Archive for the ‘Tanznaia’ Category

Let’s go on a safari!

August 10, 2011

The Serengeti was the perfect ending to a wonderful 17+days in the bush!  My pictures and videos did not capture the beauty of the safari.  It’s something that everyone should have on their bucket list!

We spent an entire day driving though a small section of the Serengeti National Park.  As we drove into the park, we saw a herd of elephants.  Absolutely amazing creatures!  It just got better from there!  We came across lions, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, buffalo, you name it…we saw it.  After an entire day driving through the park, we made our way to the hotel.  I’m not sure what we liked most – the giraffes walking by our tent or the fact that we had a real toilet!!!!  🙂  It was a nice place to spend one night.

The next morning we headed back through the Serengeti on our way to Ngorongoro Crater.  Where a volcano once stood, there is now a beautiful crater filled with animals, water, animals!  We drove down into the crater, which was a little nerve-wracking.  Driving out of the crater was ridiculously scary.  The “road” was narrow and our van fish-tailed and I swore I was going to meet the Maker!  Luckily, we made it out and the view was gorgeous!

The roof of our vehicle popped up and it allowed us to stand.  While we were driving around the park, I was filled with such awe.  I don’t believe that the world collided with something and BANG it appeared.  It is too majestic and amazing for that.  God is one mighty fine artist!  To create each plant, rock, animal….it’s beyond our comprehension, but it makes me smile.

And poor Noah.  That ark must have been CRAZY!!!

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking!  This is just a sample of what we saw both days!  Enjoy!!!

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Guilt

August 7, 2011

I’m so completely humbled by some of your kind words.  I don’t feel deserving of some of the beautiful comments but I’ll take them anyway!

I feel as though I need to be completely honest with you, so I hope this entry gives you a greater understanding of how I am feeling.

Guilt.  I am full of it.  I don’t feel guilty about coming back to my life.  I think I live a modest life.  I don’t drive a fancy car or live in a mansion.  I have worked hard for the things I have and I am grateful.  The guilt is from jumping back into my life the way it was before I left.  I had no problem waking up at 6, walking down to the creek to “shower”, eating a simple breakfast, and working on the clinic.

It rained one afternoon, which PR said would NEVER happen, but God apparently had other plans!  I sat in my tent completely relaxed and enjoying the sound of the rain hit my tent.  I didn’t need an electronic distraction nor did I want one.  I was content.

Ok, well if I’m being honest, I should tell you that I did listen to my iPod for a little bit that rainy afternoon.  But I did it for my tent neighbors – I know they loved the mini singing concert!!!

I have let myself become distracted with things that I didn’t think about for 3 weeks.   I didn’t miss TV, my phone, or the internet.  I enjoyed reading the bible….it’s actually quite good!  I enjoyed the stillness of Maasai lifestyle.  I’m ashamed that I am not embracing that part of the culture as much as I would like.  The Maasai are so content with what they have.  They value family.  We often value material objects too much.

I learned a lot from my 3 weeks in the bush.  I learned a lot about myself.  I’m trying to not let the guilt I am feeling overwhelm me and stay focused on what I learned.

I thank you for listening to me ramble.  So, I am going to reward you with a few more pictures!!!  The safari part of the trip was so rewarding.  At times, the drive was very peaceful.  Below are a few pictures of the trip and one video!

Celebration

August 6, 2011

We were fortunate to attend a traditional Maasai wedding celebration.  The father of the groom welcomed us into his village by offering a few group members Chai tea.  Chai is a big deal and a huge sign of respect if offered a glass.  One of our group members was allowed to take a few pictures of the event, so when I get his pictures, I’ll be sure to post.  In the Maasai culture, the bride is not the center of attention at the wedding.  We never saw the bride.  She was kept hidden.  She traveled to her new home a few days before the wedding with her family.  Because she is new to the village, she spends a few days getting to know everyone and everything.  While she is “setting up house”, the men start the celebration.  They stand in a circle and do some very cool chanting.  One or two of the men will go inside the circle and jump up and down.  They do this for 2 reasons:

1.  They are trying to impress the ladies – whoever jumps the highest and pumps their shoulders the most is the strongest.

