18 - 21 March: Farewell weekend for Mae in Iringa.

An invitiation to share Mae’s farewell camping trip to Ruaha National Park was impossible to turn down so I travelled to Iringa in excited anticipation of this!
We met Shalin at Neema’s then shared in his exploration of several business enterprises in Iringa. Shalin had spent four productive hours with Tony, the founder of Neema’s. You might remember that Neema’s was where I bumped into the Melbourne Carey students on their World Challenge community project back in December. It is a very successful Cafe and Craft Workshop supported and run by local disabled and deaf people.
Having walked the whole town visiting various cafes, restaurants and other small businesses, (with my rucksack on as I had just arrived in Iringa!!) we finally arrived at Mae’s, freshened up and the three of us headed out to enjoy dinner at the restaurant Sai Villa.
Saturday morning the rain settled in. This, together with several other factors, led to the decision to abandon camping to Ruaha NP and instead depart @ 4.30am Sunday for a day trip instead.
We shared a lazy morning chatting together over many cuppa’s then, when the sun came out, we were joined by a teaching colleague of Mae’s and travelled the ½ hour by dala dala to Isimila Rock. Mae had befriended her colleague only last week on observation rounds. She is a vivacious, fun loving Tanzanian with a heart of gold. She is a lecturer of trainee teachers at the Teachers’ College with Mae. On her meagre wage she supports both her brother and sister and another young, needy youth in their schooling. She is passionate about helping her people and is collecting warm clothes when she can afford to, and plans to take them to the rural families higher in the mountains, at the end of April before the really cold weather settles in.
Her name is Philomena.
It was easy to love her. Even though she is only in her late 20’s she has decided that she will be my African Mama as she is my Australian Mum’s namesake!!
She is beautiful in every way Mum....just like you!
We are sad that Mae didn’t meet her earlier in her placement!
Isimla Rock reveals an area eroded by the elements revealing rock strata as ancient as the Stone Age. Many rocks lying loose were tools for survival; knives, spear heads axes etc. We wandered for several hours having first been informed by our guide of the history recorded in the museum. The Valley of Stones, and further afield, The Gorge of Pillars....A geographical wonderland explained carefully by our friendly guide.
Havin heard so much about Roland, I finally had the pleasure of meeting him and sharing our Ruaha adventure with him. roland , a VSO vol of 2 yrs @ Iringa Teachers’ College and his girlfriend, Stephie, had supported Mae throughout her 6 months of challenges. To them I was grateful as they had kept her sane (I think!)
Sunday 20 March 4.30am: Into the full moonlit night we set off on our Adventure to Ruaha NP.
Apparently this Full moon was the closest the moon had been to earth in 19 years. It’s illumination over the dark, African land was eerily spectacular. A perfect start to what was to become one of those magical, unforgettable days that etch themselves clearly in your memory!!
What was special?
• A day shared with my friends and with Mae’s special friends.
• Breakfast with the hippos
• A countryside filled with lush green beauty
• The diversity of native birds and animals – all colors shapes and sizes. Hippos, giraffes, zebras, baboons warthogs, implalas,.....and there was more...!!!
• a family of elephants wallowing in the mud
• a herd of Impalas tolerating a torrential downpour
• Unending Boabab trees with fully leaved canopies glistening after the rain
• Slipping and sliding in 4WD mode through the muddy tracks and NOT getting bogged!!
• Fay’s anxiety with Arthurs’ driving and Arthur’s carefree attitude and fun loving jokes
• THE ULTIMATE: Discovering a whole pride of lions: Dad, Mum teenagers, kids and babies.....Mae’s screams of delight (or fright to be more accurate!) were quickly hushed by all four of us in fear of her inciting an attack. Peace reigned as an hour of entertainment unfolded almost an arms’ length away from us!!!!
Thank you Fay and Arthur for giving us this day.
I am looking forward to going camping with you and sharing more time with you in the future.

