Nearly 2 weeks here and we’re getting settled in to the “pole, pole” (slowly, slowly) lifestyle, as well as completing our first week at Amani. Following the 10th anniversary celebrations last week, school life is slowly returning back to normal (although classes only start next week) and B and I are coming to the end of our first week of orientation (it continues next week with a visit to Arusha to see where most of the street kids come from + a few other introductory things).
The Amani team and Salma, our lovely volunteer coordinator, have figured out a very good introductory schedule for us – in order to get to know all departments at the school before we start with our roles – from social work to education and the school kitchen – and to let us ease in to life at the school without too much pressure or stress. This’ll be particularly important for Boogie as he’ll be more in the direct “line of fire” from Day 1 and will have to dig in pretty fast in his work with the kids in the school library; having an existing rapport and a better support system will be especially important for him as he tries to get a bunch of sometimes rough-around-the-edges, but also very knowledge-hungry kids/teenagers to read without roughing up (or, in some cases, stealing) the precious reading materials. The library is small and could do with a little make-over and additional materials, so he’ll have loads of things to do and I’ll help him out as much as my time (in the communications department) will allow.
We’ve also been spending quite a bit of time with the kids themselves, hanging out, helping the cooks (our task this morning), playing football, making game tokens from old bottle caps (by flattening them with a rock) – getting to know them slowly – and building up relationships that still have to overcome the language barrier and a bit of shyness and guardedness on the part of some of the kids… We’ve both come to realize that to really build relationships with them (bar some of the older ones that speak some English) we’ll also really have to put time and effort into learning Swahili well. I mean, we won’t master the language in a mere 6 months, of course, but to really move into territory where we’re comfortable with the kids and they’re comfortable with us, we’ll need to get the basics down pretty fast.
Anyway, more on all of this in the coming weeks as we start with our roles and of course get to know more about how the school operates and how the kids end up on the streets and eventually at Amani… I really want to write something about the kids and their stories as well; lots of thoughts mulling around in my head after hearing about their backgrounds and reading some academic papers (that Salma gave us) about street kids and the incredibly rough reality they endure day-in, day-out. To do it any justice though, I feel I need to learn more and need to let all the resulting thoughts and emotions settled a bit before tackling it in writing…
In the meantime, our daily life is getting settled and life in Moshi feels more and more normal – or the new normal – every day. This week we’ve taken the staff “daladala” (or mini bus) to school every morning at 7.45 (it’s arrival at our stop is surprisingly timely – you can’t always trust timeliness in Africa where the national slogans are “slowly, slowly” and “no worries”), staying at the school until about 3-4pm, walking or taking a taxi back to town, running some errands and drinking the best-damn-coffee-I’ve-ever-had (grown on the slopes of Kilimanjaro) at one of the local cafes to round off a long day. I’ve become surprisingly attached to these kinds of routines – the little dose of familiarity and predictability that almost-like-at-home café life provides in an otherwise very unpredictable day.
So far the weather’s been nothing short of fantastic (nicely refreshing at night, balmy-bordering-on-hot in the afternoons), the people lovely (very jovial, easygoing and friendly – Tanzanians pride themselves on being very easygoing, also in terms of ethnic and religious relations), our colleagues amazing (the cooking ladies are fabulous, as is one of the senior teachers I spoke to today – Mama Maru, who returned to work at Amani after teaching in state schools for more than 40 years!) and the social/restaurant life surprisingly good as well (some great close colleagues from the school and lots of very good restaurants to try out, or so we hear).
Tomorrow afternoon we’re organizing a football game between staff and students, so Boogie has a lot to live up to in terms of his “mzungu”/I love football-reputation among kids and staff…
Sleepy greetings from underneath the starry African sky,