Going Home

We left the Serengeti on Monday morning to travel to the Ngorongoro conservation area. We encountered more hippos, giraffes, elephants, lions and leopards along the way, and ended our tour of the Serengeti on a spectacular note. There was an immediate change in the landscape as soon as we exited the park. Donkeys were now as commonplace as zebras, and the water buffalo were replaced by cattle lead by Maasai herders. The terrain became more and more arid as we entered the territory of the semi-nomadic Maasai tribes.

Near the end of our voyage we stopped at a traditional Maasai village. The locals had long ago figured out the monetary value of their culture through tourism, and we coughed up $30 to watch a Maasai welcoming ceremony. I was skeptical at first, but the clothing, jewelry and dancing were really quite impressive. The music was astounding, as it was based on rhythmic vocal patterns composed of the melodic grunts and hums of Maasai language. We then toured the village to see the houses and learn about the culture. The tour was interesting, and we all purchased some jewelry before heading out.

As our caravan approached the Ngorongoro crater, the arid landscape began to transform into a lush forest. The Maasai villages and herders became more numerous as the grass became greener and higher. When we reached the top of the Ngorongoro caldera, the view into the crater reminded me of a scene from Land Before Time (the first one, not the other 15). There was a start difference between the sparse plains surrounding the crater and the diverse vegetation within the conservation area. However, the cloud cover along the road blocked our visibility. We pulled up to the beautiful Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge, and had our first breath-taking views of the crater.

Don’t quote me on these facts, but here’s what I gathered about the geography of the area: the Ngorongoro crater was formed by the collapse of a volcano millions of years ago. The terrain within the crater is constantly changing, with an assortment of microclimates ranging from salt flats around a mobile lake, swamps around small streams and rivers, dense woods, tall grassy plains, and arid deserts. The distribution of animals is similarly diverse, and covers nearly the entire range of biodiversity as the Serengeti plains. Our first trip into the crater took us through all of these climates, where we saw the same fantastic assortment of wildlife as before. We even saw a rare Rhino, albeit from about a mile away. During the day we stopped at a picnic spot next to a group of hippos (was this a good idea???) where we took a group picture on a big tree on the edge of the lake.

The next day we drove from Ngorongoro crater to Arusha. I don’t remember much of the drive, except for one town along the way that had been invaded by herons. The trees were painted white by their droppings, and the only thing you could here while driving through were the herons’ cries. I wish I could remember the name of the town! We stopped to buy crafts along the way as well. Eventually we made it into Arusha, a large city next to Mt. Kilimanjaro. We checked into the Arusha Mountain Lodge, another gorgeous hotel. (DISCLAIMER: For those of you who are skeptical of all the luxury on my trip, don’t worry! Although I wish it weren’t so, the funding for my Safari adventures came out of my own pocket!) The WiFi, comfy beds and fresh mountain air made the stay incredibly restful.

After another tasty breakfast we checked out to head to the airport. I had a bit of a struggle with my flight due to an overbooking, but I eventually found a solution. Nonetheless, I was left with an 8 hour layover at the airport. After an eternity of blog writing and to-do list planning, I got on my 1 hour flight to Dar and met up with the rest of the group at a hotel in the city. The final leg of my trip home was also a hassle because of some British Airways scheduling errors, but we all made it back safe and sound by the end of the weekend.

All in all, the 2012 Tanzania SITE was a great success, and a thrilling adventure to boot. I expect good things to come as we develop the program and bring new volunteer facilitators to our program in Tanzania. Thank you all for reading, and stay posted as Chelsey kicks off our two SITE programs in Ghana!

Goodbye for now,


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We shipped off for the Serengeti immediately after ending class on Friday. Teachers were still waving goodbyes as we pulled away in the vans. We drove to the Ndabaka gate entrance to the Serengeti National Park and made a pit-stop for some water and cell credits. There were all sorts of animal skulls on the gates, which cast a rather morbid tone on the park. I felt like I was entering Jurassic Park.

