Everyone Home Safely - July 29th, 2013

Good news! Everyone is home safely and WITH ALL THE BAGGAGE! Which means everyone gets the gifts that were purchased in the last month.

One more flight to go! - July 27th, 2013

We are now waiting at Amsterdam airport to board our last flight home to the US. Students took a trip into Amsterdam city for breakfast at a cafe and walk around, while Prof. Thurmaier met an old friend (from 5th grade) and sipped coffee on their balcony overlooking the river. Had to work through some frustrating ticket and boarding pass issues, but everyone now looking forward to being home, telling stories, presenting gifts, and showing pictures. Next post will be confirmation we are home.

Second Day in Dar - July 24th, 2013

Study Trip with the Tanzanian Attorney General
We are in 2nd day in Dar. We had great meeting this morning with HakiElimu (a Tanzanian nonprofit that made a pledge of books for the library once there is a place for them) and now we are at U of Dar es Salaam with a student mixer. Tonight we dine as guests of the Tanzanian Attorney General at his home.

Rest & Relaxation - July 22nd, 2013

Spice Farm Group Shot

After 3 intensive weeks of long days and good works, Sunday has been a day of rest and relaxation, with a spice farm tour and time at a private beach (essential during Ramadan in Zanzibar). We were pure tourists. Nelisha tried out natural lipstick, Rachel (left) and Kate tried out spicy new shades, and the group was willing to look goofy for a day with accessories made from palm leaves and banana leaves. A well deserved break as we start our last 5 days of study.

Nelisha Trying Out Natural Lipstick on the Spice TourRachel and Kate Get New Glasses on the Spice Tour

Zanzibar Tour, Women’s Progress Discussion - July 21st, 2013

A beautiful day in Zanzibar! We had a very fine tour of Stone Town from our guide, Mohammed Kombo. It was the best tour I’ve had (of 4). Especially fun was watching the auction at the fish market. The afternoon seminar was with the leaders of COWPZ (Catalyst Organization for Women Progress in Zanzibar. They are energetically promoting women’s rights in Zanzibar and Tanzania. The conversation became even more lively when Fr. Kazeri asked the US women what they were doing for women’s progress in the USA. Among other comments, some noted that we had candidates for US Senate absurdly claiming that women’s bodies shut down and prevent pregnancy after rape, and we have legislatures ruled by men making reproductive health decisions for all women in their states. The students voiced concern that women in USA were too complacent and took their rights for granted, and that was a mistake. The exchange of ideas was rich and engagement was great. Hard to ask for any more from a seminar.

Volunteers Depart, Students to Zanzibar - July 20th, 2013

Friday was a long travel day for us, though successful. We had a french toast breakfast at 6:30 and gave the cooks at Epheta our thank you gift for being very creative at giving us tasty food for 3 weeks. They have been so responsive to our requests for variety and more fruits and vegetables.

We loaded the cars to carry luggage and boarded the bus. We were already behind scheduled 7:30 departure, but then someone forgot her phone and we had to turn around (only 2 minutes out, fortunately). (We’re not mentioning Rachel’s name though.) Then we had to stop to pick up Br. Masini at his school (he is going to Zanzibar with us). Now we are 1/2 hour late departing. Ahhhh, this is classic Tanzania, and we just needed to “go with the flow” as we say in the states.

We arrived in good time for the volunteers to go through security and check bags, with farewells said outside the airport. By the time the student group got through security and baggage check, the volunteers were already out the door and on their plane. We watched their plane heading for Kilimanjaro airport and on to Nairobi, wishing the Njema Safari! (a good journey).

The rest of us flew to Dar es Salaam. It was a bumpy takeoff—too much excitement for Nelisha’s first small prop flight! We finally landed in Zanzibar, and had our first meal at the outdoor food bazaar, aggressively courted by each of the food stands to try their kabobs of fish, chicken, somosas, etc. The last group got to bed about 10:45. A long and happy day indeed.

Quick Update - July 19th, 2013

We had a fine last day in Musoma. Met with local government officials in the morning seminar, and faith-based NGOs in the afternoon. We had last minute shopping and a farewell dinner at the Afrilux Hotel.

