Thursday, July 31, 2014


Okay, this post makes decidedly less sense since I'm way late to put it up, but the title refers to "Friday" nicknamed by Tanzanians the country over as Furahi-day, furaha being the Swahili word for "happiness."  At any rate, using the magical powers of TFT or "Tanzania Flex Time," I am posting this entry on the following Thursday afternoon and I am hoping no one will think the less of me for it....?!

Anyhoo, every Friday, the staff at Toa Nafasi takes a break from teaching to get down and dirty with the students and have some fun and games.  This past week was a very special Furahi-day as it was Angi's first back at school and we decided to celebrate by making paper-bag puppets, dancing the Macarena, and duckpin bowling.

Enjoy the shots below!!

 My example of a paper-bag puppet.
 Students making their own puppets.
 Evelyn and Dorin helping the kids decorate their bags.
 Vumi's daughter Grace just HAD to get in on the action.
 A happy student with his finished product.
Derick's puppet knew only two words: Mambo? and Poa!
 Puppets a-plenty!
Vumi and her mini-me.
 Angi and Evelyn demonstrating the Macarena.
 Vumi shaking her groove-thang.
Yes, technically, there IS a booty-slap in the Macarena.
But it's still good, clean fun!
Polepole, getting the hang of it....
Angi helping a girl with bowling,
Grace asking her mama when it will be her turn....
Bowling in motion.
 And sweet treats to end the day: juice and biscuits!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wals and Wags and Angi, Oh My!

Hello dear readers, I hope everyone is well this week.  Things continue to go swimmingly at Toa Nafasi and big changes are afoot.  I mentioned last week that we had moved classrooms and are now properly ensconced in a real darasa, so that has been a great improvement on the dilapidated shack we were using before.

With the move have also come significant changes in personnel, and I am pleased to say that we have had a lot of movement through the program in the last six weeks or so.  The title of this post refers to this movement with the additions of walimu or "wals" in Sarah-speak, "teachers" in Swahili, wageni or "wags" (visitors), and Dr. Angela Stone-MacDonald (early childhood education expert and Toa Nafasi consultant extraordinaire), all of whom have touched us in some way in recent days.

First off, we have hired a new teacher to help Vumi and Yacinta with the individual lesson plans.  Her name is Dorin and she's very young and quiet, but I think under our tutelage, she will flourish and develop some skills as a private tutor.  I don't have a photo of her just yet as she has only been working for about a month and two weeks of that time I was on vacation, but you all will come to know her face soon!

It's nice to think that, in addition to supporting slow-learning primary schoolchildren, Toa Nafasi can also provide employment opportunities to these young ladies of the village and help them to grow their experience and expertise as teachers.

Next, we've welcomed a lovely, young Western volunteer into our fold.  Evelyn is from Ireland, and was referred to the Project by a friend of mine who runs a hostel here in Moshi and has included Toa Nafasi as a possible volunteer site for the expats who roll through (asante sana, Rhiannon!!).

Evelyn has a background in physical education for children with disabilities and knows how to use sports and games to promote academic development amongst slow learners.  She joined us in June and will stay on until the end of August.  Thus far, she has been a great addition to the Project; "ready, willing, and able" would be the understatement of the year!!  Vumi and I have not hesitated for a second to put her to work and she is even studying Swahili and making materials for the classroom in her spare time.  Here she is with Julius, a student from last year, working on math.

Around the same time Evelyn joined us, Vumi and I were taking some of this year's Standard One students on referral appointments to KCMC and Gabriella to see if various other issues (poor eyesight, psycho-social issues, etc) were causing their low academic performances rather than an actual learning difficulty (a blog entry on our exploits at the hospital will follow shortly....).  

On one such outing, I met an American doctor of orthopedic surgery who examined a child with a bum arm.  He asked me what I was doing in Moshi and I told him about Toa Nafasi.  He then recommended the Project to his girlfriend and college-age daughter as a volunteer opportunity and they joined us for about a week, doing arts and crafts and playing games with the children.  

It was my first time to welcome wageni to Toa Nafasi and I hope I came correct!!  Back in the day, pre-TTNP when I was working for the other NGO and just volunteering my spare time at the nursery schools, I used to bring friends who visited me in TZ to Msaranga, but this is quite different.  Not only were Kelly and Andrea strangers to me, but the onus was on me to explain the Project well and to show them a good time.  I hope I succeeded!!

Kelly, in particular, came with a lot of great ideas for stuff to do with the kids so we really let her run with it and Vumi and I just hung back and helped with the language barrier.  We organized arts and crafts projects which then helped to beautify our new classroom and also taught the kids dodgeball which, you might imagine, they LOVED as there's truly nothing more satisfying than pegging your fellow classmate at top speed with a rubber ball.  Check the photos below!

Another Kelly idea was to help the kids count by tens using tracings of their hands.  Here she is getting down and dirty with a few of them, and then a couple students taking the reins themselves and finally, the end result!!

She and Andrea also helped the kids to draw their houses and yards.


Enter dodgeball, that happy pastime described by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller in the eponymous 2004 movie as a sport of "violence, exclusion, and degradation."

I jest....but really, it can be a rather dangerous activity if left unsupervised....

