-pats from the area. They’ve shared our frustrations and our triumphs. They gifted me with the most romantic birthday card I have ever received. They have quickly become friends and we hope that we will overlap with them in America someday soon when (or if) we are all back in the country! (Sorry for the creepy alien iPhone pic)

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We will miss the staff. We have an unbelievable hotel staff that quickly became family. Everyone, from the maids to the cooks and waitresses to the gardener, has brightened our stay. We will especially miss Teddy and Innocent. We got to spend a lot of time with them in town, searching for library furniture and buying supplies for the hotel. They are always quick to smile and offer reassuring words. They offered invaluable assistance in translating, haggling prices and showing us around. We have shared beers with Ino and I got to experience a girly shopping trip with Teddy—not quite the same as shopping in the US! They are patient and wonderful and we cannot imagine what it is going to be like to wake up without their happy faces to greet us first thing in the morning.

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And most of all, we will miss the students. Our kids are clever, hard working and eager. Even on our worst days here, a quick trip over to the school lifts our spirits. Is there anything more delightful than being greeted with a massive hug around both your legs by a smiling child? We will miss hearing them sing in the mornings. We will miss reading storybooks. We will miss coloring pictures. We will maybe miss attempting to teach long division. We will miss Catherine’s sass and spirit, Arafati’s ceaseless good manners, Mack’s infectious smile, Diana’s love letters (to me—sorry Joost!), Ibrihi’s knowledge of soccer and purple glittery butterfly backpack (not something you’d typically see on the back of a ten year old boy back in America), Siggy’s intelligence, Stephen’s bottomless pit of a stomach, second in size only to Joost’s.

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As we prepare to head back to Europe, I am reminded of a quote that has helped me through many goodbyes over the years: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” –A.A. Milne

We have had the most incredible time and there really are not enough words to describe our experience here. We both sincerely hope that we will be back sooner rather than later.

Tonight, we fly back to the Netherlands, where we will stay with Joost’s family for two weeks… then it’s off to England for six months!

Our last day with the kids

Yesterday was our last day at the school. It was incredibly difficult, but also a lot of fun. The kids finished exams the day before, so it was basically a day of partying and hanging out before a month-long break. Many of the children were sad that they weren’t going to have school for a month; school is much more fun than home life is for most of them.

The day started with the planting of a school garden! The kids had fun taking turns preparing the soil (fact: I know zero agricultural terminology…) for the spinach, green peppers, tomatoes and trees!

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We then had a few hours of free time, which included lots of cuddling, spinning ourselves dizzy and to the ground, races, singing and dancing.

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As a going away present from us, we used the remainder of the grant from Joost’s home church to purchase an English book for every single student. Many of the students do not have a single book in their home or have never owned their own book. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to receive my first book at the age of ten. I have so many memories growing up of reading books with my family before bedtime or special Christmas stories or laughing at silly Dr. Seuss books and it breaks my heart a little bit to know that so many of our kids grew up without that.

We passed out the books to P3 and P4–P1 and P2’s books will be given to their parents or guardians when they come to retrieve the childrens’ report cards next week. The children loved their books and were proud to have a book of their own.

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After we handed out the books and had some reading time, the children got a special post-exam treat: pilau! Their usual lunch consists of rice, beans and maize. Thanks to some generous donors, though, they now get a special meal after exams that has seasoned rice, meat and vegetables. The kids loved it and all finished their heaping plates. Most emerged from their classrooms after lunch with full, round bellies protruding from their school uniforms.

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After lunch, it was time to say goodbye. The children assembled outside and Siggy, a school prefect, thanked us for our work and welcomed us back again. The children sang a song for us. Joost managed to choke out a sentence or two about how much fun we had; I, on the other hand, could barely even breathe without tearing up, so I let Joost’s words suffice. There ended up being a lot of tears spilled by both of us and the children.

Goodbyes are always difficult, but saying goodbye to these kids was nearly unbearable. I know that we came to Africa to help them, but they have loved us from day one, brightened our days and taught us a lot.

We have so many hopes, dreams and prayers for them: that they will be loved. That they will stay in school. That they will learn about the world and their place in it. That they will challenge themselves and the people and country around them to be better. That they will grow out of poverty as they become older and smarter. That they will continue to smile even through hardship. That they will be people of character who do not succumb to corruption.

We love them so very much and have full confidence that they can achieve any and all of their dreams. We are lucky to have Adam and Terry here to keep us updated on the school and their progress and plan on sending many letters in the future!

“Stella Maris students have confidence”

Yesterday was one of the very best days we’ve had in Africa so far! We had the opportunity to tag along with some of the students, one of the teachers and the other two volunteers on a trip to a nearby school for a field day.

Nobody was entirely sure what it was going to entail, other than some races. Our school held trial races during the first few days of the week to find our speediest kids in the 100 m, 200 m, 300 m, 400 m and 800 m. They selected nine students to represent Stella Maris.

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Joost and I showed up at school yesterday morning at 8:15 am, having been told that events would start at the other school at 8:30. Sometime after 8:30, we all piled into the van. It was close enough to walk to, but cramming nine students and six adults into a van is way more fun! Plus, we obviously had to save our kids’ legs for the races 🙂

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We arrived at the school, only to find that some of the other schools hadn’t arrived yet. Ha, so typical. While we waited, we goofed around in the sunshine, played volleyball (a first for our students!–we evened the playing field by putting Joost at the net… I’m not sure the other team appreciated going up against a 6’7” man…) and met kids from other schools. The littlest ones seemed to gravitate most to Adam, Terry and Joost. Adam claims that Tanzanian children like holding hands with men because they are so unaccustomed to thick arm hair!

