After a long 30 hours of flying, layovers, and driving, I have finally made it home sweet home to the deeg. It came to no surprise to find out on my drive back to the house I had tickets to the game tonight and they were our best tickets all season, behind the basket. So like anyone else would do, I dragged myself to the game and watched my Hoosiers win against Nebraska! We even got to hold two of the heads and naturally one of them was a giraffe. So perfect!
My flights were pretty long and I slept for most of them. I flew from Kili to Dar es Salam to Amsterdam to Detroit to Indy. My flight from Africa to Amsterdam I don't remember much other than freaking the woman next to me out. I was half asleep and woke up thinking it was time for placement and nudged her saying "kris are you up?" Like I usually did in the stables. The woman stared at me and didn't seem too pleased. Whoops!
Amsterdam to Detroit I got super lucky and ended up having the two seats in my row to myself. It was so spacious and wonderful to have. I sprawled out and really enjoyed myself. As soon as we landed I was a bit confused how customs worked but a group of people going to Indy helped me out. They had been on a mission trip in Tanzania for the past two weeks and it was fun to hear their stories. As soon as we got through immigration, rechecked our bags and got through security again, I b lined it straight for some real food.
On the way, we went through this awesome light tunnel that hanged with music. Sloane had told me I had to see it and lucky enough I found it! Once we got to our gate Fuddrukers was right next to it and I sat and enjoyed my first meal home, which was a very American meal! Ah it's so nice to have real food again. At the house we had meat loaf for dinner and mashed potatoes which I passed on. I'm okay with not having potatoes for a while. Big shock I know! Instead, I had a bowl of cereal which was amazing! I haven't had milk in a month and it was so delicious �� it's nice to be home but I miss all of my kids and friends in Africa. Adjusting is going to be interesting but I am sure I will manage. Today I have a months worth of laundry to do which is always so much fun! At least it is going to be way easier with a laundry machine than by hand like they do in Africa! It's the little things I have an even greater appreciation for now. My goal is to complain less and be happy with all I have. I live a wonderful life with so much more than they have in Africa. I'm not saying I won't ever complain because I'm human but I am going to be more conscious of it. It was an amazing trip and I learned so much about life, other cultures, people, and a lot about myself. Thanks to everyone for all of their love and support while I was gone. Missed you all and am excited to see what my last few months of college have in store for me!

With love from Bloomington, Indiana now,

Laure
 
 
I got to travel around town with our director, frank, and teacher Andrew on Wednesday to see where the children love and the kind of lives they live. It was a very saddening day that was very eye opening. We went to ten different homes and saw many of our children along the way.
We brought each family a kilogram of sugar and rice along with a loaf of bread. They were all so welcoming and thankful to have us at their homes and tell us about their lives. One woman makes mandazzi for a living and I purchased some from her to try. It was delicious!
We got to see one of our favorite kid, Antoine's, house. Terrence has decided to sponsor him and let his mom know while we were at their house. She was thrilled and so excited for her son.
We had to cross bridges like this all day and Andrew and frank always laughed at me because I was not a fan. I was always afraid I would be the one to step on it and snap the wood and fall through.
We walked through a lot of rice fields and even got to see some rice being planted on the way. We walked around 15 miles that morning from house to house. Some children travel 2 km to get to school by herself. It's a different way of life here to be sure.
We came across some berries along our hike and stopped to try them. They were a bit like grapes.
Many people lived in a house that was the size of a very small room. We complain at DG how small the rooms are yet our doubles in the new wing are bigger than these people's entire house. It's shocking how seeing this has really altered my view of the world. I want more for the people here and know what's out there. For them, this is all they know and all most of them will ever know.
The houses here all have a gate of some form for protection from outsiders. It was very cool to get to experience a day in the life and learn daily life is here. I have really put things into perspective being here and I hope when I return to the USA I can continue to keep what I've learned here with me in my daily life. I want to continue to appreciate the little things as they make the bigger picture that much better. The little things make a difference. Next time I go to complain ill think of life here and how much worse off I could be. I'm blessed to have such a great life and now know that even more.

