Monday, March 11, 2013


(Cross posted from

Last Thursday, I blogged about feeling "homesick" on my other this blog. (Homesick is in quotation marks because I usually miss people not places and I haven't even lived some of the places I miss.) Then I spent Thursday and Friday at an SGIS conference in Leysin, Switzerland (and I got to hear Stephen Krashen speak! But that's not what this post is about).

My school blocks Twitter (that could be another blog post as well) but the school where the conference was being held does not so I was able to spend two days on Twitter and connect with friends new and old along the way. It made me realize how much I miss that connectivity. At the conference there were only 3, yes 3, people tweeting. Me, my friend Kate and Glenn (a librarian at the host school). I realized pretty quickly that I was not in Asia anymore and it made me sad. At one point I sent out this tweet:
At a conference and there are only 3 people tweeting. #notinAsiaanymore Missing @librarianedge @klbeasley @colingally @louisephinney & more! — Megan Graff (@megangraff) March 8, 2013  
Within a few minutes I had heard back from both K-L and Colin and I missed them even more. However exchanging a few tweets with them and with others was good for my soul.

Today, back at home, I managed to catch up with several friends in Singapore via Facebook and Gmail chat. Combined with bright sunshine and having gone for coffee (in France) this morning with a friend here, I am feeling more connected. It made me realize I need to make an effort to catch people online and maybe even go so far as to set up chat "dates". When I lived in Singapore, I made sure I always had phone cards to call friends in N. America and Australia but when I was in Tanzania it was harder and  I got out of the habit and never got in the habit of regular contact with those still in Singapore. This carried over when I moved here. Now six months later I am realizing how much being connected is part of who I am.

 I haven't booked any flights as of yet and if I can catch my sister online perhaps I won't need to...
Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Sometimes when people find out that I live overseas, they ask if I get homesick. Homesick is tricky because there is no one place in North America (or the world) that I identify as home. My usual answer is no but that at times I really miss people but those people are in various places around the world.

Tonight however I am missing two places in addition to the people in those places.

I made a pan of brownies tonight and it sharpened a longing for the people I lived with at St. Jude's. Recently while walking home, I was thinking of the nightly gatherings at the Waterhole. I didn't go every night but anytime I felt like being a bit social between work and dinner it was an option. I miss that. I miss making a pan of brownies and leaving in in the kitchen for others to find or hiding pieces in the freezer and letting certain people who were in need of a pick-me up know about them or delivering warm pieces to colleagues working late or on a Saturday morning. I miss cooking dinner alongside others who are doing the same. Many of the people I miss are no longer there but others still are (and based on their comments on the brownie photo I posted on Facebook, they miss me - and my brownies!).

I am also missing Manila. Although I have never officially lived in Manila or even visited for much longer than a week at a time, it counts as one of my homes. When I lived in Singapore, it was easy to pop over for a weekend and by going every 4-6 weeks I was able to keep up with many (by no means all!) of the goings-on at Gentle Hands. I visited in August 2011 before I moved to Tanzania and said I wouldn't be back until I left Tanzania but I ended up visiting in April 2012. The changes in those 8 months were huge and I felt a bit funny while I was there. I didn't want to connect too deeply with those that had arrived since August as I knew it would be awhile before I made it back. Now it is coming up on a year since I visited. Many of the children I bonded with, including my good buddy Alex, have gone to live with their forever families. Many more children have arrived. Renovations have continued on the original building and the family living area has moved out of the new building. The pictures in my head are no longer accurate. This week, Tracey (Charity's brother's wife) has been posting each day about the goings on at Gentle Hands. There are links to the posts on the Gentle Hands Facebook page. These glimpses into the daily life have made my longing to visit more acute and reminded me of all the crazy things that can happen there each day.

Lastly (at least for tonight), I am missing my sister Skye's house in Lethbridge. I visited before Christmas and spent time with my 2.5 year old niece, Rachel and my 4 year old nephew, Grant. It had been two years since I has seen them which is a huge chunk of their lives! Skye and Trevor are expecting their third child later this month and although I told them I wouldn't be back until at least summer 2014, I'm starting to wonder if I'll make it that long. Especially after Skye posted the photo below on the weekend and I re-watched the video of Rachel that I filmed in December.


I suspect I may find myself booking some airplane tickets before too long... but to where?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where do I belong?

I spent an hour replying to an email from a Canadian friend about traveling in SE Asia. A big chunk of it ending up being links to my favourite NGOs in Phnom Penh. I included:

And then I watched a video that a friend shared on Facebook (which I noticed has since been taken down so I found a new link). 

Now when I should be going to bed, I'm wondering if Switzerland is where I should be. Is working at an international school with privileged children the place for me? It gives me the chance to earn money that I can share and to visit places like Cambodia and my brother's place in Manila (Gentle Hands) and perhaps by sharing my experiences in places like those and at my school in Tanzania, I can have an impact on the children (and maybe even adults) I work with here. But is that enough?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A backlog of blog posts

I have so many things I could blog about but actually sitting down and taking the time to write them doesn't seem to be happening. I'm going to make a to-write list of titles/subjects post and hope that it inspires me to tackle some of them.

