By Lia and Hadley

Just two weeks ago, we arrived at Mufindi Children’s Village not knowing what to expect and maybe a little apprehensive about what was to come. Now we find ourselves reflecting on an amazing adventure.

During our first week, our days started at 4:45 am to help our house mamas get kids ready for school and eat breakfast with them. From there, the group split into two with half working in the garden with a Peace Corps volunteer, as well as the permanent workers. The garden crew learned how to differentiate between crops, massage trees, and create a compost pile. The other half of our group immersed themselves in the classrooms. We rotated between four classrooms ranging in age from babies to kindergarten.

We ate lots of porridge (oogie), changed diapers, and learned the true meaning of furaha (happy) from the kids who taught us that you don’t need much to exude positivity, joy, and indescribable love.

The afternoons of the entire group were spent helping with homework, participating in baby power hour, finding ourselves in glitter wars, and playing games on the airstrip. The mountains and pine trees coupled with colorful sunsets and tea farms that surround Mufindi provide the perfect backdrop to encompass the mission here.

Over the weekend we immersed ourselves in rural homestays. We went to church, practiced Swahili and Hehe (local language), helped our mamas cook, mastered the squatty potty, and took lots of outhouse bucket showers.

Culture shock was definitely prevalent but we worked together to appreciate the beautifully simple way of communal life.

For our second week, we switched roles between garden crew and the school so everyone got a taste of everything. To end our time here we sang and danced our way through a wonderful homestay party where we got to say thank you to our families on last time. On our final day at the children’s village, we took a number of kids on a hike down to the dams to go swimming. Laughter and water fights were shared by all. Yesterday, we traveled from Mufindi to Njombe during what turned out to be quite an eventful travel day. Our first bus from the village to the main bus station about two hours away got a flat so we had to squeeze all 12 of us, our 12 giant packs, 12 day bags, one guitar, and one driver into an eight-person van…needless to say, we all got very close during that trip. Our bus taking us from the main bus station and Njombe also broke down in a break mishap so we spent another few hours on the side of the road waiting for it to get fixed. In the end, it was all worth it, though, when we finally arrived at our hotel and found that it had hot running water for showers!

As we finish up our time here in the Mufindi we reflect on all of our experiences, collectively. We had ample opportunity to push our comfort zones, discover the culture, and learn more about ourselves. We practiced hand washing launder on the lawn, added in some local HeHe to our Swahili, and laughed with the kids too many times to count. We are excited about moving on and our upcoming adventures but, for most of us, leaving Mufindi behind was bittersweet…and maybe even filled with a few tears as we said goodbye to some pretty amazing people.

As they say in Tanzania, “Be Free!”