14 - 17 March: The Foundation For Tomorrow

TFFT: Our new student in Form 1, Upendo, has come to us through The Foundation For Tomorrow (TFFT)in Arusha, thus TFFT has become our sister school with whom we are going to work closely. Melissa’s area of expertise is that of Monitoring and Evaluating/ supporting and training teachers. This week she visited to begin her monitoring of where our SEGA staff are at. Together we will devise a staff support program/seminar and a monitoring process to nurture our staff to engage in classroom strategies which encourage our students to use higher level thinking. She came with her 2 year old son, North and the Nanny, BeBe Ester.
Delivery of subject content is dictated by the National syllabus which is designed to prepare the students for the National Exams. The quantity of subject content in the syllabus is enormous. Teachers are pressured to teach it ALL and their belief is that the most efficient method is Chalk & Talk and rote learning. Student s, having been taught this way for many years, are most comfortable learning in this style, The National exam is also written to reflect this style of learning!! Unfortunately all these factors do not nurture higher level thinkers and leave little room for acceptance of change in teaching techniques. Both Melissa and I, having observed our teachers at different times, recognise that their knowledge and ability to apply Participatory Learning techniques is good. My observations and discussions with the teachers, together with my own frustrations in the classroom, highlight the challenges in successfully applying interactive techniques. The belief from staff AND students is:
i) that changing from Chalk & Talk is time consuming and
ii) that if the other techniques are used then the content, needed to pass the National exam, is not being learned...!!!
So, what is our goal? To only pass the National Exam OR to nurture both Higher Level thinkers AND pass the National Exam!
Melissa and I are working on the latter! We have a talented staff and I believe we will experience productive responses. Training our own Tanzanian staff to be responsible for Monitoring and Evaluating their colleagues will also be one of our ongoing goals.
Having Melissa and her family to stay was delightful. Two year old North kept BeBe Ester busy, Mum on her toes, Kahawa under control and all of us entertained. Lower shelves were quickly emptied as my things were moved out of reach. Having a secure, large yard and a dog to play with was a bonus as was Mustafa’s visit on Tuesday. He is very good with small children and I’m sure North learned a bit about gardening! I am looking forward to visiting them and TFFT in Arusha later this year.

12-14 March. Mama Gemma and Dada Mae become Matrons!

Mae's decision to return to her home country, The Philippines in April, necessitated a trip to Dar to work with Douglas (VSO Education Program Manager) and book her flight etc. Her trip was perfectly timed as it coincided with Matron's trip to Arusha. Her usual stopover in Morogoro doubled as a farewell sleepover @  SEGA.
Friday, we enjoyed one last pizza night @ Dragonaires with Polly's family and Shalin, then Saturday we tagged with Grace who had done Matron's supervision on Friday night. Having met Mae last November at my birthday sleepover, the SEGA girls excitedly welcomed her and showered her with love and attention until Polly relieved us on Sunday from being The Matrons.
Rose and Jesca tried desperately to tame our long, slippery hair into braids which filled in the quiet hours during the hottest part of the afternoon. It was a lazy, peaceful time filled with chatting and sharing of stories between many of the girls and us.
When the heat finally subsided, the bell was rung and the girls doned their new, pink netball skirts (thanks Stephen for organising these!) and spent the next 2 hours embattled in competition. We have some very athletic, agile girls whose skills are very impressive.

There was so much laughter and good, healthy physical activity. We all loved it so much that the girls only stopped playing when they could no longer see the ball and our backdrop became a stunning, colorful sunset! My camera was given out so, inevitably the girls captured 100's of photos of each other...(oh...and there were some of the sunset too!! That was what I had asked them to capture!)

