Kids Say the Funniest Things

I haven’t talked too much about my kids yet, which is a shame because they’re the best part of my trip. I teach class 5, which are 9 to 12 year olds. I’ve been teaching them for almost three weeks and I’ve only finally learnt all their names.

The geography teacher asked me at the end of my first week to teach for him. I couldn’t really understand why, he just said, can you help me. I said sure. Then he gave me the geography book and told me which section to teach. He said that it was going to be on the exam.
Teaching any science subject is quite simple at the elementary age. You basically write everything on the board and the kids copy it. There’s no conceptual knowledge, everything is fact based and all the kids have to do is memorize it.

I’m a slow writer on the chalk board. I write slow and unnecessarily big. Compared to the other teachers who have spent years writing on the board, I look like a child learning to write.
On my first day of teaching geography, I spent most of the class writing the notes. When break started, I continued to write because I wanted to get ahead. Most of the kids had left to play outside but some of the kids stayed to finish copying.
They grumbled and said, “teachah, why are you still writing?”, but then continued to copy. Then finally Judith (one of my brightest students, she’s this little tiny girl, adorable) cried out, “TEACHAH, YOU’RE SUPPOSE TO HAVE TEA WITH THE OTHER TEACHAHS”.
I died.

The other girls of my class. Please don’t mind the horrible selfie. Judith is the one in the blue hat.
Some of the girls in my class.

The teachers here all drink tea together in the office during break and eat mendazi (deep fried bread, basically an unfrosted donut). I usually play with the kids instead cause all the teachers speak in Swahili. I feel pretty out of place.

Another funny story from geography:

I taught them about different minerals that are mined in East Africa my first geography class. My second geography class, I asked them to make a chart listing all the minerals, where they’re found and what they’re used for. They’re pretty much just putting their notes into a chart so it’s easier for them to study.
I told them to write one mineral at a time on the chart and to fill in all the information for that mineral before writing down the next mineral. That way you’re sure to have enough space for all your notes.
One kid, Abdulrazza (mouthful, I know) had written all the minerals in a column which left no space for notes on the side. He asked if he should make a new chart, I said no, you can just cross out some of the minerals to make more space. Then he stared at me with wide eyes and said, “but teachah, my mothah will beat me”.
Oh my goodness, these children are the reason I live.

The troublemakers of the class. Abdulrazza is the one in the light blue hoodie.

This may come as a shock to some people, but they hit children here in school. It’s not physical abuse, it’s “disciplinary”.
Julia teaches a preschool class for the entire morning. When Ana and I don’t have class, we go to Julia’s to bother her. Her kids are so cute. The teacher for that class teaches the younger kids while Julia teaches the slightly older ones on the other side of the room. I haven’t seen the teacher do any actual teaching. She goes over the homework with one student at a time, meanwhile the rest of the class does nothing.

Julia singing outside with the preschool kids.
Ana helping teach Julia’s class.

One day, the class was going INSANE. Julia gave up teaching her students because the younger ones were so loud. They were running around, moving chairs, lifting tables (this little boy was holding the entire table bench over his head) and screaming. It was like watching a zoo.
The teacher finally had enough and yelled at them. She told them to line up against a wall and proceeded to give each kid three slaps on the hand with a ruler. The kids who had gotten their slaps went to sit down at the desk. They weren’t gentle slaps, they had some girth to it.
Some kids handled it like it was nothing. They showed no emotion and sat down like nothing happened. Some kids started crying and others tried to move their hands to avoid being slapped, but that just made the teacher hit them more.

I was unfazed. My dad had hit me like that a couple of times when I was younger. It was nothing new to me. But Julia and Ana were so distraught. Julia asked if she should tell the teacher to stop, and Ana started crying. They couldn’t believe that teachers can do that to children. They know that it’s cultural and it’s not their place to judge. It got kinda awkward after so we left quietly as fast as possible.


Always Eat Breakfast

Friday afternoon, Ana, Ingrid and I went out to town for the first time by ourselves. Friday marked the end of my first week in Tanzania. We went along Sanawari road which is where our village, Sanawari Village, is located. The street had many stores and vendors along the way. We discovered that fries are a popular street food here. Almost every food vendor sells it. On rare occasions some will sell different kinds of bread and fried fish. Ana had bought a bag of fries… the first of many.

A cute kid who started following us.
Walking down Sanawari road.
Arriving in town

The end of Sanawari is the town of Arusha. We kept walking straight and found a sign for a restaurant called Woodland Cafe. The sign advertised pizza, sandwiches and other western foods. We decided to check it out since all three of us were craving western food. The cafe was empty, literally empty.

