Archive for March, 2010

HOPAC Celebrates 15 Years

Haven of Peace Academey, aka HOPAC, celebrated its 15 year anniversary in March.The celebration was complete with a slide show of from the beginning days of HOPAC until today, alumni speakers, a representative from the Minister of Education’s office speaking, our Tanzanian staff singing and dancing, a student performance of How Great is Our God with sign language, a cupcake birthday cake for all of the students and staff, and jumping castles. It really was a day to praise the Lord for how much He has done in such a short time at HOPAC! Happy Birthday HOPAC! May there be many, many more years of blessings to come!

The set up.

Birthday Cupcakes!


Since September I have been blessed to be able to attend a Bible study with some awesome ladies here in Dar. Dyan, being the super planner that she is, knew that there would be a group of us wanting to have some girl time and fellowship this year, so she put together our Esther group and got the study books donated by her supporting church.

We did a Beth Moore study on the Book of Esther. This being my first Beth Moore Study, I thought it was very good and it really did make me take my time and study the book verse by verse. Each week we came together and watched the videos, which show how Texan Beth really is pretty amusing, and or reviewed the study days.They were thought provoking and lead to many great discussions.

Although the book is only 10 chapters the study has lasted all the way until now. It is amazing how much you can learn from a book if you take the time. I especially enjoyed learning about the history and significance of the Jewish holiday of Purim.

I think what is even more amazing is that even though Esther is the only book of the Bible that does not mention God it in, His works are written all throughout it.

I am so very grateful for the fellowship with the women of the Esther Bible study and for how the Lord has taught me so much in this time!

Birthday Club!

Birthday Hats (note the recycled Blue Band hats)

Who doesn’t love Birthdays?

I would venture to say that of all of the themed clubs I have done over the years, Birthday Club is still on  the top of my list.

Here are my reasons why:

My very own home made Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

1. Everyone loves birthdays and you only get one a year, so why not pretend and add another.

2. The games are so fun and take me back to memory lane. Pin the tail on the donkey,  Hitting the pinata, Musical Chairs and so many more.

3. Birthday Songs. Okay so most people only know the birthday song, but I have an awesome collection of some sweet Birthday Jams like “Hip Hop Happy Birthday,” “Ice Cream and Cake,” and “Happy Birthday Techno Remix.”

4. Birthday Decorations. So fun. So easy. Birthday hats that make your chin itch. Blowers that give out too easily. Streamers. Balloons. And shiny Birthday Banners.

Dyan cutting the amazing Birthday Cake!

5. Birthday Cake! Delicious. Doesn’t matter what kind, color or flavor.

6. Goody bags for the way home.

We put together Birthday Club for Wyld Life and it was a hit. If you haven’t tried it yet you should.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pizza Time with the girls.

Weekend Getaway

In Tucson, every year, we have what they call, RODEO BREAK. It is a known fact that no one else in the world gets this holiday and Tucsonans like to seize the day during this four day weekend, the last weekend in February.

Coming to Africa, I was fully aware of the fact that Rodeo Break does not exist here. Come to think of it I don’t think I have seen a horse in Tanzania the entire time I have been here.

However, I was very excited to find out that we actually do get the last week in February off. It was not Rodeo Break, it was some Muslim National holiday and Mid Term Break however, in my mind I could think it was Rodeo.

Austin and I took no time in planning a nice getaway for ourselves.

First thing Thursday morning, we flew to Arusha which is about an hour and a half long flight and about a 10 hour drive north of Dar es Salaam. We have some friends that are living their right now. We were picked up by our friends Jackie and Alexis. Alexis is one of the Senior African Leaders in Africa for Young Life. We actually met him and Jackie at Lost Canyon in the summer of 2008, so we always love getting to see them again. We had a nice lunch, with delicious green lettuce that is next to impossible to find in Dar. We then went to a local country club like facility. This was so refreshing to me, because the closest thing we have to a country club is our school campus. They had a gym, a beautiful pool, rugby fields, and a track for walking/running that is completely fenced. So nice. These kind of things make us wish we were called to Arusha, for moments of time anyways.