  • My Journey to Work: Keri-Lee tagged me in her post and I've been meaning to post my own. I've taken the photos but that's as far as I've gotten.
  • Sport Carnival: some of our students represented St. Jude's at an international school track and field day in early October and I went along to help out. I copied photos from the day from server to my desktop at work but haven't managed to get them on to my laptop.
  • Food Water Shelter: I visited FWS on a Sunday afternoon at the beginning of October and I was very impressed with what they are doing. I didn't take a camera but a colleague has graciously passed on photos she took.
  • Cultural Night at the Moivaro Boarding Houses: our grade 4, 5 and 6 students board during the school terms from Sunday evening until Friday after school. These are the students I work with so when I found out they would be having a cultural evening and presenting various acts they had put together I was keen to attend. I took some photos but the lighting in the dining hall was not ideal. Like the sports day photos, I have some that were shared around but they are on my work computer.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro: The week of October 10 was our mid-term break and I joined 3 colleagues on a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was incredible!
I think that covers the big events but each day things happen that make me think, "Hmm. Maybe I should blog about this so my friends around the world can see what my life is like." But then that life gets busy and I get distracted and I don't get the posts written. We'll see if this list helps rectify this at least a little.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Field Trip to the Kenyan Border

I have posted a write-up of a field trip I went on last week on my other blog. It can be found here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The African Clean

Let me begin by coming “clean” that I have my own shower with hot water 24/7 and that I have access to a washing machine in the evenings and most of the weekend. This isn’t a post about cold bucket showers and hand-washing my clothes but rather about dust.

I have been walking for 45 minutes or so first thing in the morning. The first day I wore my running shoes. By the time we returned, my fairly white runners were the colour of the dust on the road. No biggie. I took them off and discovered the toes of what had been white socks were also that colour. Again no big deal - it’s not like I brought any new or special socks with me. I then peeled off my socks to reveal toes that looked as though I had walked down the dusty road barefoot! Since then I have been wearing my hiking boats and dark socks on the daily walks. My toes still manage to get grubby by the end of the day and there is no going to bed without washing my feet (if not my whole self). I’m glad I brought a nailbrush.

As a teacher, I have long been in the habit of washing my hands at frequent intervals whether or not they appeared to need it. Here I wash them at least as frequently and the colour of the water that comes off them each time matches my grubby toes! The books in the library seem to have a fine coating of dust and after shelving for even a short period of time my hands are filthy.

The cleanliness of my clothes is a different issue. In Singapore if I wore something for more than an hour or two, it needed to be washed before it was worn again. By the time I walked home from school, my clothes and me were so sweaty we both needed washing ASAP. Here it’s so much cooler and less humid that I have to relearn how to tell when clothes are in need of a wash. Pants (trousers for the British) are easy - the hems show the dirt – but then again the hems get dirty about as quickly as my toes so should I just wear them that way? The washing machine isn’t the most effective one I’ve ever used so the line between freshly washed and not is a bit blurry on some items which compounds my issue. I’m hoping I can trust a colleague or two to say something if I start to push the boundaries of cleanliness too much. Then again, the yoga mats we use each week have a coating of dust and the instructor confessed that at first she washed them weekly but then she gave up.

The next rains are scheduled to come in October and I’ve already been given a head’s up that I will need to acquire some rubber boots to wear into town and even on my two minute commute on some days! I suspect I’ll look back on the dust with longing when we are surrounded by mud and damp laundry that never fully dries. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A New Adventure Begins

I arrived in Arusha, Tanzania on August 17, 2011 and joined the staff of The School of St. Jude as a teacher-librarian in the Upper Primary Library at the Moshono Campus. I am here as a volunteer but in the upper primary library there are two local teachers who have been working as teacher-librarians at the school for a while and a full-time guard who shelves, repairs books and seems willing to do anything else he is asked. The majority of the staff at the school is Tanzanian (plus a few from neighbouring East African countries) but there are some volunteer teacher mentors and quite a few volunteers working in various roles in the business office. The majority of the volunteers are Australian.

I visited the school for a few days in June 2010 so I knew the drill of flying into Nairobi, spending the night in a hotel and taking a shuttle bus to Arusha the following morning. I have my own room with an ensuite bathroom (with hot water) and I’m sharing a kitchen with some of the other volunteers. Although there are frequent power outages in Arusha, the school has backup generators so we are rarely without power for more than a few seconds. We also have wifi across campus so I can use my laptop most anywhere. The signal isn’t strong enough for my iPhone to pick it up from inside my room (and I’ve put my SIM card in my Nokia) so I have mainly been using it to listen to podcasts.

The most surprising thing so far has been the number of physical and social activities going on. There are groups of people that walk in the mornings before school and on weekends so I’ve walked nearly every day since I arrived. One volunteer leads yoga sessions twice a week though she has gone back to Australia for a month or so in order to be there when her first grandchild is born so yoga is on hiatus. The lower primary PE teacher was a personal trainer in Australia and she leads cardio and Pilates sessions once a week. There have been several birthday celebrations since I arrived which have involved dinner or lunch at various restaurants. There is a Sunday night tradition of going out for dinner to a complex where there is a movie theatre and a very western style grocery store (most anything you could possibly want is available but at a price) as well as a variety of restaurants around a courtyard including a very yummy Indian one. We had last Monday off as a day in lieu for Eid and a large group of us ventured out to the Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre followed by lunch at Shanga (a glass bead making workshop that employs disabled Tanzanians and has a fabulous restaurant). I’ve been into town numerous times with various combinations of people to grocery shop, run errands, watch rugby matches and eat at a variety of restaurants and cafes. All of this has left me with no chance of being bored and no real time to blog until now. (I’m not complaining but I know there are people who have been waiting for updates.)

As well as working on finding my place in the upper primary library, I have spent a bit of time in the lower primary library, visited the secondary library at our Usa River campus and been involved in the student selection process for next year’s grade one students. (I plan to write about the latter on my other blog at some point).

I haven’t taken many photos as I am reluctant to wave my camera about in public – both out of respect for locals and for fear of having it snatched. I did take some around campus the first weekend I arrived and I posted most of them in this Picasa web album.