Sunday, June 28, 2009


Not the internet browser...the real deal. Riding in a car with a top hatch, zebras, wildebeast, ostriches, elephants, lions, warthogs all around, land stretching for miles, your breath being

ta k en **
* a w a y .. ... . . . .


I've never seen such things before. We got to spend a day at the Ngorongoro Crater and a morning/afternoon at Tarangire. We leave for Mandaka (a teacher's college at the slopes of Kilimanjaro) in an hour, so I have no time to write about it, but I promise to upon return. For now, I leave you with a funny quote and a sneak peek of photographs to come.

A boy runs up to Andrew after music class and says in a low voice
"Teacher, Sorry about Michael Jackson."
(Godfrey, a 4th grade boy with a knack for making up his own lyrics and rapping them)


Photos from Ngorongoro:
A pack of baboons greeted us upon entering the park. This one's eyes are particularly catching.

We came across an elephant at a watering hole. Notice the hippos to the left, backs just poking out of the water. I could have watched this elephant eat for hours. . . literally. Could have sat there. For hours. And just watched.

The beautiful stripes of zebras~ these guys seem to be everywhere.

The road that stretches for miles in the crater.

Close-up of a female ostrich's feathers.

One word: Simba.

Black & White

Got my roll of black & white film developed. Here a few of my favorites, plus more here. (Click to see larger)

& possibly my favorite shot ~ from a random morning protest of hundreds of children marching through the streets.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Spoke too soon.

"Hey look, I've been eating things without washing my hands first and I don't really care anymore. Maybe I'm getting used to living real life." (*laughs*)



This was Tuesday afternoon, right after walking home from a long day at school, and I bought an orange on the street which is what prompted me to say this. . . . . . Here is an excerpt from my journal the next day:

Today I was sick. Very sick. Nausea, vomiting, the works (trust me). . . definitely from something I ate. All I've been able to stomach is plain bread and tea. . . and even that doesn't go too well. Recently, Harun has been trying to get me to text in only Swahili and today we had a short conversation. With my not-so-excellent skills, I explained "siendi Arusha shuleni. mimi ni mgongwa." (I am not going to Arusha School. I am sick person.) He brought me some herbs to make tea, literally a bowl of huge green leaves to be boiled in water. Mama Guta came to check up on me and she's just such a warm person. She left me saying "God cure you. . . you understand?" with the biggest smile on her face. "Ndiyo," I replied, "na Asanta Sana" (Yes, and Thank You).

She laughed some more since I used Swahili and closed the door behind her. Harun is Guta's son, by the way. He's about my age (I believe) and does a lot for us. When Harun came over to give me tea, we talked for hours (maybe?) because I told him that I felt worse when I was alone because I'd have nothing to focus on except my uneasy state. Here is another part of my journal entry that day:

My favorite thing is the pace of life here. Even when we're spending 7-hour days at the school, the downtime between classes is great. And during the downtime we talk. We talk about all kinds of things. School, relatives, languages, history, religion, music, dancing, cooking . .. . just all sorts of things, and it's all so much less superficial it seems. I don't feel like having a conversation is a chore, it's just genuinely engaging.

So, I got sick and learned my lesson (it wasn't FROM the orange...I don't think I could bare to part with those delicious things) but it really wasn't all that bad. The time spent talking to the people around me is what got me through.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brief Update

Yesterday we started working at the individual schools. Our days are essentially 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Swifts (Emily & I) and then 4:00 to 5:00 at Arusha School. As you can probably imagine, it is tiring beyond belief but I seriously do enjoy every moment of it. Andrew and I are working together leading a music after school program...with a twist. We're doing more of song-writing/lyric-writing/beat-boxing and RAPPING. :D It's going to be amazing. They can already make the "TSSS" and the "KKUH!" sounds quite well.

An image in words to leave you with:
* * Over 40 children in a tiny classroom clapping

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Alphabet Project

The Alphabet Project is a favorite of LTP. With this project, we create visual alphabets using photographs, usually polaroids which leave the perfect amount of space to write the letter and the word below it. We start by choosing a topic: History, Geography, Science, Music, Kiswahili, French, etc. From there we list A-Z and come up with words that relate to the topic we chose. We did this as a group activity yesterday during a teacher workshop, so we split up the letters with History as our overarching topic. The group I worked with got A, B, C, D, E, and F.