Jacque and Alexis : )

We then went to a friend of Jackie and Alexi’s, Heath’s house for dinner. The dinner was great and we had a great time hanging out with Heath’s adopted daughter Neema. She is a bundle of energy and cute as a button.

The next morning we went to the second hand store. Here you can find lots of old backpacks, shoes, clothes and much more that are in good repair. Most of the items are priced fairly but they will try to rip you off. The only problem is that you do not really know what you are getting. I found an awesome Northface backpack which I am very content with. Austin found some hiking shoes that fit him perfectly. Unfortunately, on his first hike with them on, we found out they had only used a cheap glue to glue the bottom tracking back on. Poor Austin! Thankfully I got our shoe fundi to fix them right up when we got back home.

Anyways, then we hung out with our friends Zac, Hannah and Fluffy for a bit. We had lunch and helped them out with Seek the Sneak for their YL Club which was fun.

YL Arusha kids playing Seek the Sneak

We also got some great deals on some sweet jewlery at the Masai Market. (I find that prices are cheaper for these things in Arusha, however, other things are much more expensive). Afterward we had some coffee at a new coffee shop in town, and began planning for  our Lushoto camp. So exciting to be working together it really felt like our Young Life Family here in Africa.

Zac and Alexis playing at the Blue Heron

Next we headed to dinner, at the Blue Heron. Our friend Zac plays drums their every Friday. It is quite a nice spot and their were many people there because they were celebrating a birthday. We just sat back and enjoyed the relaxing evening, good food and great company.

Then we headed off to bed at Zac and Hannah’s house because we were off to climb up to hut one on Mt. Kilimanjaro the next day.

Kili Here We Come

We got a bit of a late start, but it did not really matter in the end. The drive up was beautiful. The small town of Kilimanjaro is quaint but serene and very green.  We were greeted at the gate by many men hoping to be our guide for the day.

It took a bit to get us all registered and legit, but the boys did it for us and we were off. Biatus, was our guide. He was very experienced and said that he has climbed to the top and back in 2 days, one day up and one day back. I don’t doubt the validity of this, these men were made for the mountains.

Hiking is so life giving for me here. I never realized how much I love it, until I moved somewhere you cannot do it. The path was very nicely laid out and the scenery was lush and green. About 30minutes in it began to pour. Of course Austin and I did not bring our rain coats and the ponchos I lugged all the way from the US were sitting in our closet back in Dar. Needless to say I was soaked. I did have a grocery bag to cover my back pack and a change for the way back down. About three quarters of the way up the trees completely changed and there was a fog in the air. It was so beautiful. Then after just three hours up we made it to hut 1, Mandara Hut, elevation 9,000ft, Kilimanjaro is 19,000ft at the top so we were about half way up. The route we took is known as the coca-cola route because you can get a cola all they way up to the top, or so they say. Hopefully one day I will be able to find out for sure.

We did it! Mandara Hut 9,000ft

We ate a quick lunch and I changed out of my soaking wet shirt. I am sure the other hikers thought we were crazy because we had no rain gear or serious backpacks, just a shirt and shorts and a small day pack.

The way back down took about 2 hours. As we walked, we passed many of the Kilimanjaro workers who have to hike in all of the gear for all of the hikers. Men were carrying two or three full backpacks, food of all kinds, charcoal for cooking, enormous gas tanks for cooking, large coolers, and even 2 by 4’s not sure what they were for. All I could do was say, Pole Sana ( Translation-I am very sorry for you) , to each of them as they slowly trekked along.  Some of them were really hurting. I would not want that job for sure.

Kilimanjaro workers carrying up heavy loads of gear.

The best part of the whole thing was spending quality time with our friends Zac and Hannah. I love hiking because you can spend so much time hanging out while getting in a good workout. Overall it was so worth it and only motivated me more to want to conquer the whole thing.

