Friday, July 2, 2010

family, shoes, and last day at amani

Bringing my family to Amani was amazing. It was so exciting finally showing them the children and the kids were so happy to meet them. My neighbor, from Summit, Andrew Burchanal, worked on collecting shoes for the children. He ended up donating two huge suitcases of shoes (soccer cleats, sandles, sneakers, shoes, and slippers). The kids went crazy when the saw the shoes! They have not had shoes in the supply room for a while and were ecstatic when they realized there were some cleats in the bag! So thank you to Mr. Burchenal for getting all of these shoes for the kids. You have truly made a difference and I really appreciate it.
After unpacking and counting out the shoes for the store keeper (supply room keeper) all the kids were playing outside with my family. Mikey brought these huge balloon type things that he bought in Mexico…the kids were hilarious trying to chase the balloons around. My mom and Lauren did face paint and the kids wanted snakes on their arms and flags (because of world cup) on their faces. My Dad brought his video camera, as usual, and the kids watched themselves on tv which they found hilarious.
The rest of the week was pretty hectic: a bad toe injury/infection; a knee infection that caused swollen lymph nodes and fever; arm injury; a burnt finger; and some other issues that don’t need to be mentioned. I tried to enjoy every minute of my last few days but it was hard to keep the thought of leaving this place from my mind.
Yesterday, Friday, was my last day. The morning was a little rough because there was a problem with one of the boys so Rovina was out for most of the day with the boy and one of the social workers. I had Laura, a new volunteer who has been to Amani before, who was helping me with health things because she is going to be working in the health room for a few weeks while Rovina is gone, so I had more time to just play with the kids rather than giving them bandages etc. After lunch we had a soda party to say goodbye. I made a short little speech to thank the staff and the kids and then was given a goodbye gift and certificate. Then each kid got a soda, pack of gum, piece of candy, and a bracelet. Leaving them was pretty rough because a few of them were crying. I was fine until I had to give them hugs and then I started to cry a little but as soon as one of them made fun of me for crying I was luckily able to stop myself. The kids have been amazing and have truly changed me, as have the staff, and my entire experience at Amani was, although difficult at times, outstanding and I would not have wanted to spend my past six months any other way.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Finally having my family here with me was wonderful. It was great to see them and exciting showing them around the place that I have been living.
We left for safari on Tuesday and did a game drive at Lake Manyara Tuesday afternoon before pitching our tents outside of a mini hotel. At Lake Manyara we saw elephants, tons of birds, giraffes, flamingo, buffalo, hippos, wildebeest, warthogs, and many other things that I can’t think of off the top of my head. It was a great first day.
I got into my sleeping bag before everyone else because I was exhausted. After I was finally settled in and about to fall asleep I heard my brothers shrieking. I found out later they thought a skunk was coming toward them and got nervous and then realized it was just a black and white cat. Lauren, who I shared my tent with, barely slept because she was scared of wild animals (even though there weren’t any).
The next morning we set off for the Serengeti. This place was unbelievable. The tall grasses and plains went on and on and appeared that they went on forever into the distance. We saw tons of animals (and of course all I thought about was the lion king), all of which were fascinating.
Sleeping in the Serengeti was a mess for the majority of my family. We were told not to leave our tents past 10 pm because of lions. When Lauren heard that she freaked out and of course when 10 pm came my tent-mate (Mikey) decided he had to pee. He decided to stand in the tent and pee out of the flap of the tent…he ended up getting pee all over my sleeping mat and our tent…disgusting. After that incident Mikey and I passed out and slep through the entire night while my mom and Lauren were up most of the night listening to the lions and freaking themselves out.
The next day was awesome. Greg started to throw a fit when he though an elephant was charging at our car. He literally jumped from the back of the safari van to the front in about a second and started screaming at the driver to move the car away from the elephant. Later on we saw an elephant charge at a herd of lions to scare them away.
Later that night, when we were back at the campsite and just before 10 pm one of my brothers (not mentioning names) felt like he was going to have diarhhea. We asked our guide what we were supposed to do in this situation..he gave us his phone number and told us that if he needed to go we could call him and he would take my brother in the safari vehicle to the bathroom (about 25 feet away from the tent). Luckily, my brother did not need to use the bathroom that night.
Ngorogoro crater was absolutely gorgeous – it looked majestic when the sun rays were coming through the clouds and into the crater. There were hundreds and hundreds of wildebeest. We saw a cheetahs, lions, zebra, a few elephants, hippos outside of the water, flamingos, and other awesome animals. It was a great way to end the safari.
After the crater we spent a night in a masai village. I was surprised that we made it to the village in one piece because driving there was the most difficult drive I have ever be on. I thought for sure we would tip and if we didn’t tip that I would puke…luckily neither of those happened.
The village was very tiny , it was just one man, Merygay, and his mother and a few of his siblings but there were neighboring bomas in the area. Parts of it were similar to the first masai village that I went to but this one was much tinier and much more remote. Merygay’s nephew and niece who were probably about 4 or 5 years old were petrified of us. Meriygay said that they had never seen wazungu (white people) before and that they thought we were there to take them away or punish them for doing something bad. One of them started crying hysterically when Mikey went over to shake his hand. They warmed up to us a little bit by the next morning though.
We basically hung out with Mergay and some of his friends and helped to collect firewood. Unfortunately, they sacrificed a goat for their dinner that night in front of us. I couldn’t watch when they were suffocating the poor thing. It was so creepy for me but they just kept explaining that it was part of their culture and this is how they get their food (which is true and the same as in the states except that we don’t have to kill it ourselves). I have never been more happy to be a vegetarian. They used the entire goat and left nothing behind. They even sucked the marrow out of the bones. Two of the younger boys who were not yet warriors (because they haven’t been circumsized yet) ate the goats testicles. Another guys ate the kidneys (uncooked). Greg ate part of the liver (after it was cooked). Then the guys drank the blood from the goat (it was still warm and fresh). We were all offered blood and of course we all said no…except of for my dad who had to be as macho as the masai and drink the blood of the goat. It was nasty but he claimed that it tasted good, “salty and warm” is how he explained it, just before my mother claimed, “I am not kissing you tonight after that”.
After we settled into our tents for the night I was half asleep when Lauren started shouting at me. I finally realized our tent was collapsing. It fell on top of us and one of the pegs had come out…we called for our guide and he couldn’t hear us but our dad heard and came to help us fix it up right again…I think it was the blood of the goat that turned him into such a hero that night.
The next morning we went on a mini hike with Merigay, his friend, and our guide. We stopped half way to watch them throw their spears. They let us try…we were all horrible except for Mikey who got it in the tree both times! It was a great experience and so nice to have my family here to do safari with me. They will be coming to Amani this week and I’m so excited.

