Last Wednesday evening, Laura and I were sitting at a restaurant enjoying a cold beer after a hard day's labour. We noticed a young teenage boy come sit at the table next to us. He started to pray not out loud but with extreme hand gestures. Emmason asked him in Swahili 'How are you' but he didn't respond. Instead he stood up and moved to a table behind us. My spidey senses were tingling, something is not right here. I held my bag a bit closer and was making a point to be more aware. The boy ordered tea and started to drink it like a cat. Laura and I both agreed something's not right with that one. He finished his tea and moved to a place where he was in eye contact of the two of us. After a couple of minutes, he caught my eye and started motioning with his hand that he was hungry. So I looked at Laura, "oh man that weird kid is now trying to say he's hungry I think, I don't know what he's doing". Then he did the motion to Laura. Finally, Emmason called the boy over to talk. He came over and they spoke in Swahili for about five minutes.

Emmanual is this young mans name. He doesn't know how old he is. He has no family and can't remember a time when he did. He doesn't like to hang out with the other street children so he does his own thing, and eats food when and where he can find it. Emmason asked what he was doing praying without any food or drink. He said "I just pray that one day I will have a family, I am not religious, I just hope that I can have something".

Laura and I shared a piece of humble pie, instead of the french fries and chicken we usually order. The western world part of us was so easy and quick to pass judgment.

Emmanuel sat with us for the rest of the evening. We ordered him food and Emmason (who knows 80% of the street children in Moshi) talked about his situation and life.
His father left when he was very young. When his mother remarried she chased him away because the new husband didn't want a child not his own. Since then he has been on the streets. At first, he spoke very slowly and awkwardly. He kept holding his ears and was not comfortable in the situation. But, after an hour Emmason got him laughing and he relaxed a little bit. With my limited Swahili I leaned in and whispered "I have an extremely large nose". I think he liked it, I got my first laugh out of him. He spent the rest of the night trying to steal glimpses of my big, red, Mzungu nose.

We noticed a drawing on his pants. Because it was dark we had to wait for the opportune time to see what it was. Sure enough he had drawn a small house surrounded by a fence with a flower bed in front.

He ate so slowly and drank his Coca Cola even slower. He fell asleep when he was finished.  When it was time to go, we put some warm chicken in a plastic bag under his sweater and made a time to meet the following evening.

I spent all day wondering how will he know what time it is to meet us. But Emmanuel was there with two minutes to spare. He was so happy, talkative, and much more comfortable around Emmason and the two Mzungu's.  He was very happy and excited. Skipping, laughing easy, talking fast, normal behavior for someone around his unknown age. We shared a meal and made arrangements to meet again to discuss his situation.

This past weekend we met with Emmasons father, who is doing social work in a small village. He explained to us there are street children and there are children of the street. The difference being, street children have a home and family but their family has nothing to provide for them so they go on the streets to survive. Children of the street are the ones whose parents have maybe died of AIDS or they've been abandoned by their parents like Emmanuel, and they have nothing.

Can you imagine not knowing your age? I would guess Emmanuel is around 12. The social damage from never having one person to look up to, to learn behaviors from, to talk to, to share material things as well as emotional ones. It's a devastating concept.

Education is always important and crucial to the success of any society. But first and foremost, a child needs food, water, and at least one person to love.

We are fast becoming masters in the art of deep breathing and tear management.

 
 