Next up, volunteers headed home, student group to Zanzibar!

2013 Serengeti Safari - July 17th, 2013

A lion and cubs during the 2013 Serengeti Safari.

A game drive doesn’t get much better than:

  • Seeing a leopard with 2 babies in a tree.
  • Watching a cheetah catch a baby gazelle, then not kill it but give it to her baby cheetah to play “catch the gazelle!” It was amazing to watch. Every few minutes the baby cheetah would let the gazelle loose; it would run away and the baby cheetah would easily catch and release again. Gazelle games!
  • Looking at a 2 week old baby giraffe hop around and nurse.
  • Watching a mother and 2 lion cubs casually stroll past the car (not quite in touching distance, but very close!) and meander off toward a group of Thompson’s gazelles (an enticing breakfast).

 

When we returned to the campsite for breakfast (about 9am), we discovered that a pride of lions had caught a Cape Buffalo just next to our campsite while we were off watching the other lions, cheetahs, and leopards! It is such an amazing experience; no wonder the Serengeti is called one of the 7 Wonders of the World.


Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

30th Wedding Anniversary - July 15th, 2013

Sunday was for celebrating the 30th wedding anniversary of Kurt and Jeanine/Baba na Mama Anna. There was the 2 hour special Mass (9-11am) presided by Bishop Michael, followed by gift giving, choir performance, and lunch. Gifts to the happy couple included 2 live hens, which Jeanine graciously held for the couple. (They were donated to Epheta, which has many hen houses for eggs and dinners!) Then evening special party with other guests, complete with more gift giving, dancing, and dinner. We managed to get home by just after 11pm…..long day before the safari. (Still looking for a picture of the hen gifts to post….check back to this post for an update….;) Tomorrow is the Serengeti camping safari.


Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

Work Day and Volunteer Island Visit - July 13th, 2013

Lindsay and Nelisha practicing masonry at the Nyegina Library site.Lindsay and Nelisha practicing masonry at the Nyegina Library site.

Today’s project work was a half day. We spent about an hour helping to construct the sign announcing the project (financing, contractor, etc) with each student pounding some nails, then erecting the sign. Later we were passing more sand with students, UMABU board members moving rocks, and NIU students Nelisha Gray and Lindsay Schoeder practicing masonry (pictured). The TDS volunteers spent the day visiting Rukuba and Irigia islands (which the students visited the weekend before). The island visit is an unforgettable experience, as one sees abject poverty at a level that is difficult to imagine and comprehend.


Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

Microfinance around Musoma - July 11th, 2013

One of the 19 women who belong to microfinance borrowing groups in the Bukwaya area presents information on her group borrowing to students and volunteers in an afternoon seminar.

One of the 19 women who belong to microfinance borrowing groups in the Bukwaya area presents information on her group borrowing to students and volunteers in an afternoon seminar.

The 2nd seminar day was focused on microfinance as a development tool. We visited three microfinance NGOs in the morning: FINCA, AFREDA, and SACCOS Musoma. We learned how they work and who are their clientele. In the afternoon, we met with 19 women from various microfinance groups that work with AFREDA and UMABU to develop their businesses. The women own restaurants, sell vegetables, and cereals, and run shops. What we learned from the women is that they struggle very hard to pay back the 36-60% APY interest rates (this is not a misprint). The default rate is amazingly low because the group members have to make the loan repayment for a member who is sick or is away for a funeral and cannot make her payment. Still, they manage to make a profit even after paying back the loans. Some groups have moved past AFREDA loans and now have their own internal lending program. The picture above captures the presentation of one borrower explaining her circumstances to the NIU students and TDS volunteers.

First Work Day - July 10th, 2013

Cory shoveling mixed concrete into buckets for the Nyegina Library and Community Resource Center

This was our first work day, and we spent most of the time moving sand from piles into the floor frame. By Thursday we will probably be pouring cement around the rocks that the workers will place on the sand base we laid today. We passed the sand by shovels dropped in cement bags and passed along a line of hands, each taking and passing to the next, until the end of the line where they sand was spilled onto the ground.