We were a bit late in our schedule but we still managed to enjoy the view. We quickly encountered the herds of wildebeest and zebras that cross the Serengeti during the annual migration. I don’t know much about the details, but every year around this time the majority of these herds cross from one area of the Serengeti to another in search of rain and fertile grasses. They were crossing the road in lines and great herds. We even encountered a group of Elephants lead by a particularly protective individual. Our guide urged us to keep quiet as the big one crossed the road about 20 feet in front of the car. When I saw the elephant’s eyes staring us down I knew without a doubt what message they were conveying – don’t mess with us! Elephants are particularly intelligent animals, and I didn’t want to test this group’s resolve. Further along the road we passed giraffes, warthogs and an assortment of birds. It was getting dark by the time we arrived at the Seronara hotel, and we were all excited to check in and relax. Little did we know…

I’ll leave out the gory details, but the logistics of this trip were organized by Paige through a Tanzanian safari guide named Omary. He was an incredible organizer and guide, but a few months ago he tragically passed away. In the mean time, Paige has been trying to pick up the pieces of the trip arrangements and there have been quite a few mishaps along the way. One tour company in particular (Afriventures I think) managed to “lose” quite a bit of deposited money for hotels, and this problem manifested itself during our first night at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. The hotel itself was gorgeous, built around a huge kopje (rock outcropping jutting out of the plains). There was a pool nestled between three large boulders, and the restaurant butted up against another. Unfortunately, our “confirmed” reservation never made it to the hotel, so we had to track down our deposits and find a way to check-in. Eventually we arranged a solution with Paige to come by in the morning, but it was a stressful ordeal in general. At least dinner was still being served when we made it in, and the buffet meal was delicious. We all passed out soon after.

The next morning we woke up early to get ready for our Serengeti safari. Breakfast was tasty and we hopped into our vans for the first real day of adventure. We managed to find a lion pride chewing on a zebra carcass. Although it sounds revolting, the lion cubs playing in the zebras torso were quite cute. The Seronera is the fertile center of the Serengeti and the wildlife was amazingly plentiful. We saw elephants, hippos, giraffes, a cheeta being chased away from its kill by a hyena and vultures, and more. We even caught a rare leopard sighting. The theme of the day was “mating season”, and we had plenty of opportunity to watch nature at work. Tony captured all of this on his production quality gear and we got some great shots from our resident photographers. In the middle of the day we stopped back at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge for a delicious lunch and afternoon nap. We had split off into groups for the afternoon safari so that Gavin and Amanda could go to a hot-air balloon ride and Pat and Tony could do some work with Paige at her hotel. That left seven of us returning to the Seronera Lodge for an unwelcome surprise.

I’m not one to troll the blogosphere with hotel reviews, but our ordeals at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge were particularly obnoxious. Upon entering the lobby, we were told that we had to pay full rates before we could return to our rooms. Our bags were held ransom and we were forced to pay or check out. Keep in mind that the sun had already set and it is illegal to drive in the Serengeti after dark. Thus, we were effectively held captive by the hotel’s manager. When we approached him about this, we asked how the situation had become so much worse after he had assured us this afternoon that he had “taken care of” our payment mishaps. The discussion quickly turned into a petty argument with name-calling and general ill-will. We eventually had to pay an elevated rate split between three of us before leaving for dinner, disgusted with the management of the hotel. Dinner was tasty but we were all in sour moods. The only thing that saved the evening was the movie Shaun of the Dead, which we watched in the hotel bar on my laptop. Although we had technically “reserved” the hotel for another night we made sure to pack up our luggage so they couldn’t ransom it again the next day. The next morning Paige met us to help straighten out the situation. The Seronera management was entirely unhelpful, as expected, but Paige managed to resolve our bookings for the remainder of the trip. By check-out we were informed that our pre-booked rooms had “filled up”, and we were cordially invited to get out. Granted, the place was starting to give me the creeps and I was more than happy to leave.

