Posted by: katieperez | August 20, 2008

Finding Neema (Grace)

Something happened five weeks ago but I haven’t been able to write about it as it is just so hard to try and “sum it up” or even really process it.  I’ve tried to sit down a few times but it’s truly impossible to really capture the experience or the emotions.

Upon arriving here you start to really see the  conditions that people talk about in Africa. Children and People with Aids, families living on less than a dollar a day, children so skinny they look almost half their ages. I knew that children here had to pay for secondary school but I wasn’t aware that primary school (Kindergarten – 7th grade) also had costs. The government schools are “free” but the parents need to pay a fee of 20-40 US dollars a year to support the school. If they want their children to be feed porridge at lunch that’s another 30 USD per year. Uniforms are another 20 USD per year. Pencils, and Exercise books about another 10 USD. If the parents can’t pay these fees the children can not go to school. The lucky ones end up in a free pre-school for years trapped with toddlers but the majority are kept home all together. If the parents are able to come up with the school fees they still have the daily challenge of making sure the child can get to school and has the correct supplies.  Many children walk for HOURS to and from school. It’s a common sight to see children as young as 4 walking alone along the busy streets home from school. Even after they make the grueling walk to school (most often an empty stomach) they will be turned home if their uniform isn’t to code, their hair is too long, or the y don’t have pencils or exercise books (notebooks) in which to write their lessons and homework. It’s simply heartbreaking to know that so many little ones won’t get even the most basic levels of education.

After about a week here of seeing the conditions and learning about the gender roles in Africa and what lays in store for the girls here that don’t get an education (genital mutilation, marriage at a young age, etc) I put in a sobbing call to Pedro in which I explained the conditions and talked with him about us sponsoring a child. As most of you know my husband has a heart of gold so I’m sure you can guess his reaction. So with his blessing I set out to find the little girl.

My daily volunteering here has been at Moshi Primary School and at orphanages. Sue and I teach 1st & 2nd Grade classes English and Math in the mornings at Moshi Primary. About 25% of the kids there are orphans and school has very limited resources. The orphanages that we volunteer at in the afternoon are full of CCS volunteers past and present and although the need sooooo much more a lot of people are already putting a lot of effort into helping those kids. So when thinking about finding a little girl to sponsor I wanted to make sure it was someone who wasn’t getting any help right now. It was also important to do it independently of the volunteer program I am with. If I just walked up and sponsored a child at the orphanages that we volunteer with then an expectation is set that the next volunteer will do the same. It seemed really weird to me at first that we were told not to give things but once you are here it makes more sense. One of the orphanages has actually taught the kids a song in which they sing “We are very need children, we need food for our tummys, our parents are dead” etc. Sue got to hear that lovely tune after volunteering there at the end of her stay.  

So after asking around a bit I learned of a family that was in desperate need. They were living in a 2 room house behind one of the schools here. The mother is sick with TB (almost died actually) and there are 4 little girls. They had a little boy but he died. The oldest girl, Neema (which translates to Grace) is 7 years old. She gets one meal of ugali (a paste of corn flower and water) a day. On days when her mother is feeling fine and she doesn’t have to care for her younger sisters she makes a 4 mile trek to school and is often turned home because she doesn’t have the supplies needed. So after walking 4 miles she is told to turn around and go home. On days she can stay she sits on the floor as the school has no desks. Her passion for learning is so strong though- she just loves to practice reading and math and she is such a wonderful big sister. She is like a little mama and shares everything she has with the little ones. IN my second week here Sue and I arranged a visit to meet the family with the help of a translator.  We visited their 2 room home in which everything is kept up high to keep things away from the rats. The mother and 4 children sleep in the only bed and the father sleeps on this tiny sofa. There is no bathroom or electricity, no water nearby. During our visit was asked if any of the children went to school and were told about Neema and how she had just been turned home again that day because she didn’t have a notebook. I asked Neema what she wants to be when she grows up and she said a teacher. “Of big kids” in secondary school. I asked her if she could go to any school what type of school she would want to go to and her answer was “English Medium Boarding School” and her parents agreed. [English Medium Schools teach all subjects except Swahili in English so the kids get a much better grasp of English which is critical since all secondary schools and universities here teach in English. Boarding schools are also seen as a huge opportunity for children as the children are then in an academic environment. Any parent who can will send their child to an English boarding school. ]  We talked for a bit and I pulled out a notepad and some crayons for the kids to play with. Neema immediately drew a sunflower. Now if you know me you know that my FAVORITE flower is a sunflower. And not only was it was sunflower but she colored it beautifully- different colors for all of the petals (very cool as most of the kids here follow very clear rules and only color things the way they really are, not how their imagination sees them.) It was a sign- I knew I had found the girl.  

