Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A birthday re-do

So it turns out that one of the kids was playing with my camera before I went to bed and deleted all the pictures from my birthday… I know it was an accident and I didn’t want to be mad at her but I couldn’t help but cry because my birthday/anniversary with the kids was such an important day for me. So I spent most of yesterday morning crying and I thought it was going to be a pretty crappy day. All my boys here felt terrible for me and were so sad to see me crying. After an hour or so of sulking around, the boys pulled me into the classroom where we had my birthday party and told me that they would buy a cake and put it in my face and we could take pictures all over again. It was so sweet—they tried everything to make me smile. I laughed, kissed them on the heads, and went into my room. I remembered that I had brought chocolate and vanilla pudding powder stuff from America to make with the kids—today was the perfect day to make it! Jonas, lucky and I walked up to the Rau market which is about a 25 minute walk and we bought milk. We brought it back to the house, got a bowl, and made the chocolate pudding first. The kids had never tasted pudding before and they FLIPPED for it. I loved seeing them smile so much that I made them the vanilla one too. Normally, we share this kind of stuff with ALL the kids but today there were just 6 of us—which made it even more fun. While I was making the vanilla pudding, the boys went into my room, found the party hats and the leis, and all came running out of my room with balloons and the hats and necklaces on screaming “happy 21st birthday neema!”  and they handed me my camera. Abdalla and Lucky stuck their hands in the pudding and put it on their face and said, “neema, take a picture! Lets recreate your birthday party!” My whole body filled with joy as I watched them try so hard to make up for the pictures I had lost from my actual birthday. I joined in the fun and made us some juice and we had a little mini party. We colored, ate pudding, listened to music and took pictures. It turned out to be a pretty awesome day. Before I went to bed, Abdalla, Amani, Baracka and I played a game of SORRY! on my bed. When I come to Tanzania, I spend most of my time at Mama’s house where we have bedrooms for some of the older orphans—we also have some of the younger kids stay here but most of the little ones sleep down the road at the actual orphanage. Part of the reason I'm so close with Hellen, Lucky, Neema, Jonas, George etc is because they live here at mama’s. Abdalla, Amani, and Baracka have been staying at mama’s house with me since the car accident—we want them here in their own beds until they heal because they normally sleep three to a bed and we don’t want anyone accidently hurting each others wounds. So as everyone always says, everything happens for a reason… and if it weren’t for the accident, these boys wouldn’t be living here with me and we would not have grown to be soooo extremely close. Prior to the accident, I didn’t see these boys very often and I definitely didn’t know them that well. But now, they are my little brothers and we are EXTREMELY close. Its been so great getting to spend so much time with them. Anyways, I was able to find some pictures from my birthday on other peoples cameras and such so I have posted those below. I also put up pictures from the weekend of us blowing bubbles, playing soccer, and just goofing around.  Enjoy!

From the left: Ericki, Jackie, Amani


From the left: Jasiri (George), Jonas, Josephine

My pretty little puppy, Pendo-- she's getting big!

From the left: Amani, Dorisi, Jasiri (George)

 From the left: Abdalla, Amani, and Baracka
The kids faces as they watched the bubbles float away... I love these pictures 

 From the left: Lucky, Jasiri, Jonas

the boys playing soccer

the other day, we were at the soccer feilds and Lucky decided he was going to do me and Malaika's makeup... WITH DIRT! here is our photoshoot 

Duy, Rachelle, Jordan and me goofing off at dinner Friday night


A few other birthday pictures  

These are my favorite-- the kids made this beautiful birthday banner for me and colored it and everything. It is hanging up on my wall here in my room. On the top right, is my Tanzanian shaped cake and on the top left is me with my "21" 

The kids and me eating pudding and recreating my birthday pictures

 My AMAZINGGGG boys goofing around and making me smile yesterday :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

A fairy tale...

