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I never thought I would be going out in Africa nor want to drink with it being so hot here. Surprisingly, it cools off at night to the perfect temperature for jeans and a tank top. It's quite hot during the day and it's even worse since we can't show our knees or shoulders in public. I made the mistake of doing this when we went into town. I was being stared at and luckily didn't get yelled at like another girl had happened. It was a bit awkward, but luckily I was in a group of people. We get stared at quite often and are referred to as "mzungas" which means white person in swahili. 

Wednesday nights here are karaoke night at a bar called Empire. We went there and classicaly, had to sing a song or two. We decided to sing "It Wasn't Me" with some locals here. They sang the majority and we just chimed in to say it wasn't me. They take their karaoke a bit seriously here though and laugh at us when we got up there. Not that we minded. Also, jager bombs are a big hit here which was news to me. If Jer had had his wedding reception here, Uncle Dick would have been a baller buying rounds of jager bombs as one round of jager bombs at the wedding is the equivalent to about 7 or 8 rounds here. If only they knew what vegas bombs were! Molly, you would not survive here haha! We have to take cabs everywhere and people do not believe in seat belts here or a maximum capacity to a car. We ghetto pack the cabs and fit quite a few people in whi

Thursday night we went out to an outdoor bar called Via Via. There are a few hut bars and some bathrooms there. There is also a fire pit where people sit and hang out around the fire and picnic tables to sit and smoke hookah at. There is a dj booth and at the bottom of the entire place is a huge dance floor where everyone dances. The music here is similar to that back home but they also have some different songs that are actually quite catchy! We danced the night away and had a wonderful time just hanging out with one another. When we went to leave, we actually walked out to see a cat fight happen across the street. This big black woman in her 30's ran across the street after this skinny black girl in her 20's who had on stilletos. Next thing we knew, the older woman was pulling the other girls hair and she was screaming. They were going at it and a guy moved his car out of the way so it wouldn't get damaged. A lot of people were watching it happen and no one stepped into help. Us being mzungas and all casually walked back into the bar following a few locals as we didn't want to get involved. 

We took Friday night off and just hung out at the house with one another. Another girls dad was in town and he took a large group of us out to dinner. I order a tortilla sandwich (quesadilla as we would call it) and came to find my mouth on fire from the hot chile peppers in it. Saturday during the day we went to Massai market (picture above) to do some shopping for my friends and family. I got this really cool picture for my dad made out of banana leaves. It's lions out in the jungle and looks really cool! Bracelets are a big thing here and my wrists are slowly but surely beginning to fill up with bracelets. 
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Saturday evening we went out to a local place where we were the only mzungas there! It's called Babylon and boy was it wild. Everyone was dancing and getting wild. Almost all of the volunteers went out together that night and we had a great time. Unfortunately, I had to use the bathroom there and most public bathrooms here do not have a toilet but a squat hole. It was my first experience squating to pee and I had worn pants which made it all the more difficult. Let's just say it was an experience I'll never forget and one I expect I'll become better at doing in the next few weeks. Many women here pee with the door wide open and their business out for the world to see. 

We came home and ate some toast but then found out a local friend of some people, Zac, was out at Massai camp along with some other volunteers. With a little last minute planning and decision making, we left the house around 2:30 am to go and see what this place was all about. It was a giant hut with a bar and dance floor where we saw some of our local friends and danced until very late. To our surprise, we made it home way later than we had imagined, but it was a good night for all.

Sunday we all needed to relax and take a break, which was a bit hard to do with it being so hot here. We ended up going to one of the hotel pools for the day and paying to use the pool to cool off and cure our hangovers. El and I ended up looking at the menu and the first thing we both saw was chocolate brownie. Naturally, we had to have it seeing as we never get dessert with our meals at the house :( I miss those deeg m&m cookies and desserts all the time but my waistline sure doesn't. The only other time I eat dessert is when I go to town to use the free wi-fi at a gelato store, which of course I HAVE to have if I'm there. (Picture at top and right here are of the pool and hotel we spent the day at).

It was a pretty good first week and weekend here overall. So great in fact, I decided to extend my trip another week. Who would have thought that the girl who originally was only going to go for 2 weeks was convinced to do 3 and now changed to 4. At this rate, I may never be coming back to the US. We are currently in the process of possibly booking a getaway for next weekend to Uganda to do some white water rafting on the Nile River and explore a bit! :) So exciting and unbelievably cheap! My fingers are crossed it all works out for us to go as it sounds like a great time! 