I showed them a photo of Pedro and explained to them that we would pay to send Neema to boarding school. They were excited and clapped. Then they asked “for how long”. They were ecstatic when the reply was until she finishes school. So after hugs and photos I was off to try and find a school for Neema.

CCS had a field trip scheduled for the next day to hike a waterfall so I stayed back and decided to go on a hunt for the perfect school. As we pulled up to the first school I was full of hope. The grounds were nice and the kids looked nice but I quickly lost faith. I was speaking to 8 or 9 year olds and they could barely talk with me in English, even though they should have now been speaking English for several years. They mixed up their colors and couldn’t respond to basic questions. If we were at a government school this would have been normal but it was not what I expected from a school in which you are paying for all classes to be taught in English. The school thankfully didn’t have any room in her grade anyway (there were already 41 kids in each class) so we left. I was very discouraged at this point as I was afraid we were going to pay all this money to send her to school and she wouldn’t really be any better off.  The second school rekindled my hope in terms of Speaking English but the physical structure itself looked like something from Born into Brothels. The kids spoke wonderful English and were full of confidence but the dorm rooms and bathrooms were so horrible there would just be no way I could send that sweet little girl there.  Thankfully stop number 3 paid off. Ebenezer, which is pronounced here like Ibeneza is a haven for children.  (  The gounds are beautiful; the dorms have this wonderful orange tile that is clean and cheerful. The children were very smart- the nursery school class knew all of their colors and could do math. The Kindergardeners were already speaking great English and reading words like Toothbrush and Ostrich. But most importantly the teachers LOVE the children. IN every other school I had seen here the teacher is a symbol of authority and they are respected and in many cases feared because of corporal punishment. But Ebenezer is totally different. The teachers are friendly, hug the children, encourage and reward them, and you can see that they love the children and that the love is returned. I fell instantly in love with the Kindergarten teacher named Leah- I just knew she would be perfect for Neema.  

Neema had been in 2nd grade in school but it’s common for the kids to go back when switching into a English school. I had been planning on putting her into 1st grade but after seeing how advanced the kindergarten class was and seeing what a wonderful teacher they had I decided to put her back into kindergarten. There are other children her age so it’s not as bad as it would be if you did that in the US.  Also their school years run by the calendar so starting in January she’ll be in 1st grade.  I paid the school fees, picked up all of the paperwork to be filled out and received a “shopping list” of all the things that she would need.

The shopping list wasn’t by any means long or abnormal. Neema just didn’t have ANYTHING and it’s not like there is a 1 stop shopping store (like Target) in Moshi so shopping was an adventure. It however was INSANELY fun!!!!!  We picked up Neema and started off. She had never been in town before (she lives about 20 mins away by car) so she was peaking out the taxi and  trying to take everything in.  Over the course of 2 days and some help from local people (including Mama Grace, Fortunata, and my awesome Taxi driver named Msafari) we were able to track everything down. The best part of course was buying her nice weekend clothes and her dress for Sundays. It was like a scene out of pretty woman. This shy little girl took off her tattered rags and turned into Cinderella as she tried the first new clothes that she had ever had. After a few stops she quickly got the hang of shopping ( it is in all of our blood) and she would light up as we pulled out things for her to try on. Now I know I am biased but she really is one of the most beautiful little girls you have even seen. She’s soooo tiny skinny but she has such a beautiful face and she just came to life in her new outfits. She would proudly pose for us in her new clothes and took a picture with Sue in the Sunday dress that Sue & Gary bought for her.  

