Final week

This has been one of the best experiences of my life so far. I am sad to leave, and I don’t think it will fully hit me until I am gone. Before I decided to take off the year from law school, to come to Tanzania and volunteer in an orphanage, I asked a lot of people for their advice. Would this negatively impact my future job search? But what if I want to work in a firm, what will they say? Can I join a journal if I take the year off? Will I miss my friends in 3L year? Everyone I talked to, from the Dean of Admission, to the Dean of Students, to my professors, to my friends, were really supportive. Aside from a few friends who didn’t want to see me go, but knew that it would make me happy, everyone seemed to think it was a good idea, and the right time to do it. There is one piece of advice, however, that really stuck with me. 1L year I signed up for the women’s mentoring program, like most of the women in my class, and was matched up with an alumni from the law school. She was terrific, and I have spoken with her a few times since I have been in Africa. I remember at our last meeting, when I had already decided to go, we were having dinner at a place downtown. She was supportive of me from the beginning, and one of the main reasons I worked up the courage to go. She told me it was a great thing, but she said, “make sure you get out of it what you want.” She reminded me that this would likely be the last time I could easily take off and do something like this, and I had better make it count. She made me realize that I had to figure out what I wanted to get out of this experience, and that I had better make sure I got it before my time was up.

Well, I can confidently say that I did. Volunteering in Thailand last summer was unreal, and so amazing, but for me, that experience was more about the people I met, and the country itself. This time around, I wanted to make it about the kids. I wanted to feel that I truly made a difference and was helping somebody, even if it was in a small way. This may be egotistical, but I really do think that I made a small difference here, at Tupendane, in ways other than by buying things with the money that I fundraised, although that is important too. The volunteers talk about this all of the time, and I think that most of us agree, that even if it is just playing with the kids and picking them up every day, we have made a small difference. All they want is to be loved and given attention, and our presence here does at least that.

My director told me today that my last day would have to be next Tuesday, instead of Wednesday like I was planning, because they are cooking pilau and have a whole celebration planned for me. I think I almost cried right then. Since I have been here, they have never done anything like this when another volunteer left. It made me feel like they really appreciated me, and felt as sad to see me go as I do to say goodbye to them.

Also, I like to think that it is not just about the money. While I have to admit to myself that had I not built toilets, a playground, gotten the kids HIV tested, and sponsored three kids, they would likely not have thrown me this whole celebration, I like to think that regardless, they would have seen how much I care about the kids, and appreciated me being there for that reason. Other people and volunteers have come by the orphanage, and the director has said to them that him and his wife and I are now equal. I am not sure exactly what he means by this, but I think that he knows that I care about the kids as much as he and his wife do, and he means that we are all in this together.

In other news, Nancy, the other volunteer with me, is sponsoring one of the girls and sending her to Intel school with my three. We will be taking her shopping Saturday, and dropping her at the school then. I am planning to say goodbye to my three kids there on Saturday, which will be really sad. I know that I have to come back here at some point, to check up on all of the kids, and them especially.

Tomorrow, as my thank you to Tupendane, I am taking the kids and directors out for lunch. There is a local place on the corner that sells meat and rice, or chips mayai for less than a dollar each, and today we took orders to see what the kids wanted. Surprisingly, everyone wanted chips mayai. I would have thought they would have wanted meat, considering they never get it, but no, 100% chips mayai (chips and egg). They will each get a dish and a soda, and I think it will be a nice afternoon for everyone.

That’s it for now. I still don’t feel like I’m leaving anytime soon, but I am sure it will hit me eventually. Although, it will probably not be until I am on the plane out of here, and I realize that it is really over.

Home visits

Sorry, as you can tell I have been pretty lazy about adding photos the last few posts. It is just a whole process here. Internet is bad, I have to wait for them to upload from my phone, blah blah. But I will take the time to upload photos today, because today Nancy and I went to visit some of the kids’ homes. I have been before, when I went to visit the farm, but this time it was an official visit. The difference was that the kids came with us, we went inside the homes, and we brought 5 kilos of sugar for each family.

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Rice paddies on the way

 

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Me and Godlisen on the boda boda

 

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We visited Juma, Godlisen, Salma, and Mwanaid’s homes. Mwanaid is the girl that I sponsor to go the Intel school, or actually that my parents sponsor, and so I was just going to bring her mom some sugar. Mothers here are not affectionate towards their children, and the children aren’t in return, but Mwanaid’s mom is almost an exception.

