Posts Tagged With: VETA

On the Road Again

Last night was our last night at the hotel; we had a little breakfast and got picked up around 9am by Rodney (the VETA IT teacher and the same guy who drove us to Mikumi National Park). I was all set to leave when Rodney told us we were headed to VETA instead of hitting the road right away, because he had to pick something up. We got to the school and headed for the computer lab where I e-mailed and facebooked my friends and family to let them know that this would be my last time communicating with them until I get home on Tuesday. After about a half hour and more goodbyes, Rodney was ready to go. It was harder to say goodbye this morning compared to last night but it was still nice to see everyone one last time.

This road trip was a lot of fun and was a nice change of scenery for me. I got to sit up front with Rodney which meant I got to make sure that he didn’t blast anymore Shania Twain or Celine Dion with the bass cranked. I was also really thankful that we had done a quick grocery run yesterday considering that we didn’t stop once for food or anything else besides gas. I did try to subtle tell Rodney that I could go for lunch but I think something got lost in the translation; he just started talking about how he wanted to have ugali and that he was hungry, but I think he meant it more as a statement than anything else.

There wasn’t anything too interesting to really mention, the only thing that stood out was the insane traffic once we hit Dar es Salaam. We were switching lanes every couple of minutes to gain inches and almost cut off an ambulance since we were sideways and blocking two lanes. Luckily the car keeping us from merging moved ahead a bit and we squeezed in. We were in rush hour for a while and then went a bit off road. Rodney told us that we were actually going to meet his parents before taking us to the New Africa Hotel, so we went along with it. There wasn’t much of a point in meeting them besides saying a quick hello and taking a few pictures, but it was still nice to see a more intimate home setting.

We got a call from Anthony letting us know that the ferry bureau closed at 6pm and that we had better get a move on if we wanted to get to Zanzibar. We made it to the hotel with seconds to spare, got checked in, through our bags in the rooms and ran back down. Anthony was already downstairs waiting for us, and through sheer luck he knew the cruise company and asked them to stay open for us since it was nearing 6:30pm. We were running across the street when Anthony told us what the costs were so we had to make a quick bank detour and then fast walked as quickly as we could without getting hit by oncoming traffic or talkative pedestrians. We bought our tickets which are priced according to locality, so we had to buy the more expensive tickets; but they were worth it!

I can’t even attempt to begin explaining how epic it was to sit down, take a deep breath and then make my way upstairs for dinner. I was so tired, I had a wicked headache and I could sleep for a month; but the food I ate that night was a hundred percent worthwhile. It was a Thai restaurant located on the top floor of the hotel which overlooks the harbour. The atmosphere was very lively, they had karaoke and dancing and the restaurant off to the side. There was also a big football (soccer) match on and everyone was up there watching it and cheering them on. I picked what I wanted to eat and drink in about a millisecond and could not wait! I ordered a green vegetarian curry with steamed rice and spring rolls; A-MA-ZING! I’d recommend this restaurant to anybody traveling out that way, it was so good.

The only part of this whole experience that was a tad unfortunate was that my harbour view room was right underneath the dance floor and that wasn’t about to help my headache. On a positive note though I was so excited to wake up at 5am to grab the ferry over to Stone Town at 6:30pm that I didn’t care.

*Sneak peek of the harbour while we were taking off*

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Part II: The Fundraiser!

The time finally came to head out to Dessert Palm after getting ready for our big event. We took a taxi over around 6:30pm and to our surprise everything was already mostly set up! It was really awesome to see everyone so eager and excited to get started. Sarah and I manned the donation table, which was just off to the side of the courtyard. The set up was fairly simple there were tables in the back for the guests, the slideshow projection and our table up front and the stereo was set up on the other side for music. Lucas informed us that the MC we wanted wasn’t going to be able to make it so he graciously took over the role; which was fine by us since he is very charismatic and knew 90% of the people there.

