I was the only volunteer left at the Shining Star Pre-primary school. Ari had already left about a week ago and volunteers from the different organizations had gone already too. I was welcomed back with open arms by the kids and teachers. I told the principal that I only had two more days after this at the school. I didn’t want to leave them without knowing they had enough supplies to last them for a while so I asked the principle if there is anything they are in desperate need of. Books? Pencils? Paper? It turns out a lot more than I thought. She wrote down a list of things they needed that I could get for them if it was possible.My whole time here at this school, they never asked me for a thing, so I was happy to help them out. I wanted to get as much as possible so I went into town later that afternoon and bought 200,000 shillings worth of supplies from a local stationery store. New notebooks for every student, math books, phonics books, tons of pens and pencils, colored chalk, staplers, packs of paper, pencil sharpeners, erasers, and more notebooks to last each student for a year. On top of that, I paid one months rent for the building the school uses. That was about another 100,000 shillings. It was the least I could do. This school has next to nothing and needed all the help they could get. The teachers appreciated my gesture and gave me a special going away day on my last day there. They gave me a card, took a bunch of pictures with me, and the kids sang to me.
It was my favorite day at the school for sure. I played with the kids all morning and afternoon long. It was a bit hard to say goodbye because there’s still so much I wanted to teach them. Like how to do simple addition and subtraction without drawing circles every single time they attempted a math problem.
I gave word to the coordinators of my organization that Shining Star needed more volunteers and all the help they can get. Nelly, one of the coordinators, said that they will send a lot more volunteers the next chance they get. That’s good news because with each volunteer Shining Star gets, means more money donated to the school.
During one of my final nights, I gave in and got a Masai burn on my right arm. Tradition goes something like this; when boys in a Masai village hit puberty, they are given a ceremony for circumcision. During the ceremony, the boy is given a Masai burn on both of his cheeks, right underneath the eyes. A burn is a circle about the size of a nickel and it signifies when that boy has become a man. This is the part that’s crazy. After the ceremony, the boy is banished into a jungle somewhere in the country and must fend for himself for three months to prove that he is worthy to be called a true Masai man. If he got any help from the outside world in any way, then he will become exiled from the tribe. But if he manages to survive, them he must return to his village with a new cow as a gift to his parents. And by then, the burns on his face will have become scars which signifies that he is now truly a full-fledged man. Crazy huh? I didn’t make any of it up. Stuff like that actually still happens in this world! I chose to forgo the three-month in the jungle part and asked our security guard, Thomas who is a Masai, to burn me in the arm. He happily agreed. Instead of one burn, I got two burns in the shape of a figure-eight. I saw a figure-eight on some Masai men I have seen before and decided that is what I wanted. Call me crazy if you want.
It’s semi-permanent. It starts as a nasty looking scab for a couple of weeks and will eventually fade into a scar. After about ten years, you will barely notice the scar is still there. I wasn’t the only one to get a burn. A handful of others at my house got a burn on either their foot, their arm, or the back of their neck. It will have a cool story behind it and it will be something to remind me of the amazing experiences I had in Tanzania. It doesn’t look too fascinating now but by the time I get home, it should be scarred over. I’ll show you guys it later!
I spent five weeks here in Tanzania and I didn’t buy any souvenirs or gifts for home! My friend Godfrey, who lives in the nearby town of Moshi, wanted to hangout on my last afternoon here. So I figured we can grab some food and go to the Masai market to barter for gifts. Godfrey is a local who found me via Facebook. He’s part of the IVHQ Tanzania Facebook Group and noticed that I was coming to Tanzania at this time. He messaged me saying he wanted to meet people from around the world and said he could take me and other volunteers around the cities. I’ll admit, at first I was a little hesitant in meeting some random guy in a foreign country but he seemed nice though and I met up with him in town. He is a college student and teaches Swahili to English speakers as a side job. He’s actually really bright and it was a nice change having an actual local not affiliated with IVHQ showing me around town. Over my stay in Tanzania, we hung out in town a few times with other volunteers. He’s a student who longs for a connection to the world outside of Tanzania. I can’t blame him for that. He’s never been out of the country. Tanzania is one of the poorest places in Africa so it’s not surprising to know that most people here have never stepped foot outside of it. He wants to go to America one day. I told him that when he does, he’ll have a place to stay in Michigan and I would show him around. As a gift, he gave me a chunk of unfurnished Tanzanite. It was an awesome gift because you can only get Tanzanite in Tanzania and it is expensive everywhere else in the world. I’ll have to figure out how to grind it into a jewel when I get home. Thanks Godfrey!