On day 4, we were going to catch our free ride into town before the Dala Dala (crazy bus) but the driver offered us a ride to Njiapanda. Which was excellent news!As we were driving down the highway we realized he's driving like a maniac, which is a pretty strong word considering everyone drives like a maniac here (especially compared to Canada). We white knuckled it as we flew over the random speed bumps on the road. Then we approached a police check point, which are pretty common on this road. So we pulled over and the two men dressed in army gear with guns approached. Laura and I give the "oh shit we have no ID on us" look. They demanded to see a fire extinguisher. Really? A fire extinguisher. What about the running engines at the gas station!? So we searched the safari van for a fire extinguisher (thank god there was one) and then he asked us to pull a little bit further over. And a new corrupt officer came up, our driver slides him 10000 TSH and we continued on.
Finally, we got to the centre and our one goal for the day was to get firewood so they could have a good supply for cooking. We ended up having to wait an hour for MaMa (how every woman over the age of 40 is named here). Mama arrives and says we can take the old Toyota Corolla ( with Glory to God on the windshield) to the village centre. Once at the village we had to rent a truck and then follow the truck into the jungle to buy the firewood. So I jumped in the front and Laura got in the driver side and we managed to maneuver the beater (which is standard) out of it's crazy parking spot. As we waved to say good-bye to the children and workers, three Mama's hopped into the back plus two men and a 12 year old boy jumped in the front with me. Low Ride Er. On an unpaved logging road type journey. Kind of awesome. After a short ride we get to the place to rent the truck. Which was 25,000 TSH for the journey. 1 Mama left somewhere and the two guys and other Mama went in the truck. Back to the four of us, the 12 year old Evany and me in the front seat, and a mama in the back in the Glory to God mobile. We drove for 40 minutes through a thick jungle (where the Chagga tribe farms, the richest in Tanzania). A very enjoyable drive until we hit the extreme off roading. Laura had to do so much maneouvring and hitting jumps, up hill, down hill, pot holes, tree stumps, just brutal. But managed to drive the whole way with no flats or scrapes on the bottom of the car. Mama was in the back loving it, "oh Laura your such a excellent driver " "I love your driving professional". After forty minutes, the truck stopped on a hill so Laura went to park behind it, some how pegged a giant boulder on the bottom of the car and we both went flying forward. Lucky for Evany, I had soccer mom hands and held him back while my head bashed into the windshield. It left a massive crack in the windshield, that might have been there before and I just spread it or might have been new. No blood though, just a headache and maybe some Glory to God? Laura's head hit the steering wheel. Meanwhile Laura's saying "SHIT, SHIT, JESUS CHRIST ARE YOU OKAY I MEAN SHOOT, SHI!" Well Mama's in the back "Oh Laura such a good driver, Thank you Thank you". Really. We were laughing so hard, it was crazy. So we walked into the jungle for fifteen minutes and helped these tall African men lug trees into the truck. I don't know why, but in my western mind, I assumed firewood meant perfectly squared pieces of lumber ready for the perfect woodburning stove surrounded by the white picket fence. Nope, huge trees. There was a machete to cut the trees in half if need be. But the jungle was so beautiful. We picked chili peppers, habanero peppers, avacado, a one foot long papaya, mangos, cardamom seeds, bananas, sooooooo many fruits and vegetables.  It was really neat.
After our four hour adventure we made it back to the Street Centre for lunch which consisted of ugali (maise flour and water mixed into a paste), a tomato based stew, and boiled leaves. After playing with the kids, riding in the corolla, cruising the jungle, minimal hand washing, and we are invited to eat a traditional Tanzania meal, no utensils. They also didn't know the word for sardine and told us they were tadpoles. So we insisted no tadpoles for us no thank you, but with impeccable hospitality they gave us each a big scoop of......sardines. Thank god no tadpoles this time round.
We then took a Dala Dala home at around 330. This dala dala had a nice number of people (10-ish) and two babies. And the babies had probably never seen whities before because they couldn't take their beautiful eyes off of us, so the mom's didn't hesitate to hand them off to us. There we are, two whities, holding to black babies in some ridiculous rusty bus and an old man leans in and says "Do you want to buy African baby" we laughed so hard. "No African baby sir, we like to have our own babies". Only in Africa. When would a mother in North America ever hand off her baby on a bus to a stranger because the baby was curious? We both appreciate this side of Tanzanian culture, so friendly, kind, welcoming, and open.
We had three beers that day. And they were delightful. We also ate delicious street food for dinner. Tandoori chicken and zanzibar pizza which is like a giant pizza pop stuffed with spinach, egg whites, ground beef, and masala.
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Well, after our pleasant Easter weekend, it was time to get down to business. Not the kind of business you may come across at your 9-5. Rather, ploughing a corn field. This isn't a technical job or mentally stimulating but that might contribute to why it was so difficult. Our responsibilities were to weed around the maize plants. Easy enough. BUT there was some mystery weed that looks like every other weed, that they actually boil and eat. Everybody else had no problem differentiating this mystery plant from the other weeds, except for us two whiteys. Every minute you could hear one of us, is this okay? Plough right? Bad one right? They must have thought we had never been in a garden before. This was day 1. We understood our task, and knew that there was a lot more ahead of us.  On day 2, we came prepared by purchasing four hoes, to assist in our hard labour. We also had the help of two young men, which was a HUGE contribution to our speed and ability.

