Happy New Year from Tanzania! Many exciting challenges ahead. Miss you all!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Keo, Zee and Leps are all members of the South African Gymnastics Federation who traveled to Tanzania to help teach jump rope. They brought all their skill and enthusiasm as we worked with the new kids from Tunahaki and Amani, and some of the older jumpers from Mkombozi.
Keo, Zee and Leps also took some great pics, which you can see from the links below:
Saturday, December 12, 2009
“I am here to make miracles”. This is one of the first things Sello “Zee” Sethunya said to me, as we sat in the Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Airport with Lebogang “Leps” Terrence and Keolebogile "Keo" Mokolopo. Since Day 1, all three of them have done just that - every day, in every place, with every kid they have taught.
Zee, Leps, Keo, and I have been teaching at the Tunahaki Centre for Street Children and the Amani Children's Home for the past week. The kids at Tunahaki are excellent acrobats, and pick up new skills very quickly.
They are a very close-knit group of kids, extremely focused and determined, and just so full of life and energy. It's been a lot of fun working with them.
Lukas is back! He and Rogers, both from the Mkombozi Centre for Street Children, joined us at Tunahaki for the past two days. Lukas got his frog, pushup, leap frog, and switch in double dutch, a few nice single rope combinations, a backwards elephant cross, and a toad to pushup.
The kids at the Amani Centre have been great, too. I will post more about them soon, but for now, here is a video from their first day of double dutch.
It really has been a blessing having the South African jumpers here. Each of them brings their own unique teaching style, an arsenal of new skills and combinations, and an amazing passion for the sport. They bring so much energy to their teaching, and the kids are benefiting immensely from it. Expect big things from Moshi.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
180 triple under
sideswing triple under
double under TJ
pushup landing in a cross, behind the knees cross, and toad
AS to TS
kamikaze with a cross
Kamikaze with a cross? Are you kidding me, Amisi? It's been amazing seeing this kid in action. I'm looking forward to watching him grow over the years. Here's a nice combo he recently put together:
Athumani has really stepped up as a role model for the other kids. He takes time away from his own practicing to teach anyone who is interested in learning. He is very patient, and thorough in his explanations of skills.
As hard as it was to leave Dar, I couldn't be more excited to start teaching in Moshi. The kids at Mkombozi have been practicing regularly since my first visit in January, so I'm very eager to see how they've progressed. I'll also be teaching at the Tunahaki Centre for Child Development and the Amani Children's Home.
On Saturday, I'm traveling to the Nairobi airport to pick up Lebogang, Madigomang, and Lesala, three extremely talented jumpers from South Africa. They will be teaching with me in Moshi for the next two weeks. Special thanks to the South African Gymnastics Federation, and to Sandile Ntombela for helping to make this possible.
Moshi is home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It's pretty amazing to look up at the peak and see snow. I won't be able to make the climb during this trip - it's about a one week trek, and very exhausting - but will definitely be doing it on one of my next visits.
Internet connection has been very hit-or-miss lately, but keep checking back for more updates. I have a feeling that Moshi will be one of the powerhouse regions in Tanzania.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I continue to be amazed by the speed at which kids are learning skills. Buddy bounce, caboose, inverse toad, frog, various wraps and releases, you name it. I'll post a video later this week.
Frequent power outages (as often as every other day for 5-6 hours) can make it difficult to keep phones, computers, and cameras charged, but it definitely makes me appreciate the electricity more when it is working.
Iringa is a really nice place. It's a quiet, small town, but there are a lot of really cool craft stands with beautiful handmade jewelry, cloth paintings, and wooden sculptures. There are some really nice restaurants (check out Hasty Tasty Too, Sai Villa, and Mama Siyovelwa), and the hills are covered with huge boulders, the biggest of which is Gangilonga (Talking Stone).
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Monday - P.E. classes at Morogoro International School (M.I.S.) and meeting at the Faraja Trust Fund
Tuesday - Performance and teaching at the Faraja Trust School; Jump Rope Club at M.I.S.