The morning safari was again wonderful, and we encountered several lions sprawled across the Kopje rocks. For lunch, we stopped by the Serengeti museum/visitor center to meet up with the other groups and watch the hyraxes (a rabbit-sized furry rodent) scamper around. With the lion sightings, cheetas, leopards and other incredible sights we were in great spirits at the end of the day when we stopped by at the rest house Bakari had found us. It wasn’t exactly 5 stars, but the place served as a stop-over for researchers and had a wonderful homey atmosphere. We had a brief scare when we found our rooms locked, but it was quickly resolved. Paige even booked us a fancy dinner at the Serena Serengeti Lodge and we enjoyed a wonderful night. We even managed to finish Shaun of the Dead. The following morning we almost saw a lion capture a Zebra, but the hunt was rudely interrupted by our loud truck and a resident crossing the street. At last we met up with the rest of the group and began our journey out of the Serengeti and towards the Ngorongoro crater!

Onwards and Upwards!


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Thursday and Friday were both so frantic that I’ve lumped them into a single post. It’s a bit lengthy, but I think it captures the spirit of the Zariki 2012 Summer Institute of Technology and Engineering.

Thursday started off early. Chelsey and I had been working on Thursday’s lesson plan for the past week and we still weren’t quite sure what to expect. The class was a staple of the ELiTE curriculum, but over the past few years we still hadn’t quite managed to condense the class into a succinct and comprehensive unit. The class introduces simple machines (ramps, levers, screws, wedges, pulleys and wheels) as the foundations of mechanics, and I had no experience teaching the topic. I woke up at 5AM to discuss the lesson plan with Chelsey and worked frantically through the morning to arrange my class.

When I arrived at the school I came up with my first real lead on the lesson. While scouring the campus for materials to use for the inclined plane and lever experiments, I discovered a welded iron ladder that had been used to install the solar panels. I set up a fence post as a fulcrum on top of a raised mound of dirt, and produced a rather elegant see-saw. The students had not yet arrived so I wasn’t worried about making a bad impression. Thus, I decided to see what I could do with the contraption. Matt and I found a large rock and set it up on one end of the ladder, while I jumped on the other end to launch the rock into the air. There was a bit of a rise, but we decided to slide the ladder down a bit to get better leverage for our DIY catapult. Matt came in this time to launch the stone, and promptly fell on his behind as the rock sailed 5 feet up into the air. Luckily no one was hurt (we have proof on video!), and I can safely say that the activity gave Matt a solid ‘grounding’ in mechanics.

(picture & viral youtube clip on Holly’s camera!!!)

The ladder was removed after this fiasco, but I found another fencepost to take its place for the lesson. Once the students arrived we discussed the principles of force, energy and power before launching into our activity. The students measured the force required to pull a fifty-pound stone up the ramp at different angles, and compared it to the force required to pull it straight up through the air. After some calculations, we found the force of friction on the rock and confirmed the result with another experiment. We followed this with a smaller demonstration using a small weight and a tilted desk. After the inclined plane experiment, we set up the contraption as a lever and measured the force required to lift the rock with the lever resting at different positions on the fencepost fulcrum. We worked through some preliminary calculations before breaking for a late lunch.

The afternoon session didn’t run quite as smoothly. I strung up a couple pulleys from the rafters and looped a rope through the assembly to test the system’s mechanical advantage. I asked one student to hang on to an end of the rope while another tried pulling him up. We quickly discovered that one pulley had little effect on the apparent weight of the student hanging off of the rope. I looped the rope through a second pulley and we suddenly had very little trouble lifting the student’s weight. However, when I tried attaching more pulleys the friction from the rope jammed the system and we weren’t able to get any more mechanical advantage. I was flustered by this set-back and I think I bored the class to death while I tried to find a solution. Eventually I moved on to the activity for the wheel and axel and we had a great time. I gave students a collection of gears, Styrofoam boards to use as platforms, and pointed them towards the Wiba needles in the Acacia tree in the yard (think cactus spikes) to use as axels. The students played around with the equipment to set up gear trains that could distribute power and rotational speed differently based on the ratio between the gear sizes. We then connected battery-powered motors to the contraptions, and eventually motors powered by my small solar panels, to create powered drive trains. The students had a blast making little machines from the equipment and learned a great amount about the transmission of force through gear systems.