In preparation for the movie night Martha expertly produced a huge bucketful of popcorn. She literally slaved over the hot fire, routinely shaking the massive pot as it resounded with the consistent sounds of the corn as it popped. Martha is a great cook and wont stop until she has completed something to her satisfaction! We could not get her to come and eat dinner until she had completed cooking ALL the corn! Great work Martha....we really appreciated your commitment and skills.
Meanwhile, Form 1's had dragged the spare mattresses out out of the storage and prepared Form 2's classroom for the movies. Unfortunately our movie selection was a bit limited (Astro Boy it was!!) but our Bongo Flava music was perfect for the pre-movie disco. Form 1's eagerly responded to the rhythm in uninhibited dance and perfectly tuned voices. It was a pity to have to end the music. I think next time we will have a Song & Dance night but, time was moving on, so the movie began.
Conscious of impending exams, many Form 2's chose to study and took their popcorn with them, hoping that it would be good brain food! The distance between theForm 2 classroom and the Form 2 dormitory is far and dark so I made many trips back and forth returning the girls to do their study. My little LED torch was valued!
Mae slept with the Form 1's in their new dormitory and I was given Subira's bed in the Form 2's room. Matron's bedroom was spare but the girls prefer we share the dormitory with them. I woke through the night around 2 am, to discover a solar lamp assisting one of the girls in her attempt to cram every waking minute with studying. I suggested that she get some sleep.
"No Madam, I have already done that!!"
Their desperation to pass their impending second chance to be educated!
We shared a delicious Sunday breakfast of Uji, Chapatti and boiled egg. The process of making nearly 60 chapattis was time consuming. However, the whole process was made look simple as the girls willingly  and proudly demonstrated their expert skills.

11 March. And so the games begin......

Excitedly the girls, Meshack and Stephen put the volleyball net in place, and so began the learning of new skills. Grace outshone the staff players with determination but the boys enthusiasm and skills were evident. With careful coaching and new drills to practise serving and hitting the ball, the girls quickly learned the techniques and moved on to play the game.

Laughter and shouts of delight could be heard from afar. An active hour in the hot afternoon sun went quickly. The players were tired, their arms were sore but their grins remained as later, they reminisced about their successes. Netball and football (soccer) ever popular games here, also captured the girls' energy during the hour, with similar outcomes. Having only just received their new school sports uniforms, the Non-Formal girl as proudly joined in. With an extra 30 girls swelling our team numbers, competition was fierce.!

Furahi siku wamama...Happy Day for women!....but work still goes on!

My lessons always begin with one of the students writing in English: Today is..... The date today is...... Today I showed the Form 1's how to write it as Today's date is 8th March. From this came the explanation of what an apostrophe is and when it is used. Pauline visited us and reminded us that it was Mama's Day.....So more discussion about this day and....another apostrophe! So easy to use every minute to advantage!!

VERBS and NOUNS; present and past and infinitiveTENSES.....can be so confusing for them.
Outside we went.
ACTION......VERBS.....let's play and have fun and really understand action words! NOW! (present tense
.....instead of doing what the leader was doing let's touch something starting with 't'..tree.... 'c'.....car.....'f'....flower/Fran (mmmmm lots of hugs from that one!) ......What can you see starting with....'b'...bird.....good. It is a noun too.
Reinforcing...reinforcing.....VERBS.....present tense......
Back in the classroom we then talked about what we had done..(past tense) I used the flashcards I had already written and they wrote sentences using present and past tense of the verbs we had used and the nouns. They identified the verbs and the nouns in each sentence.
It was so much easier even for the slower ones to understand having played it out! Learning can be so much fun...especially with these girls who are so eager to learn.

Extra curricular activities occur during clubs after school from 4-5pm. Monday is run by the Science and Commerce faculty; Tuesday = Debating however Mgonja, our Tz English teacher, wasn't available today so Stephen, in charge of Sport, organised a working bee to prepare the new Volley ball court for Thusday Sport club.
It's always much more fun getting involved and joining in so off I went with the girls as they excitedly realised that they were going to teach me how to cut grass, Tz style!!

