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Tanzania 2014 – Day 5 Feb 25

Today I took it much easier than yesterday. I was not feeling very well when I woke up and had no appetite all day. I had to force myself to eat breakfast and a small snack during the day. I had a little hunger at the end of the day. We arrived a the site around 9:15, I went to check in at the dental clinic to find out what Lisa had planned for the tablets. My goal for the day was to get them distributed to the people who are need them and train them how to use them. The first one went to the Charles, the headmaster of the school. I sat down with him for a bit and explained the tablet. He picked up it very quick and said he generally knew how to use them. We tried putting his SIM card in the tablet to get internet, but were not able because he did not have credit. I then met up with Holly, the American who is managing the project for Lisa. I showed her some of the basic stuff she needed to know on how to use the tablet, she also picked it up very quickly.

I ran into Jamal and wandered around a bit with him. We went to see how progress was going on the house being built for Anna, the head mistress. They painting was nearly complete, and it looked good. We then went and found Mr. Gilbert, the biology, physics, and chemistry teacher. We were able to sit in on one of his classes, which was very interesting. The students were very smart and involved in the class, very different from my experiences in school. A small group of students had prepared a lesson about sulfur dioxide, how to product it, what its properties were, effects on the environment, etc. They taught the other students, with the teach interjecting where needed. The teacher had the class ask several questions of the group presenting, then the group quizzed some of the students. Each time a student spoke they had to stand at their desk. Many seemed to be shy about us being in the classroom, they would cover their face or mouth when asked a question and try to suppress their giggles. After class was over I was able to attend tea with a small group of the teachers. We were served a sweet corn bread and some sweetened barley tea. I had a good time chatting with the teachers.

Later I found Anna to teach her how to use the tablet. She had many questions but seemed to be a quick learner. I gave her my email address in case she has any questions in the future.
After I was done teaching Anna, I went to find Lisa so we could go into town to purchase SIM cards for the tablets and to get Maaru some tools I want o get him. Holly had already taken the truck with some other members to deliver soccer balls to another village, so we went to see the new land Lisa had purchased.

She bought a 1 acre site for 2.5 million Tanzanian shillings (about 1700 USD) and another 4 acres for 10 million Tanzanian shillings (around 8000 USD). The plots are nice and abut directly to the orphanage property. We went to meet the woman who sold Lisa the smaller plot. She was probably in her 60s or early 70s. She invited us into her home, which was a small compound with two mud huts and a small cement building. There were a lot of baby chickens running around and a small, completely adorable, puppy. She thanked Lisa for buying the land and said it made her able to send her grandson to school, but she was sad she could not afford to send her daughter. She asked us to help her. Lisa said we would think about it. As we were leaving the woman picked up a chicken and gave it to Lisa as a gift, “for dinner.” I think it was the first time I’ve ever been asked to hold someone’s chicken for a moment while they tied their shoe.

Later we went back to the school, I helped cover some children’s books with plastic protectors, and there was a girl who passed out so I ran and got our dentist with the most medical experience. She recovered after a bit but was very shaken up. She was on some kind of medication and forgot to take it. We are not sure if she at an asthma attack or seizure.
Once that was cleared up, there was a small dedication for the sewing building that was recently built in honor of a girl who passed away. Her parents donated the money because their daughter loved to sew.

We made our way back to he hotel and had dinner, it was a chicken curry with mashed potatoes. It was very good.

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Tanzania 2014 – Day 4 Feb 24

Alana woke up sick around 3 am this morning. She was puking and had very bad diarrhea. It was very difficult to sleep because the power kept cutting in and out and the hotel generator would kick on, which is right below our window. It is very loud and the exhaust comes in our window. The dogs were going crazy all night, Alana kept getting up to run to the bathroom and the fucking rooster outside our window started crowing around 4 am, and would not stop.
When I did get up I felt alright, went downstairs to have some breakfast, it was picked over. I ended up custom ordering scrambled eggs (good but small serving) and eating a left over breakfast “sausage”(basically a hot dog). I went up to the room to check on Alana, ended up having some diarrhea of my own. I took a Cipro and started to feel a little better. I went down to the bus waiting for me to go out to the site. At this point I was feeling very sick and was worried I wouldn’t make it through the ride without vomiting. The worst part was the dirt road out to the school. I was greatly relieved when we arrived.

I was not feeling well, so I planned to just stick around for a bit then head back to the hotel. I went to check out the tilapia pond that was recently almost completed. It was basically a concrete cistern filled with river water. Jamal was with me. and we decided to follow the supply hose down to the river. It was probably about half a mile to a mile through fields until we got there. The river was completely filthy. We passed a few folks building a small structure. I asked them what they were building, he pointed to the river, then to the talpia pond saying “fish”. My suspicions were confirmed – they were building a pump hose for the pond.

We walked back to the school and poked around for a few minutes. I looked for the bus or truck to take back to the hotel since I was still not feeling well, but it had already left. I was stuck so I figured I might as well be productive. I re-rigged the small swing that was bought with the rope and hose we purchased yesterday. I borrowed a chair from the staff and hung the rope swing. It was discovered a few hours later by a little girl, I ran over and snapped a picture of her playing. Much later Lisa said she had to break up a fight over the new swing. I caught another boy playing on it and snapped his photo, he was having a grand old time.
Again on my mission to find the bus I wandered back to the dental clinic to see if they knew anything about it. I was feeling a little better at this point, but still wanted to go visit Alana and take a bit of a rest.

