Published: July 5th 2009July 5th 2009
What a day!!! Yesterday was a full day of festivities for Tanga's Rotary Club. First was the opening of a new footbridge for a school whose students were crossing a 50-foot ravine on a bridge made of wood and rope...incredible...then to the opening of the two new classrooms and a teachers' workroom at Majenga School, which was unbelievably powerful. The building is BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to put up pictures of this new school area - it's crazy to see this shiny new building next to the old buildings (which, until now, were crammed with up to 170 students per classroom...granted, these kids are small, but to be packed in to a room like sardines in the blazing African summer heat is outrageous!!). A full ceremony unfolded...Tom and I even had seats of honor in the gazebo with the Rotary's District Governor and First Lady, and representatives from Tanga's City Council - SO cool! The DG and City Councilwoman cut the ribbon to open the school officially, and Tom captured the moment on video on his camera - it's pretty awesome, so we'll definitely attempt to upload that here or on YouTube so we can share it with you all! The students of the school (who were all there, by the way, which was one of the most powerful parts of the day) presented a traditional African dance complete with drums, singing in Swahili "Welcome to our school - Majenga WHOO!" in celebration of the new classrooms. And the teachers...we had a chance to talk with a few of them and they are absolutely OVERJOYED at their new workspace and classrooms. The entire project truly was a community effort from both "Findlayites" and "Tanganians"; one of the Tanga Rotarians owns a construction business, and so it was his company that built the school itself, and our gracious host Ali owns a woodworking factory, so it was his company that outfitted the building with window frames and doors and a gigantic chalkboard at the front of each room. Tom and I had a chance to speak to the whole assembly on behalf of Findlay High School, and we were able to acknowledge our donors and the Findlay Rotary Club, explain some of our fundraising efforts, and express just how much this day truly means to us (Although I'm not so sure the crowd understood 100% of our fast-talking Midwestern American English...).
But as momentous as that event was, the day was not over yet! At night we celebrated in style at the Tanga Raskazone Swimming Club the 50th anniversary of Tanga's Rotary Club - 50 years of "service above self". Such a wonderful event! Lasted nearly four hours...these Tanzanians love their socializing :) A huge function for their Club: installation of a new President; induction of a new member; presenting Paul Harris Fellows Awards; a fundraising auction and raffle; and a MASSIVE gala buffet dinner. Here is an exciting bit of news for Findlay High School: an additional $1000 was raised by Tanga Rotary last year, which was donated to the Rotary Foundation on behalf of FHS. This means that our school received its very own "Honorary" Paul Harris Fellow Award! Overall, a lovely evening filled with beautiful people (Tom and I espcially enjoyed the DJ...no raging techno raves, but some good Bob Marley reggae hits!).
We were short on sleep last night (after getting home from the festivities around midnight!) as we rose with the sun today to be at the orphanage. We walked nearly 45 minutes to the boys' orphanage, then almost an hour through the Tanzanian countryside (SO mindbogglingly gorgeous! Unlike anything I've ever seen...monstrous palm trees making canopies over the roads, small monkeys taking the right of way crossing the street, and lots of maize growing at LEAST 6 feet tall!) to get to the campus where they train dogs and horses for the police force. The kids loved it, and I was amazed at how they weren't phased at all by the nearly three full hours of walking (a group of the girls escorted us back home, a 30-minute walk across town!). And the girls today had decided to wear red ribbons pinned to their jackets (yes, jackets! It's been consistenly in the 70's/possibly late 80's here - SO nice - but it's winter for them, so they came prepared for a frigid morning outside...) in support of HIV/AIDS awareness. An update on our beloved girl who was in the hospital: she was discharged on Friday, and is now feeling much better at home in the orphanage with her sisters. I talked with the assistant matron today, and she said it's all they can do to try to find her a decent job so that she can get started on her own (she's 19, our age) as soon as possible. Her plans to attend university away from Tanga and the orphanage this fall will most likely not be happening, which is SO sad. But she is so lucky to have such an incredibly supportive and loving community around her - the chemistry and bond these girls share is unlike anything I've ever seen.
Pole sana (Kiswahili for "so sorry"!) for the length of these posts!! If they're too long, let us know - there's just SO much that is happening during our stay here that we're truly only skimming the surface of activities and experiences! We've been invited to stay at another Rotarian's house, we're having dinner tonight, in fact, with the President-Elect and his family, and we are also planning dinner with the City Council, as well as a day of swimming with our girls and boys! Whew! So much to do and so little time...Tanzanitus has struck, Karl!
Much love and peace,
Tom and Leah