I just looked at my facebook and got to see all the sweet messages from people wishing me happy birthday. The best part about it was seeing a ton of people say that they were so happy that I got to spend my 21st birthday in my favorite place in the world with the people who I care about the most… and that couldn’t be anymore true…Yesterday was the most incredible day ever. Not only was it my birthday, but I got to share it with one of the boys, Dominique, who turned 15 yesterday. I woke up early and opened my birthday cards from my family and the present that my mom sent with me. The kids had their weekly Sunday prayer session which was led by Mama’s sister and Duy. There was a lot of reflection over the past week between the car accident, Malaika leaving to go back to Nairobi,  but a lot to look forward to because it was my birthday and my one year anniversary with my kids. I will never forget the day that I met them exactly one year ago on my 20th birthday. I stood up at the service and thanked the kids and Mama for making me a part of their family and making my dreams come true. I told them they are one of the most special things in my world and they have changed the person I am and my life forever. After church was over, we began setting up for my party. We tied balloons up all over the room, set up the music and speakers, and brought all the games out for everyone to play. The kids played with my makeshift bowling set for a while and then, when I brought out 8 beach balls for them to throw around, their attention definitely shifted. I had a corner of the room blocked off for coloring and we had TONS of markers, crayons and paper. After the kids played for an hour or two, Mama and the rest of the family came to join us. Everyone was wearing happy birthday hats and little Hawaiian leis which I brought with me from party city. Once everyone was there, we sang some songs, danced around, and drank raspberry lemonade that I made. I brought this blow up limbo stick with me from America also and we played limbo. They had never played it before and they had a BLAST. It was so much fun seeing them laugh and smile. Tumaini won… granted, he is like 4 feed and abnormally flexible… but still, he was very happy. Then we brought out the cake, figured out how to light the sparkler candle things, and they sang. My heart melted and I had the biggest smile on my face. After I made my wishes and blew out my candles, we cut the cake for everyone. Duy went to feed me the first piece and instead of putting it in my mouth, he rubbed it ALLLLL over my face.. the cake was in the shape of Tanzania and was blue yellow black and green which are the colors of the flag… I had green icing all over me. The kids here have never heard of someone stuffing cake in someone else’s face because here, they never waste food. But they thought it was soooo funny. I looked like a cross between Alfaba from Wicked and the Hulk. Duy and I got in a mini little cake fight later on which was a blast and left my clothes, hair and face covered in icing… WHICH WAS OIL BASED and so was nearly impossible to get off with the little water I have to shower with. The rest of the afternoon was filled with smiling, laughter, dancing, and playing. The kids and I wrestled around, had a tickle war, and did some of their acrobatics. Lucky kept jumping on my back, holding onto my hair like it was a steering wheel and screaming boda boda which is like the little motorcycle bikes here… too funny. Once it started getting dark outside, we began making dinner. We had rice, chapatti, and pineapple. Dinner was delicious and I was starving. After dinner, I went over to Mama’s house and we watched the fox news video which she hadn’t seen. She was SOOO amazed with it all. We reminisced over my birthday last year and she told me how happy she is that I came into their lives. After we looked at pictures and videos for about an hour, Hellen, Jonas, and Lucky came back to my room with me. We had blown up the giant beach ball which was like a globe and looked at where I live and the way that I travel to get here when I come. They asked me if I crossed the International Date Line when I fly here. I was shocked they knew what that even was! I told them about how when I went and volunteered in Fiji, we passed the Line and that on my flight home, I went to bed on a Thursday evening and woke up in America on a Thursday morning. They thought it was so cool. We also talked about Ecuador and the equator. I showed them pictures of me straddling the equator with my family and they were amazed.  After a while of talking, they all kissed me goodnight and I crawled into my mosquito net with pendo and read the 22 hand made cards the kids made me. Then I looked at all the pictures from the day on my camera and went to sleep. The day was truly incredible and I couldn’t have been any happier. Most people’s 21st birthdays are such a big deal because they are now of legal age… but for me, it really had nothing to do with that. Yesterday marked the day a year ago where my life began… where I found my purpose and what I would do with my life. I met my future family and my children and came into a world that was just mine and theirs.. and when we were together, nothing else mattered. Last summer, when I met the Tuleeni orphans, I reached a level of happiness and satisfaction within myself and my life that I didn’t know existed. The two most important days in a person’s life are the day that they are born and the day they realized why. I knew what I was born to do a long time ago, help people… but it wasn’t until last year that I knew exactly what my purpose was…and it was awesome to be able to mark both these “important days” here in Tanzania where I belong. The only thing that would have made this birthday even better is if my family and friends from America were here with me and my kids. Which hopefully, next summer, for my 22nd birthday, they will be.  On a different note, when I woke up this morning, I went to go put the pictures from yesterday on my computer…Pictures from a few days ago uploaded but the pictures from my birthday didn’t upload. I went back to look at my camera and there were no pictures from my birthday on my camera. I had literally looked at them right before bed and no one touched my camera between last night and this morning and the pictures are NO WHERE TO BE FOUND. I have NOO idea what happened and where they are. I have tried EVERYTHING to find them on my camera, the memory chip, my computer etc and they aren’t there. The kids were so sad this morning because I sunk into a pool of depression because all my photos and videos capturing memories of yesterday were gone. I have cried all morning and wish so badly that they will some how reappear… we have some pictures and videos on other people’s cameras but nothing like the ones on my camera.. pray that I find them because I am so heartbroken over it and I don’t know how pictures could just disappear into thin air. Anyways, I'm tired of crying right now and so I am just hoping they show up but it really isn’t looking good. :( 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fun and Games