During the shopping spree we visited an outdoor market to pick up things like shower shoes, etc. One of the stalls had used toys and stuffed animals. Neema is such a good little mother to her sisters that I thought she would need a doll for school. I let her pick the one she wanted and she just light up- I’m sure it was her first doll. When I was riding home with her that day I said “Jina lako” aka “What’s her name” and pointed to the doll. She just smiled. We stopped at a grocery store on the way home to get some food for the family and when I got back in the car I again asked her the dolls name- this time I got a huge grin and she answered “Mezanna”.  I was in love!

I spent my last week volunteering in the mornings and spending the afternoons with Neema. Sue had a great idea to make her a counter for math using beads. I would work with her every day on her math skills- she’s just so smart. We often spent the afternoon in town at The Coffee Shop- the name of the muzungu restaurant. We would get a banana milkshake and a grilled cheese sandwich (you should see the smile when she would take a sip of her milkshake- ear to ear). We would practice English, the alphabet, draw, etc. After sitting for an 2 hours we would trek over to the internet café and get some computer playtime. She would type her name and the Alphabet and then she would draw in paint.  

Sadly Neema and her sisters came down with the chicken pox just before I left for Safari. I was so scared when I showed up to pick her up and she and her sisters were covered in bumps. The children weren’t itching them and they looked different on their black skin so I had no idea what was wrong. The first thing that popped into my head was the measles as that is what her brother had died of. I asked and they said “yes- Measles” which only spread my panic. We jumped in the taxi and headed to one of the private hospitals.  Thankfully on arriving at the hospital they quickly informed me it was the Chickenpox which was a HUGE relief. I was able to get medicine for the kids, including antibiotics, which they prescribe in Africa because of the likelihood of the pox getting infected because of the unsanitary conditions.  I took the family home and returned the next day for a home schooling session and ice cream (I had to make sure we kept their fevers down right? ). Amazingly the kids acted fine and it was really fun to get to spend the time with them in their home.

Then I was off on Safari (which was amazing!!! Photo’s are on my flickr). Two days after I left Mama Grace and MSafari picked up Neema and her family and took them to drop Neema off at her new school. Mama Grace said Neema was full of smiles and was so excited by everything she barely paid attention when everyone left for the night. My whole time on Safari I wondered how she was doing.

As planned I visited Neema on Tuesday (the 19th) to see how she had settled into her new school. The school is actually on break but the kids who need to board and the students studying for exams stay at the school during the break. She had settled in well and the teachers and everyone all commented on how smart and sweet she was. Her English was getting better already and we spent the day talking and playing on my laptop. When it was time for me to go Mama Grace came to help me explain that I had to go away for a long time but that we would write and keep in touch. It was heartbreaking to see this little girl who had captured my heart start to cry and just hold on to me. I knew that I had this intense bond with her but I didn’t know how much she felt for me.  It broke my heart to have to leave her. We had spent so much time together in the 4weeks we knew each other and it was horrible to think about how long it would be until I could see her again. We had a very tearful goodbye and then I had to drive away and leave Africa.

I can’t even being to explain the love in my heart for Tanzania, the people, the children, and especially Neema. I wish it were closer and I would just back there for a weekend to check in on her. As much as it hurts to leave I am filled with joy knowing that we have changed the life of one little girl. Over the years Neema and I will write to each other and I will get her report cards and exam scores. She will grow up and Pedro and I will start a family of our own. Hopefully when she is a bit older we can have her come and stay with us for a month so that she can meet her American bothers and sisters. And then hopefully our entire family will be there in Tanzania when she does what so few girls do, graduates High School, and then college.

Our story won’t end here. It will go on for years and hopefully it will grow. As I sit here in Cairo waiting for my 3am flight back to US and back to Pedro (who I miss so much) I am filled with immense loss but also with tremendous hope and inspiration. I have fallen in love with Neema but there are so many children just like her in Africa. I wont be there to teach them everyday but I will work to try and bring them opportunities that they didn’t have before. My first goal is to get computers for Neema’s school. They have built a building for the computer lab and just need the computers. I know it sounds very Microsoft-ie but I honestly believe that by helping these kids learn about computers and technology that we will greatly enhance their abilities to be successful in the world that will be waiting for them when they graduate.