 
 
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On Friday I was lucky enough to get to go to Jitihada orphanage with Antonia. I helped out in the classroom grading the children's work and keeping things in order. They have these paper notebooks that look like they were thrown together and don't last very long. They are about the size of a 5 X 7 and not a single page is wasted in them. They write and do their math and homework in these little notebooks. They have all of 3 or 4 pencils for a room of 20 children so they take turns with the pencils. It was sport day so we got to play outside for a few hours with the kids doing all sorts of games and activities running around. They had a few frisbees other volunteers had brought for them, a few jump ropes, and a soccer ball or two. They mostly ran around and hit each other which used to be odd to me but here it is common and goes unpunished often. There was a group of children and teachers doing relay races which were really fun to watch and I went to cheer on one team while the other teacher cheered on the other. I don't think I have ever heard the statement "Teacher, look" more than when I was here. These children just starved for attention which was difficult to give to all of them at once. 

We were lucky enough to get to go and do home visits which were amazing and really put things into perspective for me. We went to two girls houses and saw how they live. One girl was 1 of 9 children and they are a Massai family. (Picture above is of us with the mother and two of her daughters from the school). It is customary to take a picture with the family giving them our offering of food as they invite us into their house. We are supposed to bring 2 kg of rice and 1 kg of sugar, but we decided to bring extra rice, juice, and some candies for each of the families. It was not super expensive and it was very much needed. This family struggles to get food as the father is dead and the mother has no job. She even put on her Massai necklace for us and showed us a dance in it which was really cool. The women slept on one side and the boys on the other. They are crammed into an extremely small room and share a bed between the 4 girls. It is very minimal there. They don't get food other than when the children are at school, which was extremely disheartening and sad to me. 

The other girls house was the leader of the group. She is an orphan with no father or mother and was picked up off the side of the street to live with this leader. There are a number of other children living in this house with them. It was a bit nicer of a house compared to the other as it had electricity. We saw the kitchen (below) and it was extremely interesting as it was bare and outside in a make shift area. They do not have ovens or microwaves here and often are cooking in a place with very little ventilation. It gets quite hot if I don't say so based on my experience at the school I am at. 

It was a very sad but eye opening experience to get to see the way people live in the world. I wish there was more I could do to help these people as they live such a hard life, especially the children who often go without food for days. School and orphanages are a great place for them as they provide them with at least a meal to have. I look forward to going to do more home visits but know they will not be easy. I have lots more pictures, which was odd to me to take but Michael, the director of the school/orphanage, kept telling us to take pictures. It felt disrespectful to these families as it is the way they live their lives on the daily. A picture only says a 1000 words but being here and seeing these places in real life actually made me realize the difference I am making here and the way in which I can help, even if it is just in the slightest. Even just bringing pencils to the school helps more than anyone could even imagine. 

With love from Africa,

Lauren

Ps- I would put up more pictures but it gets very difficult and time consuming to get them to load all the way. Have to pick and choose but I'm sure once I am home it will be much eas

 
 
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I am currently living in a volunteer house with 25 people, which is absolutely amazing! I was not expecting anything quite like this. There are rooms inside and then two buildings behind the main building called “the stables.” I live in the girl stables with 7 other girls at the moment but it’s big enough to fit 12. Since it’s not full, we have some of the beds to use as a living room, computer room, and lofts for all of our use. There are cubbies for all of us to use and store our stuff in. I was very organized to begin with but as the week goes on I tend to just throw my clothes into the cubby. It’s beginning to look like my room at home, but at least I’m not the only one.

We’ve made up nicknames for one another and made different nametags to hang on the beds for ourselves. Slowly but surely, this place is beginning to feel more and more like home. I bought a string of stuffed animals to turn into ornaments, since we all know how much I LOVE Christmas. They are hanging by my mosquito net to make it a bit more unique and homey of a space. These beds are quite interesting and comfortable surprisingly. Just today I found out I was sleeping on a piece of foam. It’s quite lovely, as our Manchester gal, Antonia, would say. 


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The stables are very close friends and we all spend a lot of time together, which has been nice. There are quite a few people from Canada, a girl from Manchester, a few Americans from all over the map (New Jersey, Idaho, Colorado, Virginia), quite a few Australians, a guy from Saudi, a guy from Mexico, and a girl from Thailand, Bangkok to be exact living in our entire house. It’s a great group of people I can picture myself being friends with for a long time to come. We’ve already begun talking about trips to take visiting one another and doing various trips with one another. Who knows, maybe we’ll all go to a new place together to volunteer again!