We were joined by boys and girls at the school, community volunteers, and a few teachers who were not in class or grading exams. Cory was dedicated to shoveling mixed concrete into buckets that were then carried by students to the new foundations for the walls. Cory, who is visually impaired, was redefining “impaired” in Tanzania for the Nyegina Secondary students.

-Kurt Thurmaier

Kiswahili Introductions at Nyegina - July 9th, 2013

MPA student Matthew Simpson introduces himself in Kiswahili to assembled students at Nyegina Secondary School

MPA student Matthew Simpson introduces himself in Kiswahili to assembled students at Nyegina Secondary School

The premier event of Monday, July 8, was the NIU students introducing themselves in Kiswahili to the assembled students of Nyegina Secondary School. This was courageous, since they only had a week of Kiswahili language training! But they did a fine job. Of course, they had the students howling with laughter, beginning with Brandi’s bio when she mentioned that she had a pet dog with (linguistically anyhow) the same status as her sisters and brothers…and the dog even had a name. This is the most insane idea to a Tanzanian, so they were laughing a lot…especially each time another student would also mention a dog or cat in the same breath as a sister or brother.

It is a great example of a huge cultural difference between Tanzania and the US. Many families don’t have enough food for healthy children in Tanzania, so the thought of a pet dog is crazy to most people here. Still, I am very proud of the students. Each did a fine job. This was an important exercise to break down language barriers between the NIU students and the Nyegina students; the high school students will now feel at ease about trying to speak English—even poorly—because the NIU students were willing to risk embarrassment to speak Kiswahili to them. That’s the building block of cross-cultural engagement—taking risks and building trust to learn more about the other person.


Video by Mark Biernacki

Volunteers Arrived and Islands Visit - July 6th, 2013

Good News! The TDS volunteer group arrived at Epheta in Musoma this evening, about 6pm. All their baggage came with them! They are tired but in good spirits.

The student group spent the day on Lake Victoria, visiting two islands with fishing villages. There are many problems on these islands. One is supposed to be a protected bird sanctuary, but there are about 300 fishing folk living in a settlement with no permanent structures, including no schools, no clinic, no wells, no toilets. The other island has permanent legal residents, yet has enclaves of very poor people with very high HIV+ populations, prostitution, malnourished children, and other issues. There is a school, and there is a new kindergarten (funded by a German foundation), so progress is being made. The church congregation welcomed us warmly and provided a delicious lunch. The leaders introduced themselves, and then the students were challenged to introduce themselves in Kiswahili (as they had practiced in class all week). They need more practice, but they gave it a fine effort and that was what really meant a lot to the congregational leaders who had hosted us so enthusiastically.


Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

Last Language Class - July 5th, 2013

TDS Last Day at Makoko Language School 2013

Our last language class ended with students perfecting their introductory paragraphs and learning about the challenges of the Tanzanian education system. Standing next to me is Fr. Ed Gorczaty, director of Makoko Language School. In front of me are teachers Dismas, Daniel, and Sylvester. Left foreground is lead teacher Mw. Magdelena. The midterm exam for this portion of the course will be Monday, when the students must introduce themselves in Kiswahili before the UMABU board and the Nyegina Secondary School Board. They will do a fine job!

-Kurt Thurmaier

Wishing a Safe Journey to the Volunteers - July 4th, 2013

The 4th of July is not an event in Musoma, Tanzania, but we had reason to celebrate anyway. In addition to another beautiful day, and great progress in our language class, TDS Intern Brandi now has her missing luggage with her clothes and other things for a month! Notice the smile on her face!

The TDS volunteers are leaving from O’Hare today, joining us on Saturday afternoon (July 6th). Prayers and thoughts for their safe journey are much appreciated.

We now have updated contact phone numbers for Dr. Thurmaier and Brandi, if you need to contact someone in the student group or volunteer group.

*In Tanzania: Dr. Thurmaier Mobile: 011.255.682.198.561

*In Tanzania: Brandi Smith Mobile: 011.255.688.139.173

Please note the time difference: Musoma is 8 hours AHEAD of Chicago time. So 8am in Chicago is 4pm (afternoon) in Musoma.