Every person that walks by gets a real kick out of the two mzungu's (white person) doing hard labour. One of the most common words here is pole (pronounced polay), which means "I'm sorry". It's polite to say 'pole' when someone is doing anything that might look difficult (difficult refers to walking, working, balancing a heavy object on your head, sweating in the sun, etc). We collected a lot of poles during our ploughing days.
After three days we had finished the maize field and it was time to focus on the vegetable garden.  Day 4 brought a new and exciting adventure for us!

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First and foremost we would like to apologize for the delay in posting. As anybody that has spent time in Tanzania knows, the internet is a luxury that cannot be relied upon.

Easter at Njiapanda
Easter is one of the biggest holidays in Tanzania with the large Christian population here. On Easter Monday we were invited to visit the Pastor and his family at the Njiapanda Centre. Laura was delighted to eat Pilau, the traditional Easter food here. We left our hostel at 9:00 am and met up with a friend that was able to drive us and two other volunteers to the Easter lunch. En route, we were informed that we had to make a quick stop at a different children's centre. Excitedly, we jumped out of the van and were greeted by smiling children! Little did we know, our friend had been asked to lead the honorary goat slaughter.

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1. Goat: "act casual, do not make eye contact" 2. Busted. 3. Still bleeding out after 20 minutes. 4. They mix the blood with salt and drink it.
After the goat incident we were looking forward to playing with the children and meeting with the pastor and his wife.  Lucky for us, we were immediately served hot goat soup, goat liver, all while the pastor's goats watched us with a knowing glare.
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It is with much gratitude that we take this opportunity to thank each and every person that made their way out to support us and the Njiapanda Centre for Street Kids at Soprano's on March 26th. The fundraiser was a huge success; ranging from the extensive amount of auction items donated from friends and local businesses, to money raised for the 50/50 draw....and of course, lest us not forget the 60 pounder of Greygoose vodka draw! It was heart warming to see the amount of people that attended our event, and great fun and laughs were shared by all! For those businesses that generously donated goods and services, thank you! This night wouldn't have been so successful without your contributions.
We managed to raise $3000.25, which was $500 more than we had anticipated. We are eager to get overseas and start making progress at the centre, as these funds will go a very long way in this poverty stricken area. We will be continuing to accept donations through the website while we are away, and also want to acknowledge those who have already contributed.
It is only a matter of hours now until we will be soaring off to the other side! Feelings of excitement and anxiousness are at an all time high as final preparations make their way! But it is also a bitter sweet feeling that hovers over you when venturing off into foreign territory, leaving the ones you hold close to your heart back home. In any case, friends are family will remain in our thoughts and before we know it a party will be commencing upon our return! Three and a half months is peanuts for the old seasoned travellers!
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We are going to use this blog for updating our family, friends, donors, supporters, and fellow volunteers with our day-to-day adventures, highs, lows, and most importantly progress! So please keep checking in.

Our first order of business is raising funds for our cause! We decided an event at the Victoria bar, Soprano's, was a great opportunity. The date of our fundraiser is March 26th and it starts at 7:30. We were amazed at the outpouring of support and donations almost immediately after creating the event and getting the word out there. It was impressive to see how efficient our world has become with the use of social media and the heavy influence "networking" has had. Speaking of networking, we've reached out to people we know that work for companies or own companies that would be able to donate their time or products.

We'd like to acknowledge how helpful, efficient, and accommodating Soprano's are to work with. They have great suggestions, always call back with answers we're looking for, and have gone out of their way to make this night a success! We would highly recommend Soprano's as a great local business for hosting a party or event.

Stay tuned for more Streets 2 Schools updates!
 
 
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