The delay from the gear activity ate up our time for an afternoon competition, so after class I jumped in the car to go back to the hotel. We had to relocate for a night, and so we drove a few miles away to the Ndabaka hotel in Lamadi. The hotel had wifi (hooray!!) so I finished some blog entries and checked my email. We had a delicious buffet dinner, and after some more time at the computer I went to bed.

I slept wonderfully. We had a late start in the morning because of breakfast and transportation delays, but I had already planned a shorter lesson anyways. We started the class by revisting the gear systems the students put together on Thursday. I asked the students to attach motors to their machines without batteries, so that they could measure the current and potential generated by the motors with the multimeters. The students watched as the multimeter registered different amounts of power depending on which gears the students turned. The activity wasn’t exactly precise, but I think the class started to grasp the basic function of a dynamo. After playing for a bit we took a quick Math break to solve the quadratic equation (a request from the students!). Then I introduced the practical application of the motor dynamo for electricity generation.

I set a pile of popsicle sticks, glue, string, cardboard and other materials at the front of the class and asked the students to try their hand at electricity generation. Most groups worked on simple mechanical generators, but a few put together model windmills and water wheels! All of the groups managed to crank out some usable electricity to power a small LED, and a few of the projects really started to look like the real thing! I was incredibly impressed with the students grasp of the concept and resourcefulness with their projects. This class really highlighted ELiTE’s mission and goals, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As a finale to the SITE classes I’d say it was a huge success.

During the generator class I took aside a few students for interviews with Tony. The language barrier was challenging, but we got some good feedback from our students. I also spoke with the Zariki teachers to set up plans for post-session ELiTE activities. The afternoon was busy but productive. I even managed to squeeze a few minutes for lunch into the day! By two PM we started the final engineering challenge: the water balloon drop. This challenge was based on the common elementary school Egg Drop. I gave each group a full water balloon and told them to use available materials to protect their balloon from bursting after a fall from a particular height. They only had 50 minutes to build, but the students were experts at this point in the engineering contests. Some groups used straw to cushion their balloons while others combined Styrofoam with cardboard for a more rigid structure. These products were the most creative I had seen so far and I was really excited for the final contest. At the end of the timer I stood up on a table and gathered the students around for the drop.

The contest was arranged as a single-elimination sequence of levels, from a low drop all the way to a toss into the air. All of the balloons made it through the first couple levels. The tension really started to peak once I started reaching high into the air to drop the balloons from a significant height. With Tony’s camera rolling, we anxiously watched as three of the six balloons burst. We entered the next round with shouts and applause as I started tossing the balloon containers into the air. One after another, each contraption burst the balloon until the very last entry. Every set of eyes was fixated on the balloon as I launched it into the air, and miraculously the package was picked up off the ground without leaking a single drop of water. The crowd roared with applause as I lifted the winning entry into the air, until a thin trickle of water dripped out of the container and the we all burst into laughter. The competition was a fantastic spectacle, and I’m thrilled that Tony captured it all on video! After we cleaned up and said goodbyes I improvised a cheesy speech for the students. It was such a short program that it was a shock to say goodbye, but I look forward to the Tanzania SITE in the future. With teachers and students shouting out goodbyes we hopped into our Safari Trucks and headed off for the Serengeti!



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There’s electricity in the air

OK, please forgive these belated posts once again. I just arrived at our hotel in Arusha and I finally have access to internet! Please read through to find out about the second half of the Zariki SITE and my safari adventures!

Wednesday was my first lesson of the Zariki SITE that I had taught before. I planned a lesson solely devoted to electronics and electricity so that students could grasp the role of the electrical grid as an energy source and conveyor. I taught this particular lesson a couple years ago in Ghana, and I felt very confident about the class. I slept in, showed up a few minutes late, and still felt prepared for the day.