It’s amazing to me to think that I have only known these individuals a week and am already such great friends with them. We’ve had so many great adventures already and I am beginning to fall in love with this place. The house is amazing and the mamas are so great. They cook and clean for us and teach us Swahili here and there. It’s hard to imagine people do this, but even here people leave their dishes sitting around. Reminds me of the deeg haha! All the different aspects of this house are very similar to living at the deeg and make me miss all of my friends there. I’ll have to send a little letter to all of you soon! :) It feels like I never left the deeg!


There is a lawn here and large sitting areas. We like to use the patio furniture cushions to lie on the lawn and moon bathe to look at the stars. It’s amazing how clear the sky is here and how many stars I can see. I even fell asleep underneath them for a bit last night. For laundry we have to use a bucket and hand wash everything to hang on the line. I know what you’re all thinking, I probably wash my clothes all the time here like I do at the deeg. To your all’s surprise, I have not and do not plan to wash my clothes for at least another 2 weeks. It’s acceptable to only shower 1 or 2 times a week here. After all, the water is usually freezing or scolding hot if we even have hot water. Gosh I can’t wait to be back in the states for a great, warm shower with amazing water pressure. It feels like the water is just trickling out of the shower here. Can’t complain though as I have a shower compared to a bucket shower I was expecting. It’s a great house with many memories to come in it! Hope the pictures ease your mind Mom on where I am living. 
We are in a great neighborhood and our security guys are great! Emmanuel cracks me up. Every time we say “mambo” (hello in Swahili) to him, he responds in an identical tone with “poa.” It’s quite entertaining especially when we come home from a night out on the town. Thomas is a bad ass and has two Massai burns on his face to represent the lions he has killed. Rama is a sweetheart and always making sure we are safe. Aichi is our main house mama who is always teaching us new Swahili words and helping us get better. Her and the mamas are even letting us make French toast tomorrow for breakfast!

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The food is interesting and consists of mostly rice and vegetables/beans in a weird sauce. Let’s just say I am eating pretty plainly. The pineapple is amazing here though! Going back to the deeg’s fruit is going to be difficult after this.  The weather here is paradise and I am enjoying each and every moment of it! Even the mosquito net I sleep in is an experience but one I don’t mind at all! 



With love from Africa,

Lauren

 
 
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Monday I started my new placement and absolutely love it! It is a newer school that was started in September and is in the process of being funded and built to be the best it can be. This means there is a lot to do and I am happy about that as my help feels needed. I have gotten to experience all of the different parts of the orphanage already and find it to be truly a great place! The staff are all so friendly and warm. Happy is the teacher who works with the older children. Her son, Nelson, goes to the school and is in her class. She walks two hours to and from school each day, which is insane to me. Every time I think I am tired, I think of her and stop myself from complaining. I could have it much worse walking home rather than sitting on a dala dala getting home. 

Happy's classroom was very bare boned with just rows of desks and the chalkboard, with the exception of one poster. We ended up going to the store and buying some paper to help decorate the classroom. We all sat in the family room Monday night and colored all of the letters of the alphabet. They are now hanging in the classroom and look absolutely beautiful with each one having it's own unique look! It has added to the room so much already and I hope to find ways to encourage their learning even more, even with just the simplicity of drawn pictures. 

picture above: classroom after we hung up the pictures we all colored for them
picture below: The classroom I work in with the younger children! Our teacher is Andrew and I work with the volunteer boy Chris in this room usually. They are so cute and filled with love and laughter!

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picture left: One of the volunteers, Terence, playing with the children during break time! They sure do love to see us kick the ball straight up in the air and chase after it when it hits the ground. 

It's only been 2 days I have been there and I am already in love with this place. The kids are so cute and full of life despite their home situations. I have gotten to work in both classrooms and the kitchen with everyone and see how each place works. Andrew is the teacher for the younger children and he is always so energetic and happy with the children. It's a joy to be in his class and work with him. Boy Chris and I are the ones in his class usually and we enjoy being able to do the different things. 

It's very common for us to spend the majority of time copying and writing the homework in each child's book. They have to hand write everything as they don't have copying machines. It was a bit of a reality shock but helped me to realize what they need at the school too. It's so sad to see such an extraordinary group of children struggling to receive an education and the teachers are providing the best possible environment they can.

