Monday, October 26, 2015

Liko wapi... huh?

Hey everybody!  It’s been a while since we have blogged and we apologize.  Sometimes we don’t have the luxury to pick up the computer to write out our blog due to a lack of power.  Hands4Africa has a generator that works just fine, but we have to conserve our battery power on our computers.  Most of the time our power is out for about 8-10 hours but on other occasions, it is for longer.  Maybe next time we can write it out on paper ;).

Marin reading with Hassan, Standard 1
It has only been 3 full months since we arrived in Berega, and we are already preparing for the national examination for standard 4 which takes place at the end of November.  After that, the semester is done.  We have to give standard 4 credit - we are pushing them so hard, and they are being troopers about it.  The reality is we can’t expect them to know everything that will be on the national exam, but we can expect them to know most and that’s what we are focusing on.  This past week they went to King David (another school 45 minutes away) to take a mock examination and overall each one of them passed with an average over 40% which they need to go into standard 5.  I (Mike) was a little disappointed in their performance on the math section since I teach them math.  Most of it is teacher guilt but I know that we have hammered the topics that were on the math section.  Liz (school’s director) went over the test with them and pretty much told them they are better than those grades.  Which they are!  The first examination they took at King David a couple months ago, they scored better on.  So the action plan to get them more than ever ready for the test is to work on test taking strategies and more math review but not trying to pile it on them.  To help motivate standard 4, I told them in class that they aren’t perfect, and we aren’t mad. We just care and have high expectations.  All that matters here is that when they get knocked down, they need to get back up.  It seemed like they took it well.  

Karonga, Malawi
This past week we had to make a visa run, and it was an adventure! ;)  Just let us tell you that wherever we go after our time in Tanzania is up, we feel that we will be able to go anywhere and to do anything.  It was tough but we got through it.  We understand it is chaotic and also it wouldn’t have been an adventure if all of what happened didn’t happen.  When you are traveling through the country and making stops, and asking for directions, and trying to grasp the whole visa thing, it wears you down.  Some ways it did was with the language barrier.  We are certain that it would’ve been a lot easier if we knew a lot more swahili.  Another natural annoyance is everybody trying to rip you off for taxi rides, food, souvenirs, etc.  Over time we have grown thick skin and have learned enough Swahili to send the message to them that we know enough to not get ripped off.  We aren’t trying to sound negative here.  We are very confident that the next time we make a visa run, it will be a breeze.  Second nature.  
Karonga, Malawi
On the long trek to Malawi

Let us share with you the great things about the visa run.  Tanzania is BEAUTIFUL.  Once we were on the buses and staring out the windows for hours, the mountains and everything else were absolutely breathtaking. The route started from Morogoro, cut through Mikumi National park, through Iringa, then finishes in Kyela or the border town. While we were ascending up the Udzungwa Mountains, we saw a troop of yellow baboons, which was great. There is even a section of southern Tanzania with beautiful tall evergreens which reminds us of the States.  Believe it or not, some parts of Tanzania are very chilly.  People who have never been to Africa assume that it’s swelteringly hot, but in a lot of places it isn’t.  So even though we had somewhat of a hard introduction into our first visa run, it was balanced out with beautiful scenery and a good story to tell. :)

Looks like the deciduous forest back in the US!
So like we said, it has been about three months since we have been here in Berega.  We can honestly say that we are molding to the ways of life here.  Meaning, not taking showers everyday because we don’t need to, learning how to ration 1000 liters of water a week, cooking lunch and dinner everyday, and filling our down time with things like reading, cleaning, and even relaxing.  Berega vs. Tampa, Florida (where we are from), is like saying bush village vs. metropolitan city, so there is a bit of adapting that needs to take place over time which is happening.  The hardest struggle for me (Mike) is learning how to slow my brain down mentally.  In the U.S. it is go, go, go, go!  While there you don’t realize it but when you move to a place like Berega, it is a challenge.  But now we wake up every morning, make tea, sit on the porch and have our morning chats, and then head to school.  After school, we are either preparing dinner, taking walks, or just nothing.  Which is great.  Don’t get us wrong, there are down days, but they are petty down days.  And we expect problems to arise, but 9/10 times they will be problems that we would rather have than other problems out there.  

Well, we feel like this blog turned out great and we hope you enjoyed it.  Sometimes it is difficult to figure out what to write about being in Berega because it is all becoming second nature.  Nothing sticks out anymore.  Guess that is a good thing ;)

Take care all,


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