|not happy about our immigration problems|
As we inched closer to having a full staff (getting one teacher) we suffered the loss of three members. First our headmistress became sick with malaria and missed most of the week and then our two volunteers Katie and Joost were forced to leave our school temporarily for VISA reasons. I will not get into the politics, validity, or reasons for immigration’s concern with our volunteers or their money, but we seriously missed them in the classroom with our depleted staff. This in turn forced me out of the classroom a bit so that I could help deal with their situation. So here we are, almost a month into school and we are struggling to keep our people in the classroom. It is these challenges that allow us to learn and better prepare ourselves for the future of our project and the role volunteers will play. It is an unfortunate reality that this country has not figured out how to properly welcome or keep volunteers without forcing them to pay large sums of money and jump through hoops. For instance my passport size photos went from a required 6 with a blue background to 8 with a white background (pushed back my VISA 3 months) only to find out a month later that my white background wasn’t white enough… it never ends. We are hoping and praying for a speedy resolution to this situation as well as clearly defined roles for our volunteers and visitors we hope to welcome to our school. We are definitely learning on the fly with this one!
On a far more positive note we welcomed Chris, Mary and Cassandra Causey back to Mailisita for the first time in 5 years. They were a part of the first group that ever visited Mailisita and some of the founding members of the Mailisita Foundation. I first traveled over here with their son Alex in 2010 and it was an incredible experience to share in their visit as the re-familiarized themselves with Tanzania. It was also especially unique to hear about how much the project has changed in five years. Their passion and commitment continue to drive the project forward and keep focus on the project at home and in the St. Joseph community. They were so impressed with the work that has been done and were a big help this week guiding us through the growing pains of immigration and other government issues. It was so great to share so many days with them. They even worked at night (to avoid immigration problems) to paint a beautiful mural with the help of Katie and Joost.
This also lead to many excursions together including a first for all of us, a day hike up Kilimanjaro. I have lived here for a year and a half at the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, yet I have never been up. It was a beautiful hike that was also physically tiring, trekking 18km up to nearly 3,000 Meters above sea level. We saw waterfalls, monkeys, and when we reached Maundi Crater we could even see all the way into Kenya! We could see all the small villages and towns spotted throughout the green plains in the Kilimanjaro region of Kenya and Tanzania. What was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip happened during the last thirty minutes of the hike when we were observing the monkeys in the trees. I was hiking ahead with Adam and Joost when we heard “oh look monkeys!” The Causeys had stopped to look at the family of monkeys together and take a few pictures. We of course took a few steps back and watched them as a family of monkeys scurried above them in the trees. We then heard a loud ‘thud’! We looked over and saw a busted avocado. Then another ‘thud’ and another ‘thud’! The monkeys had started to throw rotten avocados at us and narrowly missed each time. Apparently they did not like us disturbing their meal time or they were offended by us taking the pictures, either way they were not happy. Naturally their response was to grab the nearest thing (a fruit) and just throw it at us. Now there was some debate as to whether the monkeys were “throwing the avocados at us” or discarding them, but truthfully I have no doubt. There was a whole lot of land all around us, but the avocados were striking the walking path we were on which was not more than 3 feet wide. The monkeys were definitely marking their territory and did not like us being there.
I will write again soon. We have been incredibly busy at the school and hotel being short staffed and also with the Causey family visiting. I have been feeling very tired for a few weeks, which I thought was a result of the work, but in fact was malaria. I found out on my birthday (Friday) that I was suffering from another bout with malaria when I woke up feeling very, very old and sore. I could hardly prop myself up to get out of bed and finally I decided to go to the doctor. Sure enough, I have malaria again. I will write all about it and my birthday weekend sometime this week in between sleeping, teaching and more sleeping. I will fill all of you in on the details of malaria as well as my birthday weekend in Tanzania that has of course put my third bout with malaria into perspective.