Here is just a quick picture update! I will blog about the pictures and the past two days in details later! I have to go get started cooking lunch for the kids but check later for more details!

The CCS volunteers came to Tuleeni and the kids sang for them and did an acrobat show.

I filled big water bottles half way with water and a drop of Crystal Light powder to make the water red and made bowling pins so I could teach them how to bowl... well, kinda....

Lucky and Jonas goofing around

Awazi and me :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do all things with love...

I want to start by thanking all of you for your sweet messages, thoughts, and prayers for the kids after their accident this weekend. It has been a rough couple of days, but each day has brought us a better tomorrow. The boys are all home and up and walking now, which is wonderful! They have been sleeping in my room and I slept on the floor right by their bed in case they needed me in the middle of the night-- which they did... the first night they were home, they woke me up 4 times to carry them to the bathroom. I love being there for them though, it makes me feel like a mom. The boys all went back to school today and popped their heads in my room once they were all dressed and ready-- I was still half asleep with Pendo all bundled up in blankets. Dominique knocked on my door and peeked in and said "Hi Neema! Umelalaje? Nataka kusema kwaheri kwa subabu nitaenda shule leo!" (Hi Neema, how did you sleep? I wanted to say goodbye because I am going to school today!) His face lit up with that beautiful smile of his. It was an amazing way to start my day. 

A little recap of our last few days over here--- ALL day sunday, monday and tuesday we sat at home and watched movies. In town, there are little shops where you can buy these DVDs and they have between 12-20 different movies on one disc.. for $2 haha so i brought home a bunch of them for the kids-- A few of the movies we watched were Matilda, Little Rascals, Home Alone 3, Dark Knight, Over the Hedge, Happy Feet, and Where the Wild Things Are. I love sharing the movies that I grew up LOVING with them. I believe that you can't know where you are going until you know where you have been... and this goes for knowing people as well. I feel that the more the kids learn about my life, my family and friends, my childhood, and my past, the more they trust me and the more they open up to me. I've spent some time this week talking with some of the kids about their parents and grandparents-- a few of them shared their stories with me and some of them just listened. It was really nice to hear where they came from and what happened to their families. I actually got to meet Little Neema's bibi (grandmother) yesterday, which was such a treat. Neema's bibi raised her since she was a baby and when she got to old to care for Neema, Neema was welcomed into the orphanage where she has been for about 5 years now. Yesterday morning, Pendo wasn't looking so good and I was worried about her. She had these puss filled bites all over her stomach and she was exhausted and not acting like her happy little puppy-self. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to take Pendo into town to meet my friend Mussa and to go to the vet. Mussa has a beautiful German Shepard named Ranger and Mussa took me to the vet that he takes Ranger to. The vet gave her 3 shots which vaccinated her from about 6 different diseases including rabies and a few other parasitic diseases. He also gave her deworming tablets to get rid of heart worms and any other parasite in her stomach. Then he gave her a really good bath with a special shampoo that kills fleas, lice, and ticks. once she was all clean and healthy, she looked BEAUTIFUL and was so soft. I took her home and the poor thing slept all day and night. She was exhausted. After I put her and the kids to bed, Malaika and I went to this restaurant called House of Wine where we ran into a bunch of our friends. All the CCS ROTC guys who had come to help us build the other day where there as well as a few of our local friends. We went home around 10:30 and crawled into bed 