She still did not say goodbye to Mwanaid when we dropped her at school, but she acts so warmly towards me, and asked that I say hi to Mwanaid when I go to visit the school. Also, Emmanuel was explaining to her that I came to say goodbye since I am leaving in two weeks, and she said she will be coming to Tupendane on the day that I leave to say goodbye. The center is about a twenty five minute motor bike ride from her home. I am sure she cannot afford the bike, meaning she will walk over an hour to Tupendane just to say good bye. I almost cried when she told me that. It was so touching to know that she cared enough about me to want to come and say goodbye again.

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Juma, Godlisen and Salma came with us on the bikes. I rode with Godlisen. It was really funny.

 

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Godlisen’s grandmother, with the sugar we brought her

First stop was Godlisen’s grandmother’s home. He lives with his grandmother, Bibi, as his mom and dad left him when he was very young. She is a lovely woman, and was happy to see me again. We didn’t go inside her home, but I got a photo of her and Godi together. He is one of the sweetest boys I have ever met.

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Godlisen and his grandmother

 

Next we went to Juma’s home. I think he is the poorest of the four, which isn’t saying much, since they are all pretty bad off. Juma’s family has five children, and very little space. His mom was fairly young, and had a very little baby with her. Here are some photos of the home.

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Juma’s mom and baby sister
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Juma’s home 
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Juma’s kitchen
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Bed in Juma’s house, 5 children sleep here

 

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Juma’s family

 

Lastly we went to Salma’s home. She was acting strange the whole time, and it ended up being because she did not want to leave. We left her there in the end, and she will return to Tupendane tomorrow. Her family is probably the best off of the four. They have a cow and some chickens, and only three children. While the home is not in good condition, there seemed to be enough bed space for everyone and enough food for the time being. Mwanaid’s family has seven kids, with six living there now that Mwanaid is at INTEL school. They had a large room for the kids, but only a small bed inside. This bed has to fit six kids, some of whom are babies, but some of whom seemed about ten years old.

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Salma’s home
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Salma and her mom

 

February

I have less than twenty days left here, getting a little anxious. Things are the same and different. People in the house are different, we have five new ones as of now, and my room is FULL. Six people packed in there. The kids at the orphanage are also different. We’ve gotten eight new ones over the last few weeks, and a lot of the older ones have gone to the public school across the street. The teacher is also different. Janet has gone, which I am sad about, but we now have teacher Rose. She is sweet and a more organized and professional teacher than Janet, but I do miss Janet. We don’t do much teaching now though, because Rose has it pretty well covered. The playground is in and the kids are loving that still. What else can I say…

Today we used the last of the money I raised plus money from Nancy, oh yeah, new volunteer with me also, to get HIV tests for all of the kids. Great news, they were all negative! Teacher Rose and Margret got tested too and they were also negative. Even better news, it was an NGO that came to do the tests, and the doctor told me that they currently provide free medical care for 24 orphanages in Arusha. They are reevaluating the orphanages they help in June, and getting rid of the ones that can pay themselves, and will survey Tupendane to see if we qualify. If we do, which we will, then all of the kids will get free medical care! Also, they are sending medical students next week to check the kids’ eyes, ears and teeth.

So there were three new girls there today. Nancy and I walked in, and as soon as one of the girls saw us, she burst out crying and screaming something about mazungus. We were baffled, and tried to ask the other kids what she was saying. They were all laughing and repeating her. I went to teacher Rose and asked what the girl was saying, but she couldn’t think of how to say it in English. Finally I gathered from her that the girl was saying she was afraid of white people. Well, dragging her in to get a shot didn’t help. She screamed and tried to run away, but when faced with the prospect of a shot or me, she choose me. After that we bonded. I think once she saw that we weren’t going to hit her or anything, she warmed up. Apparently at some point she told the teacher she was afraid we would hit her. I am not sure where she picked that up, because I can’t imagine she was ever hit by a white person, but at least we have helped her conquer her fear of mazungus.

Last to report, I went to Kenya this past weekend with a girl from the house. We stayed with my friend Regina, who I worked with at KELIN this past summer. I forgot how much more developed and modern Nairobi was compared to here, until I went back. It makes me wonder how Elise and I ever complained about Kenya being undeveloped. With the restaurants, malls, stores, buildings, everything basically, it is much, much more developed than Arusha. That being said, there are parts that are exactly the same, just not the majority of the city. Anyway, we had a great weekend. I saw all of my old co-workers, went to my favorite eating spots, and just relaxed. We had dinner at one of Regina’s family friend’s house, at Tracy, my coworkers house, went out one night, and cooked dinner one night. It was a nice trip, and I am now happy to be back in Arusha. I am busy planning my trip to Asia, which I will do after this for only a few weeks, and then back to the good old USA!

