Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kilimanjaro Marathon 2011

Alright, so the title for this post is a little deceiving.
We didn't actually run the full marathon, just the 5K. We found
out the other day that there was a "fun run" going on
with the marathon and on a whim, we decided to run it.
It was a crazy whim because neither of us can remember the last
time we went running, but our adrenaline kept us going until
the finish line. It was such a fun thing to be a part of, especially because of
the location (notice Kili in the background of the last picture) and we're so glad
we decided to do it. And we got shirts! Best part of entering
any event by far.
We leave for Zanzibar this weekend and we're pretty excited about it.
Scuba diving, laying on the beach, and taking some boat tours.
Should be good.
Oh, and these photos took forever to load so don't expect too many more
until we get home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kilimanjaro and Speed Bumps

It's Tuesday evening and we're sitting in the living room watching the news on Aljazeera. It has become a nightly ritual for us to watch the news after dinner (providing we have power), even though it's becoming more and more depressing. There is so much unrest in the world, especially over in these parts, and at times it gets scary to hear about it all. But I feel more connected and informed about what is going on over here than I ever did at home, so I guess it's a positive thing.

It's pretty windy tonight and we're hoping that means there's a rain storm coming in. We like it when it rains for two reasons: one, because the weather gets much cooler and there is less dust and two, because the roads go from bumpy beyond belief to muddy and slippery. I'm sure the muddy roads are more dangerous to drive on, but we have a lot more fun when we're sliding all over the place than when our brains are rattling out of our skulls due to the bumpy roads. Have I mentioned anything about the roads yet? They're insane. There are 12 inch pot holes everywhere you look. And on top of that they've put massive speed bumps every few meters on all the roads, as if anyone can go over 15 mph with all the pot holes anyway. They're very unnecessary and annoying. We had quite the run in with one last week. James was driving us home from the orphanage and we were on a bumpy dirt road heading out of Newland village. He was hauling toward this speed bump and simultaneously talking to some people out the window so he didn't see it coming. Mark and I were watching out the windshield and knew that we were going to hit it, seeing as how we were about ten feet away and still saw no signs of the car slowing down. Finally, James saw the bump and slammed on the breaks, but it was too late. We hit it going about 25 mph and flew into the air. We're pretty sure James' car has no shocks and we're also pretty sure all four tires were off the ground at one point after we hit the speed bump. We all flew up and smashed our heads on the ceiling and everything in the car went flying. When we landed Mark and I started laughing, but all we got out of James was a little chuckle while he said, "Goodness! So sorry, I did not see the bump." We're still laughing about that one.

We went on a walk to the market yesterday evening and the sunset was beautiful. The mountain looked incredible, covered in fresh snow and framed by fluffy white clouds. I still can't believe sometimes that I can walk right out my door and look up into the peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro. I'll miss that when we're back home. I'll also miss a few other things here, like riding to town in a dala dala, being fed delicious food three times a day (and not having to do our own dishes to boot), and having fun teaching all the adorable little students - one of which got excited beyond belief during a math lesson yesterday when he asked me if I like "the milk of goats" and I said yes.

Tanzania has been so great to us. I'm glad we still have a few more weeks to enjoy it here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

An Interesting Job

Every day Mark and I wake up and ask each other, "What do you think we'll be doing today?" So far, the jobs James has been giving us have been completely random and today was no exception. Let me explain.

There is a student at the school here named Alex. He loves movies, especially ones with Arnold Schwarzenegger in them. About a year ago some volunteers from the U.S. based organization Mama Hope recorded his retelling of the movie "Commando" and put it on the Internet. It has received over 150,000 hits in just four days and has helped the organization raise a lot of money. Check it out here So today we get to work and are told that our job is to go find Alex, show him the video of himself that has been floating around the Internet, and record his reaction so it can be posted as a sequal to the first video. He was very humble and shy when he saw the video so we didn't quite get the reaction we were hoping for. So tomorrow we are going to show the video to his classmates and see what they think. Hopefully we'll get some pretty fun reactions out of some of them. I'll keep everyone updated on whether or not the footage we get tomorrow is actually worthy to be posted as a sequal to the first awesome video.