Here are some pictures from the past few days

 (Left) Malaika and me in Rombo on Saturday when we were visiting Hellen and Dorisi 
(Right) Dorisi and me :) it was so good to see her

Yusta, Mariam and Me before they got on the bus and went back to their boarding school

From the left: Freddie, Celestine, Hilda (The two little ones are twins) 

From the left: Josephine, Jonas, Lucky 

Top row from the left: Yusta, Jesika, Scola, Amani, George, Freddie, Ogden
Bottom row from the left: Mariam, Ericki, Little Hellen, Gladness

These Teddy bears were donated by two wonderful individuals: A beautiful 10 year old girl named Ally and from the Alpha Phi security guard Bill

My beautiful little puppy, Pendo! She is getting big!

some of my little injured kids watching movies

More to come later on :)

Love always,

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Everything will be okay...

Yesterday was a really rough day. Malaika, little Hellen, Scola, little Neema, and I went to the bus station in town to buy our tickets to go to Rombo to see Dorisi kubwa and Hellen kati kati (older Dorisi/middle Hellen we have two girls named Dorisi and three girls named Hellen) We rode in a dala dala bus which is a bus where they squeeze as many people as they can into this little buses and they are very cheap to ride. So we are in this bus and after about an hour or so, we arrived in Rombo. Hellen Kati kati and Dorisi Kubwa go to nursing school in Rombo and they were so excited that we were coming to visit because they haven't seen me or the rest of their family (the other orphans) in months. When we arrived, we found out that Hellen was extremely sick and we went to the hospital where we found her in tears and in so much pain. She has stomach ulcers and malaria-- all I could think about what how much pain I was in when I was sick with stomach problems in 7th grade and I had the best medicine available, a nice bed, air conditioning, hot baths, and popsicles-- this poor girl had nothing :( I brought Hellen and Dorisi new clothes, movies, shoes, toiletries, and blankets. I also brought Hellen a laptop which she had told me she was in dire need of--- this laptop was donated by the Dougan family who I babysit for and adore. They have been so amazing in making clothing and toy donations and have helped the children out immensely-- if you guys are reading this, THANK YOU SO MUCH. we had some lunch and walked around for a little and tried to distract her but nothing was helping so we took her back to the hospital where she was then admitted and given an I.V. drip. After spending all day at the hospital, we walked back to find another bus to take us back to Moshi. I swear that this bus stopped every 3 or 4 minutes on the way home. It was beyond aggravating and took about 2 hours to get home. When we finally got back home at around 5:00, Malaika went to the coffee shop to do some work she needed to finish and the children and I went to rest. We had been home for 5 minutes when Mama came into my room panicking and asking what was wrong with Duy and why he wasn't answering his phone. I tried calling 4 times but there was no response. Mama called a few more people and found out that Duy, Jordan, Rachelle, the professor, and 7 of the orphans got in a terrible accident and were in the hospital. My eyes suddenly filled with tears and I got the biggest pit in my stomach. We called Paul to pick us up and Mama and I rushed to the hospital. When we got there, everyone looked pretty banged up and exhausted. Jonas, George, Joseph, Amani, Ogdon, Dominique, and Baracka were all there. I tried to hold my tears back and stay positive for the children but seeing them in pain broke me to pieces inside. Baracka and Amani were all cut up and covered in dirt. They were outside laying on a blanket waiting to have x-rays taken. I sat with them and held their hands and comforted them. They were driving back from the new orphanage site after dropping some supplies off and they were driving a pick up truck. The professor is a close family friend of Mama and lives with us at the orphanage-- he got his degree from an American college and is a college professor here in Tanzania. He is brilliant and has been a HUGE reason we have gotten so far on the new building. Anyways, Professor and 5 of the children were sitting in the bed of the truck on the drive home and the car hit a huge pot hole and flipped over twice. the children and professor were all ejected and Duy went through the windshield. Professor broke his arm in 4 places and is having surgery today. Duy and Rachelle got a bunch of stitches and the rest of the kids were just really banged up. The doctor said it was a miracle