One month to go

As of today, I have only one month left! Time really does fly. Latest update, Janet, the teacher, has quit. The directors had not paid her in months, so I said good for her. There really was no excuse to not pay her, considering she does EVERYTHING for them, and although I am sad for the kids and for her, because I know how much she loves them, it was the right thing. That was last Friday. I met with her on Saturday to go to the INTEL school to visit the sponsored kids. I talked with her then, and she was sad to have left the kids, but was already applying for new teaching jobs. I really hope she finds something soon, but her English is not that good, so I am not sure what kind of job she is going to get.

There is a new girl with me at placement. She is here for three months, which I’m happy about. I ran the class on Friday, and it was good, but stressful. The kids don’t listen to may the same way they listened to Janet, and I can’t do the swahili lessons that she could. But….good news…today we got a new teacher! It was kind of weird, because she wasn’t Janet, but overall it is a good thing. She seemed a little bit older and more professional than Janet, which will be good for the kids. She ran things a little bit differently, which will take some getting used to, and still is not great at English. Hopefully the director will pay her on time, and we don’t have to worry about not having a teacher again.

That is the big news in my life at the moment. I am going to Nairobi in two weekends with a girl from the house, to visit my friends from the summer. I am really excited about that, and it will be great to see all of my work people again.

Updates

I haven’t written in a while, but I’ll give a summary of the past two weeks’ events. A new girl named Manya was at placement with me for these two weeks, and today was her last day. I enjoyed having her with me, and we got along really well. New people arrived today, we have seven new ones in Twiga, so it is starting to get crowded, and one of them will be at placement with me.

We put in the playground two days ago and the kids FREAKED. They went nuts. They loved it so much, and kept running up to me saying mzuri madam, and thumbs up. It was really cute, and I took lots of photos and videos. I think it is definitely an improvement over playing in the dirt, and its much more convenient to play right outside of the orphanage, than have to walk to the field where they used to play. Today, one of the kids climbed up on the playground and peed on everyone from the top.

We have gotten four new kids at the orphanage, because a lot of the older ones have gone off to school. The public school they go to is down the road from the orphanage. Starting January 1, a few of the oldest ones had to start there. It’s sad and I miss them, because a lot of them were the ones who I was able to communicate the best with, but some of them come by for lunch still, which is nice.

South Africa vacation

On December 17 I left Arusha for South Africa. Until the 27th, I would be in South Africa on a vacation with my family. That was a week ago, and it was amazing. My mom planned the whole thing and did an excellent job.

I am not going to go into every detail of the day by day, since my parents are likely the only people reading this and were there! but I’ll list all of the things we did so I can remember them later.

I flew to Johannesburg by myself the night before they landed, and spent the night in a really nice hotel there. The next day I took the free shuttle back to the airport, where I met my family. They arrived from New York that morning. We all met and flew together to Cape Town. Every part of the trip was well planned, and there was always a driver there on time ready to take us from place to place. We spent three days in Cape Town and stayed at the Four Rosemeed boutique hotel. It was amazing. The hotel looks like a house, and there was a nice pool and sitting area in the back. Breakfast was included and was pretty fancy as well. All of the staff were really nice, and I got my own room! It was my birthday while we were there, and the hotel staff gave me a small gift, which was really thoughtful. While in Cape Town, we took the cable car up table mountain and walked around at the top. The views are really pretty and the ride wasn’t scary.

After this trip, I am convinced I could live in Cape Town and be very happy. It felt like being in America, in a nice, warm part of America. Cape Town has a pretty relaxed vibe, and a lot of trendy looking restaurants and shops. There are beaches and beautiful scenery, and everyone we met was friendly. A guy in the volunteer house is from Johannesburg, and he says he could never live there because it is too slow. He said that aside from tourism, Cape Town doesn’t contribute to the GDP of the country, but it seemed like a nice place to relax in at least, and I think you could definitely find something to do. They need lawyers everywhere, right?