No dressed in my usual outdoor working gear, I didn't care as Dina showed me how to hold the scythe and swing it quickly and efficiently. There was hysterical laughter from the girls as I tried hard to slice the grass and not collect wads of dirt which sprayed dust and grass into the air.
Pole pole....slowly slowly....I tried slowing down my swing to get close to the earth and not disrupt it whislt still slicing the grass cleanly! Slicing cleanly doesn't happen when you go too slowly! Everyone wanted to show me how to do it and there was a frenzy of activity as over 20 Form 1 girls swung their scythes rapidly and effectively whilst simultaneously yelling 'Madam Fran...Madam Fran....Madam Fran....Look at me!" If nothing else, atleast the grass was getting cleared quickly. I still don't know how nobody wasn't hit. Not an activity Aussie students would be safe at! I guess they have had more practice at this than our kids! I relaxed and enjoyed the activity even though it was really hot.I soon got the hang of it and the girls were impressed that I could move quickly and continue for so long. I challenged them to keep up just to encourage them to keep working as there was a large area to do and not all the girls were enthusiastic after 2-3 minutes of swinging!!!

Not only did the grass have to be cleared but we were required to mark out the boundaries for the Volley ball court. Stephen, Meshack and Rhoda were responsible for measuring and stepping out the distances.

The form 2 girls and I scraped wide tracks into the ground along these guidelines to ensure the grass wouldn't grow back and obliterate the boundaries. I have 2 large blisters as a result of my efforts.

Lots of questions were asked as the girls haven't played volleyball before. Their excitement is growing with their anticipation of being able to learn the game very soon.

Nina rudi! I'm back!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.......

So.... in my absence from my blog......I hope this is true for you of me!
Pole sana for the delay in writing but my precious time has been used overtime... well and truly lately! But hamna shida or hukuna matata....whichever .....NO PROBLEM because I love what I am doing!
Since I wrote I have certainly had many adventures and over the next few weeks I hope to fill you in with more detail as I remember funny little bits that happended inbetween the mainstream things!

During the week before Language school I met with The Foundation For Tomorrow from Arusha. Melissa is working with me to deliver a workshop for the SEGA teachers later in March/April. Upendo, one of our new students, has come to us through this organisation and they are offering to support us in any way necessary to ensure Upendo has a place to live and be nurtured. She is a wonderful girl and in the short time she has been with us has shown on many occassions, that she is going to be a postitive influence around SEGA. She sings beautifully and has a very confident command of English.

As the new VSO Vols were already here at Morogoro attending language school, they invited me out to dinner on the Wednesday night. Having met 4 of them earlier in January at VSO office in Dar, I was eager to reconnect as well as meet the others. Indian food at Oasis is always good for me so I enjoyed good food and good company. Saturday I joined them at Amabalis in the Tanzanian cooking session and enjoyed the results for lunch. Yes, they too had stuggled through the ordeal of buying various items at the sokoni the previous day! (Oh... I remember that challenge sooo well!!! 1 litre of cooking oil and what seemed like 20 touts trying to get my sale and me with no swahili to defend myself...thankfully, I can say I have mastered this challenge very confidently these days!!)
Pam and Jim (Ndanda near Mtwara.)
 Hanna (Dar).
 Zoe (Dodoma) and Mike.
 Hanna stirring the pot!
Sunday the others from my intake arrived at Moro but I had SEGA visitors to attend to. Together with Shalin and the Form 1 & 2 girls, we welcomed Judy and Stephen Smith and colleagues in true SEGA style. The welcome song, a grand tour then entertainment plus. Our guests were impressed with everything they experienced. It really was a beautiful evening topped off by the fact that our 7 new computers had been installed the same day!
Ann Wells and Judy Smith and some of our Form 2 leaders.
Subira and me.
The very beginning of our IT Lab!
Baba Yona....keen to learn but I will try and teach him how to write first...I think that might help!!
Shalin and the girls studying the health of the mchicha.
The head table delighted in being well and truly entertained!
Our drummer girls! 
Wouldn't it be wonderful if they had real drums to create their music?
Taditional dance.
.....and so we all had lots of fun!
Rhoda...Master(?) of ceremony
Josephine and I unaware that Subira, our expert camera woman, was snapping us because we were so enthralled in our entertainment
We wined and dined at the Morogoro Hotel. I'm still learning what is in my own town. I had not been here or to the golf course where Shalin and I went for sundowners whilst waiting for the visitors to freshen up. The gymkana club, hidden across the road in a secluded, grassy clearing was delightful. Later I was totally absorbed by the Smiths story. They had supported the establishment of a very successful community library in Arusha and were planning to establish several more in other areas of Tanaznia. SEGA had been selected as a possible site or supporting organisation in Morogoro. They were actively in the process of gaining as much knowledge as possible in their short time in Tanzania to support their quest.
Monday morning I watched 12 overcrowded daladalas pass by me in my attempt to get to Amabalis in time for classes at 8am. In desperation I hailed a pikipiki (selected the most careful driver I could observe and the only one wearing a helmet!!!!!) and experienced my first journey amongst the Moro traffic astride a piki! He was the most careful rider I have seen! I was sooooo grateful.