Friday, June 18, 2010

another broken arm and I hate saying goodbye

The middle of the week was just as hectic as the beginning. Greg went to sleep with a fever on Wednesday night so I forced him to go to the clinic on Thursday morning for a malaria test. He did not have malaria though and is feeling better already.
After dropping Greg off at the clinic I got to work and gave out all the morning medications. Within a half-hour of being at work one of the boys who goes outside for school came back to Amani because he had fallen backward and caught his fall with his wrist. He was at school when he fell and had to walk all the way back to Amani with a broken wrist. I splinted it using a soft-cover book and then took him to the clinic. The doctor sent us to another clinic for an x-ray and were to return to the original clinic after. This boy was such a champ…he did not complain once and was not in much pain. After we got back to the original clinic with the x-ray it was clear that he had a fracture but the doctor wanted to use a softer cast for seven days until the swelling decreases. They took us into a back room and had him lay down on a bed. Without explaining anything to him they started to wrap his arm. He had not been given any pain meds or sedation or anything and started writhing in pain once they started touching his arm. Before the doctor tried to re-set it they decided to give him pain killers. I don’t think they started working in time though because he was in so so so much pain. We had to hold him down and he was hysterical. I couldn’t believe they were doing all these things without explaining anything to him. Anyway…after the arm was re-set and the cast was put on the medicine started to work. He became loopy and when we got in the taxi he talked non-stop half way home and then passed out (reminded me of myself after wisdom teeth except that I was knocked out completely).
Today, Friday, some of the kids went to relatives or parents houses for vacation. It was really hard for me to say goodbye because by the time they return from vacation I will be in America. I had to say goodbye to some of my favorite kids. Some walked to the daladala and others got a ride in the Amani bus. The kids were piled in their bus and I was standing next to it talking to them through the window. After a while I decided to say goodbye for good and go inside but on my way in both of the Rama’s got out of the van and came running over to me. When I saw them coming to me I had to turn around because I started to cry. I definitely did not want to cry in front of them… but whooops. They both hugged me and asked me not to leave, I explained myself to them again and told them I had to. I walked them back to the van and after they got in they opened the window and called me back over because they wanted to remind me that I should always remember them. I told them that I would never forget them and I truly know that I never will forget these two boys. I finally was able to walk away but every time I turned around to look back they were looking back at me too…it was hard…it reminded me of saying goodbye to Lupe and Angie all over again.
After all the goodbyes, the children who did not go home for vacation were just hanging out and playing. I had to dress a wound on one of the boys feet. He ended up finding a mini bottle of benedryl or neosporin spray or something and was pretending to spider man with it. He left the health room with the spray and I chased after him (I was worried he'd spray it in someone else's eyes) and two of the older boys helped me get the medicine back but guess where he had hid it. It was not in his pockets...he had hid it in his pants. Not of the had to get it out for me.
My family arrives tomorrow night!! I am so excited to see them but am still not sure that I am ready to leave Amani yet. I think it will be easier saying goodbye though because many of the kids have left for three weeks vacation. Can’t wait for safari on Tuesday with the family!!!