Anyway, in addition to Table Mountain, we had a city tour, saw what used to be a fortress, and walked around by ourselves along the waterfront and to a local market, which was like the Tanzanian Masaai market. The next day we did a drive along the coast and saw the Cape of Good Hope. The drive was beautiful and we climbed up some rocks to get a better view of the cape. We also drove a little further and climbed up to a light house. We stopped at Haute bay and saw the penguins, which were really cute. We also took a boat out to see a ton of seals earlier in the morning. We had lunch on the water at a really nice fish place, and walked around the town there. We had three nights in Cape Town, and really good food all three of them. The food and drinks were not too expensive, especially considering the quality of food we were getting.

After Cape Town, our driver, Shareef, took us to Stellenbosch and that area for the wineries. We went to two, Fairview and Rickety Bridge, both were really good, but I enjoyed the first one more. We had a wine and cheese tasting there. My mom and I had found a wine that we liked the most while we were at dinner, and were ordering that everywhere we went. After the wineries, we went to our next hotel, where we would stay for two nights. It was also a boutique hotel, with a nice pool outside. We had dinner at the hotel the first night, and went into the small town the next night. On the second day we didn’t do much. We walked around the town, and then hung out by the pool at the hotel. After that, it was safari time.

We went to the airport and flew to the area that Kruger park is in, I forget the name. It was about an hour flight. When we arrived, our safari ranger, Aneen, was there in the jeep to pick us up. We did safari at Kampama private game reserve. It was really amazing. From our guide, to our accommodations, to the actual animal viewing, I really don’t think it could have gotten any better. We were definitely not “roughing it,” but I guess we did see our fair share of bugs, if that counts. We saw all of the big 5 and then some. We got to see rhinos up close, which was pretty cool considering everyone who I have spoken to who has gone on safari in Kenyan and Tanzania has never seen a rhino as anything other than a tiny grey dot in the distance. My favorite part was the baby lion cubs. We woke up every morning for a 6am game drive, came back at 9am for breakfast, hung around the camp, and went back out at 4:30 for another drive. On one of the afternoon drives, we saw a group of baby lion cubs and two female adult lions playing together. They were right up at our car, and the lion cubs were wrestling with each other and climbing all over the moms. It was the cutest thing, and really cool because it was all natural and in the wild. I felt like I was in the lion king.

On our last day, we went for a morning game drive, and then flew to Johannesburg. Again, we stayed in a really nice hotel for the night. We had dinner somewhere near the hotel, in a pretty happening area. My family had the following day in Johannesburg, but I flew out that next morning. I think everyone had a great trip, and I was sad to leave. But, I was also excited to get back. I hand’t thought I would be, but when Jimmy, our cab driver in Tanzania, picked me up from the airport, I felt like I was home again. I didn’t realize how comfortable I had become here, and I was excited to get back to my Twiga house and familiar faces. Now I’m back in Twiga, and things are pretty quiet. We went out for New Years, which was a lot of fun, and the city has been on holiday break mode since then. I think by Monday things will get back to normal.  A lot of the kids were out this week because of the holidays, but it was actually nice having the orphanage a little quitter. Oh, and the playground should be done tomorrow, fingers crossed, and the hopefully we can bring it there on Monday.

Well, that’s it for now!

 

Home visits

 

First, here is a photo of the way dresses are displayed in Arusha. Unlike in the US, where the manikins are unnaturally thin, here, they have different, but still unrealistic, proportions. Women are very proud of their butts here.IMG_5424

Now, for today. At placement our director took us to his farm. I had been once before, but it is a really pretty area, and so I wanted to go again with the new Amy. Also, when I went about three months ago the rice was not ready yet. Now it is ready to be picked, and has grown a lot since I was last there. My director has a rice and maize farm, and said he hopes to have a bean farm in a year or so. Here is a photo of the rice.

 

 

 

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We take boda bodas to the farm, which are motor bikes. They are fun to ride on and help it to feel not as hot as it is. I wouldn’t take one in town though, too dangerous. To get to the farm we take mostly dirt roads, so it’s fine.

A lot of the kids’ houses are near the farms. These are the ones who sleep at the orphanage, because it would be too far for them to walk there and back every day. Also, a lot of them are better off living at the orphanage, where they have some food, toilets as of now, and at least a sturdy building to be in. They share two huge beds at the orphanage, but it is better than sleeping on the floor, which is where a lot of the kids would be sleeping at home.

We visited four homes, Selma, Godlisen, Juma and Mwanaid. It wasn’t preplanned, or we would have brought some food for the families, but a last minute decision when we were already out there.

