|Matt with the kids during the dancing|
It’s hard to pick a single moment from this week to start off with… but on Wednesday I found myself holding hands with Alphonce and Priscus in a circle with 40+ students, one of my best friends from America, four Tanzanian teachers while we sang, danced, and stomped all as a part of a lesson on Traditional Tanzanian Dance… all I could do was laugh and smile. Just three weeks ago I said goodbye to my students in America, and now here I was back in Africa with my other students and I could not be in a better place. I know my students in America are ok (because they still comment on my blog and email me!) and I know now that I can be here for my students in Tanzania. Their smiles remind me daily of the enormous opportunity and responsibility I have to fulfill here.
My first week back in the classroom was supposed to start slowly. We have some student teachers here with us for the next few weeks, but I can be persistent at times. I was told multiple times by my African mama and headmistress Mama Shayo “be cool Mr. Terry”, because she was afraid I might get tired. Eventually she gave me two English lessons on Tuesday which then snowballed into more lessons. On Thursday Mama walked into the room in the middle of my P3 Math lesson and I stopped mid-sentence like a deer in the headlights since I was supposed to be observing…she laughed and said “Ok Mr. Terry you’re back”. The Mama Shayo that I know is hilarious and we constantly laugh together, but the children do not always see this side of her. The teachers in Tanzania are often very stern and strict, so when Mama started laughing seeing me teaching the P3 children again, all the children started laughing too. I have had the amazing opportunity to teach these children in P1, P2 and now P3, which is their entire school lives and my teaching life as well. There is just such tremendous joy with having myself, Agness, Mama Shayo and the children all together laughing knowing now how far we have come together. I guess it took me a whole week, but I finally feel like I am doing everything I came to do. I am teaching, taking care of the children, taking care of the guests as best I can and searching out new ways I can support the community.
|Lilian and Nelly posing|
On Wednesday Dr. Matt and I spent the whole day doing general health check-ups for all the children in P3 as a part of his research project for Loyola. I will let him elaborate further (this week I promise!), but one of my greatest difficulties coming from America is to not compare my students. Very simply, at least half of my P3 students in Tanzania are smaller than my first grade students in America still. Part of it is cultural, but it also is in part due to environmental factors like poor diet. It is always difficult to look at the children I have grown to love so much and know that are now 9-10 years old and they still only weigh 45 pounds. We have improved the food at the school by offering them makande (a beans and corn dish which most schools don’t serve to children this young because it’s too expensive) but even still there is improvement to be had. I am currently trying to figure out the cost of improving the diet financially because there are immediate ways like adding more beans, milk, carrots or even peanuts that can enhance the makande. Many of the children depend on the school for this meal, which some days may be their only meal. We have such a great opportunity to make a difference in their health if we can further improve this one meal!
|With our new girl Elizabeth and Nelly|
The bible I have here is the one most readily found from the local markets from the American Bible Society from 1976 “The Good News” so forgive me if your proverb translation doesn’t match, but I was reading the Proverb 25:11 “Be generous and you will be prosperous, help others and you will be helped.” I feel this fits so perfectly for my first week in school. I have never felt richer and more prosperous than when I am here. My prosperity is not monetary but thankfully I am prosperous in more important things. I am here surrounded by people who I love completely and I am constantly refreshed by their examples of love. I am constantly motivated by the children and the teachers with their constant strength through adversity and the unpredictable nature of life here. Whether it’s the smallest gesture; a smile every morning, a laugh or a hug it’s all they can give and everything I need. In every smile I know I see everyone who has helped me to get here. I am only here to help because I have been empowered by the generosity of others. I am now able to act for others and help in ways that everyone wants me to and I know many wish they were able to. By helping I have been helped by everyone at home, asante sana. Many smiles and well wishes from everyone here at Stella Maris.