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 
 
At school they had a going away assembly for me which was awesome. These people are absolutely amazing an I am going to miss them dearly. They are my African family I spend every day with here whether it is walking around the community visiting children, supporting one another by going to a funeral, sharing laughs in the kitchen, or teaching the children together. Andrew, Happy, Glory, and Frank are doing a great thing for these kids and I hope to be able to offer them as much support as possible in the future as they struggle through lots of difficulties.
I was presented with a gorgeous kanga I look forward to finding a way to use and a certificate of my work here. These people will be with me wherever I go in spirit and missed dearly.
UThey are such hard workers and I wish there was more I could do to help them. Later in the day I spent it relaxing in town with Vanessa and my local rafiki, ADill pickle having fun and joking around. Men here do not let women carry anything so these two were my bitch boys for the day! He has taught me a wide array of dirty words I look forward to sharing with all my friends. We then went out to a delicious dinner at the palace hotel Arusha where I ate a delicious steak with chips and wine. It was a great evening I shared with all of my favorite people here. I came home from dinner to find my bunk decorated for me which was amazing! I'll miss this place and all the people I have met here but look forward to the adventures in store for me. I have places all over the world to visit and a trip to Vegas this summer already in the works! Time for some last minute errands before my flight tonight to come home and eat REAL food again!!!

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 
 
This week has been very busy and I haven't had too much time to blog. My apologies! I spent a lot of time this week at our school working with the kids. Teacher Andrew calls me the music teacher because I like to teach the kids songs!
The kids are very cute and always listen so well! Not! They are little terrors at times and will pinch and hit me all day long even after I yell hapana or acha at them, which means no and stop.
We went to watch the Super Bowl at a bar here in town. The only bar showing the Super Bowl in Tanzania to be exact. Lucky us! The game didn't start till 2:30 am and we didn't get home till about 7am. To say we were tired would be an understatement. It was a fun game and we had the whole bar to ourselves. When it was daylight, we stepped outside and thought we were in a different place. It was suburbia Africa and a rare sight here. It was like I was home for a hot second.
It gets a bit cold here at night and lucky us we found a hand dryer in the bathroom at 620 am. At least we used it as much as possible once we found it. It's the only one i have seen in all of Africa!
I made a bet with Vanessa which I lost due to a need for a shower. We have run out of water everyday this week making it hard to shower. We wanted to see who could go longer without a shower. I lasted six days and had to give in on account I had an African funeral to go to. I ended up having to wash Vanessa's feet and brush her teeth. Lucky me!
It's been raining here a lot so we decided to buy ourselves some cute umbrellas. Vanessa got a pink kitty and I got a frog! Can't wait to walk around campus with it but I hope I don't get stared at like a weird Asian or something.
Missing my family and friends lots and hope you all are doing well.

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 
 
After an eventful night Saturday, we woke up early this morning and decided to venture to Moshi to tour a coffee plantation.We then got off the dala and on to a bus where I was squished and uncomfortable for two hours. The woman in front of me and I argued over the window without saying a word. I would look away and she would close it and then I would reopen it. It was a painful bus ride and it didn't help I was sick with a stomach bug from here. I spoke too soon as everyone else has been sick and my time finally came. It was an eventful bus ride to say the least. Vanessa was laughing hysterically the whole time while I was near tears at one point.
We were all angry elves this morning! We ran into a few glitches and they tried to rip us off. Little did they know we're not stupid mzungus!
We ate a delicious lunch once we got to the coffee plantation. The banana soup was absolutely delicious and my main meal consisted of potatoes as I don't trust the meat here. I used to love potatoes but am thinking I've had enough to last me a few months or a year.
We continued on to pick the beans and learned the red ones are ripe. You use a machine to get the beans out an then soak them an dry them. Once done you have to take another layer off of the bean and then brown the beans. Once they are roasted, we ground the beans and made fresh cups of coffee.
It was an extremely interesting tour and I learned just how much effort goes into making coffee. We had a day filled with many laughs from me being sick. Kris and I got to share our first experience pooping in a squat hole toilet. It was an adventure and workout all in one. Out of fear of having an issue, I took my pants off and was successful! Thank goodness!

We took Vanessa to celebrate her birthday today since I won't be here for it. She had a wonderful day and we are still up celebrating.
We found one place in Africa that was showing the Super Bowl and came to watch. Kick off was at 2:30 am and we're still here watching. Lucky for me I got to have a burger and fries that was delicious. I take any and all American food when I get the chance to compared to African food.
They even had Heinz ketchup here which is hard to come by. It's a Super Bowl I will always remember with 9 of my roommates and the craziness in the night. It's been a very long day but a great one at that. I cannot wait to climb into my bed and sleep all day as well!