There was only one very obvious and frustrating issue… the power was out!  There was some kind of work being done on some of the nearby power stations and the electricity wasn’t scheduled to come back on until about 7:30pm or 8pm. Being prepared and educated Event Managers, we came up with a plan to “set the mood” and have one of the guys buy candles so that we could have some light. Once we got the candles we realized that there were no candle holders, but we found a way to keep them upright by putting them in empty beer and pop bottles. Since the projector wasn’t working just yet, I opened the slideshow on my laptop, opened ITunes and let them play at the donation table. We also encouraged Lucas to talk to everyone to inform them of the night’s activities. We also got in touch with the hotel manager to try and get them to start the generator for us so that we could have some more lighting since it was pitch black out. In light of everything this could have been a big issue but using some critical thinking we made it work.

The power came back on eventually and we didn’t end up using the generator but we were still thankful that we had a plan B in place anyway. Everything got set up and finalized in about 30 seconds and then Lucas took over as our MC. We had set things up as a casual bar night for the community but I really don’t think that this concept translated at all to our committee or the attendees. Lucas had everyone introduce themselves, which was about 30-40 people taking a good hour to state their names, occupations and other tid bits about their lives. But once all of the introductions had finished, the donations started to come in. Again, most people wanted to do a little presentation of what they were donating, why it was important and how they got involved. It was great to see all of the enthusiasm but I wasn’t expecting all the formality and presentations!

One of the most moving donations was given by a director of three local schools in the community. He donated 100,000Tsh from each of his schools (300,000Tsh in total) and offered 10 free spots for admission to his schools. This was my favorite donation because it represents so much to me. First and foremost, it directly affects the educational benefit for the children at the orphanage and will give them encouragement to seek higher education. This gesture also was a perfect demonstration of a win/win situation, where I finally saw all of the committee members have their moment of clarity and understanding. It taught them that this amazing act not only benefits the children, but also the director since this will be mentioned in the media, word of mouth and through the children. The kids who end up filling those 10 spots will become ambassadors of those schools with the positivity and support that they have received. They will also likely spend money at these schools, convince their friends to attend these schools and will always carry a positive response to these schools.

The other donations that were made were not all monetary, but they were just as important and just as needed by the orphanage. Individuals and groups donated bags of clothes, flour, sugar, soap, laundry detergent and other helpful items. This was a big surprise for us because when we first started advertising that people could bring material things as well as monetary we were told that people don’t really do that and that it’s a new concept that a lot of people may not understand. I like that this wasn’t the case and that the material goods were plentiful. One of my favorite stories about these donations was from one of the VETA teacher’s. He had gone home one day and explained the orphanages situation to his son, and what the fundraiser was meant to do for them. The son immediately ran around his room with an old backpack and collected clothes that he no longer wore or out grew. He then gave the back pack to his dad to bring to the fundraiser. If anything gave me hope for the future of fundraisers and neighbourly compassion in Dodoma that was it!

Games are a fan favorite here in Tanzania and Lucas has suggested that we play a game called “Do or Pay”. Basically, people write out funny and odd things for others to do, and if your name gets called and you can’t do what is asked then you have to pay 2,000Tsh. People responded really well to it and it was a lot like playing a party game with all your friends and family. It was a really nice game to have been a part of. Other than that, people could pay to have their picture taken with Miss Dodoma or could pay to dance with her. It was a lot of fun to watch everyone hesitantly come up, discreetly pay and run up to see her.

After the games and the donations people just started to quickly trickle out around 10pm or so which gave us some time to have a debriefing meeting afterwards. The guys ordered some drinks and a bit of food to munch on and then we got down to business. Anthony, Sarah and I went into the hotel to count up the donations, triple checked the number and signed off on it. When we got back to the table we made a quick drum roll and revealed that we had raised over 500,000Tsh in cash donations tonight and over 800,000Tsh in promised donations that will be collected next week. This is such a great accomplishment in that this is the first fundraiser event that has ever taken place in Dodoma and even though no one here knew what to expect, everything turned out better than expected. Our discussion quickly moved to having the teachers create a long term plan to have this event annually which they can now grow off of this experience. It’s amazing to see how much they’ve learned just by watching Sarah and I put this together in an organized and paced fashion. I’m very proud of what we accomplished and I’m still so moved as to how this all came together for the House of Hope.