Woodland sign and Mt. Meru!
The empty cafe.

The menu was all in english but the waitress barely spoke any english. It had traditional breakfasts, desserts, burgers, pizzas, pastas, we were in heaven. You never realize how much you miss certain foods until you are deprived of it. I miss meat and I miss eggs. Sometimes I dream about all the eggs and meat I’m going to consume when I go back to Canada. Eggs are expensive in Arusha, I’ve only had it once for breakfast and it was nearly burnt. Most people here raise their own chickens.

People here eat meat as well but not meat MEAT. They use the bones to add flavour into their stews. Whatever bits of meat you do end up eating is also very tough. I just want a piece of big juicy steak. This is me one week in. I wonder how I’m going to survive three more months.

What I typically have for breakfast. Saddest part of my day.

At the cafe I ordered a big plate of breakfast. It had two eggs, toast, beef bacon, sausage and grilled tomato. The whole thing was 10 000 (5USD) which at the time did not seem too much. But now that I have gone out more and bought more things, I realize that it is a lot of money. I’m probably not going back to this cafe again.

My amazing afternoon breakfast.

Every bite of food was heaven. Ingrid and Ana laughed at me for ordering breakfast at 4pm in the afternoon. I guess eating breakfast at any time of the day is a Canadian thing?  I explained to them that all day breakfast cafes and diners are quite popular in Canada. Its not uncommon to order breakfast in the middle of the day. They still made fun of me.

For dessert, the three of us had split a nutella crepe. That was also delicious. They don’t eat many sweets here, which is a good thing I guess. Sugar is not good for you. But goodness, do I miss baked goods.

Nutella crepe, the first dessert and only dessert I’ve had in Africa.

When we went back to Ingrid’s host family to meet the fourth volunteer. She’s staying for a whole month so her, Ingrid and I are going to be together for most of our program. She’s from Germany and her name is Julia. We chatted on the pavilion of Ingrid’s, and now Julia’s, host family house. The three of us were in a good mood from eating all that food.

On Saturday morning, the four of us went for a hike to the famous waterfalls near Mt. Meru with Sam. The hike took six hours in total. I didn’t eat breakfast and the last meal I had was the breakfast from the day before. The hike was exhausting for me. Even the smallest hill left me out of breath. But it was worth it, the waterfall was beautiful. To get there, you had to walk in a stream which had many rocks. The water current was also strong from the rain. I slipped while going down a mud path and bruised the outside of my foot.

On the way to the waterfalls.
More beautiful African scenery.

When we arrived at the falls, there were young boys who wanted to guid us through the path to the falls. We told them we weren’t going to pay them but they came with us anyway. They were quite helpful, they held your hand when crossing the water, and told you where to put your feet so you don’t fall. We saw many foreigners during the hike, the most I’ve seen since coming here. We saw a group of Australians and quite a few Canadians.

Walking along the stream with our “guides”.
The amazing Mt. Meru waterfalls.

We ended up giving the boys some money since they actually were very helpful. But Sam, our program coordinator said that it’s not a good idea to pay them since many of them will skip school to do this instead.

After getting out of the waterfalls, we had a little picnic on a nice patch of grass. Ingrid brought lunch from her host family. Ana and I were in shock. She had brought an omelette cooked with fries. It was so delicious. Ana and I were jealous that her host family fed her much better than ours. We wanted to complain to Mike since we’re all paying the same price. But we eat what our family eats, I don’t feel comfortable asking them to change their eating habits. I’m still trying to figure out how to go about this.

The four of us laid down to tan when we finished eating. It was a rare day full of sun. I didn’t think the sun would be such a rare commodity in Africa, but then again I didn’t look at when the rain season was. It was a nice break after a 4 hour hike. We also needed to regain our energy for the 2 hour walk back.

Our view during the picnic.
Relaxing after the hike with Ingrid

The way back was much easier. The way to the waterfalls was mostly up hill, so the way back was mostly downhill. I walked in my flip-flops most of the way, which was a stupid decision since I had also hurt my foot. But I realized my mistake in the end and switched to my wet, muddy running shoes.

A Whole New World

Wednesday afternoon, Nancy took us three volunteers into the town of Arusha for the first time. And wow. This is Africa.

This was only my second day stepping out of the house. I felt like a scared cat. The streets were loud and crowded. Cars never stopped honking, its as if the driver’s hand is permanently stuck on the honking button. Motorcycles trying to drive past people, vendors on the road selling fruit, vegetables and grilled corn… It felt like China, but cleaner and busier.