I began the lesson by giving the students a crash course in electricity. Using a mixture of Swanglish words to describe current, potential, resistance and electrical power I managed to get the students acquainted with the subject. Of course, Amos and Peter helped immensely with their translations and analogs to the Mtera and Kidatu hydroelectric damns, using the classic metaphor of flowing water as electricity. We continued with the falling water metaphor to test out the resistance of various materials, and intuited some basic rules of current potential in circuits through similar means.

Once the students semed satisfied with our discussion of electricity, I brought out the breadboards. We talked about the arrangement of the breadboard as a simple way to connect wires together, and we even managed to put together home-made breadboards from cardboard, tin foil and some tape! My roomie for the trip, Matt, sorted our electronic components earlier that morning with the help of a few students, so we were in great shape to start putting together some simple circuits. We started with the basics, and the students quickly put together LED-battery-resistor circuits that lit up. Although there were the necessary bulb casualties when students forgot to connect their resistors, we made it through unscathed and (despite the stoic expressions in the photo below!) we managed to light up more than a few students’ smiles.

I was burning through my lesson so quickly that I was at a loss for my next move, so I gave the students multimeters and solar panels to experiment with. The students had a blast connecting the small panels I brought to their circuits. They were enthralled as they probed different parts of the circuits with the multimeter to take a closer look at their productions. By lunch I had exhausted my entire lesson plan for the day, a great accomplishment in its own right, but I was left feeling a bit bewildered going in to my afternoon class.

I fumbled for a few minutes during the afternoon session before I recalled the smash-hit class I taught in Ghana a couple years ago about digital communication and the telegraph. I asked students to build telegraph machines separated by a card-board divider set between two desks. A telegraph is essentially a simple circuit that turns on and off a signal (in our case, a small LED light) based on an operator’s switch. By sharing a circuit, the students could flicker each other’s lights to send a digital Morse code signal back and forth. I sat down with Amos at the contraption to demonstrate how information could be communicated through the circuit. The students caught on quickly, and by the end of the class each group had formed their own Swahili-English-Telegraph dictionary and were conversing with each other in Binary (or Trinary, depending how you look at it). Despite my anxiety at the beginning of the improvised lesson, the class was a huge hit!

The engineering contest for the day was another ELiTE classic: bridge building! The challenge was to construct a structure out of the provided materials that could span the space between two desks (about half a meter) and hold a bag of rocks off of the ground. I gave students twine, popsicle sticks, tape, string and whatever else they could find on the ground, and about 45 minutes to build. At this point in the program, the students were very familiar with the engineering challenges and competition was fierce. We had rope bridges, simple spanning beams from reinforced popsicle sticks, the beginnings of a triangular trussed structure (not quite!) and a great creative energy in the air. The competition was dramatic, and there was a close finish at the end (the winner supported 5 rocks, 2nd and 3rd place tied with 4 rocks, and 4th place finished with 3 rocks).

After class I went for another run, did some work, and called it a night. All in all, Wednesday was a very rewarding day.



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Tuesday started with another early morning, but this time after 8 hours of quality sleep. I watched the sunrise by candle light while writing this blog post, it was a great way to start the day. However, no one mentioned the swarms of mosquitos that come out at dawn! I ran back inside for some long pants and a sweater and settled in for some lesson planning and journaling.



I met Corinne and Tony for breakfast on the patio. We enjoyed yet another beautiful morning watching flocks of birds glide across the lake. Since we were lucky enough to have Waziri available for a ride, we made it to Zariki in no time. I spent the morning setting up my lesson on Solar Energy. When the students gathered for class I noticed a few new faces. In fact, my class size had doubled and there were now enough girls to equalize the gender ratio. This was a pleasant surprise, but I realized once we started doing another round of intros/ice breakers. We made it through with all the new students, and though the number of names I had to remember had doubled, the energy in the classroom was picking up.