Alphabet Project

The entire alphabet looked like this:

polaroid display

The idea with this project is that it reinforces learning in many ways. Visual aids are much stronger than route memorization, and creating those visuals yourself solidifies memory and is a much more active approach to learning new things. For example, last year students here in Tanzania used this project to learn verbs for French class. Instead of writing down a list of verbs and their translations, they acted out each verb they were learning and took a photograph for each. Not only do you remember the word and its meaning, but the very act of creating the photograph makes the students (or anyone who creates the photo) more active in their learning and exploring, rather than sitting passively inside of a classroom.

After assembling the alphabet onto the chalkboard, everyone in the room (including me) chose one letter to write about: a memory, a definition, a story, anything to go along with the word, concept, photograph. When we were done, we read some aloud. As always, it was intriguing to hear what each person had to say. I was smiling.

I is for "Islams"A is for Ancestor

LTP is about engaging in the world around you and exploring your own ways of seeing and thinking, rather than seeing and thinking the way that someone else wants you to. It's about embracing your thoughts and opinions and dreams and sharing them with others. And when we interact in such a way, the confines of dichotomies such as "teacher/student" "insider/outsider" are broken down and we can begin to see that not only is our own ways of thinking valid;

e v e r y o n e ' s
i s .

U is for Union

Mosquito: Hapana, sitaki.

5:25 a.m.
I have woken up to the sound of a mosquito flying around inside my net, jolting me out of bed. I snuggled back in for a few minutes once I thought it might be gone, but the bugger was still there. It is so quiet outside that I could hear its buzz all too clearly in my ears. I don't have to wake up for 4 more hours but now I am too anxious to get back in bed. Even if they aren't inside the net (which hasn't happened before until now), you can hear them buzzing around outside the net if you aren't asleep. And I am no longer asleep.

Explanation of post title: There's a phrase we learned in Swahili school to keep street vendors at bay: "Hapana, sitaki," or "No, I do not want." If you speak in the native language, people will respect you.

6:55 a.m.
The whole incident made me think (as I am still awake and left with my thoughts and the sounds of Arusha waking up): You can put up a net, build a wall, "live in a bubble" - anything that protects yourself from something on the outside, literally or metaphorically - and still, that something always gets in. What does that say about building the wall?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Haraka haraka haina baracka

I just walked to the Patisserie (the internet café) by myself for the first time. Albeit, I was practically across the street, but it was still my first time walking alone. The weekend was an eventful one... it's funny how the words "eventful" and "busy" are so relative. When I'm busy back home, I am running around with so many things to do, but here "busy" is actually really laid back. We visited the Arusha National Park yesterday where I saw all sorts of animals: monkeys, baboons, giraffes, zebras, wildebeasts, and all kinds of birds. (Yes, I will post some pictures!) A woman asked me to take a picture of her and her child at the top of a small hill, to then be emailed to her, which I obliged. Her name was Queen and she was very beautiful, the word in Swahili being "wazuri."

We've done two teacher workshops so far which went really well. We did exercises in reading photographs and telling stories from photographs. The actual photo part of the workshop was on "Misemo" (Swahili proverbs). The first day, we chose "When elephants fight, the grass suffers." Mary and Rosemary chose to explain this proverb through a story about two parents that fight and have many miscommunications. The mother finally takes off, leaving the children to suffer. They took 3 pictures to tell the story. The second day, we chose "Haraka haraka haini baracka" (Haste haste has no blessing.) Mohamed and Stewart chose to create this proverb using 2 photographs: one of a person holding too much stuff in his hands, walking very fast, about to trip; the second of the same person fallen on the ground, papers flying in the air to show that he had just fallen. I will keep that proverb in mind for the rest of my life, with those images in my head.

I learn so much every day, how could I not be excited for tomorrow?

giraffes !!
(the following photo for pronoy :)
wazuri :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


OH MY GOODNESS. I haven't smiled that big in a long time. I'm not kidding.

Today we visited the Arusha School to meet the kids for the first time. It's just one of the schools we'll be working at but it's extremely close to our apartments. As three of us walked toward the entrance, a group of tiny kids (probably kindergarten or the equivalent) saw us through the fence and started yelling "Hi! hi! hi! .. hiiii!" A few ran up to the gate and walked alongside us. They were smiling SO big, how could I not smile back?? The second we stepped foot onto the campus, the entire group swarmed us, a few of the braver ones grabbing my hands and skirt and smiling up at me. I felt so big, so I knelt down and as I did so, one of the boys knelt too just because I was doing it, maintaining the height difference that I just tried to eliminate. They kept calling us "teacher, teacher" and smiling and laughing and smiling. The smile on MY face lasted a good 5 minutes. I was completely overcome by an overwhelming feeling of joy. It was cleansing, it was beautiful, it was so real.