The teachers had already put a game plan in place to bring all of the donations to the orphanage on Monday; unfortunately we won’t be here to celebrate and deliver the goods but we will be there in spirit! We were also sad to have to say good bye to everyone since we wouldn’t have much time tomorrow morning. We gave out lots of hugs and fist pumps and hopefully they’ll all stay in touch over facebook and e-mail.

Looking forward to opening a new chapter in this adventure! We’re off to Dar es Salaam tomorrow and then traveling to Stone Town, Zanzibar early Saturday morning!

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Part I: The Beginning of the Last Day

It’s weird to think that this is our last day here in Dodoma. It feels like it went by super slowly and extremely fast all at the same time. This morning we went into town to pick up snacks and things for our 8 hour car ride tomorrow (more cookies and pringles of course!). After a little bit we decided to go to the Free Point restaurant for the last time and split a really good pizza between us while we waited to get picked up. Anthony and Bertram came to pick us up the minute we took our last bites.

I was about to jump in the car when I realized that there was already two girls in the back of it. I asked Anthony who his friends were and it turned out to be the newly appointed Miss Dodoma and her sister. They wanted to be involved in the fundraiser and were coming with us to the radio station to help promote the event.  It was nice of her to have come out to support us since it generated a lot of attention on the radio. It was also a bitter sweet moment since this was our last radio broadcast since the fundraiser is tonight!

The guys have a bad tendency to not update us on event related changes. They let us know that they were already at the hotel in the morning and that the set-up had to change because of differing opinions. I was a little upset that we weren’t invited to make that decision with them in the morning but we ended up convincing them that we had to see the new set up for ourselves. We all headed over to Dessert Palm to evaluate what had been done; the set up was basically exactly the same just on the left hand side of the hotel instead of the right. The new location still works for us since the hotel is offering waited service because the bar and grill are located pretty far away from the event.

After our site visited we made our way back to VETA to sit down and have a late lunch with the teachers. We gave them our thank you presents which were mugs decorated with Canadian maple leafs, and they were filled to the rim with candy. I always love seeing their expressions with gifts like this since candy always seems to be a prize winner with them. (They loved it!)

Anthony was giving us a ride back to the hotel but had to go and do something first, so we waited for him at registration. While we were just waiting there, a sweaty white man came up to me and asked if I spoke English. I told him that I did and he handed me his camera and asked me to take a picture of him and his friends just outside. That wasn’t a problem for me; I love it when people do that for me so I didn’t hesitate. After I took their picture I asked them where they were from and what they were up to (and you have to take into consideration that these are the first Caucasian people we’ve seen in a while). There were only 6 of them and they told me that some of them were from Holland and some of them were from Belgium. They had just come from a four day bike trip from Arusha, were taking a break in Dodoma and were going to head back North afterwards. That’s an insane trek considering how bad the road conditions are in terms of the roads, traffic and other obstacles. We chatted for a little bit and then Anthony came and picked us up so that we could go back to the hotel to get ready for tonight!

~To be continued!!!~

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I know this game!

We had an early morning appointment at the radio station with Anthony to keep promoting the fundraiser. We still couldn’t understand most of what was happening since everything was in Swahili but every once in a while Anthony would fill us in. There were people calling in to ask questions and one of them was really interesting. They wanted to donate money but couldn’t make it out; so they asked if there was a number that they could use to donate money digitally. There is a system set up, a lot like online banking where they can send money over their phones but without a data plan. I’m still not a hundred percent sure how it works exactly, but it’s pretty cool that they have that technology available to them in such a remote community.

After the radio broadcast, we went back to the hotel to finish some of our outstanding work. Since we had all of our rough work made out for us, we started working on our finalized work for the fundraiser. I took to making the logo and putting together the slide show, while Sarah worked on the posters and the MC script. It was nice to be doing some physical work and having a real action plan for something we put together.

