Monday, August 18, 2014


Okay, so this entry does not actually feature the game of Jenga in which players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower and then attempt to re-balance each removed block back on top of the tower until the whole thing comes tumbling down - NOTE TO SELF: (and Angi, Evelyn, Danna and Philip, the Cartusciello family, and any impending visitors to The Toa Nafasi Project) that would be a GREAT idea of something new to do with the kids - but because the word jenga is the Swahili for "to build" and the kids were indeed building on this particular day, I feel it is an apropos heading.

So, after tuckering ourselves out playing soccer and learning kickball, the wageni group of Petersons and Cartusciellos along with me, Angi, Evelyn, and the Tanzanian staff retired inside where we were lucky enough to have the chance to play with a ton of Legos, courtesy of a friend of Angi's who works at the Lego Store in Boston.  Truthfully, I had NO idea what a ginormous success this activity would turn out to be.  I had bought larger block sets in Arusha and at the Nakumatt in Moshi, but they didn't even compare to the popularity of the Legos.  We settled in groups on the floor and set ourselves to jenga-ing!

I sat with Haika, a little girl who suffers from both psycho-social issues due to a really messed-up family background which we are trying to rectify as well as some intellectual impairment.  She had a hard time understanding that in order to fit the Legos together, you had to put the grooved parts into the empty spaces and I kept telling her to turn just one block over but she would turn both over every time, thus having the same problem, just in reverse.  Then when I would take the blocks from her to show her myself, she would lose focus and rather than watch my example, she would pick up more blocks and continue to have the same struggle over and over again.  She became very frustrated and start to cry but I stayed with her all afternoon and when she finally put one and one together, so to speak, she was so happy she reached to me with outstretched arms and a big hug.  Well worth the wait, I'd say!

My cousin Philip and Mike Cartusciello Jr. commanded a group of young men and, as I was busy with Haika, I didn't really get to see what they got themselves up to though I assume that they managed to communicate through the international language of "boy" and build "boy" things like guns and airplanes and snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails, and things of that nature.

Sophia, the Cartusciello daughter, became very enthralled with one of the little girls in the program, Jesca, and spent the whole afternoon together with her.  They built things with the Legos, but Jesca also showed Sophia her schoolwork and they sat for quite a long time at the desks studying together while everyone else was playing on the floor.  Needless to say, Sophia made a friend for life that day!

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