2.  They are retelling different tribal stories and celebrating each one.

While they are doing the jumping and neck/shoulder pumping, the ladies and children are standing around them.  When the men are finished, the ladies circle around the group of warriors and chant along.  Once they are finished, they start all over again.  They will do this for hours and hours.  It was really interesting to watch.  I wanted so bad to jump in the middle of the circle and see how high I could jump, but I probably would have been deheaded!  haha!

We attended 2 services at the local church.  We were fortunate to have our very own Pastor Rick lead this trip!  He was asked to provide the sermon both Sundays!  It was easy to understand what he was preaching….most of the time 😉  Philemon is the evangelist for the village and a few surrounding villages.  His wife and 5 kids live 6 hours away – by foot.  He sees them about once a month or so.  One night he stopped by to talk with us and show us pictures.  He was so happy to share a little bit of his life with us.  It was really cool to sit with him and have him share a little bit about his life.  Before he left, we prayed for him and 2 of our members stood over him while we prayed.  A few days later, Philemon came back and said he felt so inspired and encouraged by the last prayer, that he wanted us to pray for him again.  We all stood over him while a few of us prayed.  Philemon doesn’t speak English.  We prayed in English, both times.  If that doesn’t show you a little power from God, I don’t know what will!

There is a boarding school in the village.  We were fortunate to visit the school and talk with some of the teachers.  It’s amazing how little supplies they have but what great things they are teaching.  Most of the teachers speak English, some better than others.  We always had a translator with us, which was really helpful.  We visited 2 classrooms, Standard 7(7th grade) and Standard 1(1st grade).  The 7th grade classroom had about 60 students and the 1st grade had over 100.  They squeeze 3-4 kids in a desk.  The desks remind me of the ones you would see on Little House on the Praire.  They have chalkboards.  The chalk stinks.  It breaks quite easily and it is not dustless.  That is one our list of things to try to send, dustless chalk!

We sang a few songs for the classrooms.  One of our members brought a guitar and a made songbooks that we used at our nightly devotions.  We taught the kids a few songs with motions and then I led the 1st graders in Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.  They taught us a song in Swahili about standing, sitting, and jupming!  I took a few videos of the kids singing.

The first video is from the Standard 7 class.  As you are watching, take note of the uniforms.  The girls are in blue dresses and the boys a blue shirt and khaki shorts.  It doesn’t matter if they are torn, too big, too small – they wear it.  Notice how bare the walls are.  No bulletin boards.  You’ll probably also notice the age ranges.  Most kids do not start school at age 5.  They start when their parents can afford it and can afford to not have them at home anymore watching the other siblings, animals, etc….

The second video is in the Stanard 1.  There are a few kids who are sitting in the front, not in uniform.  They are children of a few teachers.  I hope you are blown away by the amount of kids in this class.  Guess how many teachers they have……1!!!  I asked the teachers about discipline and they said they don’t have too many issues.  I told them about the fights my kids had last year….they were shocked.  They asked if we “hit” the kids.  Unfortunately no, I said!  They use a small branch or stick to get kids inline.

I can’t get the videos to load on the blog, so I put them on Youtube.

Standard 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn4bRNI_2rA

Standard 1 –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzHp50Lrc1U

I’ve blabbed too much this morning.  Enjoy the videos!

 

Beauty

August 5, 2011

It is the dry season in Tanzania.  The grass is brown, the trees are bare, and it is ridiculously dusty.  So dusty that I am still cleaning dust from my ears and nose!  Ok, that may have been too much information….sorry!  It was easy to be irritated with the dust, dirt, and thorns, especially when the thorns stuck in your shoes and skin.  It was easy to look around and think how ugly and dry it is.  Just as easy as it was to see the “yuck”, it was just as easy to see God’s beauty!  There was always Maasai men, women, warriors, babies sitting outside the old clinic.   Every time you walked by the clinic you smiled.  The colorful clothing was a welcomed contrast to the dirt.  The smiles on the children’s faces as we walked past the school was uplifting.  The picture below was taken when we were walking up from the creek, which was where we bathed and washed our clothes, and these kids were standing in front of their house.  We stopped and smiled and said Jambo, which means hello.  One of the kids pushed another one in front towards us and he just marched on over.  I stuck out my hand and he shook it.  Then the other kids came running over and started shaking our hands!  It was the first time the villagers didn’t shy away from the white people!  It was really sweet.

