TZ dreamin’

Construction continues at Tuleeni… lots of folks have been building, fundraising and taking care of the children there. Mandy, who has volunteered at Tuleeni in the past, now lives in Tanzania and is helping with organizing everything. She has done several fundraising campaigns and is in the process of getting most of the kids sponsored for school.
I am sponsoring Awazi this upcoming year for private school (along with another person) IMG_5329and couldn’t be more excited about it. He was definitely my buddy while I was there and being able to participate and assist with his education in this way is important to me. Jackie, who has also volunteered at Tuleeni, has also been busy fundraising and I got some fancy new Tuleeni shirts from her last week. Almost every time I have mine on, someone asks about it and they have to endure at least part of the story.
I’ve been thinking about what is next… if/how to get back to TZ, how to raise more money since I haven’t won the megabucks yet, all of those kinds of things. I finally came up with some answers recently. They are big. My goals are big (and honestly a little daunting for me right now). I am excited about it and will be doing the big announcement in a few weeks on my birthday. I will be counting on all of you who helped me to get there the first time to help me again!

A Year Ago.

Just a little over a year ago, I was furiously getting shots, waiting for visas to arrive in the mail, and wondering what the experience of Tanzania had in store for me.  I wanted to think I had an idea, but I really didn’t… in terms of the people I would meet and become friends with, and the children who gave me a huge lump of perspective that many of us need on a regular basis (at least I do!).

Tuleeni Orphans Home continues to be a part of my life, on a very regular basis.  Whether it is bugging you all for donations (which I will continue to do), finding out the latest on the construction, or even getting a facebook message from one of the kids who lives at Tuleeni, it is something that crosses my mind at least once a day.

I was at a conference yesterday and was reminded of the power of social media.  Social media is what got me to Tanzania to begin with.  And I want to continue to harness that power of social media, not just for my personal benefit (although that was super cool of you guys) but for the benefit of others.

There’s lots of stuff to be done.  But in the meantime, think about sending some holiday love towards Tuleeni…  or to victims of Hurricane Sandy…  or to a family in your neighborhood that could use some help with groceries.

You can also keep in touch with what is going on at Tuleeni in the following ways:

Build Tuleeni a Home
Build Tuleeni a Home (facebook page) (go and like them!)

And, watch this video.


Africa: My Dear Tanzania letter…

Dear Tanzania,
It’s almost been a month.  I think of you every day… and communicate with someone pretty much everyday who is there or was there.  I can’t get you out of my head, so all I can do is write you a letter.

Asante sana (thank you).  For so many things….
For birds that sound like cats.
For everyone stopping to say Mambo!
For coca cola light in glass bottles.
For hakuna penda.
For my kiddos.  They are truly a gift.
For ugali and Primo’s cooking.
For giving me new words that I loved to say that rolled off my tongue as if they were really just waiting there to come out.
For letting me remember how fun it should and could be to be a kid.  No matter what the circumstances.
For allowing me to see such amazing beauty – the Indian Ocean, Kilimanjaro and an elephant mosey-ing along the Ngorongoro Crater floor.
For re-inspiring me, and reminding me there’s so much more yet to see and do.
For letting me in a little bit.  I know I still have a long way to go to earn your trust.  When I come back I’ll be a lot better at the language and I think our communication will be much smoother.
For Konyagi.
For Paul’s dancing and Mussa’s incessant phone ringing.
For Meagan’s theatrical interpretations.
For Baba’s words of wisdom.
For Brenda the best neighbor ever.
For painting at Amka.
For chocolate and avocado shakes at the Kili Lounge.
For Emma who drove us all over town with virtually no gas in his car and laughed with us.
For the sights, the sounds, the smells that are burned into my brain.
But most of all, for just being you.  The good, the bad, and the everything else.

I don’t know when I will see you next, but I am really working on making this relationship work even though we are far apart.  I’m in if you’re in.

Moyo wangu wote,






Africa: Going Home

I’m leaving in 30 minutes.  There will be lots more pics and blogs upon my return, but there won’t be a lot for the next few days.  Look forward to seeing some of you relatively soon!

Kwa heri Tanzania wangu.  You have my heart.

Africa: Rafiki

Back in August, when I was wondering what this experience was going to be like, I wondered what kinds of friends I would make

I had an idea, but didn’t think I would become so close to a group of people in three weeks’ time.  Three years in Samoa is one thing, but three weeks in Tanzania is another.  I was pleasantly surprised by some of these women (and a few local friends) and have grown to love them very much.  Even when it’s a rough day, someone’s ready with a smile or a hug or a stupid inside joke (of which there are many) that will make me laugh.

