It’s 6 am in Arusha and the birds are waking up too. It took a whole day to get here. I left at 10am Monday from Washington DC and finally made it to Tanzania at 2pm Tuesday.
Getting off the plane was a trip- right onto the tarmac the way it used to be in Tel-Aviv. Then I’d forgotten the address of our apartment here while I was filling out the entrance form. The agent waved me through to go get the address from Sanjay waiting outside -”just come back here once you have it.”
The 45 minute ride from the airport to Arusha is eye opening. The road is bumpy and superdusty. A few wispy dust cyclones actually emerged in the road in front of us!
Cars drive on the left side of the road. You can see Mt. Meru in the distance looming over the whole landscape. We passed a bunch of small villages on the way- lots of storefronts plastered with advertising. Signs for Coke, Pepsi, Kilimanjaro beer, Tigo and other cell phone carriers, are everywhere! Big run down, almost airport-shuttle looking vans called dalla dallas are everywhere, each one crammed with 30-40 people.
In spite of all the dust and how dry it is, there are areas that are incredibly lush. There is some serious greenery here too- banana trees, Eucaluptus and Jacarandas which are my favorite here. Jacaranda trees are in bloom now with huge tufts of bright purple all along main avenues. The center of town is much more developed – lots of hotels, restaurants, shops, and a visiting circus (really). The gap between rich and poor is apparent everywhere here. Walking into a tourist hotel is like stepping into another world.
Kilimanjaro beer is amazing. Do we have this in the US? Why not? Also the coke is better since it’s made with sugar cane instead of corn syrup.
Wednesday morning we made it out to the lower school at Shepherd’s Junior which is around Mama Lucy’s house -the classroom we taught in used to be her front poorch. We took a ride in one of the school’s vans and Mama Lucy met us there.
A note on Mama Lucy
This woman is incredible. She’s packing some serious kindness and has this huge infectious smile. We greet her with Shikamoo which is what people say out of respect when greeting their elders here. It translates literally to “I touch your feet”.
It was a holiday in honor of the country’s first president, Nyerere, but class five showed up to meet with us anyways for their computer class. These kids are awesome. They are so respectful. When anyone walks in they all stand – that reminded me of yeshivah. They address their teachers as teacher instead of Mr. or Ms. “Good morning teacher Stacey!”
Once we get started they are all over the computers. For most of them it’s the first time they’ve ever used one. They’re tickled when they get the hang of it. Double clicking, notepad, saving documents, drag and drop, folders- they take turns learning the basics. One student, Edmund, pulls me aside to ask if the copmuters have games. I’m not sure so I tell him I’ll find out and show him when class is over. 10 minutes later I come back and see him and Gideon happily playing pinball Later on we do a lesson for the teachers. They pick it up quick and realize how much time excel can save them in compiling semester grades.
In the afternoon we pick up AJ and Melissa Leon who’ve joined us here for the next weeks. Melissa has taught ESL by using twitter before and she’s got a whole curriculum for teaching the kids at Shepherd’s Junior ready.
In town in the evening I exchange some dollars so I’ll have some spending money. The exchange rate is $1 = 1300 shillings. The wad of shillings I get back from my hundred dollar bill feels like monopoly money.
Everything is new here. I’m enjoying learning a bit of Swahili, meeting new ppl, and the kids most of all. More soon.
Tutaonana! (See you soon, or lehitraot)