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 
 
Picture above: Nickolas carrying our tables wine over! He is a great waiter and we always love having him when we go there to eat!

Last night a group of 9 of us decided to go to a restaurant called TGT to take advantage of their happy hour specials. For 25,000 TSH we were able to buy one get one free of wine bottles. Of course we all ended up buying our own bottle for 12,500 TSH which is about $6 - $7 USD. It was a dinner filled with great food, wine, and great company. Couldn't have asked for a better night! 

Picture below: Our dinner table with the sunset in the background. Quite a gorgeous setting and very cool place to eat!
Picture above: Kris and I decided to split pizza and nachos which were AMAZING AND DELICIOUS! Our pizza had banana and bacon on it which is a bit weird but very delicious! 

Our meal was amazing and Mambo offered a lot of entertainment for us all. He is from Mexico and is quite a character. Can't help but love him and all his little quirks despite his brutal honesty and inappropriateness at times. One of my favorite dinners since I have been here was this one as it was so relaxing and enjoyable. I especially loved being able to face time everyone at school even if it was only for a few seconds. It was so good to see all of my friends and hear about their lives even if only for a quick second! I got to face time my dad for a bit as well which is always fun to see him and tell him stories. He even got to meet some of my friends here which was really cool! 

It was a great night and I look forward to having more nights like this while I am here! Next time, I will not be eating any cheese with my meal though as my stomach has been struggling quite a bit today. Lesson learned! 

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 
 
Thursday (sassyday as it sounds when the locals pronounce Thursday here) Kris and I decided it was a good idea to buy the kids and teachers at school ice cream as a surprise and to make up for being a little late. We overslept and brought a couple of the new volunteers with us. We went one stop up from our school and visited a little ice cream stand where we took a while to get the man who owned it to understand what we needed. We eventually got him to understand and were able to buy 70 ice cream bars for the kids for only $53,000 which is about $25 USD. The kids had amazing smiles on their faces that made it all worth while. Most of them had never had ice cream from the looks of it. They didn't really know how to eat it and our room's floor was covered with ice cream spots all over the desks, floor, and chairs. Not that it mattered, our teacher Andrew was soo happy and excited about the ice cream. It was a day filled with happiness and joy for the kids and I wish I could give them moments like that more often. 

Picture below: One of my favorite pictures from the day of a little girl eating her ice cream! 
After school, Kris and I decided to venture into town and walk around. She ended up taking home one of the new volunteers because they were sick. I got to town with another new volunteer and showed her around for a bit. We ended up running into Megan and had some gelato together. We then headed in the direction of Wraps for burgers and to meet up with the others. After a few glitches and getting one of the sick volunteers home, I finally found everyone. There had been some phone issues but it didn't stop us from figuring it out. After lunch, everyone decided to go home except for Kris and I. We ventured to the Massai market where we purchased some gifts for our family and friends. There is only so much of the market I can handle as they all hassle and say "Come into my shop sister!" "It's free to look" which gets a bit tiring. I like to go in and get what I want and leave. I always pay an older man a visit I originally found with Antonia. I bought two sets of salad spoons from him and he ended up giving Kris and I bracelets for free! We got paintings and I got a bowl for my mom which is really cool! 

picture below: massai market shops
Once we were done there, we walked up the street and saw the Arusha Hotel. After getting heckled on the street to buy paintings, we decided we needed a drink to treat ourselves. Little did we know the adventure it would turn into. We sat down and ordered two Devils in the Deep Blue which sounded delicious on the menu but in reality was straight booze. We ordered a lemonade to chase it with as that was what was supposed to be in it. What we got was a Sprite which is considered lemonade here. Couldn't help but laugh! After encouragement and taking turns chasing our drink, we finally got them down and realized it was social night here at the house. We had no interest in coming home so we ordered chicken goujons (chicken fingers) and chips (fries) to split. We also had two more drinks which were MUCH better. They were similar to a Tequila Sunrise. We then payed a little visit to the casino to try and win a little money. Little did we know we spent all of the 5000 tsh we put on the card in one game, which we lost miserably. After four hours of sitting at the hotel and pretending we were staying there, we decided to head home. It was a long day filled with lots of activities but it has been one of my favorite days here. 
Picture above: Kris drinking her Devil in the Deep Blue! Living like queens even if for only 4 hours!