Wi-Fi at Epheta - July 4th, 2013

There is now wi-fi at Epheta, Musoma! It was comical watching 6 students try to all get onto the wifi at the same time when we returned from language lessons today about 3:30. Needless to say, wi-fi traffic jam! There are still some kinks to work out, but hopefully fine tuning tomorrow will help.

Once they stopped looking at their screens for an hour, they went back to looking at each other in conversations about this, that, and the other thing. Unplugging was a good experience, but so is getting them back to email, Facebook, etc. Friends and family should expect more emails now.

-Kurt Thurmaier

First trip to Musoma Market - July 2nd, 2013

We had a successful market outing last night (July 1) and several women found skirts and kangas. (Picture to be posted soon!) We have the wireless internet network set up and hope to have use tomorrow when the internet is “turned on” by the internet provider.

Now we are looking for a volunteer who could help Epheta set up a simple website to attract more guests (now that it can offer wi-fi!).

First Musoma Pub. Seminar is tonight at Musoma Club after dinner!

The first day of language lessons - July 1st, 2013

FROM THE STUDENTS: The first day of language lessons was really intense, but fun and interesting. It made us think about our own language and the meaning of certain words, for example, the way we express appreciation. One of the words we learned today was “karibu,” which means welcome. At first, we thought that it meant “you are welcome,” like the direct response to “thank you.” However, karibu is an expression of welcoming into a home or a place. So people always say it first and the reply is “asante” or “thank you.” This changed our perceptions of greetings in the states, and we realized sometimes we forget what a blessing it is to share the company of friends and loved ones. Karibu!

Study Abroad Update 1 - June 29th, 2013

Hujambo!
The NIU Study Abroad to Tanzania is now safely in Arusha. We had many delays and several miracles, but everyone is here, just missing 4 bags. (We ran out of miracles when they let Whitney into the country without a yellow fever vaccine, because we came through Naiobi (Kenya).

So today we are visiting the CBHCC water works, the Water Filter Factory, and Mwangaza Teaching Center. Then some shopping and changing money, and early to bed (after our first pub administration seminar).

-Kurt Thurmaier

Contact Information - June 26th, 2013

In a little over 24 hours, students will start heading to OHARE International to meet with the study abroad group and catch the first of three flights to Kilimanjaro Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. Below, friends and family can find contact information of key members of the leadership team for the 2013 Experiential Learning with NGOs in Tanzania Program.

We ask that you please be patient with our communications from Tanzania. It is a Third World country, and sometimes the electricity is out, sometimes the server is down, sometimes the phone exchange is overloaded. And sometimes we are just going to be having so much fun that we are not going to pause to tell you what is happening! So……don’t worry if you don’t hear from us every day. We will do our best to post to the Twitter feed and Blog.

Tanzanian mobile numbers will be updated upon arrival in Arusha. Please note the time difference: Musoma is 8 hours AHEAD of Chicago time. So 8am in Chicago is 4pm (afternoon) in Musoma.

KT & Brandi

The Countdown Begins! - June 25th, 2013

The countdown for the 2013 Tanzania Work-Study Program is racing ahead. The NIU and UW-Lacrosse students will leave for Tanzania with Prof. Thurmaier on Thursday, June 27. The students are busy writing their first papers and reflection letters.

The clock is ticking down but the fundraising by the Work-Study volunteers (and a few students!) is ticking up! As of today, their friends and family members have already contributed more than $7000. All of these gifts are applied directly to the library building costs. (The volunteers pay their own way to Tanzania.)

We had the final pre-flight SKYPE session with UMABU staff on Thursday, June 20th and excavation begins on Monday, June 24th! The rock wall that will hold the foundation and floor will be built before the volunteers begin “pouring the floor” on July 9!

Now is a great time for you to visit the Library Build page http://tdsnfp.org/library-build to meet the volunteers and choose someone to support with a generous donation.

Be sure to bookmark this page to follow the progress of the student and volunteer groups as they work together on the  Library and Community Resource Center.