The night sky was phenomenal!  Every night we would stand in the field and just stare up at the sky.  The Big Dipper was HUGE and so low that I swore I could touch it!  The Southern Cross was beautiful.  I honestly could not get over how amazing the night sky appeared each night.  This verse would pop into my head each night.  Psalms 147:4-5 say, “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of
them. Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”   I found such comfort in the fact that if He knows every star in the sky(and there were billions upon billions!!!), then He most definitely knows me.  He knows every hair on my head and knows every desire in my heart.  Makes me smile 🙂

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that even in the ugliest of places, darkest of times, God’s beauty can be found.  I hope you’ll see some of his beauty in the pictures below!

Home sweet home

August 4, 2011

I am grateful to be home and surrounded by familiar things, but there are some things that I miss.  I miss waking up to the insane rooster who apparently thought the sun rose at 4 am.  I miss the smell of the morning fire and Neema who prepared our breakfast and lunch(picture 3 below).  I miss the Chipati and peanut butter and chai tea…..oh so tasty!  I actually miss my super comfy sleeping bag!  I miss hearing the local school children start their day with singing and exercising.  It’s a bittersweet feeling being home.   I know some of you are anxious to hear about my trip and I am anxious to share everything with you, but it’s hard to put a trip like this in words.  So bare with me over the next few entries as I try to share my journey with you.

Sleeping on the ground for 18 straight days was not as horrible as I imagined.  There were very few nights when I actually slept through the night.  It was hard to sleep with the insane wind blowing your tent sideways.  The wild dogs barking outside your tent, especially knowing that they were either barking at a Hyena or a Leopard.  The whooping sound of the Hyena was not something I got use to hearing.  It freaked me out!!!!  It didn’t help that there were a few snoring mates in tent city, as we called our home!  However waking up each day never seemed to be too difficult, even despite the few hours of peaceful sleep I may have had.  I was happy to start my day in Arash, Tanzania and know that I was making a difference.  Our project was to finish the new clinic building so Dr. Nsimba could continue his work with the Maasai.  We spent most of the our time painting.  The white latex paint was fine.  It didn’t coat the walls that great, but we did the best we could.  The green oil paint was the WORST!  It loved to stain everything – your clothes, skin, the freshly painted white walls!  I was lucky to paint a lovely green stripe around the bottom of the wall.  My knees are still irritated with me(picture 1 below)!  We also installed a solar panel which will provide enough power for an ultrasound machine, refrigerator for vaccinations, and lights.  The glass windows were the biggest problem we encountered.  The glass was not cut correctly so many windows were too big.  The puddy we used was African puddy….need I say more?  It didn’t work very well.  The team worked very hard and installed a majority of the windows, enough for the clinic to be used(picture 2 below).  The clinic will be used for 3 main items –  children immunizations, child birthing, which has been a problem with the villagers, and it has a ward for long-term illness.  Dr. Nsimba is the local doctor who lives in the village of Arash.  He has worked in this clinic and another local clinic for over 15 years.  The government really wants him to move but he is making such amazing progress with the Maasai that he thinks he will be able to remain in Arash.  Now that he has an ultrasound machine, he will be able to diagnose illnesses, especially with pregnant women.  The mortality rate for mothers who have given birth is pretty high.  They give birth at home with the help of a traditional Maasai mid wife who is not equipped to deal with bleeding, wrapped cord, etc…  So many mothers are dying in childbirth.  The use of a simple ultrasound machine and a new birthing room will save numerous lives and how awesome is that?!  More children are receiving immunizations which is wonderful!  God is doing amazing things in that village and I hope to return one day and see the progress.

Lucky

May 5, 2011

May 7 will mark the 2 month countdown to Tanzania!   It’s crunch time.  Not only am I trying to raise the last few bucks, but I need to make sure I have all my vaccinations, get a prescription for malaria, buy a sleeping bag and other necessities, buy new camera batteries, the list goes on.  I’m trying to do all of that while keeping my focus on the reason – share God’s love with others.

I have cards in my classroom for the teachers at my school to purchase to raise money for my trip and the education scholarships.  When the kids ask me about the cards, I tell them the background of Cards4Kids, which can be found here!  🙂   It’s easy to let the preparation of a big trip consume you.  There is a lot to do to get ready and sometimes I let that overwhelm me and lose focus.  But God has his way of shifting me back!  On Monday, a 5th grader came up to me and asked how my fundraising was going for my trip and if I was selling a lot of cards.  I told her that I was pretty close to my goal!  She smiled and said “You are going to help a lot of kids over there.  They are lucky”.   Ok Jen, keep it together!