We’ll it’s time to try and grab 2 hours sleep before I start my long journey back home. Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing all of you soon.




Posted by: katieperez | July 28, 2008

Weekend at Mt. Kilimanjaro & Arusha National Park

Our weekend away was simply amazing!!!! Mt. Kilimanjaro Lodge is simply heaven on earth. It is amazingly beautiful but the people make it a truly unforgettable experience! Phillip runs the lodge.


Charles was our guide on our hikes and Flora helps manage the lodge. Flora has a beautiful voice and we constantly asked her to sing her version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for us (I’ll try to post on the flickr page)



Upon arriving at the lodge we went for a hike into the rain forests to see the monkeys. We were very lucky and got to see quite a few- including a baby. Charles was a great sport as we trekked through the brush to try and get the best photos. I even threw myself into a thorn bush and he pulled all the thorns out for me. On the way back down the mountain we sang the Hujambo song that I just love. Charles was a great band leader and had us marching down the mountain. We returned to a warm greeting from Flora and the staff as they had set out fresh coffee for us (grown on the mountain) as well as a nice little fire since it was getting cold out. We sat down and watched the sunset.


On Saturday we set out on our hike early only to turn around due to rain. The muddy roads get quite slippery so we turned back and waited by a nice fire for about an hour until everything settled down. We hiked out to a beautiful waterfall. The entire way we were greeted by the local people and children. They showed us how they plant their crops and the children were happy to sing for us. These people have nothing. A FAMILY here lives on around 50 USD per month- that’s less then 2/per day for a whole family. They work very hard and it is very cold on the mountain at night.  On the way back up to the lodge we stopped to buy some water from a small stand. One of the children earlier had asked for money to buy an Exercise Workbook for school. While at the stand we noticed that they had pencils and exercise books. Sue and I each bought 10 of each and started to hand them out- they were gone in seconds. We got more, and sure enough that only took a few minutes. We ended up giving away over 70 notebooks & pencils. We were like the pied pipers- children in tow behind us and children in front of us running down the mountain and from their homes to come and get a notebook. While handing a notebook to one of the little boys I watched as he pulled his hand from his pocket – in it he had a pencil that was only about an inch long. He was so excited to get his new pencil. The experience of handing out the books to the kids was amazing- for about 40 cents each we were bestowed the biggest grins in the world. It was a true highlight of our entire trip!!


After returning from our hike we were treated to a wonderful song and dance session by the Chagga people who live on the Mountain.


Sunday morning we awoke to rain so we had to walk a bit down the mountain as the roads were a bit to slippery to drive on. Sue and I both slipped on the way down soit was a pretty funny and muddy experience.


We arrived at the home base, changed quickly, and headed out on a 1 Day Safari to Arusha National Park. It was amazing. We did a Canoe Ride, a Walking Safari and a game drive. We saw tons of animals: Giraffe, Zebras, Hippos, Water Buffalo, Baboons, Warthogs, Monkeys, a Rock Python, and tons of birds. You can see photos on my flickr site:

We then ended the weekend with a visit to a local Masai family. They showed us their home and sang some songs for us. The children got a huge kick of having their photo taken and then looking at it.


As you can see our weekend was pretty amazing. We can’t even being to describe how amazing out stay at Mt. Kilimanjaro View Lodge was. We just truly met the nicest people in the world. 


My cough is finally getting a bit better but I have not infected Sue so she has my cold now. We’re hanging in tough and loving every minute.


Love to you all-


Katie & Sue

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



Posted by: katieperez | July 21, 2008

The People

The people here are simply amazing. The prverty is extreme but they are so willing to share whatever they have. They have a saying that no matter how little the people here never go hungry. We walk down the street and just meet local people and they offer us a bite of whatever they have in their bags. We have learned the basic Kiswahili greetings and words so the people get a kick out of talking with us and its great practice for us. They call us mzungu which means white foreigner essentially but it is a compliment here. They will say to each other that locals who are on time or dress very smart are acting very mzungu. There doesn’t seem to be any discrimination against us. One of the local men said that we are all like fingers on a hand. All of your fingers are different sizes andf lengths but yet they all work together and are cnodirnated to acomplish tasks.