We spent the day exploring thermal solar energy. Light from the sun can produce energy on Earth in a few different ways, including the conversion of organic matter into plant growth during photosynthesis, electricity generation from solar panels, and lastly (and perhaps most significantly) warming of the Earth. We started by trying to capture sunlight as heat, experimenting with a kit of solar ovens that Paige brought from the U.S. We began by finding the best way to capture sunlight: we hooked up a multimeter to a solar panel to measure the sunlight intensity and experimented with tin foil reflectors, different orientations, and coverage with transparent insulation to concentrate the light. After this task, we set about finding the best way to heat a sample of water in the enclosed oven. We set up an array of samples, from enclosed water-filled jump ropes, to cut-open soda cans wrapped in plastic bags and tin foil. These experiments were surprisingly conclusive and we managed to compile a list of solar heating guidelines that closely matched the instructions in the manual. Hooray!



Once our experiments were finished, we were ready to test out our solar ovens for real. Pat and Holly (two members of our ~15 person contingent on the trip) lead the charge to prepare ready-to-bake chocolate and blueberry muffin mixes for the solar oven. The cooking required some eyeballing and improvisation, and we were all fairly skeptical of the endeavor from the start. We shut the lids on our two batches of muffins and left the sun to start cooking. Meanwhile, I arranged the students into five groups and gave them the challenge to make the best DIY solar oven they could improvise from the materials at hand (pots and pans, plastic bags, aluminum foil, water bottles, tape, etc.). I tried my hand at the challenge to see if I could show them all a real engineer at work. I was confident in my superior technical abilities while we left the ovens to work.



During that time we gathered in the classroom and played Pass the Roll of Tape, a game I improvised to get the students to speak up more in class. Everyone wrote science-related questions on the board, and whoever caught (or was hit by) a roll of tape tossed their way had to go to the front of the class and voice their thoughts about one of the questions. I think the students started to open up a bit by the time we finished, and we were all excited to see the results of our DIY water heater competition and solar-baked muffins. Feeling very sure of myself, I made sure all of the other groups measured their water temperature first. Some of the designs were actually quite clever, employing a high surface area on a contraption of pans and water bottles to quickly heat the water. I should have noticed this earlier, because when my water was tested I found out that my design came in dead last. Oh well, I guess I’ll just stick to teaching. We took out the muffins to find them perfectly baked and deliciously fluffy, and I bitterly handed the winning group their well-deserved chocolate muffins.


The next activity on the agenda was another engineering challenge. This one was inspired by the fishing village Mwaburugu next to Zariki. The goal was to build a boat out of limited materials that would float the most weight in water. We took the whole group of students down to the waterfront for the competition. Students had Styrofoam, tape, water bottles, balloons and other scattered things to work with.  We set the clock for 40 minutes of build time and set them loose. By this time our strange activity had attracted the attention of dozens of local children, so it became quite difficult to walk around and watch the students work. Tony, a film producer who has been speaking with ELiTE’s directors on a potential film shoot, did his best to capture the action despite the chaos. The testing was fun because many students were from the village and jumped into canoes next to the water to help float the contraptions. It became a little difficult to judge a winner after several rounds of tied results, but we all had a good time and got some fresh air. We headed back to Zariki once the ‘Zoruba’ (a large thunder storm over the lake) drifted onto shore



After class I packed up and joined Nicole Ellis back to Lamadi to get internet access. Nicole is a fellow Columbia alum who is at the start of a year-long solo trip around the world. She arrived in Lamadi about a week ago, but was side-lined by malaria and other fun tropical guests once we arrived. Her stories and plans were fascinating, and the local ginger beer (more ginger-y ginger ale) we picked up in town ended the class day on a good note. I went back to Speke Bay to join the rest of the gang for a relaxing evening and dinner.


Next on the agenda for blogging will be the remainder of the SITE classes! I may be out of the grid a little while longer, but I’ll do my best to get everything posted. Thanks for your patience!