It was a wonderful day and one filled with so many laughs and interesting events. Kris has become one of my closest friends here and my partner in crime. We're both blonde and love to have a good time so it's a good combo to have! 

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 

Safari!

02/02/2013

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I had an absolute amazing time on safari this past week! I got to see soooo many animals up close and personal which was amazing! We got lucky enough to see the big 5 animals: lion, leopard, rhino, giraffe, and wildeabeast. On top of that, we saw lots of lions, zebras, gazelle, a saber cat which is supposed to be extremely rare, warthogs (pumbas), a cheetah, hyennas, and so much more. We went to three different parks on our weekend extravaganza: Lake Mnyara, the Serengeti, and Ngorogoro Crater. It was a 4 day, 3 night safari very jam packed with driving, game driving, and setting up/taking down our campsites. The roads here are not paved and were extremely bumpy to ride on. It should come as no surprise when I say I slept like a baby in the car despite all of that. I can sleep everywhere in any con
picture above: Two lion cubs came up right next to our car and decided to lay under it for shade! 

I got so excited they were next to our car instead of the 15 other jeeps parked and watching the tree full of lionesses. When I jumped up, my sunglasses flew off of my head onto the ground and I pretty much kissed those goodbye. Lucky for me, when the lion (simba in swahili) decided to lay below the front of the car, our driver, Chewy, decided to hop out of the jeep and get my sunglasses for me. Quite the wild man Chewy is but he also taught me a lot of dirty words in swahili I have been using on two of the guards here at the house. It makes them laugh quite a lot, but mama Neema comes after us with a stick/spoon/utensil or object of some sort to hit us jokingly whenever we use these naughty words. haha she's a funny lady!
Picture: A group of elephants came right out of the bush and around our jeep in all directions to cross the road. 

It was the first up close experience we had on our safari and it was absolutely amazing! Made me think of you Lisa when you almost got stampeded to death! Such beautiful animals and the babies were adorable! Throughout our trip we got lucky to have seen so many animals, especially up close. Chewy said most people see 2 or 3 of the big 5 and some of the more common animals but we were a trip filled with some of the most animals he has seen in one trip in a long time. It was very cool to witness the animals in the wild environment, but took a little while for me to realize they weren't caged in like at a zoo. 

The leopard mom and two babies up in a tree were very cool to watch as they played and walked around. The next day we got to see the same family of leopards eating a gazelle up in the tree. They were ripping it apart and going to town on it. It was very national geographic like if you ask me. Had quite a few of those moments on our trip. I got to see and film zebras having sex which was interesting. We witnessed a group of lions hunting a heard of buffalo but never got to witness any actual victory and take down of a buffalo. The lions surrendered in the end. 

At our campsite the second night, a group of about 12 lions walked right through without any of us even knowing about it until the next morning. We had just all gone to sleep and the cooks and guides witnessed it all happen. Hyennas were in our camp site as well. The next night we had buffalo and hyennas walk through and around our campsite as well. It was quite amazing to be sleeping in a location with so many deadly animals and never have any problems.

picture below: Me with our driver Chewy (left) and cook William (right) at our last lunch stop. We ate over looking a lagoon filled with hippos! Quite a treat to have such wonderful and beautiful locations to experience so many wonderful things with a great group of people! 

It was a great weekend filled with too many amazing experiences to write about and pictures to show. I filled my entire camera! Cra
 
 
photo: A typical daily lesson written on the board in the older classroom.

Last week I got the opportunity to help Glory in the kitchen and talked to the director of Afroplan, Frank. He told me all about how he started his school and why and it is a truly remarkable story. He is a great guy and I wanted to share his story with you all. I absolutely love being able to help and provide materials and things for the children, especially now that I understand the reasoning and background of the place I am at. Here is his story....


Frank was a sponsor child when he was younger. He came from a broken family and was very very poor growing up. He was lucky enough to have a white (mzungu) woman from the US, North Carolina to be exact, to sponsor him. When you sponsor a child here, you sign up to pay for their schooling for the 7 years it takes to finish school. The public schools here are horrible, actually the worst of the worst. Sponsoring a child gives them a chance at an education by paying for them to attend a private school. It is about $600-$800 a year depending upon the school you decide to send the child to. Frank has built an incredible relationship with his sponsor over the years and was even blessed to have her go above and beyond for him in paying for him to attend university. It's a rare thing, but occasionally sponsors will pay for that. 