We are very excited to get to finally go to work tomorrow. We have been in training for two days and now has the basic vocab down so we are ready for the kids 🙂 We ha seen them in town already and they will run up to us to practice their engligh. We met a techer at the school where we will be and he said the kids english is very porr so I guess we will have a lot to teach. Well there is a long line for the dial up internet so time to go.


Oh PS my bag finally showed up so now I hve clothes- happy day

Posted by: katieperez | July 20, 2008

Our new Home- Moshi Tanzania

We are here. After so many moths of planning for this it is amazing to finally be here. We were able to see the Majestic Kilimanjaro as we flew in and fields of sunflowers greeted us no our drive into Moshi, the small town where we will live for the next 3 week. The staff at our home base is wonderful and its been so fun getting to meet all of the travelers.

They lost my bag with all of my clothes so we had a good reason to walk into the town this AM in search of Fabric. There is a women who will make me a dress today so that I have something until my bag is found. I bougth fabric for 8 dollars and the cost of making it will be 6 dollars. The people are so friendly and welcome us and I am just in love with the children we see. There are very few suppilies here so Sue and I are thrilled that we brought so much with us- we imagine it will be a bit like the pied piper once we pull out the balls. 🙂

We have orientation today and tomorrow and then will get to start work at the school.

The Internet is only Dial up so the photos will be limited but well post what we can.

this place is just magical- so quiet and serene.


Love to all-


Posted by: katieperez | July 18, 2008

Pyramids & Luxor

Hi All-  Egypt has just been amazing. The people are so friendly and fun and we have been so busy with the sights and events that we just havent had a single minute to write. We spent the last 2 days doing the pyramids & Luxor. We visited all 3 sites in Egypt with Pyramids and even climbed into the tomb of the Red Pyramid at Dashur. Then we went up the Nile to Upper Egypt (actually the south) to Luxor where we visited the Vally of the Kings and Queens, Luxor and Karnak temples, etc, etc , etc. It has jsut been amaxing. Luxor is a totally different atmosphere then Cairo. Cario is HUGE, the traffic never ends and everything moves quickly (except the cars during rush hour). Luxor is a peaceful slow paced town up the Nile so the river is larger, cleaner and more beautiful. It is the home to the Vally of the Kings and Queens, etc.  We took the advantage of being in a smaller city to see what life is really like for the Egyption Farmers who live in the mud huts up and down the river. You will see several children in our photos- these are all children in Luxor. One family was kind enough to let us into their home. They had a stable in their back yard (part of their house really) with cows and geese and they had a very small modest table and a large pot of potatoes. The women there looked to be younger then me but there were several cildren around. The kids loved showing us their home and treasured our postcards of Seattle that we presented them. Latter in the evening after we were exausted (did we mentioned it was 117 degrees out?) we took a carriage ride through the small peoples markets.  The people come alive at night because the heat  prevents any kind of real activity during the day. Our driver was amazing and we had such an amazing glimpse into the daily lives of the people here.

I dont have time to upload all of the photos to the blog here but we ahve put everything on our flicker site:

We are now off to Tanzania. We are so excited- the last week has been amazing but it really was jsut the pre-curser for what awaits us tomorrow.


Love to you all and well be in touch soon!


-Katie & Sue


Posted by: katieperez | July 15, 2008

We’re finally here! Frankfurt & Egypt Day 1


We definitely made the most out of our 10 hour layover in Frankfurt. We spent the day walking around the Old Quarter and Cruising down the Main (the river there).  

We had dinner at Wagners – Weiner Schnitzel  and Apple Wine. We were fans of the former but no big fans of the wine.

Crazy moment 1: Katie was patted on the head in the park by a very bizarre man.



The Flight:

We had never been on a flight like this before. Even though it was a Lufthansa flight it was complete chaos. It was like a Cattle call trying to board and we had never seen so many children on a plane before- especially on an overnight flight. Once on board things only got more crazy. People were talking insanely loud and at one point a man actually started screaming. It seemed very typical to everyone except us.

The Airport

We arrived into Cairo at 4am and were greeted by the guide from our tour. He helped us get our visas, etc. In the Immigration line we noticed a lovely Welcome Sign which kindly informed us that if we were caught using drugs in Egypt we would be put in prison for life, fined 500,000 Egyptian pounds, and perhaps even Hung. It suggested we head this warning and enjoy our stay. We also had a few marriage proposals before leaving the airport.