In other news, we went on a safari over the weekend. Needless to say, it was amazing! Seeing these animals in the wild is a completely indescribable experience. We spent Friday in Tarangire National Park, Saturday in the Ngorongoro Crater, and Sunday at Lake Manyara. We saw everything in the "Big 5" except for a leapord. We did, however, see a cheetah very close up so we're counting that as completing our mission to see the Big 5. The Internet connection here is officially too slow to post any pictures so those are going to have to wait for a few more weeks.

We went to town the other day and bought the rest of the wood to finish the roof for the kitchen at the new school. The orphanage is coming along and now has ceiling boards and electricity in most of the rooms. We've been doing a little bit of teaching, but most of the time we do administrative things such as taking photos of the progress of the buildings to send to organizations that have helped with the funding, helping James with work in town, and recording the height and weight of the students. We've been having fun arriving to work each morning and being surprised at what our work will consist of that day.

It's still hot here, but it has started to rain a little so things are cooling off a bit. We've also been having some fun battles with cockroaches, and even a scorpion (which Mark claims "almost killed" him), in our room. We don't have any big trips planned until we go to Zanzibar the first week of March. I don't anticipate anything too exciting happening in the next couple weeks so don't be alarmed if we disappear for a bit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What we've been up to.

We were able to start working this week! Before the weekend Brittany and I had a tour of the school and the orphanage and had a talk with our friend James to get rough estimates of the building materials that were still needed so we had to wait for them to arrive. On Monday we spent most of our time at the school, periodically reading and teaching math and English to the older children as we waiting for the class teachers to gather thier students' test results.

Tuesday morning we were back at the Orphanage (which serves as the office for the school and where James also lives) helping to put in the children's test results. Brittany and I tag-teamed this, creating excel and word documents and then entering in the information so it can be posted. We also created some school-parent documents that I assume will be used for returning and new students. Today some of the school materials finally arrived, the ceiling boards for the orphange. We ran a few errands with James and had to make multiple stops to a few different ATM's in order to get our money for the ceiling boards. Thats one thing about Moshi, there are 3 or 4 ATM's-but at any given time they can all be broken, or for one reason or another cannot service your request. We did finally withdraw enough money to pay for the ceiling boards and when it was all said and done we had a huge, fat, stinky wad of shillings rolled up with a hair elastic (a stack of 800,000 shilling is a whooooole lot fatter than a wad of the equivalent amount in U.S. dollars). I mean I felt like a drug dealer pulling that honking thing out, pulling the ghetto fabulous hair band off, and counting the bills on the counter of the hardware store. The rest of the morning was spent paying for the material, entering more information into the computer, and unloading the heavy and awkward ceiling boards into the orphange.

For the rest of week we will be taking pictures with Brittany's camera so that we can create teacher I.D. cards and a newsletter that we will send to a foundation in the States that supports the orphanage.

Just to give you an idea. The orphange houses 47 orphans, and James and his wife and 3 kids live in the same one story building - its probably about the square footage of the main floor of an average size house in the States...with that many kids! In the same area they they have constructed another building that will have more toilets, another water tank (they do not have plumbing and water pressure everywhere) and more space so the rooms are not so crowded. The building is made of cinder blocks and a tin roof, but thats about it. Imagine if you didn't have any drywall in your house and just had the plywood, insulation, and electrical wires exposed and thats what it looks like. So hopefully by the time we are done we will have the ceiling boards up, the walls painted, and one more water tank for the orphange. The school, which we are also hoping we can work on, needs a roof over the kitchen area (where the students are fed lunch) and another water tank so they do not have to walk to fetch water.

On a much less important note but still very exciting - we were able to go on a hike on Mt. Kilimajaro this past weekend. It was amazing. The forest was lush and beautiful and the simple villiage life on the mountain was so neat to watch. We hiked to a waterfall that was 178 meters high. It was quite a sight.

We will try to post some pictures soon. The internet connection is slow.

Oh and one more thing. The stars are amazing here.