Wednesday - Teaching at the Faraja Trust School; P.E. classes at M.I.S
Thursday - Performance and teaching at St. Francis de Sales Seminary
Friday - P.E. classes at M.I.S. and "Friday School" teaching session with students from M.I.S. and local schools
Saturday - 9-5 workshop (9-12 for M.I.S. students; 12-1 for Teachers; 1-2 for Lunch; 2-5 for Faraja Trust, St. Francis, and M.I.S. students)
As I said, it's been a busy week - but completely amazing. As I walked up to the Faraja School for my second day of teaching there, a few of the kids ran up to hug me. They all really like jumping, and they've been a blast to teach. Two of the boys can do pushups, and many of them have mastered the toad, inverse toad, and E.B. Here's a picture of the group.
The language barrier can make teaching slightly challenging at times, but it very rarely stands in the way of kids learning new skills. One of the great things about jump rope is that it is such a visual sport. All the kids I've taught have been able to learn primarily by watching. I've learned some phrases along the way that have made teaching easier when an explanation is needed.
Ruka juu zaidi - Jump up higher
Kamba ikiwa juu, ingia - When the rope is up, enter
Jaribu tena - Try again
Usisimame - Don't stop
Kama hii - Like this
Saturday was great. Morogoro International School offered their P.E. facility for an all day workshop, and students from Faraja and St. Francis came during the 2-5 session. It's amazing how quickly the kids learn - caboose, double under cross, 360, pushup, A.S. Unfortunately, frequent power cuts in Morogoro (3-4 times per week) make charging camera batteries difficult, and I was not able to take any pictures that day. Fortunately, a few of the teachers that came took plenty, and I'll post some of those soon.
I'm excited to see what the next week here brings. I leave for Iringa soon, so I will be teaching as much as possible over the next nine days.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The kids there have been great: so enthusiastic about jumping and always ready to try new skills. Many of the kids are jumping on their own at home – some every day. Several students were able to master the Toad, 360, and Double Under Cross. The P.E. teacher there, David Taylor, is a first cousin of U.S. Grand National Champion Liz Lyons, who jumps for the Kangaroo Kids in Maryland. David has been extremely helpful in classes, and has gotten to be a pretty good Double Dutch turner.
On Saturday, I performed for about 200 kids involved with a church group in Ubungo. Special thank you to Victor from HOPAC for arranging the show.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Anytime you travel to another country, you're bound to encounter a few surprises. For better and for worse, every one of your five senses will be stirred, but as long as you come with an open mind, traveling can be an amazing and eye-opening experience.
If you visit Tanzania, be ready to stand out. Don't worry about trying not to – you will stand out, and there's not much you can do about it. If you are Caucasian, you'll hear the word “mzungu” a lot – basically, “white person” - and you'll get a lot of stares. Just be friendly. Although the attention took some getting used to, one of the things I love about Tanzania is how natural it is to just say hello to people you walk past during the day. The watoto (little children) laugh and say "mzungu!", then "shikamoo". I greet people with "Habari yako?" or "Mambo?" as often as I can, and I'm almost always met with a smile and greeting in return. I've said it before, but the people here are so kind, friendly, and interested in the well-being of the people in their community.
I ride a dala-dala here on a fairly regular basis. They're very inexpensive, and can get you anywhere you need to get in Dar, which is great because it's a big city, and most taxi drivers will overcharge. The dala-dalas can get a bit crowded, though, since they're the preferred mode of transport for most Tanzanians. The other day, a few seconds after boarding a dala-dala to get back home, I heard a cluck nearby. I looked to my right, and saw a person, who I assumed could not be responsible for the noise. I looked down, and saw two chickens (kuku mbili). Two chickens. In a satchel. Heads poking out for a better view of floor. Sometimes it's the little things that make your day. That was my day-maker.
A few nights ago, I was walking to my room, when a gecko fell from the ceiling. That's right. A gecko, crawling upside down on the ceiling, plummeted a distance of more than 100 times his own height, and landed directly under my next step. I think I must have walked on air during that moment, because he somehow scurried away unharmed, as if this sort of thing happened regularly. I was a bit shaken up.