Later on, I packed my bags and said my goodbyes to my housemates. Most of the housemates I have grown close to have already left the house before me, so the house was full of a bunch of people I barely knew. Needless to say, goodbyes weren’t as difficult here as it was in Muizenberg. But there were still some people left who have been here for a long time that I became friends with, which I had to leave. I had to go to the Dar es Salaam airport later.
Zara (Manchester, UK), Josh (Manchester, UK), Anne (Denmark), and I took an eleven hour shuttle to Dar es Salaam. After a long haul, we made it and I helped them get a room at a nearby hotel. The four of us enjoyed one last dinner in Tanzania at a restaurant on top of the hotel. It took an hour and twenty minutes to get our food but hey, this is Africa! That was expected.
Later on that night I said my goodbyes to the three, as I would be separating from them. They were staying overnight to go to Zanzibar the next morning. I had a plane to catch in a few hours to go back to Cape Town. I’ve said goodbye to so many awesome people in Africa so many times over the past couple of months; I’ll tell you, it’s never easy. You’re part of a group of people with common interests, experiencing a strange world together for the first time. With that, we all grow closer a little faster than it would be at home. I know I’ll never see most of these people ever again. It’s bittersweet but I’m ready to get back to Cape Town. There’s a McDonald’s there waiting for my return :). I can’t end this post without ranting about my beloved African Airports.
Ah yes, African airports. They are the most organized, friendliest, smooth sailing airports in the world. None of what I just said is true.
Harking back on the sloppy mess that was the Johannesburg airport, I had low expectations for the Dar es Salaam airport. I prepared myself for this one. I arrived six hours early to give myself the time I needed to fix any inevitable confusion. Everything went smooth at the start. I was actually able to sleep for a couple of hours as I waited for the South African airline desk to open. Prior to checking in, I wanted to see if my baggage weighed under 50 lbs.
55 lbs. Damn it!
I opened my luggage and checked to see what I could do to lighten the load by 5 lbs. I put on a few shirts and switched my sneakers for hiking boots which were a tad heavier. I also put a book into my carry-on luggage which is already pretty stuffed. Confident that I was of the allotted weight limit, I checked it again.
52 lbs. F*%#!
It was too hot to put on any more layers and I didn’t want to throw anything out. Hmmm.
There were rocks I took from the top of Kilimanjaro that I could probably toss. But then I thought about it and just decided to squeeze the rocks into the nooks of my carry-on. I took the travel pillow out of my carry-on and would just carry it around. That made more room for a pair of pants and another hefty book. I checked the weight again.
My only concern now were the rocks. Some of them were flat with pretty sharp edges. It could be considered as a weapon for sure! Anyways, I made my way through check-in and went to passport security. I didn’t mention this before, but in order for me to volunteer in Tanzania I had to apply for a resident work permit. It was expensive, but it also granted me residency in Arusha. It was also required in order to volunteer. The clerk at the passport security told me my residency expired. I told him that can’t be right, because it lasts for three months. And in all honesty, I didn’t care if it did expire, I was leaving anyways and my permanent home is in the U.S. He gave me a hard time about it so I had to convince him that it doesn’t matter anyways because I’m leaving Tanzania! I love Africa airports.
He finally let me through and now all I had to do was get through one more security check. My carry-on had to go through screening. My carry-on that now contained razor-sharp rocks! Before going though, I thought whether I should tell them first or let them find out for themselves. What if they saw it and immediately whisked me off to some Tanzanian jail thinking I was some sort of terrorist concealing weapons? I knew there was no way the airports in the States would let me carry these stones. But this is Africa and things are “different” here. I took my chances and didn’t say anything. If they said something, I would just throw them away.
They didn’t say anything! The guy at the computer wasn’t even looking at the screen. Instead he was chatting away with another guy. I saw his screen and saw my razor rocks smack dab in my bag pocket. I got my things and went off. Kinda unsettling knowing that I could have had anything concealed in there and they wouldn’t even pay attention to it. But at least I had my Kili rocks!
I’m coming back home, South Africa. 🙂