So, I think we're all clear on the "wals" and "wags," but what about Angi?!  Well, I am pleased to announce that the good professor has returned to Moshi for a second year of service with The Toa Nafasi Project!!

This time around, she is spending a bit less time in-country, but that certainly doesn't mean she is any less significant to us or doing any less work - trust me, if I am not a hard task-master, which I am, Vumi is even worse and she has put Miss Angi to work right and proper.  Here's Evelyn and Vumi observing Angi as she tests a student from last year for the third and final time.

Once we have completed all those exams and analyzed the data, I'll be sharing with you all what we have learned from our first full cycle: the original assessment followed by referral appointments when necessary and the start of private tuition; the second assessment after six months' time; the continuation of tuition and the last assessment.  For the most part, it is very happy news!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Movin' On Up

No, not to the East Side -- and, certainly not to a deluxe apartment in the sky -- but The Toa Nafasi Project has indeed moved up!  Or rather, over, to be more precise, to a classroom in the nursery school block at Msaranga Primary, one that actually has windows.... and a door.... and a floor.... come to think of it!!

We have finally got a piece of the pie that is classroom real estate in Msaranga.  After having received the written approval of the Moshi Municipal Council that we can continue our activities at Msaranga Primary School, Headmaster Kennedy gifted the Project with a proper classroom in the nursery building adjacent to the main part of the school.

So, we now have a sort of headquarters on the premises (though I am wary of getting too keenly settled there as the whole point of Toa Nafasi is that it's a movable feast: rich in pedagogy rather than brick-and-mortar).  Nevertheless, I suppose it's nice to have somewhere to call home for the moment and I'll worry about getting pigeon-holed inside it at a later date.

Truth be told, we moved in about two months ago but what with my travels and school on holiday and this and that, I've not had time to divulge.  Sorry for that, but check out some images of our new digs below.

Next week, I'll inform you of some new personnel in the Toa Nafasi ranks: a part-time administrative consultant who's so smart she makes me nervous; a real-life expat volunteer, just like I used to be back in the day (!); another Tanzanian hire brought on by Vumi to chip in in the classroom; and several "wags" (short for wageni, Swahili for visitors) who've come and gone, and more who are expected.  It has been a busy couple of weeks and I expect it will be a busy few more....  Stay tuned!!

The exterior of our old classroom.
Not much to look at....

The interior.... dust in the dry season, mud in the rainy,
refuge for wayward chickens all-year-round....
Vumi in the forefront and our new volunteer Evelyn
in the background, both teaching in the luxury of our new digs!!
Art created under the tutelage of some "wags" who passed through back in June.  What a difference from the chicken room, right?!
Check out the origami dog faces and imagine us,
American volunteers (for the most part), teaching
Tanzanian schoolchildren the ancient art
of Japanese paper-folding....!!
The nursery school kids excited about their new neighbors,
The Toa Nafasi Project (!!), and peeping in.
Word travels fast!  By the end of the first week,
we were the most popular thing to hit the village since electricity!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Tanz-iversary to Me!

Okay, I know I promised no more silly posts, but allow me this last one as I celebrate my SEVENTH year of living/working in Tanzania!  

It's true, it was July 4th, 2007 that I first set foot in this country which has now become my second home and where I spend the better part of every year.  

I remember leaving New York that day having upped and quit my book publishing gig and packing two huge suitcases of "necessities" for my initial six-month volunteer stint.  I had considered Peace Corps, but went with another volunteer organization, thinking at the time, "I'll never spend two years in Africa!"  Little did I know then that I would pass exponentially more time than that in the Tee-Zed!!  

I also remember writing on my former blog, Legally Tanzanian, "What better way is there to celebrate your country's independence than by leaving it?  Isn't that the ultimate act of independence?"

Hmmmm, kind of prophetic, no?

And now, here, seven years later, I can celebrate my American-ness on this Independence Day; but, I can also celebrate my patriotism to not one but two countries I call home, the freedom I am lucky enough to have to be able to move between them, and the chances to visit all the other amazing places I've been to along the way.

So, thank you to whatever forces out there have given me this amazing life.

In commemoration of this fateful day, I leave you with two selfies: the first was taken my first night in Moshi, at the Ngowis' house in Soweto, and the second just now in my own house in Shanty.  Oh, how time flies!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

La Vie en Rosenbloom

Shalom vipi, dear readers, and my apologies for the last two newsy entries and today's unfortunate puff piece.  It's been a busy couple of weeks and I have not had time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write a "Sarah original."  Things continue apace and I have lots to fill you in on, so expect a better post come the weekend.

Until then, I leave you with a few photos from my recent safari to Geneva and Prague in late June.  (Yes, I am a VERY lucky girl to have been able to travel so much this year - many thanks to Ma and Pa Rosenbloom who helped make it happen financially, and a hearty asante sana to the Vuminator, who held things down at school in my absence.)

Images of the International School in Geneva where ma maman studied as a child....bit different from Msaranga Primary!!  We were there to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the school.

A rendition of Pachelbel's Canon at the Clementinum Music Hall in Prague's Old City.
From the GNV to the CZ and back to the TZ, it was a trip for the ages, but vacay is ovah and it's back to work as usual.  Check y'all next week!