And so advanced language school began. Having put the ineveitable, exuberant greetings behind us we began the hard work! We had such a fantastic group and we all knew the week was going to bring laughter and fun....and hopefully some advancement on our Kiswahili knowledge!
Zoe and Benji, the best Kiswahili teacher ever!
Bettina 30,and Adrian's birthday celebrations...Yummy chocolate cake..thanks Caroline!
Birthday drinks at the bar beside the prison...we felt quite safe as our bargirl was a warden at the prison in her other job...she said that she would look after us (not sure wether that was ...if we ended up inside the prison or when she was getting the drinks for us....you never quite know when you have some conversations with the Tz's! )
Tusker Tom and Frazzled Fran (trying to do two jobs in one week was a bit hectic)!!

Wednesday I was truant from Langauge school to be Swimming coach as there was noone else able to do this role....I wouldn't have missed it because the girls are rapidly gaining confidence in the pool and, missing one week, would have been too disappointing for them (and me!).
Whilst Hazel and I continued to work even when we went for a drink and to relax at The New Acropol Hotel, others enjoyed a well earned pampering session.!  (Note: Mama Kelly na mtoto Kelly. Hazel has a baby Kelly just the same as my computer, Kelly!)
Ok Wendy I wont tell anyone!

Saturday, 26 February, after much deliberation about reliable access to Skype, planning, a practice Skype to GT, preparation, fingers crossed, no electricity, uncertain amount of internet credit available..... Shalin and I successfully participated in The Nurturing Minds board meeting/Skype video conference in The US. It was great to see Polly who was concluding her month's visit there as well as see and talk to the people with whom I have been communicating, and will continue working with during my time at SEGA. Shalin is the Business consultant working for SEGA and he spent time working through his proposals with the board.

We were certainly relieved having sat in stiffling, humid afternoon heat...no fans or lights....whilst the others in US sat rugged up, defrosting their cold bodies as the heaters started up in the early hours of their cold Saturday morning!
Saturday evening...one last meal at Amabalis, one last visit for a night cap at the Elvis Bar then Sunday morning we said "Kuaga, kwa heri....safari njema.....Farewell, good bye..... safe trip".

SEGA....some teachers missing....cover classes...catch up...catch up....no electricity at home....no electricity again....then again.....then there was no electricity for 48 hours++............mmmmmmmmmmmm..........OOOOPs. I hadn't realised that my electricity was due to be paid and put it down to TANESCO just conserving the very little power they had. Oh well I suppose I was doing my bit by taking myself off their responsibility list! Lucky Polly and Warren got the extra defrosted Veggie lasagna and Kehawa was very happy with his bounty!
Warren, a photographer and brother of the girls who had raised the money to buy the 7 new computers, and Geoff, Polly's IT friend were visiting to share their skills and support us in getting the computers up and running. Warren not only experienced the magic of SEGA and it's beautiful girls but also the challenges we face as an all girls' boarding school. Karibuni SEGA, Warren....you have certainly taken away a greater understanding than most visitors experience! Thank you for your wisdom and acceptance.
 I will revisit this story another time.
A weekend without my phone...I hope I left it at school...not something I am used to but easier than I thought to manage without!

Hongera! Leo asubuhi nili kuona mama mtemu na jamaa wangu ya Skype vidio....This morning I saw my darling mum and my family on Skype video. Nina wapenda. I love you all.