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Speke Bay Lodge

Speke Bay Lodge is run by two Dutch expats and it is a remarkable place to spend a night or two. The rooms are in standalone huts that come with independent solar energy, hot water generation, water filtration and ventilation, and look out over a pristine view across Lake Victoria. There were thousands of colorful birds flying around the lake, and I can imagine that the Lodge would be a haven for bird watchers. When I got there it was pitch black and eerily quiet. I had a delicious but peculiar dinner waiting for me, alone, at the head of a 10 person table that had been set aside for the rest of the group. Luckily a couple of the hotel staff (Juliane and Jacqueline) kept me company and answered some of my questions about the place. I had quite a bit of work to do so I went back to my room right away to finish my lesson plans. The anticipation of my first class on Monday kept me up until the power went out at 11PM, when the hotel’s generator went off. I suppose there is a romantic quality to staying up late working by candlelight with the waves of Lake Victoria washing ashore outside, but I was just hoping for more light. I was a bit skeptical about finding my way to the shower and into the intricate mosquito netting by cell phone flashlight, but the miraculously hot water in the shower quickly put me at ease.

Monday was the kick-off for the Tanzania mini-SITE this week. Even on 5 hours of sleep, anticipation for the first day made me feel wide awake. I was greeted at the dining room by a fresh plate of local fruit, a gorgeous sunrise and a team of colorful chirping birds that came straight out of an old Disney movie. I was in a great mood when I left for Zariki, which was a good thing; I wasn’t confident that students would show up, let alone that the day would be a big hit.

I had planned a brand new lesson for Monday morning to introduce students to the scientific concept of Energy. I can’t remember if I already explained the theme of this SITE, so I’ll start over. Since the school is installing new solar panels for electricity, the ELiTE team decided that this mini-SITE should focus on topics of Energy. We created a curriculum titled “Using Energy” that was intended to teach students how to think about, and practically employ, energy from a variety of sources. The first lesson was intended to give students an intuitive sense of energy, by teaching them to measure their own force, energy and power. I created a track in the Zariki playground for students to measure their sprinting speed, acceleration, force and power, and worked with Susan and Justin to find heavy rocks for students to try pulling.

(Pictures coming soon, on someone else’s camera!)

I hadn’t expected the language barrier to be such an issue. Swahili is firmly established as the national language of Tanzania, and students aren’t traditionally exposed to English until secondary school. It didn’t take me long to realize that I would need some help to discuss the abstract concepts of work and power. Luckily enough, I had two English-speaking teachers from Zariki in my class to help out. We began talking about how much energy different household appliances, vehicles, animals and countries use, and comparing it to the amount generated by a variety of sources. We then went outside to measure each student’s personal powerplant directly, using a tape measure, stopwatch and spring scales. Paige and her family eventually arrived and we enjoyed the delightful company of Paige’s children Austin and Mackenzie, who helped get us through my confusing English phrasing with vigorous enthusiasm. All of the students were shocked to find out that their own power capacity (we calculated about 400 Joules per second, or 400 Watts of pulling power), paled in comparison to the energy present in a loaf of bread (about 400,000 Joules per Slice), let alone a litre of gasoline (about 40,000,000 Joules per Litre!). We broke for lunch and enjoyed a healthy break from all of that sprinting in the noon-time sun.

Our second class of the day was intended to teach students about Chemical energy. I helped students put together Calorimeters (think glorified tea kettle with a thermometer attached) from soda cans. We then gathered a variety of common fuels, including candles, kerosene and cooking oil. Students tried to measure how the Calorimeter water temperature rose over time to compare the energy produced by each type of fuel. Even Austin and a few Zariki primary students came over to help out! Peter and Amos were incredibly helpful with translation and we made a lot of progress by the end of the afternoon.

Before finishing the class day, we held a small engineering challenge – an ELiTE staple. The first challenge was the classic water tower contest, where students compete to build the highest tower that can hold a full 1.5L bottle of water. We gave the students sticks, leaves, twigs and string to create their structures. It took a few minutes for me to convince them that this was in fact a worthwhile activity for a free afternoon, and they eventually started to have a great time with the contest. The end of the competition was dramatic, with a come-from-behind finish that pushed the struggling team into first place. They were very excited!

