Posted by: katieperez | July 25, 2008

1st Week


I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I can’t believe we have only been in Tanzania for only 5 days. There are so many things to write about- from all of the people that we are getting to know to our lessons to the children. The children are the most amazing part. They are simply adorable and they just love to get our love and affection. Corporal Punishment is alive and well here and the teachers tend to be very strict and serious. They love it when Sue and I play around with them and reward them for a job well done. After a assignment they will all say “Teacher, Teacher” and run up to us to show us how they wrote their letters correctly. If they did it right then we give them a red check on the page and they get so excited and just beam their adorable faces at us. Sue and I are working in a first grade class and got to teach a lesson today. When we first showed up at the school yesterday the teacher had us practice the ABC’s with the kids but its all 100% Repeat After Me memorization. Thus it is no shock that the kids don’t know their Alphabet. We were worried the teacher wouldn’t really let us teach but today after doing the ABC exercise again we were able to teach the kids the colors, a lesson that we prepared last night. First off let me say I think we were pretty damn resourceful in creating the lesson as we really have limited resources. They don’t have push pins or bulletin boards and there is limited chalk board space as the other lessons are also written there. We used a piece of local fabric and pins to create a make shift cork board and then we used note cards & ribbon to make little cards that we can hand up and teach with. The lesson went so well and we had such a wonderful time teaching it. Some of the kids really knew the colors by the end of the day which was so amazing! Then this afternoon after a sobering cultural session in which we learned traditional gender roles (let’s just say I wouldn’t be considered a good wife in Tanzania) we had the amazing opportunity to go the one of the many orphanages here. We brought with us all of the balls and jump ropes that we brought down. The experience was everything I had hoped it to be. We had such an amazing time playing with the children. One of the Volunteer’s here named Lucy is a student from the UK who is in a wheel chair due to Chronic Fatigue and several other issues. The fact that this girl came to Africa on her own, in a wheel chair, is simply just amazing to me. She is my new HERO! She is doing the intern program here so she has already been here for 3 weeks. When we arrived at the orphanage a little 3 year old named Freddie was waiting for her to get out and wanted to help push her chair. Once inside the courtyard Freddie takes his place on his thrown, her lap, and pretty much sits there until it’s time to leave. He’s so young but so sweet. The children here in general here can be very rough with each other but the children at the orphanage are different- they all take care of each other. They only have 1 outfit and 1 uniform for school and both are extremely tattered. One of the girls had her zipper on her dress open up and Freddie stopped and zipped it up for her. It was such a tender gesture to witness from one so young who has nothing. He is such a sweet heart but I have always had a huge weakness for 3 year old little boys. (And I’m sure Pedro is freaking out at this point that I’m going to bring him home- trust me I would if I could!!!) The children at the orphanage really are so sweet and they are very smart. They have to work extra hard to make sure they will be Ok so they do very well in school. The orphans help make Bitique fabric with their handprints which the school sells to make money. Here is a photo of me and the kids as well as what the fabric looks like- if you would like one just let me know- they are $20 US and in most colors (green, blue, yellow, purple). Just e-mail me (
 if you want me to get you one!!! $20 almost covers a child’s public school fee for the year (normally about $25 or $30) so essentially if you buy one you have helped put one of their kids in school for an ENTIRE school year – including porridge for lunch. We had a wonderful time playing with the kids- the balls and the jump ropes were a HUGE hit and I even showed them how to double dutch (although were still working on getting in but they love the concept). We also played hot potato with a ball that I bought down that flattens and then pops up randomly. We said hot Potato in Swahili (I’m forgetting the words now). The orphanage is like everything else here- a mud floor and cement buildings. Chickens run free and the children have to eat with their hands but the women who runs the place makes sure that they of course wash their hands first. The power is almost never working but they do have running water (although I would be afraid to see the bathrooms). The woman who started the Orphanage was an orphan herself and started it in 2006. They have about 30 kids in total and she gets no money from the government- everything for the children comes from donations, the sales of their products, and volunteer support. One of the girls is named Helen and she actually goes to the primary school where we teach but she is in grade 3. She and I have a play date tomorrow during break time J