We finished the weekend with a bang. First, a dinner at Dusty and Marlena’s with everyone. Then a sleepover at our friend Fluffy’s, who does YL in Moshi town (the town at the base of Kilimanjaro). Followed by an early wake up call to run the 5km fun run for the Annual Kilimanjaro Marathon. I am bummed I did not do the 1/2 marathon but I will do another one soon.

The 5km Crew.

And we're off...

It was so great to see so many people out, and about and doing athletic activity. Besides the people who do manual labor in Dar, there are very few people who work out for fun. Actually they usually tell me, pole sana when I run. I always want to tell them, don’t be sorry for me. I want to run, in fact I love to run! They just don’t understand. Anyways, we ran and it was great. Dusty and Marlena lost the wheel of their son Imani’s,  Baby Jogger going over a speed bump and caught it all on tape. It was priceless.

We got to see the half marathon winners and marathon winners cross the finish line as well. The minister of Tanzania was even there to celebrate the occasion. Unfortunately a Kenyan won the race so the Tanzanian’s were not happy but, I would say in the end, fun was had by all.

After the race and a delicious breakfast made by Fluffy, we just chilled out and played some cards with our friends until it was time to head to the airport.

As you can see having 4 days in a weekend really can make a difference. We got to do so much, and even felt relaxed and rested while doing it all. Thank the Lord for Rodeo Weekend!

Mt. Kilimanjaro through the phone lines.

Book Week

Each year at HOPAC the student council puts on BOOK WEEK. This is a week completely dedicated to Reading. I must admit at first I was a bit skeptical about the week, and thought it would be a bit corny, however, it proved to be a very fun and memorable time.

We began the week with a kick off assembly, where the student council members put on a skit about reading. It was super cute and they did a wonderful job. That day each student made a poster about why they love to read. The posters were hung around the school which really added to the week. All throughout the week we had a DEAR bell. Drop Everything And Read. Anytime it rang the students had to stop what they were doing and read a book.

My Class on Book Character Day

The second day was Buddy Reading day. We all came in our PJs or comfy clothes and brought along our favorite pillow or stuffed animal. In the afternoon we read with one of the other primary grades. The students really loved it and I really enjoyed seeing my older kids hanging out with the younger primary kids. On the third day we held a book exchange. At the beginning of the week we, asked for the students to bring in any books that they no longer were reading and they could exchange 2 for 1 new book. All of the leftover books were given to a local school with very little resources. This was all organized by our first graders. So precious.

The final day was Book Character Day. Everyone is encouraged to dress as their favorite book character and bring in the book they chose. The kids really love this day! Parents and kids go all out, to create some awesome book characters. At the assembly there is a big competition and secondary students vote on the best from each grade. It was so fun to see all of the different characters that came about. We had the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Sponge Bob, 101 dalmations, Pipi Longstocking and so many more.

Overall, it was a great week and a great way to promote the love of reading! I give it two thumbs up!

The Champions from each grade.

International School Training

During February for a very short few days, Austin and I got to partake in the International School Training for Young Life Africa.

Working with International schools is very different from what the rest of YL Africa looks like. The International schools are made up of wealthy African students, and students from all over the World whose parents work in government jobs or NGO’s. Many of the schools are boarding schools which leaves the students with little to do. So having someone come and bring ice cream or play games is lots of fun for them. I really admire our friends who are doing this because for the most part they are completely on their own. There is not a support system and group of people doing the same thing as they are in the same town. It is just this small group. The work is hard but very rewarding.

Kathy Conner, who is from Florida and has worked for Young Life for a long time, came over to do this training for this very small yet amazing group of people. We spent a lot of time just processing how we are balancing our spiritual walks with the rest of life, and time in fellowship. We loved spending time with our friends Zac and Hannah, who do YL in Arusha, Fluffy (aka Alisa), YL Moshi, and Neal and Sarah, YL Dar es Salaam.

It was a great time with wonderful people. On one of the nights we had a BBQ on the beach. We had a delicious surf and turf and played on Bocce ball on the beach. We are very thankful for this great community of friends here in Africa.