Napenda mjusi. Napenda kuku. Napenda dala-dala. Sitaki kuondoka Tanzania!
Monday, September 21, 2009
Today, I took a dala-dala (basically a mini-bus - $0.20 U.S.) into the Kariakoo marketplace. It's about a five minute walk from Mnazi Mmoja, where the Peace Day celebration was held last Friday, and is one of the biggest markets in East Africa. The scene was bustling - packed with people, and filled with just about anything you would want. There, I was able to buy 11 mini bananas, 6 mini mangos, 2 oranges, an avocado, a cup of ice cream, chipsi mayai, and mishikaki for less than $3.50 U.S. I still can't get over how good that avocado was. Probably the best I've ever had.
It's been really fun venturing out into the city and discovering new restaurants and shops. Most of the places don't have names, but if you go out for a walk, you'll pass at least a few within a couple of minutes.
The people I've met are all so friendly. It's going to be tough leaving.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The kids at Dogodogo are learning fast, and they're a blast to work with.
A few of them can do the T.S. (behind the back cross), many can do pushups and frogs, and they all love 2-in-1 (Two people sharing one rope). Here's a video of two of the boys jumping a short routine they made up yesterday.
Athuman, the one on the right, is completely awesome. His English is pretty good, and he's able to understand my explanations of almost everything. From the very beginning, he has taken on a teaching/leadership role with the other kids. He has a great memory, and is now able to explain to the others what causes a mistake, and how to fix it. It's really cool to see. He can do several rope releases already, a pushup, toad, double under, 360, E.B., and is a solid Double Dutch turner.
34 mosquito bites and counting - and that's just from the past few days. Sipendi mbu. Still loving the food, though - I found a great place near the Haven of Peace Academy where I can get chipsi mayai (basically an omelette with fried potatoes - delicious) and mishikaki for 1800. That's less than $1.50 U.S. Amazing.
Much more coming soon,
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Amanda Maxwell, one of the teachers at the Haven of Peace Academy, has helped organize a Saturday morning games session for a group of children in a village near Mbuyuni, Dar es Salaam. They'll play soccer, run around, do puzzles - and now, jump rope. I've gone in with her the past two Saturdays, and had an absolute blast jumping with the kids there. Here are some of the pictures:
Saturday, September 5, 2009
In the afternoon, I visited the Dogodogo Centre for a performance and some teaching. The kids were unbelievable. I will say this: Lukas...you've got some serious competition. Jump rope world, meet Amisi.
He's 8 years old, and he can do a back flip. Today, in about an hour, he learned a frog, a pushup, and a forward roll kip. He then did a pushup directly into a forward roll kip, and can almost do a kamikaze. I showed him a freeze, and he can hold the position really well. I'm sure he'll be doing it easily with the rope in a few days. Many of the kids were able to do front crosses, and a few learned the toad, double under, and crougar. I taught one kid a nice Double Dutch strength sequence without the ropes, and another is fairly close to the Nederman Pop. If he gets it, I'll post a video, and listen for the sound of jaws around the world slamming into the floor. They all seemed to really enjoy jumping long rope, and there are several natural gymnasts in the group.
I can't wait to see what Day Two with them brings.
Dar es Salaam is a beautiful city. The people are so nice, and the food is delicious. Two mishikaki (grilled beef on a stick) with diced tomatoes and onions is about $1.50 U.S. Best. Dinner. Ever. You all should come visit...right now.Upendo na Amani toka Tanzania,
Friday, August 28, 2009
After an intense final day of dentist appointments, root canals, shots, shopping, packing, and some pretty hard goodbyes...the trip has started! I'm now in the Washington D.C. airport waiting for my flight into Johannesburg, South Africa, which will be followed by a 20 hour layover, and my flight into Dar es Salaam. After so much running around, it is nice to sit and rest. I can't wait to work with the kids, and teach them everything I can. I'm extremely optimistic, and may need to remind myself to stop for a brief rest at least once a month.
Thank you so much to all of the people who went out of their way to help me these past few days. Surprise parties, surprise visitors, the midnight rope-sorting crew, friends, family, and anyone I've talked with on the phone. You all mean the world to me.
