Tuesday, September 22, 2009


My school's theme for this year is “Do Hard Things” and us teachers are alternatively cajoling and encouraging our students during assemblies and homeroom to choose a goal, a hard thing to do for the glory of God. This theme is based on the book by the teenage twins Bret and Alex Harris encouraging teens to start a “rebelution” against the low expectations placed on them.

My students are rising to meet our challenge. One student has decided to build a Tanzanian orphanage for his senior service learning project. Another to mentor children out in a village. Some are choosing to heal broken friendships, learn to play the guitar, or earn an “A” in a challenging class.

In my 8th grade homeroom I’ve been inspiring my students by researching together Biblical heroes who did hard things for the glory of God. Sometimes I share stories of kids who have surpassed expectations, like a 17 year old who sailed around the world. Or a five year old who raised 30 thousand dollars for orphans. Then sometimes I have my students encourage each other through writing notes or prayer.

Pushing my students to persevere, to press on to achieve their hard things is exhilarating. This school year promises to see great things accomplished by the kids at HOPAC.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chronicle One of a Cycler

...Fingers crossed I’ll live to write many more

Now I can meet Dar es Salaam on its own terms. Now I have a bike. Last weekend I bought a UK mountain bike off young Mcfarlane, a Northern Irish student of mine. After taking it out on a main road this afternoon I am so thankful it’s a mountain bike and built for rough riding. The streets are deeply rutted and covered in sandy dirt and frequently I had to veer off the cement to avoid being hit by a rogue dalla dalla [local bus] or construction truck.

This danger added to the charm of my quest to find a Luku station [prepaid electricity for my house]. Like in all cities, I only feel engaged and truly a part of my surroundings if I’m out there on my bike, vulnerable, sweating, but very much in the city. My city experiences are typically rougher than the average American’s as they are mainly in packed third world countries.

Riding through Dar I battled a terrific sea breeze, school children loitering in my path and calling out at me, and the quick stream of traffic zipping past. With the dust blowing in my face and the uncertainty of knowing where I’m headed, I enjoyed my adventure.

I can see why some people are driven to bike across countries or even continents. Usually I have the desire to swim around places, but the lure of cycling is growing on me. My housemates were overjoyed when I acquired my bike, and now they send me off on expeditions to buy electricity or pick up bread at a duku [market stall]. However, they’ve informed me that they’ll be kind when it comes to needing juice, only asking for one or two gallons (ha ha ha).

The pictures here are sites I encountered on my foray into the city. The picture at the top is me with my new housemates.

A note on theft

Theft is more common in Dar and even East Africa as a whole than in Bangladesh. Petty theft, muggings, car jacking, smash and grabs-everyone I meet has a story about it. Tonight my next neighbor, Lydia, can over with her two of her teenagers for a game of Bananagrams (our compound addiction). While were playing she informed me they had been robbed Monday night and our guard was consequently dismissed.

Was he associated with the robbery? Don’t know. We do know he’s the only guard our compound head has a bad feeling about. We also know his buddies tend to hang out with him while he’s on duty-did one of them steal? But no matter who is the thief our guard is responsible since he’s employed to be sure no one on the compound is robbed. Tough for the guard.

This makes me wonder several things. Firstly, Bengalis as a whole are poorer than Tanzanians, so why more theft in Tanzania? Secondly, how safe am I anywhere in Dar, including in my own home with a gated compound?