So, to my Hakuna Penda/Internet Cafe crew, you know who you are.  Thank you and Asante Sana for everything.  You helped make this trip everything it was and I look forward to seeing you all back in TZ or somewhere in the states (or NZ!!).

Upendo kaisi,
Jeska Tuleeni/Jessica Hawaii/Mama Sita

Africa: Safari.

There are no words.  So I’m just putting up a few pics until I can get home and get an internet connection to upload all of them.  It was amazing.  An experience of a lifetime.  I’ve been sick since we got back, but I’d do it all over again.  Here’s just a few pics of the amazing animals we got to see.  Some very close up!

Africa: Week 2

Time has been flying.  We’re almost already through our second week of volunteering.  It has been another good week – am wrapping it up tomorrow with another Friday movie day.

My schedule has been pretty much the same.  Math, spelling and reading first thing in the morning, followed by a break where we do some singing and games, and then some storytime, usually.  I try to find some books that the kids can relate to in some way.  Today we read Curious George and Ten Play Hide and Seek.  I’m amazed every time I read at how intently the kids listen to me (and whomever is translating).  They all gather around the table, eyes focused on the book – I really need to take a picture of it.

A very popular game yesterday that one of my kids invented was pressing on my
skin – they love that I can get even whiter than I am now.  That kept them entertained for a good 20 minutes.  We had a brief replay today, but it wasn’t as novel as it had been yesterday.

Yesterday we went to the Marangu area and got to see so much stuff!  We started out with some tire issues, so we spent some time on the side of the road.  Luckily we are easily entertained and we were soon pretending that the parade of goats and cows in front of us was the Great Migration that takes place on the Serengeti.  We eventually got the tire fixed and were on back on the road.  Our first stop was a baobab tree that is 2000 years old!  The baobab tree is known as the “tree of life.”

Our first stop was at a blacksmith’s shop – where we got to see spears being made and check out some handicrafts.  Then we went to the Marangu market and got to check out the action there.  Then we went to the Chagga caves.  They are underground and small – they were used during conflict with the Maasai.  My claustrophobia got the best of me at one point and I was ready to turn around, but we made it to a few bigger chambers and then were able to climb out.  Thank goodness.  A panic attack underground would not have been a lot of fun!

We had lunch there, and I was finally able to try some banana beer.  It tastes more like banana wine, but it was good.  I’m not sure how much of it I would drink in one sitting, but it was nice to share a bottle over lunch.  At this point, it had been raining pretty hard for a while, but eventually slowed down.  Baba told us that the road to the next place we were going was questionable.  We decided to go ahead and try it.  It was Silakiya waterfall.  We were told it was a 10-20 minute hike that would not be slippery despite the rain.  I think they just tell that to all the mzungu to get them to go.

It was not a long hike, but it was steep going down, and slippery, with the recent rain.  I was pretty covered in mud by the time we got to the waterfall.  Because of the rain, the water was muddy and the river was moving too quickly for us to swim, but we got some photos and I knew it would be an interesting climb to get out, so I started back as early as I could.  It was a good hike, but I made it up and we hung out waiting for everyone else to come back.

Our next stop was the Chagga museum.  There, we met Edward, who showed us a traditional Chagga house, gave us some history and information about the daily life of the Chagga tribe, and we got to see tools and other things that were once used regularly by the Chagga.  The Chagga museum is right by a swanky hotel, so we went to check that out.  It was gorgeous – we explored a bit and had time for a coke light and then it was time to go again.

We then began our trip back to town.  The last stop of the day was at Sam’s house.  Sam is a batik artist who runs a gallery out of his house.  He will be giving us a lesson on Monday on how to make batik prints and we are very excited.  Sam makes beautiful things and I ordered three pieces of art.  I couldn’t help myself!

We finally got home and had just enough time to shower and came out to quite the feast.  Primo had bbq’d for us and it was quite a spread!  We ate like we hadn’t eaten all day and I think almost everybody went to bed earlier than usual.
Quite an eventful Wednesday!

It’s Thursday evening now, and there’s more to write, but it’s bedtime.  Back to placement in the morning and then packing and getting ready for Safari this weekend.  We are going to the Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara.  I am so excited for the trip!  I bought my safari hat today, so it is official.

Lala salama (sleep well!).