She’s right that I will be able to help others and hopefully start a scholarship fund for the Tanzanian children.  But they aren’t the lucky ones, I am.  I get to travel half way around the world to help those who do not have the advantages I have.  I get to strengthen my faith and learn something about myself.  I get to live among God’s creatures and see his beautiful creation.  Ok, truth be told, I’m not too excited about living with ALL his creatures!  I can most definitely do without the crawly things.

Please continue to pray for me and my team.

Team Tanzania 2011

April 26, 2011

This will be my 4th mission trip to Africa, 1st to Tanzania.  With each trip, getting to know your team members can be both exciting and terrifying.  You eat, sleep, cry, work together and if you don’t get along the trip can be a disaster.  My last 3 trips have had a close friend or family member on the team.  This time, I’m alone…..or so I thought.  My team consists of 6 adults and 9 teens.  I believe only 3 of the members have been to Tanzania.  Some of us have gone to other parts of the world on mission trips so we have an idea of what to expect.  Then there are the newbies!  Their excitement and trepidation is contagious!  Although I must admit that I am not envious about their vaccinations!  Luckily, I am pretty much “up to date” with my shots!  Which is great because they are pricey and they hurt!

One advantage of living in Jacksonville is that I am able to get to know my team members!  We have a had a few informational meetings where we received tons of information on camping supplies, packing lists, vaccination requirements, basically, you name it, we discussed it!  These meetings have allowed us to just relax and learn about each other.  For example, I know that the red headed boy is full of energy and will probably drive me nuts (in a good way :)).  I learned that my Pastor is an amazing man of God and I’m honored to take this trip with him!   I learned that J.P. puts up with a lot from M.P. and M.P. will most likely be sleeping in the corner or outside the tent!  Most of all, I learned that my team is filled with beautiful souls and amazing hearts.  I am thankful that God led me to them!

Please keep in mind that this picture was taken after a full day of work, after school Chorus, and 2.5 hours of busing tables, refreshing drinks, and standing on my feet!  I was tired.  Oh, and the cow is not going to Tanzania 😉

Toilet for Tanzania :)

March 18, 2011

One of my team members has a great idea for a toilet in Tanzania.  He sent us the picture below.

Ah, wishful thinking!!!  I can tell you that my quad muscles are going to be ridiculously fit after 3 weeks of squatting!  hahahaha!!!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tanzania

March 10, 2011

As most of you know, I will be traveling to Tanzania this summer on a 3 week mission trip where our team will work on a remote medical clinic on the edge of the Serengeti. I will be part of a 14 person team led by my Pastor from Grace Lutheran Church and School in Jacksonville, Fl.  Pastor Rick has been traveling to Tanzania for 12 years so I have complete faith in him to lead us….or I’ll be finding a new church!  JUST KIDDING!!!!

While I am extremely excited to be a part of this mission trip, I am beginning to have quite a bit of anxiety.  I’m anxious about a bunch of things.  I have never been camping where it didn’t include a cabin and indoor plumbing.  I’ve never slept outside….unless you count sleeping on the trampoline in the backyard, but even then I was scared when it got dark and we usually ended up in the house before the sun came up!  We won’t have fresh drinking water at our fingertips.  We will boil the water or use a 2-day filter.  We’ll also be cooking our own food…..I don’t really like to cook as it is.  There won’t be access to internet or phone while we are on site.  I won’t know if something happens to my loved ones at home BUT that’s where faith in Christ kicks in and I know that His will be done.

While this anxiety is causing lack of sleep, I am also really excited and humbled to be a part of this team.  There are about 6 high school/college freshman on the team.  They make me smile 🙂  Instead of spending their summer at parties or visiting friends before they begin college, they will be sleeping in the Bush boiling water with me!  Why are they doing this?  Because God spoke to them and they have the courage to answer the call and be a witness to the Maasai.  Doesn’t it make you smile?!

Please pray for us.  Pray for my anxiety to be silenced.  Pray that we raise the funds we need by the 1st week of May.  Pray that God shines through us.  Pray that I don’t get eaten by wild animals 😉