Dala Dala vs. Charter Bus

On the trip to Amani, we were short just a few seats and some room from all being able to fit on a big “charter” bus. Unfortunately, we did not fit and therefore a group of us had to travel on a dala dala the entire 8 hours to Amani. To be fair the nicer bus was not exactly comfortable either, however, I would have much preferred to be on that bus.

Coming from the land of plenty, where we have pretty much always had a nice big charter bus this is definitely a different way to travel. No comfortable, cushioned seats. No TV’s to keep the kids entertained. No bathrooms to make it so you don’t have to stop for a potty break. No microphone so that you don’t have to yell over the kids to get attention. No rest stops along the road or McDonald’s to get a break from it all. And no air conditioning. Instead, Austin and I traveled with a small group of boys from my class squished in a dala dala. In all honesty, it was not pleasant, but it was doable. I would say the major bummer about it was the metal bars you can feel underneath your bum, which make you numb after just a short while, and you and your stuff being covered with an inch of dust because in order to get fresh air you must keep the windows down at all times. On a more positive note, our driver was one of the safest, and more alert drivers I have had in Tanzania, which made me feel much better about having my students in the car too.

The larger nicer bus.

Our sweet little ride.

Amani Rainforest

From this 35km sign it took us 2 HOURS to get there!

I believe it was the first day of school that I got the question, ” When are we going to Amani?” My students have been excited to go to Amani since the very beginning of the school year. I must have answered hundreds of questions about this 4 day trip. For example, “Are their going to be real toilets or squatty potties there?” “Do we have to bring hiking boots or can we wear trainers?” “Why can’t I bring my cell phone?”  “Is it okay if I have already packed my bag?” (3 weeks early) and the list goes on. I made them hold off until the week before or else I am sure there would have been more.

Each year the fifth grade class at HOPAC, has the awesome opportunity to go to the Amani Rain forest. For the entire second term we study the Rain forest, so it is quite convenient that we have a rain forest not too far away from our school. By the time we left for Amani the students had been studying the rain forest for 6 weeks and had a pretty good basis of information about where we were about to go.

They were loving it!

The adventure began with an 8 hour drive along the unpredictable Tanzanian roads. After two bathroom breaks, two break downs, and 2 hours up a winding dirt road, we finally arrived. It was incredible getting out of the car and seeing the beautiful rain forest trees towering over you, with the craziness of the city left behind. The kids were so excited from the moment we stepped off the bus.

Our first "hike" more like a bit of a leg strech but beautiful none the less!

We began with a short tour around the building with our guide Lucy. We saw some monkeys right away which was super fun! We had a homemade dinner and then got to play some night time capture the flag. It was so fun but brutal to say the least. So maybe some kids were bleeding and crying at certain points in the game, but I think it is fair to say that all had fun.Then it was off to bed.

Glo-stick fun during capture the flag

The second morning we woke up early and had a great devotion about God’s creation. Then we headed up the Mbole Trail hike.  We had the kids do a scavenger hunt in hopes to slow them down on the trail, apparently classes in the past needed it. My class however, took this very seriously and only went about half a km in about an hour. After some poking and prodding, we got them to move along a bit faster. The last bit of the hike was a bit steep, but I was not complaining. I do not get to go hiking anymore so this was a major treat! Then we got to the top of the big hill, where there was an incredible view of the Rainforest valley. It was breathtaking. What was most exciting was hearing my student’s reactions to it all. One student even said, “It is like what you see on TV, but right there in front of you!” Many of my students have not done much traveling or spent a lot of time in nature so this was a big deal for them.

The Lookout after our big hike.

After the hike we had a nice lunch and then headed straight to the WATERFALL! Yup that’s right we got to play in a waterfall. Once again my kids were in heaven! Although the short drive and hike were a bit precarious, it was so worth it all. After lots of fun in the falls we  headed back for dinner.


Once it got dark our guides took us on a night hike, where we saw many different types of chameleons. So cool! Lights out.