We finished up and were invited to go out for dinner with Eston, who is one of the English teachers. He had been wanting to take us out for a while and finally got an opportunity to invite us all out. We all met up downtown at the square and made our way over. It took us about 45 minutes to make our way down a busy highway, in the dark, with oncoming bicycles with no lights or reflectors. It was one of those moments in my life where I really thought that my gaming as a kid came in pretty handy; it was kind of like playing Frogger but in real life.

The place that we went to was called Roger Hotel and Eston was very fond of it because he used to live in the area and frequented it regularly. It wasn’t anything special, it was a lot like many of the other little bar/restaurants that we’ve been to so far but it was nice to be somewhere new.

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We got picked up at the hotel by Anthone and Lucas so that we could go into town and get permission from the orphanage to partner with them for our fundraiser. There was a bit of a miscommunication and the guys thought that there was a headquarters for the orphanage in the downtown area. It turned out that there isn’t and that we had to go out of our way a little bit to go to the orphanage directly. While we were discussing what we should do, Anthone got called into a meeting and had to leave for a little bit so Lucas took us to visit one of his lawyer friends. He asked him to be our MC for the fundraiser and explained to him what we were doing and what he would have to do. It was nice to see how invested Lucas had become in this project; it really makes me feel like the guys are serious about helping us to put this event on! While we were still there, Lucas showed us and his friend a rough guest list which was a basic table of names, numbers and other information.

When Anthone was finished with his meeting we decided to go and visit the orphanage which goes by “House of Hope”. It was about a 20 minute ride or so north of Dodoma; it was hard to find because the guys had never been there and there were no road signs. When we got there, we were brought in to see the sister in charge of the orphanage. The first thing that I noticed was that it was so quiet; I only ever heard one or two giggles from inside of one of the rooms. The orphanage itself is actually pretty nice, it is also pretty self-sustained with a large garden and livestock. We were seated in a small office and introduced ourselves and our project to the sister. She was very pleased and excited that we were doing a fundraiser for the orphanage and explained to us what the children’s needs are. Apparently, a lot of them get sponsored through programs like World Vision so that they can go to school. Unfortunately, not all of the children get sponsored so any money raised will be directly supporting education for these children. We got permission to put on this event and we were about to leave when the sister told us to wait where we were so that she could introduce us to the children. In that moment we also figured out that it was so quiet because most of the older children were at school so only the young children were there at the time. We waited for a couple minutes and then the children started to come in; they formed a line and shook hands with all of us. They were very shy and unsure but after smiling with them and saying hello they got a bit more comfortable. We ended up taking a few group shots with all of them to be able to show pictures of them at the event. They are so adorable and well behaved! This visit has definitely had a profound effect on me and how I view orphanages. I had never been to one previously so all I know about orphanages is what I’ve seen on TV and movies. The children interacted with each other like a family and they all had big smiles with a glow to them. The sister explained to us, after the kids had gone, that a lot of them have HIV/Aids or other disorders and diseases. It broke my heart to have seen them so happy and easy going and to then find out that a lot of them are not only orphans but they are also fighting for their lives. This visit made me open my eyes to the reality and severity of these types of issues that children have to face.

After this visit, I got a bit unnerved thinking about people that I have on my social networks who go to a third world country, take a resort excursion and take photos of themselves with underprivileged children like they’ve done something to improve their lives. I’m so proud of myself, Sarah and everyone else involved to have taken a sad situation and to have actually done something about it. This is one of the biggest things that I have taken away from my entire trip. Don’t just stand there and take pictures of underprivileged children, do something to better their lives; just taking a picture of them to show your friends when you get home isn’t going improve their lives in any way.

After our moving visit to House of Hope, we made our way back into town to promote our event over one of Dodoma’s radio stations. Since Sarah and I don’t speak Kiswahili we needed the guys to help translate and answer questions for us. Lucas has a very good voice and persona so it was fun to watch him promote even though I didn’t have a clue as to what he was saying. We were on air for about a half an hour before we headed over to Desert Palm to check out the venue space.