that everyone survived the accident....The entire group of mafundi (construction workers) from the new orphanage came to make sure everyone was okay, which was so sweet of them. Jospeh and Baracka and the Professor stayed the night in the hospital and Malaika took the other children home with Musa and got them cleaned up, fed them, and put on a movie for them. I stayed with Mama and the other kids at the hospital and helped with the medicine and the bill. while we were SO happy that everyone was okay, it is really hard to look at the bright side when you are in Mama's shoes and are facing a $500 bill... we live day to day here in Tanzania and this is an outrageous amount of money for us. Duy and I helped with the bill and we were able to come up with the rest of the money we needed. I went back to the house and got the kids ready for bed. When I arrived at the house, Malaika had given all the kids food and they were all sitting on the couch and floor gathered around her laptop watching the movie "Matilda". I went to eat dinner at the kitchen table which is right next to where the kids were all sitting-- I stared at the kids for a few minutes and couldn't help but smile, which was weird because I had been so sad all day. When I looked at these kids, I saw my future in front of me. A few days ago, Malaika asked me if I could see myself settling down here.. like for real-- kids, family and everything. I thought about it for a second that day and told her that I definitely feel that this is where I belong but I am not sure because I haven't met my husband and don't know if he wants to run an orphanage with me or have his own kids etc. But then last night, when I was staring at the kids as they giggled and comforted each other, I looked at Malaika and said, "Yes, I could settle down here, because those kids right there, as i pointed to them, are all i have ever wanted and nothing would make me happier than to have them as my family". I know my parents want me to eventually come back to America and live there but last night was an evening of clarity for me at how an accident can potentially shatter your world in the blink of an eye and while I knew the kids were important to me, last night showed me JUST HOW IMPORTANT they are to me and how they have become such a huge part of who I am and who I want to be. We had the kids who were in the accident sleep with us in our rooms incase they had any nightmares or were in pain. I know that everyone will be okay, it was just so scary... I felt like their mom.. or big sister, or something. I have never been so worried before and truly felt connected to these kids and to Mama and shared their pain with them-- as Mama told me the other day, "Neema, we are a family... you hurt, and we hurt" so I guess that works the other way around too... they hurt, and I hurt for them. Back at the house, Dominique was so happy to see Pendo. When we tucked him into his mosquito net, he asked me if Pendo could sleep with him. She cuddled up next to him and he was so happy. I woke up around 7am this morning and took Pendo outside. Once everyone woke up around 8am, Malaika and I cleaned everyone's cuts and wounds up again and gave them medicine. Everyone slept well was feeling okay. I gave the kids who were in the accident their first choice of teddy bears which were donated by a little girl in Austin named Ally. I had been waiting to give them to the kids this weekend when they were all home from school, but the opportunity definitely presented itself this morning when I knew they were in need of something to squeeze and love. They were so excited to have the new animal. Josephine left this morning to go to Rombo to be with Hellen and make sure that she is doing okay in the hospital. Duy, Malaika and I just went to the hospital to see professor and the kids-- some of the workers spent the night there with professor and the kids, which was such a blessing to us. I brought teddy bears for Joseph and Baracka. Joseph was really tired but Baracka lit up when I gave him the bear. I sat on his bed and he looked at me with his bright eyes and said in the sweetest voice "Hi Neema" as he smiled with his busted up lip... I was so happy to see him smile. Malaika and I left the hospital and came to Union which is a restaurant/coffee shop to do some work and to write this blog. I have pictures of the kids and their bears which i will post later. EVERYONE IS FINE AND SAFE AND WILL BE HOME BY TONIGHT..... but in the meantime, please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

here are pictures of the kids and professor so you can put a face with the name 

Friday, June 15, 2012

More building and fun with Prachi!!