East Africa, here I come! Kwaheri!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
I just returned from the National Championship in Galveston, Texas, where I received an outpouring of support in the form of donated ropes. Thank you so much to all of the coaches and individuals that helped! If you are interested in donating/purchasing ropes to help get this program off the ground, please contact me at email@example.com.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Following up on previous post, Oberlin College formally announced the Creativity & Leadership Fellowship winners for 2009-2010.
Awarded to graduating seniors each year, C&L grants . . . offer innovative, motivated, and prepared Oberlin students the opportunity to move their entrepreneurial ideas from concept to reality. The program supports dedicated students who have a creative model for addressing a demonstrated need or demand.Here's a link to the story:
Oberlin's Creativity & Leadership Project
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Here's a recent news update written by Phillip Newton, Head of Physical Education at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya. http://www.agakhanschools.org/academies/mombasa/news.asp?tri=401.
If you haven't gotten a chance to look at the Aga Khan website, check it out: http://www.agakhanschools.org/academies/mombasa.
More updates coming soon. Baadaye.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Here are two recent stories, both from TanzaniaSports.com. The first is a reprint of an article from The Akron Beacon Journal about The Heartbeats:
TanzaniaSports also asked me to write about my trip to Tanzania and East Africa:
It goes into the details a little more than I can in this blog. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Monday, February 16, 2009
During the trip, my Kiswahili slowly improved. I learned some important phrases, such as:
Habari za asubuhi? - (Good morning/News of the morning?)
Hamjambo? - (How are all of you?)
Jina langu ni... - (My name is...)
Natokea... - (I am from...)
Nikohapa ufundisha kuruka kamba - (I am here to teach jump rope)
Moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano, sita, saba, nane, tisa, kumi - (#'s 1-10)
I used some of the phrases below, during a performance at Mchikichini School near Morogoro:
See more jump rope videos at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MikeFry09
This is a map of Tanzania, and part of Kenya. I flew into Dar es Salaam on January 11th, then traveled to my first school in Morogoro. This was followed by Iringa, then back to Dar.
The Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya, was my next destination. Finally, I returned to Tanzania to visit the Mkombozi Center for Street Children in Moshi. I had hoped to give demos and classes in Dar, Tanga and Arusha; but time just didn't permit.
My stay in Tanzania and Kenya was far too short; but I needed to return for second semester classes at Oberlin College. My final destination was Nairobi for my flight back to the U.S. But I'll return to finish the work I have just begun with the wonderful people of Tanzania and Kenya.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
One of the boys, Lukas, learned probably 20 skills within the first hour of jumping. Here's a short list, just to give you an idea. For those of you who jump, I'll understand if you're incredulous.
Double under cross
and the clincher...A.S. double under to pushup
One hour - this guy is superhuman. Some of these skills take months to learn. We have another jumping session in a few minutes, so we'll see what else he and the other kids can pick up. Many of them have already learned how to do a double under, front cross, toad, etc. There is serious potential for a strong team here. I can't wait to come back to work with them more.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Let me repeat that.
I just spent the day at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya. It is the first of it's kind, and the model for what will soon be 18 academies across Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East. They recruit the best and brightest individuals from some of the poorest areas of the world, bring them to the academy, and give them a world-class education. Really, any explanation I provide will not do the school justice. Go to the website. http://www.akdn.org/academies_mombasa.asp Read about it. This however, will also not do it justice. For this I apologize. Just come visit.
I feel like I'm saying a lot of the same things, but...the kids were really excited to learn. One thing that struck me about the academy was the students respect and appreciation for their teachers, the school, and the learning process. The campus is beautiful and the education here is preparing them for admission into the best universities in the world (in many cases on full scholarship). I really wish I could stay longer.
One of the students just passed by and said "You are really good. You inspired me."
That second bit got me. That's what I want to do - inspire as many people as possible to achieve great things. That's why I'm here. That's why I need to come back.
Peace and love from Africa.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I left Iringa today. It's always hard saying goodbye to a place and group of of people you've grown close to; but now I have even more to look forward to when I come back.
