Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Club Tee-Zed

So, this blog entry is a tad bit late as I have been busy with various dribs and drabs, most notably moving house!!  Yes indeed, I am leaving the solace and sanctuary of Maji ya Chai and headed back to where it all began in Moshi.  This time around, I am NOT living in the center of town where every Tom, Dick, and Harry (Amani, Baraka, and Juma?) can find me, but rather in a quiet residential neighborhood.  Nonetheless, since Moshi is about the size of my high school biology class, I'll keep that data to myself as well.  At any rate, movin' out, but not necessarily up....Kwa heri Club Tee-Zed, and Mambo vipi Moshi!!

From my beautiful "Swiss ski chalet" in the middle of nowhere....

 ....To a pretty nice house in back in the Mo....

....But, of course, neither can compare to home sweet home in the N.Y.C....nyumbani ni nyumbani, si ndiyo?!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Then and Now

One thing that has occurred to me upon my homecoming to Msaranga is just HOW LONG I have been in this country, and indeed this village in particular.  July of this year marks six years since I first set foot on African soil, and what was intended to be a brief interlude from my hectic life as a New York City publicist became....well....this!

It simply amazes me how my first group of nursery school kidlets has grown up (and how I have somehow managed not to age a day, hahaha) and flourished both physically and, it would seem, academically.

Check out the photos below of Msaranga totos past and present....

Lilian, smart as a whip back in the day, looks more like a mama now than I do.

Samson, always lived up to his biblical moniker, think he's in 5th grade, but his voice is deeper than my Dad's.

Tina, resembles my cat Beanie above, grown into those ears somewhat below.

Furaha, quiet, reflective, and sensitive as a child, seems to have remained that way as a young man.

Nicknamed "Brenda Mfupi" because she's a shorty-pants, she's still pretty tiny for her age.

As a nursery school kid, Flora couldn't write much except for mayai (eggs) which were meant to be either the letter "o."  Think she's gotten the hang of the other letters by now!

Ema M, my FAVORITE from day one!!  Love this child to bits, though not in a creepy Mary Kay Letourneau way.

Ema J went to a different nursery school but I taught him too and now the two Emas are best buds.  They often hang around outside the Standard One classroom waiting for me.  Per their request, and in my *spare* time (WHAT SPARE TIME, AM I INSANE??!!), we're starting an after-school English lesson next month for these two and twenty of the homies they roll with....Should be interesting!!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Office Space

Well, it's not exactly "cubicle culture" and I doubt anyone will be answering the phone "Corporate Accounts Payable?" or going to Chotchkie's after work for pizza shooters, but it is an office.

Behold the brand-new kibao (signboard) for The Toa Nafasi Project headquarters in Moshi!!

Now, we just need some beige furniture, a water-cooler, and someone screaming about a paper jam in the printer and we'll be good to go!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Vumilia means patience in Swahili and it really is quite fitting that this is Vumi's full name.

Since I first met her and taught nursery school with her in July 2007, I have seen her as a constant source of comfort and compassion for the children of Msaranga as well as the best teacher I have come across in all of Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and the rest of the regions I have visited in Tanzania.  And she does it all without being sappy or sentimental; I really believe this is just her nature.

She can get a little mkali (strict) when she needs to; she'll use the stick or give a little pinch; she'll even tease or poke a little fun at a child....but it all works out in the end.  Though her teacher training was not great and her own primary and secondary school marks were pretty low, she just has that certain way about her that marks her as a true educator.  In part, it's her patience and in part it's her rather un-Tanzanian sense of totality and precision.  Like me, she simply can't let an error go, and we work well together.

You'll be hearing a lot more about Vumi in the next few months, so I just wanted to devote this post to her and say how much I enjoy working with her and how happy I am to have her as a friend and colleague.  Below, you can see her working with the MEMKWA student at Msaranga Primary School on his math lesson.  Check out the smile creeping up on his face in the last frame.  Breakthrough!!