We got there just in time for lunch and had some chips and mishkaki as per usual. After we finished eating, we met up with the owner and Lucas’ friend so that we could get a tour and a feel for our space. We decided to have it on the right of the hotel where the BBQ and bar are so that we can attract more people on the night of. Once we got a real feel for it, we sat down with our new committee (Anthone, Bertram, Lucas, Sarah and me) to brainstorm the event title and goal. Sarah and I have a better feel for English so we collaborated, decided on calling our event “HOPE” and came up with an acronym for it – Helping Overcome Poverty for Education. We also worked on putting together a new logo, Sarah came up with the design and I created it through Photoshop. It all turned out really well and looked really professional. The committee decided that our goal would be to raise as much money as possible for the orphanage and to give them 100% of the donation. We are going to promote by inviting the public through the radio and word of mouth; as well as, personally inviting well known individuals from the community who would better their image trough associating themselves with our event.

Since our event is a $0 we couldn’t splurge on getting a band or decorations and just had to be creative. It took a while to convince the committee that spending money to make money was not appropriate for this type of event. One band was interested in playing for us if we paid them 250,000 Tsh ($100 approx.) and the guys were all for it. Sarah and I explained to them that if we spend any money on things we could get for free and were not 100% necessary then our goal would not be met. Also, I wasn’t going to give anyone any money that wasn’t going directly to the orphanage. Most of them saw where we were coming from but there was still some doubt in our methodology. Sarah and I have both done big Ottawa events for the Children’s Wish Foundation on a $0 budget and so we know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into. Booking a venue for free is always the biggest challenge so since we already had that, there wasn’t anything that was going to change my mind that we were going to pull this fundraiser off successfully.

It was about 8pm when we got back to our hotel and our first stop was the Chinese restaurant for dinner. I had my very last duck and black mushroom sizzler since tomorrow we will be going out with Eston for dinner and Thursday is our event. After dinner, we decided to have a movie night which we had in my fort (AKA the mosquito net around my bed). We ended up watching the Emperor’s New Groove because Heather had somehow never seen it, and Sarah and I had been quoting it off and on since being here. It was nice to just sit down and do nothing since today was such a busy, non-stop day; I am definitely ready for bed!

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Green Events Presentation

I had another early day trying to get a little bit more preparation in before presenting the event management material. We were at VETA around 8:30 setting up and getting the projector and speakers ready. While we were doing that, a group of girls helped us to clean the hall and to set up the chairs and tables in “U” shapes so that all the students would be able to see and hear us. We wanted to make sure that there was as much interaction between us and the students as we could.

Our first presentation was at about 9:30 with about 30 students. It was hard to tell just how the presentation was going to go over as soon as we asked the class “what is event management?”  Everyone was just staring at us with blank expressions even when we let them know that we had treats and toys. Finally, one of the girls spoke up and asked us to define what an event even was. I was pretty thrown off by that, but as soon as we explained what an event was, it seemed to make more sense to the students. It was a lot of fun presenting material to a group of students, I felt like a semi real teacher which was a nice change of pace. The students seemed happy to be learning something new, and they were really excited to see a video that I shot last semester at Algonquin of a bluegrass band. They had never heard anything like it before so it was fun to watch their expressions; and some of them were even dancing and swaying to it – made my day! We got them to divide up into groups, assigned them an event and had them list details as to what goes into an event as a whole. We then got them to present their findings to the class. Some of the presentations were so detailed and organized it was really interesting to listen to and see what they had already learned in a half hour. Unfortunately, I think we lost their focus when we started to introduce recycling initiatives. It isn’t something that they really do besides recycling glass bottles. I hope that they took something away from the environment portion of our presentation considering how much garbage and litter could be properly disposed of rather than just burned.