Prachi, my friend who I met last summer with CCS is here with me now!! She was actually the first person I met in the Amsterdam airport before we got to Tanzania last summer. She is here helping build the new orphanage for the next two weeks. The kids gave her a Swahili name like I have. Her name is now Malaika which means angel. It was so funny because when they heard her name was Prachi, they kept calling her "parachichi" which means avocado in swahili... SO funny! Anyways, Malaika and I learned how to carry everything on our heads the other day! I learned how to run with a bucket of water on my head. soooo crazy! Yesterday, the CCS kids came to volunteer all day and help us build the new orphanage! We got a ton done! Here are some great pictures! more tomorrow! xoxo --neema

Ismaeli and me 

Malaika and me carrying small things on our head. I will post the pictures of us carrying water tomorrow :)

Mama Faraji and me

Jonas and Lucky 

some of the CCS volunteers and me

me digging cement.... I did this for hours. literally can't move my arms today

us building

 Malaika and me eating Ugali for lunch at the building site 
 me and my friend Sam Kusin with two of the kids, Jonas and Lucky

All of the volunteers that were working that day

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hotel Performance and Swimming

Here are some pictures from the past two days! The kids performance at the hotel was INCREDIBLE and I will try to post those videos ASAP its just hard because the internet is very slow but some of the the pictures are on here. Yesterday i took some of the kids to the Impala Hotel to go swimming. THEY ARE SOOO CUTE IN THE WATER! It has already been such an amazing trip and it keeps getting better. last night, Jonas was looking at all my ear piercings and he asked me "in america, is it true that people do this (as he points to my piercings) in the button? (as he pointed to his belly button) I thought it was so darn cute how he called the belly button "the button"  I adore this little boy so much! I have such high hopes for him. We asked him yesterday where he would want to go first if he went to america he responded  "well... first i would go to new york city to see the statue of liberty (as he tried to pose like her)" I couldnt help myself and had to tell him that for YEARS when I was little, I thought that the torch which she is holding was orange sorbet. He laughed so hard and said "Neema you are too silly" I promised him that ONE DAY, I don't know when or how but ONE DAY I will take him to America. all the kids want to go to america so badly... they say "Neema, you have seen our world. now we want to see yours" Mom and Dad, If you are reading this, buy your plane tickets soon for next summer or for xmas break because they WONT STOP ASKING HOW YOU ARE AND WHEN YOU ARE COMING TO MEET YOU... they refer to you as their bibi and their babu which means grandma and grandma. SO sweet. Last night, Duy, my building/fundraising partner for the new orphanage arrived again and brought two friends with him from Utah. Duy has been here in Tanzania since January and had to go back to America for a few weeks at the beginning of the summer to deal with some passport/visa stuff.. but he is back and brought his friends! Their names are Jordan and Rachelle-- they go to college at Utah State and are KD sorority sisters. They are actually Big and Little in their sorority which is soooo cool that they are here volunteering together. They will be here all summer with us helping to build the kids new home!! Anyways, I am going to go play with the kids right now while Pendo is sleeping. 

love always, Neema 
Joseph, tumaini, james, amani, and baracka before their performance

                Me and the loves of my life. I cant wait to enlarge this photo for my room next year

the kids with their sodas that we got them for practicing for their performance so well!

Jonas and James

Neema, Hellen, Vanessa, Yusta, Joyce, Dorisi and I at the Impala Hotel 

They said, "lets play a game" and I said "ok! what game do you want to play??" they said "its called SPLASH NEEMA!!" and this picture was taken in the process of the game being played. the water was FREEZING 

Me and Hellen 

We had sooo much fun with my underwater camera

the girls acting like "americans" that they see in the movies 

one of them said as she drank the juice I gave her all elegantly, "life is such a breeze..." too funny 

Pendo and me :)

Jonas and I