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After a few hours of waiting, we were finally all summoned to the edge of the field… to pick teams for a soccer match. We hadn’t known there’d be a game and most of our kids were too small to play, but a few of the boys wanted to give it a go. They ran onto the field for a pretty intense warm up, while the girls all complained about how they wanted to play. I loved it. I love that our boys weren’t afraid to play with the bigger kids and I love that our girls wanted equality on the sports fields!

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Finally, it was time for the races! We had kids competing in almost every event. Most of the children ran barefoot through the muddy field, and they all ran in their school uniforms. I love our kids for many reasons, but yesterday I was so impressed with how much heart and spirit they had. Many of the racers were bigger, stronger and faster than our students, yet our kids still kept asking to be put in to race, even with the full knowledge that they could never win. They ran for fun–just how it should be. And one of our boys got third place in two events and one of our girls got second place in two events! I was so proud of our students for their good attitudes, speedy times and support of each other. It was entertaining to hear the other teachers talk after the races. One said, ‘the wzungu school is fast.’ Another said, ‘The difference between our schools is that the Stella Maris students have confidence.’ All of us volunteers were so pleased to hear that! The teaching environment within the volunteers is very different than other schools here. We love our kids and encourage them, instead of beating them with sticks (our teacher was one of the only teachers at the race not brandishing a large stick to hit the children with when they misbehaved). We could tell the difference: our students were polite, behaved well and enjoyed our company. The other students spent time hitting each other, breaking tree branches and running away from their teachers.

There were many striking differences between races here in Tanzania and races that would be held at home. The kids ran barefoot. There was no track. There were no medals or participation ribbons. Many of the older, more developed girls had trouble running fast because of their chests. I have yet to see a sports bra here in Tanzania–can you imagine being held back in athletics simply due to lack of a bra?! Regardless, it was so much fun to witness and cheer for our students!

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Unfortunately, one of our littlest (and cutest/most polite) students got a bit spooked while watching the others race. He had qualified for the 800 m event, despite being the smallest child in his grade by quite a bit. He was so much smaller than the ‘big kids’ at the race, though, that when it was getting close to race time, he was nowhere to be found. After a lot of searching, I finally found him sitting under a tree. “Teacher, my foot is broken,” he said. I think he meant that it was injured because he had stepped on a rock, but we could tell he was just so nervous and embarrassed. So, he sat the race out and instead got extra cuddle time!

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Overall, it was such a great day that gave us some more one-on-one time with some of the kids and allowed us to be silly and enjoy each other’s company. I know the kids loved it, if for no other reason than they got to come back to the hotel afterwards and have celebratory soda and popcorn!

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Library opening

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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Facial hair, baboons and paint fumes

Yet again, we find ourselves behind on our blog updating. So, what have we been up to?

We’ve been inhaling paint fumes. We have finally finished painting the library! It looks pretty darn tootin’ awesome, if I do say so myself. We painted landmarks from around the world around the room. Each landmark has a corresponding star on the world map to represent where it is. It’s been fun watching the kids start to recognize places on the world map, including Tanzania. Many of them had no idea where their own country was in relation to the rest of the world. We learned, though, that nobody actually knows what USA stands for (the USA is referred to as simply ‘America’ in the rest of the world). When the kids went around the room reading the countries, they got to USA and pronounced it like a word–Oosa!

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Joost grew a beard. Then he shaved it. I am petitioning for him to grow another.

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Joost finally beat my 18 game winning streak. We play a lot of cards here. I held an impressive 18 game Egyptian Rat Screw record until Joost finally ordered me one too many beers and won. 

We celebrated Valentine’s Day with Indian food, and, more importantly, clean hair AND clean clothing (a rare, if not unheard of since about day 3, combination)! We decided to save our pennies this year and didn’t exchange gifts–instead, we booked plane tickets to Zanzibar! Thanks to some unexpected financial gifts dedicated to travel, a tax return, and a larger-than-expected final paycheck from Athleta back home, we were able to (just barely) swing a three day trip next door in March! We’ll be spending most of the time underwater SCUBA diving, which is a good thing, since our $25/night African hostel got terrible reviews on Trip Advisor and came with a warning about bed bugs and theft. As much as it pains me to say it… #YOLO!

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We finished our final long run before the 1/2 marathon. The first six miles were all uphill, with an elevation gain of just over 800 feet, reaching a max elevation of 3900 feet. The race itself has an elevation gain of over 1000 feet, blah blah running blah blah WHO CARES WE SAW BABOONS! A couple of miles in, we saw what we thought was a large, solid, oddly-shaped, limping dog dart across the road. A few seconds later, we saw another and realized it was a baboon! An entire troop (<–according to Wikipedia, they do not travel in ‘herds,’ as I mistakenly referred to them on Facebook) was running down trees, across the road and into a field. We saw probably 20 or so, but the entire field further out was moving, so I suspect there were many more out there. We were close enough that it was exhilarating and a little bit scary–they are quite large and surprisingly fast! It was absolutely the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on any run in my life, ever. I was so excited and busy jumping up and down that it took me a while to pull my phone out of my Camelbak, but I managed to capture one picture, as you can see for yourself in this high quality, well-shot and labeled-for-your-viewing-convenience iPhone photo.

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We’ve also had a large influx of guests from around the world at the lodge, so we’ve spent a fair bit of time showing them around town, hanging out with them and talking to them about the school! We still play with the kids at recess and are enjoying getting to know them and recognize them more every day. Our quiet time is spent reading (as of today, I’ve read 21 novels since landing in Africa–feel free to send new book suggestions!), working on some administration stuff for the foundation and soon, working our way through every single episode of Boy Meets World, which we have just discovered that another volunteer has on DVD. 

 

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!

Joost

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.

Katie

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.