At Mwalimu Anna’s the schedule was the same for most of the team, create lessons plans to teach the students how to type and use a mouse through Microsoft Word. Isaac had a new project for Nathan, he needed his camera and photography skills to help take pictures of the school and students for a new School Magazine. We went to a few classrooms as the students were working and learning to take pictures of the everyday activities that happen at the school. We also went to each classroom to take a formal picture of the class with their teacher, as well as, a “Grace photo” as Isaac calls it, where the students make funny faces or hold up the peace sign with their fingers. The kids love to do the Grace photos, the smiles are always better and the laughter really shows that they love this school and their education. Pictures were also taken of the teachers and faculty members. Nathan would step back into the computer lab occasionally to try and help with the lessons, but was always soon dragged out to take more pictures. It’s a good thing he loves taking pictures. School ended at 3:20, the team then packed up to get a ride back up to the house.
Tuesday was very similar. Lessons were conducted in the lab, three to four kids per computer. Sentences were pre typed on the Word document to be copied by the students. Mouse exercises were conducted to highlight words to then change the font, size, and color. It is hard to teach a group of 18 students on 6 computers for a 20 minute period of time. The student’s faces light up brighter than anything we have seen before when they learn a new computer skill; computers are a luxury to them, something that we take for granted. What they know of computers comes from a theory book that they work out of, never actually having had any hands-on use. We love coming to Mwalimu Anna’s because we know we are making a real difference.
Nathan took more pictures of the students and staff Tuesday. He took a picture of the entire school in one shot, everyone gathered in the playground field, grades P1 to P7. In order to get the best shot possible, he had to climb atop a 20ft corn silo. Many pictures were taken, a few formal ones and lots of pictures of all the students jumping and screaming. This magazine is going to be great.
Wednesday we had a similar day of teaching the students how to use a computer, but we had a friendly surprise visit from Erna Grasz, the founder of the Asante Foundation (foundation we are working under while staying at Rift Valley). We met her once while we were in Arusha, during our transition from Moshi to MtoWaMbu. She is a talkative women, who has a wide range of connections from all over the world. She’s someone we all need to stay in contact with for Pavlis and for future endeavors. She offered to take us out to dinner, we accepted of course.
Dinner was at the Double M, a local joint right on the main road of MtoWaMbu. We talked about future goals and Erna’s professional life. Erna has been working with Mwalimu Anna (the founder of the primary school) for 10 years now. Ten years ago there was but one small building to be called Mwalimu Anna’s that held only a classroom, today there are 8 buildings that hold over 500 students. Talk about dedication and motivation. Asante Foundation helped in the beginning, but Mama Anna is the machine keeping this school going. After a nice dinner and a long talk, we made sure to grab Erna’s contact information for the future. She is happy to help us in any way possible.
Thursday Isaac asked is if we would be willing to form a new website for the school. The current one only had two pages with very little pictures. We were happy to help! Using Wix website builder, we began creating a fun, bright, interactive website. Corinn and Nathan were the ones focusing on building the website. The rest of the group was working on getting the Rachel Pi network working. Rachel is an education network that can be connected to wirelessly. It is like a Wikipedia internet, without actually being internet. It is an awesome cheap substitute for internet. In the future we would like to see the entire school connected to Rachel Pi, so all the teachers can use it as an interactive tool through their computers. If we are able to fundraise for them, maybe iPads or tablets will be used throughout the school in the future.
Thursday evening we all went to Rift Valley Secondary School to help with their ICT program. We were teaching the same thing as we do at the primary school; the teacher wanted us to teach them more advanced applications, but they were not ready for that level of difficulty. So we stuck with learning to type.
After Thursday evening, we were all stressed and ready for a break from our normal activities. We remembered that Erna mentioned how beautiful Tanga, Tanzania is with its white Caribbean beaches. So on a limb, we decided to take a bus ride to Tanga Friday morning, which is on the other side of the country. We were thinking a 6 hour bus ride. Boy, we were wrong. We got up at 5:30AM to make the first bus from MtoWaMbo to Arusha at 6:30AM. We had to transfer buses in Arusha, making sure we were heading to Tanga. That part was easy, the Arusha to Tanga bus was not 6 hours, but 8 hours creating a total of 10 hours of bus riding in one day! It was hot, it was sweaty, and it was bumpy. Every town has speed bumps every 50 ft. It is ridiculous. Since we were sitting at the back of the bus, the bounciness was heightened. A few times we all slammed our heads against the ceiling after getting some lift off from our seats. It was a long tiring ride as one can imagine, thinking a 6 hour ride, but getting a 10 hour ride. On the upside the country was beautiful, large green mountains piercing through the clouds. Palm trees flying by as we looked out the window. We arrived tired and starving. We had to take a taxi to the hotel, three people in each taxi. One taxi had Corinn, Taylor, and Nathan the other had the two Matts and Joe. Here is a lesson while in a foreign country, you will get ripped off! Taxi one paid 20,000 shillings altogether, the other taxi paid 20,000 shillings EACH! Do not be afraid to negotiate.
The weekend turned out not as great as we thought. There were no white sandy beaches that would remind us of the Caribbean, that was an hour and half south, we later found out. We ended up hanging out on a beach along the harbor that was more of a local hangout. It was nice to have a cheap hotel for the night that allowed us to have Wi-Fi, A/C, cable and a hot shower. We really miss hot showers, it’s been a month of cold showers that make you hold your breath as you go under. The weekend was a lesson learned, you never know what you will get if you go on a spur-of-the-moment trip like we did. No planning and no preparation. It can turn out great or it can turn out challenging.
One week left to go! It has been a crazy adventure, let’s hope we end things right.