3 Horned Chameleon on the Night Hike.

In the morning we woke up and headed out to see the Tea Factory and Butterfly Farm. Short bus ride and we were there. The tea fields were very pretty but unfortunately they were cleaning everything out everything was shut down for the day. My poor students had to sit through a long detailed, non-kid friendly, explanation of the tea making process. It would have been much more interesting had the machines been up and running.  Then we went to the butterfly farm. This too was a bit of a flop but the kids did get to see some butterfly eggs, pupa and a few actual butterflies. We also some some huge Jack fruit which looked great but did not taste as good as they looked.

Rolling hills of tea.

We headed back for lunch. In the afternoon we played some field games. The kids had a great time running around and just being kids. We were supposed to play in a near by stream but there was not enough water. So what did we decide to do…. go back to the WATERFALL of course! The kids were all for this. Once again we splashed, and played.

Then we ate our last dinner and prepared for the first ever “Amani’s Got Talent.” The kids cooked up some dance routines, shadow puppet plays, singing songs, and of course the choreographed chaperon Boom Boom Pow Dance. We ended it all with a dance to all of the classics; YMCA, Electric Slide, Chicken Dance, and much much more.

Boom Boom Pow Routine for the kids.

After the talent show we headed outside for a campfire. We laid by the fire and told funny jokes and stories and then sat back in awe of the wonder of the stars. So peaceful. So filled with the presence of the Lord.

Afterward, we headed back to our cabins. The boys told some scary stories and Austin and Shaun scared the boys by sneaking up on them. The girls and I, painted nails and talked girl talk. It was so great to play less of a teacher role and more of a friend and older mentor role.

Of course, it would have been much to easy to just stay up late and have fun. Around 11pm two kids just started throwing up. An hour later a few more kids started puking. We knew instantly it was food poisoning. I was in mom mode, cleaning up after the kids all night. However, the kids were champs and didn’t complain at all. Needless to say the bus ride home was a bit longer with kids puking until about half way home and the heat and being a bus for eight hours. Thankfully, we made it home safe. Really overall it was AMAZING! No complaints. It was so fun hanging out with my kids in the rain forest!

2 Ring Binders

There are just a few things that are very different about where I come from and where I am currently. Working in a school with people from all over the world there are bound to be some major differences even in the little things. HOPAC is uses the Cambridge Standards which I am told are not British but sure feel that way to me. Along with that because we have a lot of British staff and influence our school runs much more like a British school, at least from my perspective.

For example:

Some everyday vocabulary here:

Brilliant! Well Done! Jolly!

Never is my grade referred to fifth grade rather we are Grade 5.

A teacher’s box is known as a pigeon hole.

The air conditioner is known as the aircon.

The soccer field is a football pitch.

A closet is a store.

The bathroom is the loo.

A period is a full stop.

These are just some small examples of vocabulary differences.

Next, there are differences in everyday use items.

For example all paper here is not the standard 8 1/2 by 11 but instead are 8 by 12 (More or less I didn’t take out the ruler on this one). May not seem like that big of a deal but it is awkward when all of your curriculum books are 8 1/2 by 11.  I feel like the extra inch wastes a lot of paper. Silly I know.

Folders are almost unheard of. Kids use notebooks instead. I am actually liking this but taking them home to grade is not as easy as a piece of paper.

Grades are due 2 weeks before each term is over. WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THE KIDS FOR THE LAST TWO WEEKS? I have them keep working but I still don’t understand this one. They can wait until the next term begins to get their final grades. As for the end of the year it is not as much of an issue the two weeks is just fine.

Of course my students have no idea what a inch, mile, pound, or gallon are. The problem is that I still have a hard time with the metric conversions. I think I confuse them more. Still working on this one.

Tea Time happens everyday in everything we do. Even at church we have a tea break in the middle of the service. Who the heck wants tea, in the middle of the afternoon, when it is 90 degrees with 80 or more percent humidity? I still don’t understand the need for a break for tea. Maybe one day I will come to appreciate it, but I don’t think it will be in the Dar es Salaam, better a cold climate like Denmark or Finland.

