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Africa » Tanzania » North » Arusha » Arusha City
February 15th 2014
Published: February 15th 2014
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There are over 100 children between 3 and 7 years old in four rooms. Three of the rooms are like small bed rooms and can have more than twenty little ones in it. The nursery school feeds them breakfast and lunch. It is beyond description. I worked with the littlest ones first. They are too small and they are taught one by one with nothing to do when teacher is not with them. I want to suggest change, but I am a volunteer without a lot of ideas for such a young group, particularly when there is no space and there are no materials. When their teacher leaves, they erupt into jumping and shouting just like every class left with a substitute who can't even speak the language. They are sweet and naughty, and when we go outside for recess a few minutes later they hand on to my hands my arms and my legs. Going outside means going into the small dirt clearing outside the school, that is half empty lot and half garbage dump. I have to take the rubbish away from the boys who like to gather bits and then hit each other. There are so many similarities in how children behave and so many differences in our circumstances, it's hard to wrap your mind around it.

We are living in an outer section of town, which means dirt roads lined with tiny shops, wood and mud huts, gated courtyards with two or three homes inside, tin lined shacks, with stands of bushes, and corn and palm gardens in between. The nursery is 8 mins away walking at the edge of the dirt track, squeezing out of the way of cars when they come pushing by. There are goats and cows tied up in many yards, and some yards have a round mud Masaii hut rather than the shabby sheds that some live in. This is not the country, it is the suburbs of the city. The downtown core is paved with shops leaning together all down the road, competing with street venders on the roadside in front of the shops. There are sections of newer buildings with no venders, but everything is jumbled.

I returned to town with Catriona to run errands and see the Masaii market. This is where you go to buy all the tourist African art. There is stall after stall of carved wood and stone, woven baskets, jewelry and beaded bags, sandals, and belts. They are all beautiful and the venders know how to encourage you to buy. I will be coming back here.

Our next day, I start by riding with the driver to pick up some of our students. We ride into other outlying areas,bouncing over the bumps to slide open the van doors for our little ones. We pack 13 into the van, sitting on each other and standing two deep, only a few smack their heads against windows. You have to be able to change all your expectations here. One seat per child with seat belt means nothing if you can't get to school. I return home for breakfast and then walk with Jacob to start the morning. This time I am in the oldest class. This is where I am most comfortable and may be able to stay there starting next week. I ended the day with the driver again, so although the day ends at 1:00, I was finished at three. Every day is filled with sights and sounds that amaze. And everyday I am more comfortable, in understanding my place here.

Good Night and Sweet Dreams.

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