The way to Arusha, but not actually Arusha. Notice how cloudy it is here.

I wanted to take pictures but I had a fear that someone was going to snatch my phone. I was glad Nancy came with us. I thought that maybe people would stare at me less if we had a guide. Nope. I thought the staring was bad on my way to school, but holy moly, it’s even worse in the actual town. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE was staring at us. The children were sweet, they would wave and say hi. The women would look at us and not say anything. It was mostly the men who tried to talk to us.

This really ticked me off. A couple of people on the streets and in their cars said konichiwa to me. I wanted to tell them, I AM NOT JAPANESE. I’m getting upset thinking about it. I’m learning to filter everyone out. I shouldn’t be too hard on them, they’ve probably never seen an asian person before. It’s hard to live like a local when they gawk at you like an alien. It also doesn’t help that I like to wear shorts. All the women here wear long pants or skirts. But I can’t help it, my legs need to breathe.

Ana exchanged some money and bought a SIM card. I wanted to increase my data at the same place, I had already used 1GB in the span of four days. Somehow, I got 15 GB extra without paying any extra money. I don’t know what witchcraft the employee used. Her name is also Nancy and I think I love her. In Tanzania, they also transfer over the data you have leftover from your current month into the next month.
Is this place sent from heaven.

In town I bought two mangoes, a coconut (a natural laxative), two colourful waist wraps (what most women here wear), a Masai (largest tribe in Africa) shawl and some snacks. Everything here is dirt cheap. 1000 TZS is approximately 0.50 USD. In total, I had spent around 40 000 TZS (20 USD), which is quite a lot here. The wraps and shawl were pretty pricey. 10000 (5USD) for the shawl, and 18000 (9USD) for the wraps.

Two wraps on the left and the shawl on the right. I have to get the wraps cut by a seamstress before I can wear them.


On the way back we took a dala dala which is a large van used as a bus. It had taken us an hour to walk to town. Each dala dala has its own destination. The ride costs only 500TZS per person.
While we were driving, the sliding door of the van fell off! They tried to put it back on with no avail. Finally they lifted the door onto the roof and someone had to stand out of the door to hold it down. So safe. They had to drop the door off somewhere along the way. Ingrid, Ana and I couldn’t stop laughing, everyone else was chuckling.

In the dala dala. This was before more people came in, I was almost as crammed as when I was on the plane.

Now onto Orland. As I mentioned in the previous blog post, he did not leave a good first impression. In fact, he barely left a first impression at all. The only time he talked to me was when he knocked on my door Monday morning, half naked with a towel wrapped around his waist, telling me that school was cancelled.

When Ana and I had returned from town, we retreated to her room to relax (she has a bunk bed and a double bed). Nancy’s mom comes in and asks us how our day was, what we did, etc. Her english isn’t very good, so most of the time we guess what she’s trying to say. She mentions something about Orlando and we’re both like, yeah, he left without say a word, so weird… She keeps talking and we deduce from her hand motions that Orlando had blocked everyone on WhatsApp after leaving (Ana did actually, I had no idea what she wanted to say). Nancy’s mom gets Selma (the cousin) to the come in and translate; she was at her limit. Selma drops the news that Orlando had left without paying a cent for his two-month stay.


Apparently he kept telling the family that his mom is on a safari and that she will give him the money once she’s back. He depends on his mom even though he has a wife and child? I told you this guy was sketchy. Anyway, they loved him like a son. Nancy’s parents literally called him son and he called them mom/dad. African people are so nice.

He kept putting off giving them money for two whole months. The day before he ran away, he told the family that his mom was back and that he would pay them everything. The cost here is 70 USD per week, he owes the family over 500 USD.

Nancy’s mom wanted us to track him down using GPS. Mike is trying to find him through SIM card tracking. He’s looking to get permission from the police so he can get the phone company involved.
To be honest, I think it’s a lost cause. There was no signed contract, no legal binding. As I said before, people here live life very relaxed. Even if they find him, how are they going to make him pay?
I think it’s funny that as a Chinese person, I probably would have kicked Orlando out by the second week.

Three Is Always Better Than One

Thursday, May 11th 2017

Tuesday afternoon, after my first day of class, I came back home to find out that a new volunteer was coming to my homestay!

The guy who lived in her room had left the night before without saying a word. His name is Orlando, I had only seen him once during my 4 days here when he still lived at the house. I thought he was weird from the beginning. He’s from England (he’s African) but he has a wife from Tanzania, a kid and he was a volunteer…? He was never home during the day and he came back really late at night. I was really happy that he had left. He was at the house for two months. I secretly hoped he would leave so the new volunteer would live with me.  I couldn’t believe my luck. Anyway, more about Orlando later, the story gets very interesting.