Just today the children were playing with a hose they found and made a mud pit. A few children got muddy or wet from it and their clothes were stripped off or adjusted for their comfort. In the whole process of making the mud field, the children were never really confrotned but left to cry. At fist I atteneded to the crying children, but quickly realized they were crying for something like a ball or getting muddy but then again it was their own fault. I try my best to help the children but part of it is the culture and the way in which they are allowed to interact with one another. Hitting and sharing are not common things dealt with as the children are left to fend for themselves. In the USA, this would never fly so I try to pick a healthy balance to help these kids without doing harm at the same time. It's been a great time at Afroplan and I look forward to my next few weeks!

With love from Africa,

Lauren

 
 
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I have been placed at a women's maternity clinic here in Tanzania. The very first day there was interesting to say the least. We learned about the clinic and the various services it provides. This clinic offers immunizations for children, HIV testing, prenatal planning and health, family planning, labor and delivery services, as well as, perform surgery to tie a woman's tubes. This surgery is very gruesome from what I've read and heard though. They basically give women a local anesthetic to their stomach and cut them open. Once they are open, women are not to  fight and if they do they are held down, screamed at, and slapped while the surgery is performed. They are basically able to feel everything going on. Once it is done, they are stitched up and sent home the same day. 

We were standing in the labor ward casually talking with the head nurse when a woman was carried into the clinic by all 4's by a number of people. She was then laid on the concrete floor in the middle of the ward. This ward offers no privacy what so ever as there are 15 beds in one concrete room where everyone can see one another. A baby was hanging half way out of this woman and delivered the baby on the floor. She was being screamed at the entire time and then continued to deliver her placenta on the floor as well. They forced her to stand up right away, undress, and walk through the ward to the delivery room to get stitches and such. 
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We spend the majority of our time working in the immunizations clinic weighing babies and helping check them in. They use a hook to weigh the children and each child has to have a bag to be hung from. It is very interesting but whatever works works. It's a bit odd but the kids can't have a diaper of any form on so they tend to pee when they get weighed. I almost got peed on a few times! I only spend two days at the maternity clinic as our help was unneeded/unwanted by those there and we felt more of a bother than a help. I am excited to get to move to do orphanage work for the remainder of my time here! 



 
 
After a hectic time in the airport I have finally arrived in Arusha. My flight from Indy was delayed which got me into NYC JFK airport late. I was that crazy person who was running through the airport trying to catch my flight to Amsterdam. I made it in the knick of time for final boarding call. Once on the plane, I was happy to sit and relax with a dinner which included my own personal bottle of wine. I didn't want to get merloaded as Chrissy would say so I stuck with my typical white wine.
8 hours later I was in Amsterdam and exploring the airport filled with all sorts of fun things. I went toHolland Boulevard and payed a visit to the free museum and then into the gift shop. It was very interesting and filled with many historic paintings. They are also very into elephants as the gift shop was filled with various elephant items.
I then moved toward my gate to find this delightful little cafeteria where it was brightly colored and had teacups in the corner as tables. Naturally, I had to sit and eat in one of then even though I sat alone. I ate a Dutch delicacy for kids breakfast called jeopettes. They are mini pancakes which were actually very delicious! Something very interesting was the use of real silverware and plates and cups. It was as if they do not believe in waste. I actually enjoyed it a lot as I didn't have to eat off a paper plate with a plastic fork.
The volunteer house compound is great and I'll definitely add photos soon. I am living in a room with 10 other girls called "the stable" since we are in the building right behind the house. There are 25 people living at our house all together and it is known as the old house. The new house holds 14 people and the home stays have 6 and 11 people at them. Our home has a gate to get to it and lies at the back of a dirt road. We have a couple of Masaai warriors as our security guards. Thomas is one of them and he has Masaai burns on his face since he has killed 2 lions. Well more to come and photos from my first day at placement later. Missing you all!

With love from Africa,

Lauren
 
 
Last night I was the "guest of honor" at my going away dinner with all of my favorite people. It was a delicious yet chaotic meal filled with love and laughter. How could it not be with all of us together AND after the adventure Molly, Nina, Celia, Sarah and I took yesterday. We had heard honey boo boo was in New Castle, IN and drove around Indiana for 4 hours searching for her. Ultimately, we did not find her but the road trip was quite the adventure.

It makes me sad to be leaving my best friends but I know I have an amazing adventure in store for me. Bid week was this week an boy did we have a blast from bid night to Wednesday karaoke night and the paint party. Couldn't have asked for a better week with you all. I look forward to hearing all of the stories from the adventures I will miss out on. Molly, don't worry, I will bring you back a spear of some sort!
After an hour delay and leaving my travel toothpaste behind, I have made it to my gate and am about to begin this 21 hour long trip I have ahead of me.

Next stop: NYC!

Sending love to you all,

Lauren