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USA | Friday, 13 September 2013 | Views [771] | Comments [7]

Me and Gladis

Me and Gladis



I’m enjoying my first ever sugar cane, straight from the cane. It was a gift from Frank’s uncle who I met in Urru village where his bibi (grandma) lives. He chopped it down for us as we made our way out of the trees to the road. Sharp blade- wack, wack wack wack...and we had three yard long pieces to take with us. They also gifted us with a chicken who I aptly named Gladis (just the first name that came to me- seems to fit). She will provide some eggs for our kids breakfast at the project. Now we have a rooster, I named Stoney, and Gladis. We aim to have maybe 20 chickens to feed the kids breakfast without having to ask for fundraising. Our gardener is also growing a garden too for their lunches but also to teach the kids how to grow. I love our Masai gardener. He smiles and waves a lot. Apparently he chased down three thieves the other day and took them in to the police. They had stolen a tv and some other items a couple houses down and somehow he brought in all three by himself. Other guys from their tribe threatened him later saying they will find him because they know he was the one to catch them, and in his own words said “bring it”. He’s my new favorite person.

I’m also enjoying a nice glass of 4000 tz shilling white wine. Sounds fancy, yes? That equates to about $2.50 and prices are actually higher here at the lodge than in town. I can deal with that. It comes from a box, but I’m not picky. I’ve been speaking with the bartender, Angel, who has been working at Honey Badger for about a year. She lost her parents a few years ago but made her way to college getting a degree in Hotel Management. She’s the second youngest to four older brothers and a younger sister. She’s 21. She’s helping me with my Swahili. In return, I gave her a sparkly diamond ring (a toy ring that lights up, donated by my friend Jodi).

Speaking of sparkly toys…

Today Frank took me to one of the villages we are focusing on for our school. It’s the village he lived in until he was 8 when he one day decided he wanted more out of life and jumped onto a bus into town, where he proceeded to live on the streets until he was 10 or 12 before finding a center for street kids. The years kind of blend in together for him. Can you imagine making that decision at 8??? Seeing where Frank is now compared to his family, it’s obviously paid off, but it was not an easy road. Now he wants to help the children of his uncles get an education so they don’t have to leave home for a better life.

Frank’s bibi is delightful. She doesn’t speak any English but we got along just fine. She was upset with Frank because he always comes unannounced, but if he were to let them know then they would spend money and resources to make it special and he didn’t want the burden of that. I totally get it. But I also totally get where his bibi is coming from. She wants to be prepared! They made due though. The bibi and all the sons, daughters and children live on the same property. It’s a large property where they grow their own food. They are totally self sustaining- they have crops and chickens and they can walk to access water. As I was introduced, they welcomed me into one of their homes. Before that, however, I followed Frank around the corner to the back of the home and he bowed his head. I put my hand on his back, not sure of what was making him sad, but eventually he turned and said, “this is where my grandfather is buried”. He died not long ago and since Frank’s father left when he was a baby, his grandfather was all he knew as a father figure. I felt honored to share such a sensitive moment with Frank.

The aunts, uncles and bibi ushered us into her home, a mud/grass hut the size of my walk in closet (I cringe as I write that). They gave us wooden chairs and stools to sit on- one stool that has been around since Frank was a child. The floor was compact dirt...and a little mud. There was a curtain separating the “living room” from probably what was a bedroom where bibi slept. She smiled and took my hand, saying something in Swahili. She had one eye that worked and her head was shaved, showing off a beautiful gray stubble that I wanted to touch but didn’t dare to. Her daughter brought in a small bucket of something liquidy. She handed it to Frank, who was clearly the man of honor, and he blew on it as if it were hot, then drank. He passed it to his uncle and then it was passed to me. It was not hot. Frank said it was the “banana drink” and I forget the swahili word for it but it was essentially a local beer. Fermented wheat and flour and banana. The tradition is to blow on it to move the top layer away so you can drink the liquid without going through the top foam. So...I blew on it, and drank. Interesting. I asked how long it was fermented and he said a day, which doesn’t sound right considering I’ve brewed my own Kombucha which takes at least 6 days...but maybe the wheat and flour is fermented before adding the banana? Anyway, I drank and passed it to bibi. Round and round it went. I skipped my turn once and passed from Frank to bibi and she just looked at me like she didn’t know what to do. I guess it was rude for me to pass without drinking! haha...I didn’t make that mistake again.

Frank and his family continued to chat and every once in awhile Frank would fill me in on the discussion. Frank asked if I could hand out the gifts now and I pulled out the clothes and toys I brought with me, one at a time so they could decide which child it would fit. I really did feel like santa claus, except I got to stay and watch. Each piece of clothing I brought out they would chatter and then agree on the kid it would fit. The child would come in, take the shirt or bottoms, say “asante” and leave. I would respond with “karibu” and smile as they shyly backed out of the room to try on their new clothes. As each item was handed out, I would sometimes see the previous kids come in with their new clothes. Somehow, each item I brought, sifted out from the 4 huge bags that were donated before my trip, somehow...each item fit the child perfectly. I mean...perfectly.  And it didn’t matter if it was hot out, the little boys wore their new jackets with pride for hours!