The second group that we presented to was a bit bigger (about 40 students) and they were a bit more fun to present to because they were more vocal. We got a lot of the same reactions to different concepts which we got from the first group; but there was a clear difference in their investment to better understand what we were teaching. One of the students approached me at the end of our presentation to ask about fundraising. This isn’t a normal event that happens here and so it’s hard concept for people to wrap their heads around. I explained that if a charity or non-for-profit organization needs funds, they can put on an event to raise money for whatever it is they need. I found it really moving that he seemed so interested in the idea, and also confused as to how fundraisers aren’t common place, especially in an area like this with respected and known non-profits and charities. Overall, the presentations went over really well, and hopefully the students who were interested in this career path will push the school into implementing the program (they already have all the teaching material).

Later in the day, we met up with Bertram who is one of the event management people at the school (hopefully he will be teaching it once the program is brought in). He ended up giving us a bottle of local red wine from Dodoma to test out. When we got back to the hotel we decided to go for Chinese food which was an amazing choice because of how well it went with the wine. I got sizzling duck and mushroom again, which was really tasty with the wine!

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Marketplace Madness

This morning was nice because there wasn’t really a schedule. Sarah and I had to go to the bank, get some snacks and other errands before we headed over the VETA to determine a few things. We met with Anthone and the Registrar and were told that 60 kids are going to Arusha for a presidential conference and at first it was for a full week, but they’ve since changed it to only be a couple of days. We were a bit concerned because we were going to present to hospitality students on Monday, so if no one was available we would end up teaching other faculties about things that may or may not be of interest to them. But, since they changed it we should be in the clear for next week.

We met with the Registrar to discuss if he had written and sent any municipal letters to the local authorities involved with the piece of land they plan to develop. He insists that it takes two weeks to do this, so we had to really push him to realize that it could be accomplished in a couple days rather than weeks; I still don’t think he believes that it can happen that quickly for some reason though, so we’ll see if anything even starts moving on the environmental project. It’s strange to have such a clear idea of what the first steps are to propose something like this, and not be on the same page as the person in charge of actually doing it.

Anyway, after (hopefully) given the registrar some motivation to get started on things, Sarah and I decided to go shopping for fruit at the big fruit market. We had heard that it was massive but had no idea until we got there. All you can smell is sweet oranges and rotting sardines – such a weird smell – but once we were a bit used to it, it wasn’t too bad. We ended up getting a bunch of bananas, a mango, a papaya and a cucumber for our big trip tomorrow! The produce is all imported but it’s still a lot fresher and healthier than what we get at home (no chemicals). The Market is so packed with people that it’s hard to physically get anywhere and harder still to keep our bearings as to where we are, and how we get out; it just never seems to end!

It was a last minute realization today that on the way to Mikumi National Park and when we’re on the safari, there won’t be any food around;  so glad we realized it last night so that we could prepare a little bit for it. Hopefully at the end of the day we can stop in Morogoro for a big dinner or something!

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One Night in Italy

Today, the focus was on the presentation that we have to put on for Monday next week. I’m excited to put it on and educate the students on some important environmental ideas to keep in mind such as reducing pollution on land and in the air. I’m a bit nervous though because I’m not a teacher and I don’t know how well we will be understood since English isn’t well understood by the majority of students at VETA. We decided to implement as many videos as we can to try and get the students more interested in the material, and even if they can’t understand it at least there will be visuals for them to follow along with.

In the afternoon we got a text from Lucas inviting us to St. Gasper to take a swim in the new pool. Its been hot and it was such a nice change of pace so we jumped at the chance. The pool was a bit cool, but not as cold as I know my pool can get so I didn’t complain – just jumped in! When we were ready to leave we realized that we couldn’t because the president of Tanzania was just leaving and had closed down all the surrounding roads for safety precautions. We probably waited for a good half hour or so before the man at reception could confirm a taxi for us. We were so excited to get out of there though because we had excellent dinner plans for the night.