We had to leave the kids at an archway in the bushes, because we were coming to see the older bunch of kids. I didn't want to leave them, but the next group greeted us with the same kind of love, although with slightly more hesitation at first. We essentially just ran around and played games for an hour and a half, just getting familiar with each other and having fun. There is no word better than "swarm" to describe how I felt in the center of the biggest, loudest group hug I've ever experienced, and this happened multiple times. By the end, all the girls were giving me kisses on the cheek to say goodbye. "Teacher, teacher, a kiss please, come" and so I'd lean down a tiny bit and they'd kiss me on the cheek... sometimes more than once. Right before we left, Irene handed a note to Esther and me and I felt that I could just explode with happiness.

i am happy.**

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mimi ni mwanafunzi wa Kiswahili

I am a student of Swahili!

Began Swahili lessons today! Our teachers are Godson and Beatrice, and they are really kind. They give us chai (=tea, not the flavor) during our break. I'm not sure if I ever clarified, but "jambo" means hello in Kiswahili, although the proper word is "hujambo." However, I've noticed that most people use the slang "Mambo" (what's up) with a response of "Poa" (cool). I can put together a few phrases so far...

Jina langu ni Marissa. ( My name is Marissa )

Habari za safari? ( What news of/How was your journey? )
Mimi si mdudu. ( I am not an insect )

The apartments lay right in the middle of a low-key neighborhood full of local families and shopkeepers, so the walk into town is always pleasant. Now that a few days have passed, we walk in smaller groups, but soon we will be able to venture out alone (only during the daytime) if we want to.

Like I sensed at the airport, Pelle is awesome. He was one of the two teachers that came to an LTP workshop in Durham as part of the Sister Cities program. (Durham & Arusha are sister cities.) Since then, he's been the guy behind most of the LTP coordination here in Arusha. He's an artist himself and is just such an extremely warm person -- he's already invited my family to visit him in Salzburg if we get a chance to! I enjoyed a long conversation with him at dinner the other night (Ethiopian food!)

Been cooking every day. We pick up produce on the way back from town or Swahili lessons to our apartments. I've discovered that it's something I really enjoy when a) I'm making for other people to enjoy and b) we're cooking together. Someone called me the "head cook" or something to that extent today, and I laughed. Who woulda thought?

view from the second floor

Monday, June 8, 2009

the first moments

SATURDAY, JUNE 6, 2009 3:40 p.m.
(Sometimes I will write on my computer without internet & post them later)

Hujambo from Arusha!

I can't even think where to begin right now. We arrived last night and already it's been such an awesome experience. Pelle (our on the ground coordinator) is the sweetest. When he saw me at the airport, he said "You sent me picture!" and gave me a huge smile and hug. I slept under the mosquito net last night which was actually kinda fun. I got to tuck myself in after crawling under an opening. I'm pretty tired today because I couldn't sleep till 2 a.m. and awoke at 5 a.m. from roosters crowing, dogs whimpering, and the call to prayer. It reminded me of Turkey. The apartment is CHARMING and I've already taken pictures.

I just got my Tanzanian cell phone. I'm not quite sure how it all works yet, but I know it's free (for me) if anyone calls my phone, and free for the other person if I call them.

The pace of life is so much slower here... I mean, you could almost say that the motto here is "Hakuna Matata" ~ strangers on the street greet us with "mambo, hakuna matata," literally "what's up, no worries." It's quite amazing to settle into such a lifestyle, almost a relief.

Jambo Arusha.

our kitchen~
out the window
my place of slumber
~ d r e a m s ~

Sunday, June 7, 2009


my scribbled account of the journey from the airport to arusha:

dark black night
the refreshing breeze after 38 hours of living in air ports & planes
the hum of the wheels on the road below
the moon shining brightly, almost full
no other light, save the occasional building
figures, walking talking breathing in & out
fields of clouds and crops, racing
tree spirits, whispers
s t r e t c h i n g s k y
the clinking of cold glass bottles
bougainvilla flowers
& the screeching of branches against the window


Thursday, June 4, 2009


“As photographers and writers, we are observers and recorders of the world, real and imagined. Who we are and where we stand when we watch the world determines how we see and what we record.”
~ Wendy Ewald

