Feb 18, 2010

I've Seen the Rains Down in Africa

I saw a short clip on CNN the other day about Kenyans using solar power to provide electricity to villages and Nairobi's biggest slum (read about here) It immediately brought me back to my time in East Africa, where I taught school for four months after graduation from college.

My father later admitted that the only reason he allowed me to do this was because he thought there was no way in hell I would actually go.

This is Anna, the housegirl, and me in my "Mama"'s kitchen.  I was the first mzungu (white person) she had ever seen and I think at first I freaked Anna out.  But then she got over it, and we bonded quickly over our love of Nanansi (pineapple).

Here in the living room was where I ate breakfast every morning- avocado from the tree out front, hardboiled egg, mango or watermelon, and sometimes leftover popcorn.  I just went with the flow, but I still can't eat mangoes due to the amount I ate there.

My Mama had about ten different businesses ranging from a cleaning service to a nursery and florist. This is pretty amazing because most women I encountered in my part of Tanzania did not work out side the home.
I taught school in a village about 3 miles away from where I lived.  Most people took the Dala-Dala's, which are Toyota vans crammed with about 15-25 people.  I have a very strong personal sense of personal space, which does not exist on the Dala Dala. So I walked.  No problem right?

Here's the thing.  It was rainy season, which equals mud, and lots of it.  About a mile and a half of my walk was paved.  The rest was slogging through the mud.

My students were well aware of my mud hatred.  They would battle for who got to clean my shoes before stepping into the classroom.  Check out the chalkboard.
I taught 4 4th graders and 20 (!) third graders in a one room trailer type building which was divided in the middle.  No electricity, no notebooks, but a bunch of watoto (children) who were so excited to learn.
My fourth graders- who were very well behaved.

My third graders, who were not so well behaved.

More to come on Africa next week. . .


  1. What an amazing experience. I had fun reading this and really do hope you post more.

  2. Oh my goodness, how amazing! The photo of you walking through the mud with the little girls is precious. My parents took the trip of their lives to Tanzania a couple of years ago, and since then I've been dreaming about going to Africa. They are both huge nature photographers, and their photos are unbelievable. My mom partnered with a school there and did fundraisers before the trip to get them supplies. Her photos of those children are just out of this world. What an experience for you!

  3. What a great experience! I loved these photos and the pic of you and the little girls in the mud. So cute!

  4. thats pretty funny that they wanted to clean your shoes! i would die if i was able to go pic a fresh advocado.

  5. That's awesome! What an adventure. I can't wait to hear more about your time in Africa.

  6. This is amazing! I so admire you. What a beautiful experience to have! xoe

  7. I found your blog through an acquaintance of an acquaintance and this post made my day. I spent 6 months in college living all over Kenya and in Tanzania, teaching and learning, and it brought me right back!

  8. SO very cool that you were able to do this - what a unique way to give back while experiencing something so out of this world!! Thanks for sharing - can't wait to see more!

  9. What an amazing experience it must have been! What a great way to spend that first few months after graduation. Cheers to you for giving back in such a way. Any plans to return to Africa some day?

  10. Wow! It's so impressive that you did that!

  11. my third graders are not so well behaved either...good to know the problem is global.

  12. How amazing! I can't believe you are so brave. I would have been terrified to do that! Thank you for sharing :)

  13. Africa used to be my "Baby Ultimatum" (ie: I will not have a child until I have traveled to Africa) - it has since been put off for a "Dear Grandparents, Please Take Our Children for Three Weeks While We Are In Africa" trip. Your experience looks absolutely amazing!

    I love the comment about your dad - when I was living in Spain, my parents visited and my mom asked what I was planning on doing with my adult life. I said "I've been thinking about the Peace Corps." She vehemently replied NO. So I said "Well then I think I'll go to law school."


  14. Aha, here's the backstory . . . that is so impressive that you took this on at such a young age. I wasn't nearly mature enough then or, Hell, probably now. Good on you!


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