Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wanawake wamepanda pikipiki kuukuu la pinki.

(Translation: The women ride the old pink motorcycle. Or something like that.)

Two weeks until I leave for Tanzania! Everything is coming together slowly, and I’m doing a lot to prepare in many ways. For one, I cut off about five inches of my hair last week. By the end of the spring semester it had grown to be pretty long, and long hair is definitely not something I want to deal with in Tanzania and especially not in Costa Rica, where I’ll be doing a lot of hiking, camping, and field research. Right now I’m in Dallas visiting my grandparents and I’ll spend most of next week in Virginia Beach, coming back home for my younger sister’s high school graduation on Friday, May 23. Before I left for Dallas I ordered a whole bunch of stuff online that I couldn’t seem to find in stores near Concord – for example, hydration tablets, water treatment tablets, and an iPod voice recorder.

As many of you know, I sent out an e-mail last week asking for donations from friends and family to buy supplies for the LTP project in Tanzania. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of good-luck wishes and money that I received from my grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, professors, and others. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for the fact that I was able to raise $985, which will go an incredibly long way toward making our project more effective and sustainable. I’ll be teaching up to 100 students at a time, and having enough supplies such that they can all take part individually in the process of learning photography and writing is vital. We are also hoping to leave behind supplies and money so that the teachers can continue the program after our two-month stay, and it looks like this is going to be very feasible thanks to you all. I’ve already ordered some extra Polaroid film and will soon order some Kodak photo paper using this money. To everyone who donated, it means the world to me and I love you all. I’ll do my best to post regularly (with pictures) so that you can all see the difference you’re making.

I’ve been trying to spend more time each day (maybe three-ish hours per day) working on learning Swahili with the Rosetta Stone software, and I feel like I’m making some decent progress. Besides learning some basic nouns and verbs, I’ve learned some colors, numbers, and a bit about sentence structure in the present tense (although it’s pretty confusing in general). Some of my favorite words so far? Pikipiki (motorcycle), wanawake (women), buluu (blue), pinki (pink), kuukuu (old, in the sense of an old car), ndizi (banana), and zabibu (grape) are a few. The word for table is meza, which all you Spanish speakers will appreciate, and the word for strawberry is strouberi. In my personal opinion, Swahili is generally much cooler than English. I think I’m going to start giving my pets names in Swahili (watch out, Wentworth [the giant Maine Coon cat]…)

One last thing I’ve been doing to prepare is reading Wendy Ewald’s book, I Wanna Take Me A Picture. Dr. Ewald works at Duke in both the Franklin Center and the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) and will be traveling to work with us in Arusha. She started the Literacy Through Photography program over twenty years ago, and has traveled around the world teaching photography and writing to children. Her book outlines the tenets of the LTP program and has given me a lot of insight not only about strategies for teaching, but also as to how I should think about the process in general. If you’re really interested in learning more about how this all works, I recommend reading this book – it’s very accessible and an enjoyable read as it includes various anecdotes.

I hope everyone is enjoying the beginnings of summer! Maybe next time I’ll be able to write my post in Swahili… (not).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blogging, Buying, and Learning Swahili

So, I'm new to this whole blogging thing. I haven't kept a journal or a diary since elementary school, which as some of you know ended in disaster and thus I don't intend on ever doing so again. However, this blog is going to be my way of keeping in touch with family in friends while I travel the world for the next seven months, so I'm going to try to resurrect my diary-writing skills while keeping in mind the important difference that the whole world (or at least that portion of it with internet access) can read what I'm writing.

Today, I sent out an e-mail to a somewhat random selection of my family and friends soliciting donations for the Literacy Through Photography (LTP) project that I'll be working on this summer in Arusha, Tanzania. Once again I have been reminded that my friends and family are absolutely amazing, and it's looking like I'll be able to buy a lot of extra film, cameras, markers, etc etc to take to Arusha. That will make a huge difference, as we already know that some of our main limitations are going to be resources-based. If anyone didn't get that e-mail and would like to make a contribution, feel free to get in touch with me.

Also today, I went on what was probably the most expensive but necessary shopping spree of my entire life. I bought a few things for Tanzania, but mostly stuff for Costa Rica - hiking backpack, ultra-compressible sleeping bag, headlamp, Swiss army knife, dry-fit clothing... you get the idea. Despite the fact that I spent a painful amount of money, I'm not done yet. Preparing for seven months of travel is intense and expensive, but so far I'm having a lot of fun. In my experience, the fact that you're about to embark on some amazing trip doesn't sink in until you start buying and packing. My main worry right now is wondering how I'm going to fit everything into one suitcase for Tanzania. I'm carrying two large-ish laptops to Arusha to help with a project completely unrelated to my own as well as a good deal of supplies for LTP... thus, I've already resigned myself to paying the overweight baggage fee. Life goes on.

The other preparation activity that's occupying my time is my somewhat pathetic attempt to learn Swahili. I purchased the Rosetta Stone software for Swahili, and my plan is to spend a good chunk of time on it every day before I leave. I'm definitely learning a lot, but I'm also pretty confused. There is a disproportionate amount of m's and w's in Swahili (at least in my English-minded opinion), and from what I've gathered you can make at least some verbs plural by sticking a "w" at the beginning of them. Msichana anaruka. The girl jumps. Wasichana wanaruka. The girls jump. Or something like that.

I'm going to close this by tacking on a few paragraphs of a letter that one of the girls on the LTP project wrote for our fundraising letter, so that any of you who want to can get a better idea of what LTP is. Kwaheri! (I think that means goodbye... maybe.)

A little bit about LTP, courtesy of Kaitlin:

LTP is an innovative arts and education program that artist Wendy Ewald developed in 1989 in collaboration with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Durham Public Schools. LTP challenges children to explore their world as they photograph scenes from their lives and use their images as catalysts for verbal and written expression. This program has been hugely successful. LTP promotes an expansive use of photography across different curricula and disciplines, building on the information that children naturally possess and connecting them with broader perspectives and ways of communicating. Students furthermore gain new ways of viewing themselves and their communities.

Since 1992, LTP has offered workshops in Durham, attended by artists, photographers, and educators from across the United States and abroad. In 2004, as part of their cultural and educational exchange program, Sister Cities of Durham sponsored the participation of two Tanzanian teachers in a Durham LTP workshop. After returning to Tanzania and creating preliminary LTP projects in their schools, these teachers, along with the NGO Friends of Arusha (the Tanzanian counterpart to Sister Cities of Durham) and the Ministry of Education, invited LTP to provide training in Arusha for 40 elementary school teachers—one teacher from each school in the district. Wendy Ewald and Katie Hyde of Duke University successfully directed this workshop last summer. Teachers recognized the link between LTP and comprehension, composition writing, and improving students’ awareness and ability to explain the world around them.

This summer we will collaborate with teachers in Arusha as we continue to build a local LTP program. In addition to assisting teachers in their classrooms, our group will develop a teacher resource center to provide teachers with supplies such as cameras, film, sample photographs, and books.