Wendy Ewald’s work is something incredible to me. Throughout every reading, I found myself underlining and highlighting often, going through color after color in my box of pens. At times, I had to resist the urge to highlight everything in a paragraph. So much of what she writes about, especially her attitudes toward childhood and education, pertain to the things that truly interest me the most, the things which I am most passionate about: children and art forms and free expression. With Literacy Through Photography, she fuses all these concepts into one project. I had heard about LTP and understood what it was about on a basic level, but after reading the assigned passages, I am in awe of the material I am delving into. Reading can sometimes be a dry task, but I read every word of the Portraits & Dreams and Secret Games excerpts as if drinking cold water on a sticky warm day, or hot green tea on a winter afternoon (a more appropriate and palpable comparison for current weather conditions!)

Visual recollecting has always been an extremely beautiful and essential thing for me. Whether through the camera lens or paintbrushes or pen on paper, the most noticeable theme is a recollection of the visual, of what I see in my world. I have written about events, people, situations, but especially about feelings and emotions. When people ask me if I write, I usually say no, because I never sit down with the intention to formally write. It comes to me at moments when I feel something huge or see something interesting or troubling or breathtaking. I catch my breath between the words I scribble out. I usually like to write with pens on paper, because when I see my handwriting, I am even more confident in my individuality. As Ewald says, the way we see is unique. The same way that I see the way that only I see, I write the way that only I write.

There is undoubtedly something in the quality of sight that is remarkable – not to say that the other sensory perceptions are less remarkable but merely that I will focus on sight for the time being. “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” As I child, I was always looking around me. I was fortunate to be surrounded by overwhelmingly positive visual stimulation and encouraged toward free expression, enthusiasm, and openness. That was my experience, which I am able to share with the world, but what of the thousands, millions, billions of experiences of other children around the world?

What we find is that children are encouraged less often than we (LTP enthusiasts, perhaps) would like to explore and own their experience. There’s this unspoken pressure on children to be more passive because of a fictional ideology that says they serve no “real purpose” in society. Sometimes in the case of privileged children, it’s that “bubble” Ewald talks about, that “frightening comfort zone” that is safe but limiting. In solution she saw it as her job to recognize the uniqueness of each child’s vision, nurture this vision, and acknowledge that it is THEIR experience which they can actively participate in and explore.

Ultimately, the overall message of Ewald’s work can be applied to all age groups, all people. In theory, “adults” become victim to that passive existence as well, perhaps even more so than children. The media and the world governed by the “spectacle” have produced people who are less and less likely to explore their world. Finding truths out for oneself has become replaced by spoon-fed “truths” fueled and reinforced by mass media and powers that control popular visual culture. It’s times when the complexities and doldrums of such life get me down, and I return to the basics: nature, small pleasures, silence, and quiet meditation.

I will admit that I was expecting this first reflection to be easy to write, but in writing here, I realize that I am slightly dissatisfied. There is just so much I’d like to say and comment on, so many neglected notes scribbled in the margins, so many thoughts that have not been manifested onto this sheet of paper, that I feel like there are holes everywhere. You will read what I have written, but there are still so many thoughts swirling around inside my head. My frame isn’t big enough to fit my whole story, but then again no medium will ever be big enough to fit a person’s entire collection of thought. Ewald’s words are reassuring though:

“If you’re far enough away to see everything, you’re too far to understand anything.”

Maybe expression is just that: a tiny glimpse of what the person is really about, and the glimpse will never get bigger because no one’s head is really that simple. And you’ll never need to feel sorry about what you don’t see or know, because what you see is what someone chose to show, and that should be enough. Sometimes we just don’t know we have that much in ourselves, as Ewald saw in the case of some children she encountered. In such a case, all we need is to be able to recognize and understand that all of us have something to say, and that the powers to say so are in our own hands.

So perhaps the urge to release more thoughts onto paper will become too overwhelming and another moment will come along and spark me to write it or photograph it or paint it or doodle it, breathing between each word, each click, each stroke, each line ~ returning to the rhythms of the soul and of the universe. . . like those kids in Appalachia, breathing themselves through the lens into the face of a total stranger such as myself. I will probably never meet Denise Dixon or Allen Shepherd or Robert Dean Smith, but for a moment they have lived right there before my eyes and I have seen their faces.


Written this past January for my Literacy Through Photography class. A little bit of background/my initial thoughts about LTP.