The dentists were in semi crisis because they could not find the boxes left last time to raise the patient chairs. They were constantly bending over at the waist or kneeling on the concrete floor. I was drafted to work with Joseph to find the boxes. We searched for a while and tried calling Tanzanian Holly to ask if she knew were they were. She did not, so we called Anna, she said her husband Maaru had stored them from last time in the shed. Maaru did not know where they were. He took us to the storage shed where he had put them. We did not find them, so we were asked to try and build something. Bob and I worked with Maaru and found some plywood (a very rare item, I am wondering if it was being saved for something else). Bob and I started planning while Maaru went to gather tools. He eventually came back with a very old hand saw, a tape measure, pencil, and hand poured nails. Maaru went to try and find the hammer, while Bob and I got to work measuring and sawing.

I’ve never used a hand saw to cut a 3/4 inch piece of solid plywood. I never will again. Oh. My. God. It took so long and we had to switch back and forth to get through the full 4 x 8 piece of lumber. By the time we had a few pieces cut, Maaru came back with a “hammer.” It was a piece of pipe with an old hammer head crudely attached. Gotta work with what you have. We finished one box and took it in to Dr. Edelen, he was very happy to have it. We noticed the other doctors kneeling on the concrete floor, so before we started the next box (needed four total), we rustled up some cushions for the doctors to kneel on temporarily.
Bob and I went back to start work on the second box, Maaru helped us with some of the cutting so it went much more quickly. We finished up the second box and delivered it to Dr. Moening, he was super happy.

We went to start on the third box, and Bob got pulled away to talk to some of the staff about what he will be teaching them while here. Maaru and I finished up the last two. He did most of the sawing, God bless his soul. He could not have had a better attitude. The saw was very dull by the end of the last box, and he was really struggling to finish the last cut. I could tell he was disappointed about losing the saw. I told him I will buy him another. Between the 3rd and 4th box, we took a lunch break. I had to force Maaru to come inside for a short break, I tried to get him to eat some of the food they older volunteers had prepared (PB and J), he refused until the older black lady basically forced it on him. This is very common in this area. Many people are lucky if they get one meal a day. I was never able to get Maaru to drink some water, but I was happy he at least got some food.

Maaru and I went right back to work after finishing our small meal. We finished up the fourth and final box for the doctors and delivered it. I took a small break from the work to check out the shop that was setup to help raise money for the orphanage. They are teaching the girls how to sew purses, shirts, and wallets to sell. I ordered a custom African shirt, they took my measurements and said it would be ready tomorrow. Cost will be forty US dollars. When I was getting my measurements taken Maaru came back to ask me to help him install the camping showers Lisa had brought. I was feeling very beat, exhausted, and sunburn, but I just had to help him after all the work he did for us.

I was incredibly moved by working with Maaru, he worked so hard, never complained, hardy ate or drink, all for what is probably only a few dollars a day. Reflecting on the experience later with Alana I broke down in tears talking about it.

We went and hung the showers in the boys bathrooms first. Their current bathing method is to fill a small tub with water and basically rinse off with the tub. We installed a battery powered camping shower. There is a battery pack and switch (4D cells), connected to a small pump with a hose and small spray head attached. The pump sits in a bucket of water, when turned on the water sprays through the hose. According to the reviews, one set of batteries should last about 1000 showers. We left extra batteries and solar rechargeable batteries for them to use. We moved on to the girls shower. We installed three of these showers in each bathroom. One of the girls was soooo exited to have a “real” shower she turned it on and jumped in with all her clothes on and did a little dance! Installing the showers took a very long time, and the smell in the bathrooms is awful since there is no running water or flushing toilets. They are all squaty toilets that just basically drain to a hole in the ground. I was feeling okay up to about half way through the installation, then the smell started getting to me. I started to feel very sick again, and I think Maaru could tell. I felt bad because I couldn’t help him as much as I would have liked.

I helped Maaru clean up his few tools, he was very appreciative of my help, grabbed my hand with a big smile on his face and asked if I could help more tomorrow, of course I said yes.
After putting the tools away I started walking back up to the dental lab to see what the plan was. There was a land cruiser just about to leave so I hopped on board. I was worried I would be sick on the ride, but managed to survive. On the way back to the hotel we passed a large field with maybe forty kids in it, tilling the soil by hand with hoes. The truck had to slow down for a speed bump, the kids caught site of us and ran over screaming for us to take their pictures. They were working insanely hard. Some of the folks tried to snap a few pictures when the supervisor noticed us and started running toward the truck scream very loud, the driver speed away, a little scared. He obviously didn’t want us taking pictures of his child laborers. The older black lady (Dr. Clarence’s mom) was very upset by what we just saw, she kept asking the driver why the children were working. She eventually screamed at him, “Why are there children working in the field and not adults like you and me?!”she was very deeply upset, and I don’t blame her. The driver politely ignored her, either because he didn’t want to get into it or he didn’t understand what she was asking.

We arrived back at the hotel shortly there after. I stripped and jumped in the shower. I felt so exhausted, sick, sunburned, and just worn down. It doesn’t sound like we did much, but I’ve never had a harder days work, physically or emotionally.

I relaxed for a while and recapped my day for Alana. I wondered of Maaru was able to relax or if he was still working. Visited briefly with my mom and Jamal and eventually wandered down stairs for dinner.

I spoke for sometime with Lawrence’s cousin, Chris. He lives in Nairobi and is currently between jobs so he is working as a translator for the week. He does PR/marketing for oil and gas companies. Dinner was vegetable curry. It was good.

Video courtesy of my brother in law.

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Stains the Cupcake dog

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What if the world were made of pudding?

What if the world were made of pudding?

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Eric O’brien’s Rootbeer Belly

My friend Eric has invented one of the greatest drinks of all time – the Rootbeer Belly.  Ice cream, rootbeer, rum, chocolate syrup, and carmel syrup…what more could you want?!

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