We headed to the most random restaurants that you could think of, considering that I’m in the middle of Tanzania – a Pizzaria! This “L’eone Africano” Pizzaria is owned by Italians who actually met each other here in Dodoma while doing some kind of religious work in the city. Leave it to Italians to create such a romantic story of how they met and how they started a life together right where they met. The food was spectacular! I had a vegetarian pizza, which just had sautéed vegetables on it; it was so good I ate the whole thing! The night was also eventful at the restaurant because of a factor that we had never really considered. The restaurant is just an open circular dome, which looks like a big traditional African hut, with no doors or windows. We saw the mosquitos and stray cats but it wasn’t until we all heard a big “THUD” on the table that we realized that there was also lizards!! It looks like the gecko was trying to get bugs that were attracted to the light on the ceiling and fell right onto our table. Luckily, he fell before we got our food, otherwise he would have landed in Rebecca’s spaghetti! I’ll definitely visit the Pizzaria again before I leave.

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Déja vu

On Wednesday morning we had our meeting with Rachel from the Dodoma YWCA to help her with her fundraiser. She had already had a visit from an event manager teacher last February and had filled out the laid out step-by-step paperwork that was left with her; but she was having trouble coming up with ways to raise more money and awareness. Sponsorship isn’t a well understood relationship here, so it was hard to change her mind to see it as a win/win situation for her and any companies involved. We also helped to stress that since this is an initiative to raise money for a new YMCA building, that she should look into getting construction, landscaping, utility and telecom companies involved in sponsorship. That way if they help raise money for the building, they are also raising money for their own companies. I’m not sure how much money will be raised in the end since her monetary goal for this event was really high ($400,000) but there is an issue that may come up if she doesn’t raise a good amount by the end of July. The YWCA was given a plot of land for free, and basically the land can be taken away at any time if a new development company becomes interested in it; but if she even just starts on the new buildings foundation then they wouldn’t have to worry about it. I’m hoping that she takes our sponsorship advice because I think that’s the only way she’ll get anywhere near the events goal.

After our meeting Rachel took us to the building across the street from the YWCA to show us the classes that are taught through this program. We were introduced to a class of sewing students who are learning to make garments. They start off by hemming and sewing newspapers into the proposed patterns and once they’ve developed their skills they get to move onto material. The garments that they make are sold in the market and the girls will custom fit any material that is brought to them. I might have to have them make me a skirt; the patterns are gorgeous!

We went to VETA in the early afternoon to see what we had on the go to help with the bridal send off. Cyril approached us once we got there and informed us that he wanted us to observe the bride getting ready and sent us into town to a local salon (saloon as they call it lol). It was in an odd area, on the second level of an old building and through a few random back halls and staircases, but we found it. It wasn’t too hard to miss tough once we saw the bright florescent hot pink and lime green colour scheme. The salon was pretty bare, just a few shelves, mirrors and a younger man painting the bride-to-be’s toes and taking nail polish from a bag on the floor. It was a bit awkward since no one in the room spoke English (not even sure if they knew why we were there) but we got to see the intricate red, gold, black and white pattern that she was getting done on her nails; it was really beautifully done.

Later on in the evening, around 8pm we were driven to the same hall that we were at for the last wedding reception last week. It was better decorated, and more colour coordinated; the colours used were red, gold, white and silver. Something that we learned very quickly is that this bridal send-off party was VERY similar to the wedding reception that we went to last week. It turns out that there are a total of 4 ceremonies; the kitchen party, the bridal send-off party, the ceremony and the reception. The send-off party and the reception are actually basically the same things except the send-off is for the bride and her family while the reception is for the groom and his family. There must be so much money going into these types of functions! Basically, these families are hosting 200 people over 4 days of non-stop – set up, tear down, food, drinks, clothes (all different dresses for different occasions), MC action and entertainment! I thought Western weddings were getting too over the top… Not anymore! (Also, had to add the cake firework picture for a bit more emphasis – lol)

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African Queen

We got picked up from the hotel this morning at 8:30am so that we could attend our long awaited professional meeting to sort out schedules and job descriptions. Everybody was there including the English teachers, the registrar and the event management teachers. We figured out about 4 projects that we can work on while we’re here. The issue that we keep running into is that we just don’t have the time here to put on some of these events and projects, so we agreed that we would make event packages and include everything that they need to pull these off without us physically being around.

