Firstly, at breakfast I said "Hmm, maybe I will have a second cup of coffee" and Kevin said "Mick never has a second cup of coffee at home..." It was a reference to the movie Flying High (or Airplane for USA'ers) which made me laugh heartily and also reminded me of my two awesome brothers who would also laugh at that joke. Kevin's dream about a scottish rugby playing beer drinking chick pulling volunteer was also funny.
Then I went to French House and laughed at the new vollies learning swahili and got some great feedback on my proposal from June and Rowan, complimenting the work that Michelle and Sarah had done.
Then I visited SEDA and met with the Operations Director Joyce who liked the sound of Loans for Learning which is great.
Then I went into town and met with Karin, the new country manager, and Katherine and Claudia (who are coming to Australia soon...) and I got 3 packages from the post office. One from Brett with cash and a new scientist, one from June with great stuff for the orphans, and one from my mum and dad which rocked!! It had Tim Tams, vegemite, post cards I can give as gifts, some music, and a cd with a video on it from all the family at Christmas.
It was so good - THANKS RYAN - YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!! And thanks to all the family for starring in it.
Then when I thought things couldn't get any better, walking home on Old Moshi Road just past the AICC clinic, just near Everest Chinese Restaurant (the one with the small Chinese lady) and there was a tortoise crossing the road. It was about the size of a rugby football and looked sturdy, but it didn't really stand a chance against the Old Moshi Road traffic. Two dala dalas coming from town and a big truck with 50 guys in the back coming to town. So my amazing sense of courage chimed in and I picked up the tortoise and carried it across the road to the grass on the other side. By now about 20 locals had gathered to see what this crazy mzungu is doing and I smiled as the tortoise poked it's head back out and slowly crawled away. I just hope none of the locals decided to have soup that night??
Then I played soccer in a dusty field with some locals and despite scoring an own goal (which made them all laugh) i had a ball. Then a drink at AICC club with some new volunteers, then dinner at French house, then drinks at Via Via and some table dancing which is encouraged here, then back to french house for some salsa dancing.
It's going to be tough to match this years events. Just the locations.
On Christmas eve I went with my fellow volunteers Phil, Reina, Claudia and Katherine, to the Haruma Orphanage south of Arusha. You can get a daladala most of the way, but with 4 of us and our luggage we got a taxi to the new bridge. Then we walked up the dirt road past some locals who yelled some wellwishes to us and made it to the orphanage. It was my first visit, and being greeted by the kids was amazing. They were all smiles and offerings of help. We were carrying presents though, so we managed.
The orphange is a U shaped building with the arms being rooms and a crude toilet/shower. The main part of the building has a room for some volunteers, a room for storage and cooking and a main hall type room where the kids get together to eat or pray. It is full of hand prints, pictures and colour.
At the end of the U is a swing set, now sitting next to another swing set that Katherine and Claudia arranged, and some others including me helped paint (my boardshorts will never be the same.) They also have a bit of a crude football pitch. And they now have a pump to get water, which is great since the nearest stream is 30 minutes away.
Anyway, we played with the kids, who love to play anything, then we secretly took arrival of the new swing set. Then we snuck off in a taxi, all 7 of us (Mike and John had come along for the ride) and made our way to Masai Camp to meet up with Kevin and Aussie Simon. It was Phil's last night so we treated him to too much of everything and enjoyed an open game of "Never have I ever..."
After some Shoosha smoking (or choking) we got to Colubus Night Club (although we lost Kevin and Mike along the way). It was full of locals which was great and despite hearing "Tempted to touch" four or five times we had a ball. Phil was nearly passed out, so we decided to go home at 3pm.
On the way home our taxi was stopped by a bunch of Masai's and others with big knives. They questioned our driver and then questioned me since I was the only one awake in our taxi. They were local security. Christmas is a really rough time with a lot more crime. They let us past and we jumped out at the bridge and walked the last 500m. I told Katherine I could see Meru and she said I was kidding myself, then I pointed it out and she thought I meant Meru House Inn... Much laughter.
4am - Sleep.
6am - Wake with first kids.
9am - Wake as big kids come back from church (people go to church early and stay all night as it is too dangerous to leave and come home then...)
10am - I dress up as Santa again, but this time I get a rousing reception and some clapping in time as each kid (small and big) gets on my lap and gets a present. The vollies had a great idea to give each kid their own gift of lollies, and a small toy, but then also to have any bigger toys shared by all.
Then I got a call from mum and dad, and spoke to Wayne and Sal. Even Jazmine got on briefly to tell me that a fire engine went past. Thanks for the call guys.
After that, we all played on the swing set while John did a small documentary. Some more football and playing, then it was time for home.
Back at Mama Happy's I had a not so normal Christmas lunch with Kevin, and others joining later. It wasn't the big family affair I'd hoped for. but the food was good, and they even named a dish after me. I'd been wrapping my chipati (like a pancake, but not sweet) up with ndizi (banana) and so they wrapped up a bunch and called them Chipati Micky. They call me Micky here since nearly all Swahili words end in a vowel sound.
In the afternoon we gave out some presents to the family we live with. Kevin got me two great shirts - one with "real men wear black" and a tiger on it, and the other with "I was repaired in Rochester - at the Mayo Clinic" Wayne - I hope you like the flying high reference. I got him a Dilbert book on business stupidity.
And then New Years Eve...
Despite last minute preparations, New Years Eve turned out amazing. 8 of us took off to Arusha National Park with a driver and a very jam packed land cruiser. We had an afternoon game drive where we saw giraffess, buffalo, some leopard kill in a tree (or so I think it was anyway), some black and white colobus monkeys jumping in trees, lots of skulking warthogs, some waterbucks and some birds.
Then we found our amazing campsite under this massive tree. There were monkeys jumping in trees around us... We set up camp, started a fire, got some of our plentiful food ready and had a beer.
After a couple of games and more beer we played some music and drank some more beer. Then noticing that we were running low on drinks, some of the crew took off in search of more. Those left behind were watched by cat's eyes in the bushes. Creepy but cool.
I don't know how, but they came back with more beer (where do you find beer in a national park in Africa on New Years Eve...).
So we drank and counted down for the New Year. Then we sang some s ongs including a loud Brown Eyed Girl, but there was no one to hear except animals.
Soon after, some of us hit the tents and others lay by the fire to await sunrise. Some wrestling occured apparently, which Sarah obviously won.
In the morning, the Twins made a great breakfast (I thought so) and then we went for a walk to the waterfall. It was freezing but refreshing. We also saw a bunch of animals which was great.
After a bumpy ride back home we dribbled out of the car and did not much all day.
Thanks to Baba Kombe for coming to the rescue on getting us there with tents and stuff. And thanks to our driver who I could never pronounce his name. Thanks also to Sarah for making it happen and Kevin for the idea. And thanks to Mike for the great cake. Thanks to Katherine and Claudia for the games and the breakfast. Thanks to Raina for the Mafia game. Thanks to Elizabeth for the deep and meaningful.
P.S. I still wish all my other friends could of been with me........