Then came the toys. The beanie babies were donated by my mom, and we had a great game of toss the beanie baby afterword. The really little ones were still shy of me and didn’t know what to think of the gifts, but the older ones took them and ran. The most fun part for me was when I brought out these little cars that have an elastic band to wrap around the finger. Turn it on and it emits a light that shoots out from your finger. I put them on my fingers to demonstrate- a blue one, green one, white one...turned them on and since it was dark in that little room, they lit up and I heard squeals of joy from the kids as well as the adults. I took them off my fingers and put them on Frank’s bibi’s fingers. She said “torche!”  I think those few minutes of playing with the “flashlights” may have been the highlight of my day, especially because his grandmother got such a kick out of it. I then showed her how to turn them off and she stowed them away somewhere safe. I have a feeling those will be more useful than just fun toys. Now that I think of it, I remember as a child always wanting to go back in time to show my toys or gadgets to people from 100 years ago because it would be so fun to introduce them to such amazing things. Well, I pretty much just got my wish. :)

I think I could write pages about my adventure in Urru today. I played with the children for hours as Frank talked with his family. Actually, I think they mostly watched and at the end Frank said they told him I have a lot of energy haha… well, I just know I have limited time so I don’t care how much the children wear me out, I will go as long as they go.

I was invited back into the hut because Frank told them we hadn’t eaten lunch. His aunt had cooked up the two eggs she had shown us earlier and I simply could not refuse. Then came the hand washing and the pork and bananas. There were 6 or 7 of us in the small hut and we each took meat and cooked bananas out of the pots from the middle of the room. The pork was actually amazing, minus the bones I had to maneuver through. Really tasty. The bananas were ok, but really dry. Then more hand washing and I went back out to play with the kids.

After retrieving Gladis and the sugar cane, they all welcomed me back to join them again and I hope to be able to. His bibi (barefooted) complained of pain in her feet and as much as I don’t prescribe drugs, I’m going to give her my bottle of Ibuprofen. Some anti-inflam just might help for a bit. I wish I had something else to offer right now. Honestly, I really would like to go back before I leave to clean her feet and give her a foot massage. It’s heavy on my heart to do so...so I should make that happen. Maybe even paint her nails. The only color I have with me is neon green though! Haha that would be awesome.

On the drive back home Frank and I spoke about his family and I really got to see a glimpse into his life before the project. He’s very protective of that information, so I was happy he shared it with me. The drive TO the project was a bit different as we had to discuss a volunteer that Frank had trouble with and yet I want to give him a chance. It was heated, almost an argument (I actually had to say "would you please stop talking and hear me out"), but ultimately we agreed to give him a probation period. Though any of you who know me, an agreement means we try it my way, no argument, and if it fails, I will back down. But we will always take the risk to give someone a second chance. And in this case...it’s probably his fifth or sixth chance with Frank- but the second chance with me. I had no idea I had to be a mediator to clashing personalities when I got here. But I’m learning a lot, more than I could ever know from a distance, and it’s valuable information. I always just pray God gives me the wisdom to make the right choices. I believe he’s implanted that wisdom into me, but a backup prayer asking for wisdom sure doesn’t hurt.

I haven't really written about yesterday, but it was a very productive day. I brought over the rest of the supplies and the teachers organized them into the bins we purchased and then I had them make a list of the rest of the things they needed/wanted. It feels like we are really making progress! I met a couple more kids who weren’t there the day before and we bonded over jump ropes and tossing the dog toy I brought. The dogs (chupa and siagi) have absolutely no interest in it, so the kids get it.

I’m picking up a tad more swahili and feeling a bit more settled. Today was amazing as I can see why Frank wants to have us drive so far to pick up those kids. They have so little and what we could give them would or could completely not only change their lives but that of the village. We could really have an impact on that community starting with their children.

Tomorrow I get to see teacher Neema for the first time this trip. She was the teacher I volunteered with last year. I will meet her at the graduation for a school I’m sending Irene, a girl I sponsor, to. I think I have 15 missed calls on my phone from Neema as she’s tried to reach me (since yesterday haha I guess she's excited). I’m looking forward to seeing her and then on Tuesday I will go to Khuba Nursery to see the rest of the children. I’m excited too!  No real plans for this weekend so we will see what trouble I can drum up. Maybe a rope and a tire. :)  Karibu tena (welcome back) to my next blog entry! Hugs

Tags: africa, children, education, nonprofit



I love you so much Christine! You are such an amazing human. It made my heart happy to read this. Next trip I will be with you. Lots and lots of love.

  nitai aleksiewicz Sep 13, 2013 7:07 AM


Awwww... Come home! We miss you!

  German Tom Sep 13, 2013 8:04 AM


I am blessed by living vicariously thru all this with you! Thank you for taking time to include us! I love your guts! =) <3

  Sperry Sep 13, 2013 10:01 AM


Soooo enjoyed reading about your adventures! Look forward to more entries. What a fascinating experience. What a journey . . . LOVE XO

  Dann Dulin Sep 16, 2013 2:39 AM


So proud of you and what you're doing! Love your stories. You were always so good at writing! Love you!

  Michelle Sep 16, 2013 4:44 PM


Wow, what a special special day to be invited into Frank's grandma's home and have that real authentic experience! I love this day! Thank you for telling us about it in such great detail. Looking forward to reading more!! So excited that you're seeing what a huge impact you and Frank can and do make in the lives of these kids - especially the girls. So important!

  Lexie Sep 17, 2013 7:50 AM


Hope all is well, C! We are missing you here, but loving your stories of Tanzania. Write more and post some photos if wifi allows. Safe travels and good luck!

  shelley Sep 20, 2013 7:57 AM

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