Tuesday, I worked with the P-3 teacher (primary class 3) at Iringa International School for an hour. She picked up just about everything I showed her and in almost no time. The next day, she said she wasn't at all sore; even though she had jumped later that night and again in the morning. Apparently, she had done gymnastics and dance when she was younger; and had a good base to work from. I half-jokingly, half-hesitantly asked if she might consider coaching a team. She said: "Absolutely!" She seems really excited about jumping and working with the kids; and said I should stay in touch until I return. I left one of the DVDs and some of the ropes.
I visited the Ummu Salama School again this morning and performed for classes 4 through 7. Each performance was followed by ten more minutes of instruction; then 11 of the best students were selected for what may be the first Tanzanian jump rope team. I worked with that group for about a half an hour more before I had to head off to the bus station for the trip back to Dar es Salaam. I left behind 15 ropes and another instructional DVD; and I told them I expected back flips and quints by the time I returned. They all laughed.
I was only in Iringa for two days; but there are now teachers who actually have the skills and who will be there every day; and a group of kids who are already a new team. With interest at both Ummu Salama School and Iringa International School; I am very optimistic that jump rope has a good start in the region.
Tomorrow, I'm traveling to Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya. It's about a 12 hour trip from Dar to Mombasa by bus.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I'm writing from the computer room at Iringa International School. I did a performance for the kids this morning, then went over to the Ummu Salama School (about a 5 minute walk) to perform for and teach to a small group of students.
I'll be working with the kids at I.I.S. again during their break in 20 minutes, then after school for 3-4 hours. Tomorrow, I'll work with them during phys. ed. classes, then go back to Umma Salama for a performance for the entire school, and another workshop. I'll only be in Iringa for two days, and I'm really wishing I could stay longer. The kids are so enthusiastic and the area is beautiful.
Two of the teachers I spoke with at Ummu Salama are very interested in starting a team. They feel that there is a lot of potential, and love the idea of competing within the country, and ultimately internationally. They feel very strongly that by having the youth from several different countries coming together to share a common passion, to teach each other, and to have a chance to interact beyond the competition will be a great thing. It will be a truly unique cultural exchange. These kids will be the future leaders of the world, and for them understand and respect individuals who are culturally different from them will be very positive.
Ummu Salama School
I'm drinking as much water as I can, but still finding myself dehydrated. The other day I spilled some water in the dirt and watched as the ground drank it up in seconds. The heat can be brutal, and I'm most definitely sunburned.
I'm staying with a couple that teaches at I.I.S. The mother is from Senegal and the father from the U.K. They have two kids that are completely adorable. Everyone is friendly, enthusiastic, and so welcoming.
For anyone who may be reading this...I miss you. Peace.
Friday, January 16, 2009
It's been a busy, amazing, inspiring, exhausting, energizing, unbelievable week.
I've spent most of each day working with the kids at Morogoro International school, and was able to arrange visits to three of the local schools - Mtawala, Mwembesongo, and Mchikichini (click on any pic for larger view).
The kids at M.I.S. range in age from 4 to 16, and they've been great - full of energy and eager to learn. Many of the older kids have even started to take on a teaching role for the younger students. The potential is definitely here.
Morogoro is beautiful. The school is right next to a huge mountain range. I've taken numerous photos to try to capture the view, but they won't do it justice. The facilities for phys. ed. classes are also good.
My time on the computer is running low, and I need to back at the school in half an hour, so I'll keep this short.
There will be three workshops tomorrow (9-11, 11-1, and 2-4). See video below of classroom session at Mtawala School:
I leave for Iringa on Sunday, then Mombasa (in Kenya) on Wednesday, then back to Moshi after that. Then back to school for spring semester of senior year. Then back to Africa.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Tomorrow I leave for Tanzania! I fly out of Cleveland, and should land in Dar es Salaam by 7 a.m. on January 11th. Thank you so much to everyone who donated ropes and other materials. I'll take as many pictures as possible for you to see just how much your help means to the kids there.
See you all in three weeks.