Our Guides

We are SOOOOOO thankful we arranged for guides. This city is wild and crazy and life is so simple with them. Sahmil & Tamer are our tour guides who arrange for our other guides and drivers for us. Ranya is our AMAZING actual tour guide. She speaks perfect English, is funny & is extremely knowledgeable about the city and Egyptian History.

Day 1: Egyptian Museum, Jewelry & Perfume Shops, Old Cairo, Felucca Ride on the Nile at Sunset

Amazingly after only 4 hours sleep we were adjusted to our new time zone and ready to go. This probably had something to do with the fact we were both so excited to finally be in Cairo after MONTHS of planning this trip. We started off the morning at the Egyptian Museum which was an amazing start to the day. The sheer amount of artifacts and statues is overwhelming and we were so happy to have Ranya to guide us through.  The highlights were really learning the basics (Cartouche’s , Hieroglyphic’s and the symbols of Egypt and the gods), seeing the goodies from King Tut’s Tomb and seeing the Mummies (although the later was a bit disturbing). Turns out King Tut wasn’t an amazing Pharaoh by any means – he just happens to be the only own who’s tomb was never raided before being re-discovered in the modern era. Ranya keeps saying how much of the Egyptian history is uncovered by fate and luck and there is still quite a few mysteries to be solved. We also loved seeing the papyrus depiction of the “Final Judgment” in which a persons heart is weighed (against a feather) to determine if their heart is light from sin and if they deserve to enter the afterlife.  

After the Museum we toured some Jewelry Shops and visited a perfume & essential oils shop.

We then went to Old Cairo to see the Hanging Church (named because it hangs above a temple, not because they hang people) and the old Synagogue. We met a lovely family of children who were quite amused with us and were happy to speak to us in English.

To end the day we went on an amazing Felucca ride on the Nile. It was the perfect end to a VERY long day.


(Click to Play Video)

We’ll were off to bed to get our first nights sleep since starting out.  It’s $20 US an hour for e-mail here so it might be a few days before we post again.

Katie & Sue

Posted by: katieperez | July 10, 2008

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Posted by: katieperez | July 9, 2008

We got our placement! Moshi Primary School!

5 Days to go!!!!!

I’m so excited! Sue and I just found out that we will be at the Moshi Primary school! This is the placement we were hoping for. I am so excited to get to see all of those adorable smiling faces.

Here are the details:


School- teaching children and assisting teachers


General Information

Mission and Needs of the Partner Program

To provide equal education for all children aged 7-14 years old for primary school and 5 -6 for pre-primary School.  To help the community to educate their children for the benefit of the new coming generation.


Moshi Primary School enrolls pupils for two levels, pre-primary level and primary level. The primary level has seven grades; primary I to primary VII with average of 700 pupils (364 boys and 331 girls). Teaching is done in Kiswahili but English is among the 6 subjects normally offered, and is taught in English. The regular subjects include Math, science, Kiswahili, English, General Knowledge and Arts and Crafts.  The school has an acute shortage of teachers in and supplies for arts and crafts. It has a total of 22 teachers (1 man and 21 women).

Volunteer Activities / Duties

·   Teach English, mathematics, reading and writing

·   Teach sports, games and songs, arts and crafts

·   Help assess the development and progress of students (help create testing procedures)

·   Organize projects and activities for the children.

·   Work with the teacher to develop primary and pre-primary school activities and materials that can be used for years to come (using creativity to create things with little supplies and modern equipment)

·   Participate in cultural exchange with the children and teachers

Posted by: katieperez | June 9, 2008

Pedro’s Game (The Dark Void) Explodes in the press

It’s so exciting to see all of Pedro’s hard work finally paying off. As many of you know Pedro is the Core Gameplay designer for Airtight Games. Their latest title, THE DARK VOID, is being published by Capcom. Although the title is several months away the press has started getting sneek peaks and the positive feedback is just pouring in.

Full Game Preview on

  1. 1Up’s Eight Things you should know about the Dark Void

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