Sunday, January 24, 2010

The start of the collaborative project...

The art program at umoja has been somewhat dormant for the last six months. Being one of two new teachers in the department, I thought it would be appropriate to announce our presence and enthusiasm for working with students and making art. Last week I discovered a bundle of rolled up sketches from a few terms ago that have been damaged and thrown to the side. Since materials are hard to come by here, I set out to re-use the sketch paper, paint it, and initiate an informal collaboration amongst visitors and current students at the school.

This is my friend Marieke. She's been helping out at Umoja while awaiting the news of her acceptance to a UN internship position for the next month. Above, she adds a coat of white to the craft paper I scavenged for our latest project.

I laid the painted paper across  the floor in the common area where students accumulate before lessons, and invited them to join me in drawing and cutting patterns and designs.

A few days later we ended up with this decorative netting that now hangs above the front desk for all to see.

Stage two of this project will involve the crafting of hundreds of paper birds that will explode from the corner behind the paper netting, travel across the ceiling and out the front door into the trees.
Arusha is a very international community, so the discussion of traditional paper folding techniques from Japanese, Korean and Moorish culture should be an interesting addition to the mixing pot of information that naturally exists here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Outside over there...

Classes at Umoja are taking off this week.  My classes are slow to start, but apparently that's what it's like being the new teacher on the block. To start, we are working on some collaborative projects cutting and folding paper.
I'll post some pictures to update you on that process as we go. 
In other news, I finally went to the central market to buy some produce. It's an overwhelming place that feels more like a stock market than a farmers market. Regardless, I managed to talk the cost of a head of cabbage down from 1,700 shillings to 1,000 - still a bit expensive, but I think adequate for the first try. I've also discovered that the best time to eat mango is around 3pm. I cut it and split it with Fatma, my oldest new friend at Umoja. We scarf it down in a matter of minutes and find our strength and mental prowess renewed.
After making some purchases at the hardware stores in town, the art room seems comfortably stocked. 

the work table in the art room

my washing from last sunday!

view from the performance space

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sustenance, hygiene and recuperation at Umoja

I hope to get a little more ambitious with my cooking, but it's been enough of a task just to land these fresh fruits and veggies. Everything is so flavorful! I'm especially enjoying the mango and avocado. It turns out we have banana and mango trees in our garden at Umoja. In fact, the bananas are ready for picking now.

 Not to worry, my sense of adventure with fallen and rotting foods does not transfer to a situation such as this one. I boiled the brush the next day.

Shower-toilet combo. My experience so far has yielded about two minutes of hot water each session. Some is better than none. I'll count my blessings.

The mosquito net looks fancy. I slept the first two nights without one, but bites on eyelids are worth avoiding.

Istanbul to Arusha

Liza and I flew from NYC to Istanbul overnight on the 5th, had a 10 hour layover there, then took off for Nairobi for an overnight flight on the 6th. We finally arrived in Nairobi on the 7th at 3:30AM...I think.
As soon as we collected our luggage, we bathed in the bathroom, stacked our luggage, and camped out until about 6:30AM. Are you following all of that?
The sun came up in Kenya as we took in some caffeine, and immediately I was struck by how much brighter it shines.
We hopped on a bus that took us across bits of violently bumpy terrain. We had to stop at the Kenya/Tanzania border to obtain visas, which was a little sticky for me. There was confusion between the visa office and the bank across the road, so I found myself running back and forth, with a worry of being left behind.
It all worked out soon enough and we were back on the road to Arusha.
The closer we got to our destination, the more beautiful the landscape became. About 15 minutes outside of Arusha, we passed through vivid green, rolling hills. The Maasai villages came close to the road, where I also saw herds of goats, cows, and a cluster of camels.
I hadn't eaten anything for the day except a cheese roll that was given to me on the plane, so when I finally got off the bus, I felt terrible. Lupo, a friend of Liza's swept us away to Liza's house, where I promptly ate some peanut M&Ms, and then a well rounded meal of beans, rice and cabbage.
Much has happened since my arrival, but that news is soon to come...

For now, here are some photos:

This one is for David.

This is an entryway to the Blue Mosque. We were scammed shortly after we entered, as a younger gentleman forced a mediocre tour on us and then demanded money. It was an awkward ordeal that is sure to be avoided in the future!


Thinking through the installation...
This will be installed in the library at Burroughs Elementary. Now that I am in Arusha, David has kindly taken charge of final installation work. I am so excited to see how it turns out!