Children (Wototo’s in Swahili) walk home alone, have to use razor blades to sharpen their pencils, and in general take on responsibilities that we would NEVER expect from our children at such young ages. We would all be scared to death of what would happen to our kids but that is just all part of life here for them. It’s actually adorable in class when they share erasers. Most kids have just a piece of a pencil or have a pencil with no eraser so when they make a mistake they have to go over to someone who has an eraser to borrow a pencil. They simply have nothing by our standards (The people here on average make $1 a day) but the children are still so happy and willing to share anything. When we walk around the school we have to have 2 sets of shoes- one for the outside that gets caked with more mud then is imaginable, and another for inside the classroom so we don’t have to walk around barefoot and so we don’t get the floor dirty. The children run around in their socks inside and will wash and clean their shoes thoroughly before setting them aside to enter the class- they even clean the stoop and our shoes. They took Sue’s shoes off of her feet today and washed them. Then when I was playing with them at break one of them stepped on my foot and got mud on my foot- they all then reached down and used their hands to clean the mud away from my toes and heal. (I haven’t even fully processed that yet. )
The children LOVE to play and when we walk with them or play they want to touch us as much as possible. There are almost fights for who gets to hold our hand when walking or when in a circle and they of course love to touch my blond hair. All of their heads are shaved so the little girls especially love to play with our hair and imagine what they would do with it. One of the little girls today even wore my headband for playtime and she sported it proudly.

The people at the base are amazing. The other volunteers kind of split into two camps- those that are really here for the kids and are a bit older and the younger ones who are in the more wild phase. We haven’t seen anything too bad yet but they are going on Safari together this weekend and you couldn’t pay Sue & I enough money in the world to tag along for that. We’ll be heading to Mt. Kilimanjaro View Lodge on Friday and then will come home from there early on Sunday Am just in time to do a private 1 Day Safari out to Arusha Nation park. It’s mainly a walking Safari and that park isn’t covered as part of my later adventure so it should be wonderful. We’ll also stop in a Masai village on the way back to meet with the people.

Everything here is so peaceful- and we have so much to look forward too. I think we’ll go to the orphanage every day possible as it’s just such an amazing experience.

Love to all-




Day 7- Wonder continues. Yesterday was amazing. Sue and I arrived in class as normal. The teacher started to teach the same alphabet as normal but this time she passed out the letters to the children and had them stand up when she called their letter. We almost fell over as this was clear modeling of the colors exercise that we had taught the day before. And even better she rewarded the children by saying “Good Job” something we hadn’t seen her do before. The kids were so engaged and happy- a clear difference from the normal rote repetition method that she uses.

Last night we went to Shakey- Shakey where we get to see locals play the drums and dance. It was fun but our days are so long here that we were just exhausted by the end.

One of our roommates work up this Am throwing up. Turns out she has an Amoeba- something easily obtained here by getting unclean water. She’s the first in our group to get sick so hopefully the rest of us stay well. The last group had 11 people catch Malaria and a few Amoebas we Sue and I are doing everything possible to stay safe. The teachers at our school offer us tea every Am and it is very rude to refuse so we have to secretly clean out cups with disinfectant wipes before we pour our tea.

Today was our first real glimpse into Most Primary as the school inspectors had finally lest and life resumed as normal. The class teacher was 30 minutes late this AM so we just started teaching. The head teacher came in to see what we were doing and it was great to show her the techniques and how well the kids were doing. We have a few little geniuses and them some that really could benefit from some personal 1 on 1 time- something which they will never get here. We found out this afternoon that we will have different kids next week as they are rotating the class times. The children that normally come in the afternoon will come in the Am next week. It will be hard to lose our new friends. My favorite is Ester- she is so adorable and has a great smile- and her little sister in 1st  is the cutest little girl in the world. When we sing ” If you are Happy and You it…” she has the cutest smile in the world. Frida has the biggest ears in the world but she is adorable. And Alfrado and Freddie are super smart. A few of the kids walked us to our van today- it was so cute- it was like a scene out of the Sound of Music. They even run after the van as we drive away.

This afternoon we are off to Mt. Kilimanjaro View Lodge for 2 nights. We’ll doing hikes of the rainforest and get to meet the Chaga tribe. We’ll also get to tour their Banana and Coffee plantations. Then on Sunday AM we’re off to Asrush Nation park for a 1 day safari.

Love to all-

Katie & Sue





  1. Sounds amazing! I think I’d come home with all 30 kids if it was possible too. And put me down for 2 Bitique if you can swing it. 🙂

  2. Hi Kati and Sue. Your narrative is so graphic, we
    can almost feel the mud. Seriously, we really
    appreciate and enjoy all the communications. Two Bitique for us if possible, please. Deb’s daughter-in-law is a quilter! We trust that you can take care of yourselves, so we’re trying not to worry. Love and hugs from all in upstate New York.

  3. Hi Katie! I walked by your office today and it looked lonely without you…! How have you been? I LOOOOOOVE reading your blog, your stories are so beautiful! The children are SO CUTE you must bring one home!!! And sure I would love to get one of the Bitique fabric that they make, any color would do. =)

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