I was eating lunch when Ana, the new volunteer, came in. She’s Brazilian and had stayed in South Africa for two months volunteering in a hostel. She had found both the hostel and our current school from workaway. I also found this volunteer opportunity on workaway if anyone’s interested. This website offers the cheapest way to travel (sponsor me workaway).

A typical African meal: green banana (tastes like potato) and meat stew with rice


We went to the organization’s office after lunch where another new volunteer was staying! Her name is Ingrid and she is from Italy. She’s older and works full time at a hotel. She has one month off each year in May when the hotel is closed and she uses that time to travel. She has a beautiful Italian accent and says si instead of yes. When I talk to her she often says, “Ahhh siii”. I love it.

I was excited to be meeting two volunteers in one day. The three and a half days I spent here alone was so dull. By the third night I had contemplated if coming here was a mistake. I wanted to go home. Did I spend all that money buying a plane ticket, my insurance, medication, visa… for nothing?? Those thoughts disappeared immediately when I started talking to Ana and Ingrid. I’m a social person; I need people to talk to in order to survive.

Ana on the left and Sam (the other program coordinator) on the right

I spent the afternoon in the office editing and posting my blog posts (the office has wifi). Ingrid was looking through my english book and Ana was on her cellphone. Ana looked like she wanted to die. Her trip from South Africa to Tanzania took 24 hours (I know right?!) because there was no direct flight. But she was determined to not sleep until the night, strong girl.

I woke up the next day and went to school alone at 8 am. African time is fairly lax. School starts at 8 am but when I got there at 8:05, students were still strolling in. I had a long day ahead of me; back to back math classes, and back to back english classes. Each period is 40 minutes long.

I had first period free so I spent it preparing the material. The math teacher for my class was there too so I asked him some questions regarding his teaching methods. He’s only 21 but had taught at this school since he was 18. He is currently studying to get in to a university in Tanzania (I forgot which one). He asked me if I was married and if people in Canada marry in university. This is the question I get asked the most here. After I finished teaching, we chatted again and he tried to ask me for my number without really asking for my number.
Him:  So when you are not in school and teaching, I can text you and say hi hahaha.
Me: Hahaha okay.
And then I left.
Is every man in Tanzania looking for a wife.

The math teacher told me that he has two math classes at the same time, so I have to teach the class 5 math classes by myself… I am only supposed to be an assistant. I overheard two teachers talking, they said that a couple of teachers had stopped showing up one day. Some classes have not had a math or science class in two weeks. This is why teachers need to be paid more.

My class was a lot better on my second day. They were more responsive, quiet and overall more pleasant. It was very encouraging. The look on their faces when they are listening to you or when they understand something, there are no words to describe this feeling. I have always loved teaching. People have told me that I should consider teaching as a professional career, but I’ve always brushed it aside. Chinese parents do not aspire their kids to be teachers. Maybe professors, but not teachers.

My beautiful class, they look sweet but can make chaos rain

In math, the children learned about how to convert decimals in to fractions. You do these things for so long that you almost forget you had to learn it at some point. Some children really understood fraction simplification but some were just completely lost. Most children stayed in class during break to work on math and I could help those who struggled.

In english, I did mostly listening and comprehension. They do not have workbooks so everything I do has to be on the board. I read a story and had them answer questions about what I just read. Their comprehension is fairly good, I was impressed. I also did a dictation, I read five sentences and they wrote it down. Sometimes they could not understand what I was saying, slowing down and over-articulating didn’t help. They pronounce their “er” as “ah”. So “ov-ah”, “clos-ah” instead of over and closer. I hope they get used to my “accent” soon.

The class working hard on math problems

My funny story of the day, during English one of the girls starts crying. I asked the reason why, and the entire class pointed their fingers at this one boy sitting beside her. He said he took her pencil and was throwing it around but was going to give it back. I had the girl sit somewhere else and tried to give the boys a talk. They sit in the back left corner of the room; a bunch of trouble makers.
I told them that if they’re not nice to girls then they will not be able to find a wife when they grow up. They thought it was pretty funny. I told that boy (I still don’t know most of their names) to be nicer since none of the girls wanted to sit near him. Then, I made him apologize to her, and I made the girl forgive him. This guy puts his head down AND STARTS CRYING. I gave up and went back to teaching. He was okay after a few minutes.