After class I went back to Speke Bay where I jogged for a bit before joining the rest of the group at the bar. Dinner was delicious, and after a few more hours of lesson planning I crashed for the night. All in all, Monday was more than I could have wished for, and I went to bed feeling optimistic for the program. Capping off with that closing sentiment, I promise that there will be more to come!



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Catching Up

It has been a few days since I last had internet access, so the three posts I’m putting up today are all a bit belated. They’re also way too short to actually account for everything that has been going on, but hopefully I’ll get some pictures uploaded to make up for the lack.

I left off on Saturday night after arriving in Lamadi at the Fly Emirates Lodge. Lamadi is a popular rest stop for truckers who ferry goods from Tanzania to Kenya and Uganda. Maersk cargo containers, furniture shipments and other bulk goods are common sights along the road. Hence, much of Lamadi’s income is from rest houses and bars. Suzana told me that although this activity is a bit off-putting to many of the townspeople, it brings in a great deal of wealth. Lamadi is quite well off, especially compared to its neighboring towns and villages. The town was lively on Saturday night (as with most other nights, I hear) but I still managed to get a great night of sleep.

Suzana greeted me in the morning for breakfast and brought me to the same restaurant I visited earlier. We had Chai, Chabati and Samosas, all of which had me questioning whether I was in Africa or India. Chai is how Tanzanian’s refer to all tea, but the tasty preparation with the milk and tea they used at breakfast reminded me of the $5 cups of Chai that Starbucks sells. Chabati is a thin dough pancake, like a crepe, that I think is common in Indian cuisine, and the samosas were filled with delicious beef and veggies, wrapped in a paper-thin dough and cooked to perfection. After such a delicious breakfast I was prepared for a long day of SITE planning.

Suzana and I took a taxi to Zariki Primary School after breakfast. I was surprised by the school the first time we passed it; there are only three small classrooms in the middle of an open field on the side of the road. The school was empty at the time, but as I soon discovered, Zariki gets its substance from the teachers and students that crowd its small campus. We spent a couple hours talking about the ELiTE SITE program, during which Suzana, Justin and the other teachers offered incredibly helpful and creative input to my original plans.

As we continued to talk into lunch time, I learned more about the story behind the Zariki school. Paige’s father Richard, while traveling in the area several years ago, discovered Suzana teaching a group of primary school children underneath a tree. In the village of Mwaburugu and the nearby town of Lamadi, there are at least 100 children for each primary school classroom, so many children simply get crowded out of class. Add to this predicament the common lifestyle of drinking and debauchery that most of the men in the community tend to enjoy after their fishing trips, and one can understand the type of conditions these children have to grow up in. Richard was inspired by Suzana and the other teachers’ dedication and helped fund the construction of the new Zariki school. The teachers are now working with Paige and her family to get the school registered with the government and expanded into a full-sized institution.

After a long morning we drove back to Lamadi for lunch and a well-needed break. This meal matched a fresh fried chicken with a dough-like item called Ugana (or something that sounds like that), which was nearly identical to Ghanaian Banku (tasty!). Following a brief nap at Fly Emirates, Suzana and I began to wonder about the fate of rest of our group. They had been scheduled to meet us in Lamadi early in the afternoon, and we had not receivedd any updates from them all day. We finally heard from Waziri that all of the travelers were held back by a mechanical issue with their plane, pushing their 6PM flight back 1 hour, then 2, 3 and so on. After what sounded like a miserable evening at the Dar airport, they left for Mwanza around 11PM. They decided to stay in Mwanza for the night rather than risking the dark roads at 2AM, so I was on my own for the night. Suzana helped me bring my luggage to the luxurious Speek Bay Hotel to check in, and thus I spent another night as a ‘Solo Pilot’ on my trip through Tanzania.

Asante for reading, and come back soon!


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