The thing that drives me most nuts are  2 RING BINDERS! Who was it that decided that a binder should have 2 instead of 3 rings? To line up the 2 holes perfectly every time is next to impossible. The 2 hole punch is not as accurate for sure. It has a small plastic rod that comes out of it that is supposed to help you but it is cheap and not secure and your papers never match up. Then on top of that once they are actually in a binder they are not secure enough to support themselves. Therefore you have papers hanging out of the binder in every which way. The 3 ring binder provides plenty of support so that your papers are nice and neat and not visible when the binder is closed.I am taking a stand and just saying no to using these 2 ring binders!

I know that none of these are major issues or problems obviously but it makes me very aware of the fact that Americans are so very different from the British. In fact I was sitting at lunch just the other day with the new candidate for Primary Principal yesterday and a few other British teachers from the school. The new candidate asked the outgoing Secondary principal what are the hardest things about wokring here. His response: 1 The Heat. ( A given in my opinion) 2. The difference in curriculum and teaching standards between Americans and British. At that point in time they all tried to start explaining the American Education and its faults to the new candidate. Being the only American in the room, I just kept my mouth shut because I really did not want to open up that can of worms. I am aware our system is flawed, HELLO! I worked in the 50th ranked state of the whole country, however, their system has its own flaws too.  The systems are just so different I don’t know how they can even be compared properly. As much as I absolutely love our British friends here, our secondary principal said it best, “It’s shocking how we speak the same language, but we are completely a different people.” I couldn’t agree more.

Rikka Nne

Last night. Dinner at White Sands Hotel.

For two weeks in February, we had the pleasure of hanging out with “Rikka Nne,” meaning fourth group or class. In the past few years, Young Life Africa has started a training intensive for key leaders in each of the different countries in which Young Life is underway. The leaders came from all over Africa, 11 countries to be exact. (Liberia, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Kenya, D.R. Congo, Senegal, Tanzania, (and Zanzibar not technically another country) Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Mozambique) Amazing if you ask me!

I have so much to say about this training but don’t really know where to start. Each day they had different people leading them, some from the SALT team and others who came from America, teaching them about the basics of Young Life, but more importantly about creating foundations in Christ so that they can continue to be fruitful in their work.

Zimbabwe native Zebra dress.

A made up Kenyan figure and a Congalese King!

Traditional LIberian dress.

It all began with a welcoming dinner. They all dressed in their native clothing. Some of them beautiful and others quite amusing. They each prepared a small welcome to the Americans who were doing some of the training for them. A wedding band started the parade, this is really just a group of musicians who hop in the back of a white pick up and play all the way down the road. Usually they are used for weddings but they are super fun for any occasion really. We are just waiting for an excuse to get one. : ) Then each group did their performance. Dancing from Zimbabwe, drumming from Liberia, singing from Ethiopia and so much more. We then ate a delicious dinner catered by BBQ village, which in my opinion is some of the best food around in Dar.

Because we work full time and we are not really a part of the training, we were in and out, but thankfully did get to spend time with them. For the rest of the week they continued their training.

Worhsiping YL style!

During the weekend we were able to joint them on the beach for a BBQ and Bonfire which was lots of fun. They are all very passionate about soccer so they competed East Africa versus West Africa. It was a big deal. So much fun. West Africa won. I am impartial.

They were all so incredible. Each country brought so much to the table in life experience and culture. Throughout the two weeks different countries took turns making food for the group.  We joined them on the night D.R. Congo was cooking. The food was different for sure. The spread included Ugali, a rice like substance that people depend on here, mchicha, spinach dish, dried small fish in a peanut sauce (that one was not my favorite), baked bananas served with a nut spread, chicken that was cooked in a delicious sauce of some kind, and a large variety of sweet potatoes.

Ethiopia greeting the Wazungu (foreigners)

On the last night, their was a commissioning ceremony. We went White Sands, a nice hotel right down the road from the Larmey’s house, for dinner. Then we all came home for the ceremony. They had all bonded so much and it was such a joy to be around them. We ended with a final time of worship which was lively and full of energy. It was sad to see them all go but it was so wonderful to be apart of this unique experience.

Pray that Rikka Nne, will be able to go back and be the leaders they have been called by God to be for their countries.

Group Photo