The first project is an environmental initiative that will have to be a step by step process. The land that we want to use is a dirt path that is owned by the government but has been ignored and currently used as a dumping ground. So in order to even step foot in this project we need permission from specific government officials, which could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (I’m betting on a few weeks, the pace is really slow and it’s hard to get anything accomplished quickly or promptly). After getting permission there will be a clean-up event that will be oriented towards the VETA students, so that they get some exposure to organized events and to gain more experience. After that step there will be a marketing initiative to try and bring in 3-5 ecofriendly businesses who would want to set up along this nice clean path. Then there will be a kind of grand opening to reveal a new clean environment that promotes some kind of sustainability. The main goal that I get from this is to clean it up and to make it more populated so that it can be viewed as a safer place to walk since it’s kind of a sketchy area.

Our other project is to work with one of the event management teachers at VETA to observe and help in any way we can with a Bridal send-off party which I mentioned in my last post. It will be held at the same venue that was used for the wedding that we attended last weekend.

Another event that we will be actually putting on ourselves is a “Thank you” party to the VETA faculty for having us here and for being so hospitable. We are going to be incorporating a fundraising aspect to this event by raising money for a local orphanage. This is also going to heavily involve the VETA students so that they can get more exposure.

Finally, we will be helping a woman that works for the YWCA to come up with a game plan to put on a fundraiser. We will work with her and give her all the necessary tools to pull off an event to raise money for a new YWCA building. We are going to meet with her tomorrow, and I’m hoping that she is receptive to our way of putting on events. I’ve been finding that most individuals here just keep everything in mind instead of writing things out and creating records.

We have also volunteered our time next Monday to teach an environmental events class to about 70-80 students in two 2 hour sessions. We really wanted to bring up some health related issues that could arise from such practices as burning garbage, all the time and everywhere (that’s all you can smell in the city); and other things such as recycling at events and how things can be reused and properly disposed of. We still need to do a nice bit of research but we have PowerPoints from last year on this issue that we will be implementing into our lecture. Another thing that we will need to do is go over the basic event management elements and do a thorough but brief introduction of the topic for students who may not even know what it is.

After reaching an agreement as to what we were supposed to do we were invited to have some henna done for the bridal send-off party tomorrow. We were driven to the bride’s mother’s house, where one of the relatives drew the patterns on us. None of the family members there spoke any English so it was hard to explain what I wanted. I tried to point out to one of the women that I wanted a small henna tattoo from my wrist to about 3 inches up my arm. I ended up getting a full sleeve from my fingertips to just past my elbow! It was almost like getting a massage and I didn’t want to ruin the design so I just gave the girl full range to do what she wanted with my arm. Apparently it’s a symbol that tells others that you are high class. I get a lot of compliments and stares from it already; the registrar even told me that I should marry an African Prince because of my apparent status (lol)!

We were later invited to go to dinner with some of the teachers at Chacko ni Chacko (what’s mine is mine). I’m assuming that it’s a play on words describing that their food is so good, that you won’t share it with anyone. We were told that it was one of the best places to get good chicken. After my adventures, I wasn’t totally sold on it but I decided I’d go and still experience some cuisine. We had to walk for about a half an hour, in the dark, on the side of a highway; while dodging cars and people on our way. That was definitely an experience in itself that I really don’t think I need to repeat! When we got there (safe and sound!) we ordered some chicken and chips to share between about 8 of us. I was very hesitant but forced myself to at least try a drumstick – it was actually not bad at all and much better than what I had eaten earlier in the week. The teachers walked us home which was really nice of them, and we got a really fantastic view of the stars since there isn’t a lot of light pollution. Really glad we got home a little earlier than normal so I can get a real full night of sleep!

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