Since Frank was blessed and given a chance at a life, he has devoted his life to giving back to others and giving them the same chance he got. He is now a part time university teacher of computers and spends the rest of his time at Afroplan. He has envisioned an amazing school for the future, but unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that dream will ever come true. 

He started a school about two years ago while living with some friends. He had been living on the streets and was given a place to live. On this property he began to develop a school where children began to attend and learn. It became a very functioning school. His friends saw this school as a money making opportunity and tried to take it from Frank. It turned into a very large battle that became so gruesome Frank's life was in danger. He found out they wanted to kill him for his school, and decided to leave it to them and run out of his own safety and life. It wasn't worth dying over a school because if he was dead, he wouldn't be able to help others.

Frank's church was very understanding of the situation and wanted to help him. In September of 2012, they provided him with 2 classrooms on the church grounds and he began to rebuild and start a new school, now known as Afroplan. The school has really come together and as of Jan. 1 he has had to begin to pay rent for the classrooms. He has also enlisted a seamstress to help out with making all of the children uniforms. Uniforms are a regular thing here for schools and provide everyone with an outfit suitable to wear to school.

In the future, Frank would like to expand his school. To buy land is about 30 million shillings here and would take an extremely long time of saving up for Frank to even be able to do that. He wants to build a school one classroom at a time and start small and slowly add to it. He also wants to build a home for boys and girls who have no families to live with or take care of them to have a place to stay. They would have a house mama and have all their needs taken care of. Once he has completed this, he wants to build a center for parents, specifically single moms to go and learn a craft or trade to be able to provide and help their families. All together this dream of Frank's would cost about $50-$70 million shillings to create, which is around $30-$40 thousand dollars USD. 

It's crazy to me how far the American dollar can go here and how much a difference it could really make in a persons life. While I do not have the ability to raise all of that money for Frank, I do want to try to find little ways to make a difference in the school now. Today we brought everyone ice cream which made for an absolutely amazing day. The children's faces were filled with smiles from ear to ear and their laughter was contagious. Overall, it was an amazing day and one I will always treasure! More to come

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 
 
Picture: Haliyma was confused as I pointed to my smile to get her to smile for the picture. 

This little girl, Haliyma, is one that has touched my heart the very first day I met her. I could tell she was a bit different than the rest of the children and struggles in school. For the most part, she is a very quiet and reserved little girl who rarely shows any expressions. With me, she comes alive and shows laughter and smiles. I wish I could capture her laughter and smile on camera as it is in real life. It is the most amazing thing and at the same time breaks my heart. I'm happy to know I can give her happiness even if it is only for a little while. It's a sad story and life ahead of her unless I can do something to help her. While I want to do as much as I possibly can here, I think changing the life of a child, even one is more than doing nothing. 

She has become my focus and desire to help. It's quite possible my desire to help her comes from my sorority, Delta Gamma, and our philanthropy, Service for Sight. Haliyma has a lazy eye that prevents her from seeing correctly and is causing delays in her ability to learn. Without any surgery, she will likely be left behind in the world as public schooling is not really found here and if it is it is most likely a terrible school. Helping Haliyma get surgery to fix her eye would give her the chance to live a normal life and possibly go to a normal school. She would be able to see correctly and learn rather than having such difficulties. The other kids pick on her and I have been warned she often misses school or comes with various bruises and marks on her body from abuse. 

I am currently working towards finding a way to set up a website to accept donations towards helping this little girl. I am hoping and know my sisters of Delta Gamma will help me make this dream a possibility. I am going to send them an email this week and know that my President, Natalie, and VP of Foundation, Lauren, are excited to help and offering the girls service hours in exchange for their donations. It would be amazing to help give this girl a chance that every other child has. It makes me sad to know without this surgery, she will most likely be thrown aside and end up living on the streets here and there. 

I'm off on Safari for the weekend and then will be back in town to try to talk to some doctors and gain an understanding of how much this surgery would cost. I am more determined than ever to help her and hope to be able to do so through the love and support of all those around me. Here, a dollar goes an extremely long way and provides children with the opportunity to have a life they are able to give back with and not worry about where they will receive their next meal. Thank you all for your love and support in my journey here in Africa as it has meant the absolute world to me. I miss you all dearly and will be home in 3 short weeks, but I know my time here is not done yet. I have more to do to try my very best to help these children. 

Keep an eye out for more information on how you can help! I'll try to update you all as soon as I can!

With love from Africa,

Lauren