We met all of the mothers, but there were no men around. I am pretty sure none of these four have fathers that live at home. Selma had two siblings, and we met them and her mom. Godlisen lives only with his grandmother, who seemed like quite a character, if only we knew what she was saying. Juma and Mwanaid’s families were the poorest of the group, which isn’t saying much, as all four are very poor. Juma’s family has five kids, and Mwanaid’s has six. Juma’s was the worst off. His home was basically a single room, and I peered in and did not see any sort of bed or place for everyone to sleep. They also did not have as many animals as Selma’s family, which is a sign of wealth here, and a way to make an income. Mwanaid’s family was very poor as well, which made me feel better about choosing to sponsor her, because hopefully she will be able to help her family one day. And regardless, it is one less mouth for her family to have to feed for most of the year.

It was sad though, because aside from the four who are at Tupendane, all of their siblings do not go to school. Some had younger siblings, and some older. The older kids work in the fields all day or take care of the babies, and the babies just run around in the dirt or play outside, it seemed. Baby is a relative term though, because four and five year old children here are put in charge of watching their younger siblings. This is pretty common. Some of the street kids who play with our kids at Tupendane carry around babies on their backs, and they themselves are only four or five years old.

Here are two of the homes.

 

 

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Selma’s home
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Mwanaid’s home
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Farm area

Random updates

Again, not too much new to report! Just living here in Arusha, typical days and weekends! People keep on leaving, a few new will be coming this weekend, but not many. So random story, people here tend to only fill up their gas tanks for their cars a tiny bit at a time. Basically the car is still on empty after they visit the station. Oh, and shutting off your car while you fill up is not a thing. So anyway, I made a comment to one of the taxi drivers who takes us around here about the fueling, and he said to me “do you want to know why we do that?”

It is because if you get taken into the police station, and you have a full tank of fuel, they will steal it.

What!?

Yeah, and if someone steals your car and the tank is full, they can get much further.

And that was our conversation. I had assumed that people were cheap here, and maybe only had enough to fill the tank a little bit at a time. Or that they thought, for some reason, it was more economical to fill it a little bit at a time. Well, no. Turns out it is because the police here will steal your fuel if they take you into the station. Every day I feel like I learn something new that reminds me that people live differently here, and I wonder what other assumptions I walk around with that I will never discover do not hold true.

Last days

Monday was Amy’s (Amy #1) last day at placement. The ritual was pretty much the same as when Ali left, except a little less elaborate because Amy was here for only two months, rather than six. The director and his wife presented her with a piece of fabric to be used as a conga, something you wrap around yourself like a skirt, or a blanket, and two certificates.IMG_5379

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baby grinch

There was a short speech, and then she hugged each of the kids and said goodbye. Samweli, one of the kids who we think looks like a baby grinch, in a cute way, was really attached to her, and it was sad to see them say goodbye.

They sang a little goodbye song, and that was it. She leaves today, along with another girl from the house. I will have the new Amy at placement now for December, and then hopefully will be getting someone else once she leaves.

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We also hung up posters on Monday that we made of each of the kids. I had them do an activity and write down their names, ages, where they come from, and something they like. We had been learning how to say these things in English for the past month. I took photos of each of the kids next to their names, and printed them out and put them under the paper. On Monday we hung them up around the classroom, which they loved.

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Today, I gave the kids tattoos. It’s funny here, unlike at home where pink is a “girl” color, the boys here have no problem wearing pink, sparkles, or clothing blatantly made for girls. Likewise, they fight over princess tattoos, rather than ninja turtles or sports balls. Its the same with adult men here. They all wear ski hats and sweatshirts that were clearly designed for girls, but they could care less. I don’t know if it is that they are not even aware of it, or they are just happy to wear whatever they can get.

Tembo house is still living with us…one week renovations…yeah right! African time that means more like three weeks, and at this point maybe a month. It is not too bad though, because a lot of people keep leaving, and will be leaving within the next few days, so we are not overly crowded.

I can’t wait for South Africa, about 10 days. I am going to South Africa from the 17th until the 27th to meet my family there, for a little vacation. We are going on a Safari and doing a few other things there. It will be a nice break in the middle of my trip, and my mom is bringing a ton of things from home for me to give to the kids.

Toilets are complete

The time has come…the toilets are finished! Thank you so much to everyone who donated and helped to make this happen. Here are some photos of the before and after.

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Inside
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Outside

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With the remainder of the money, plus $1000 that my friend Jack raised, we are planning to build a small playground for the kids. They have already knocked down the chicken coop to make room, and built a new fence inside of where the playground will be. We are building slides and some things for them to climb on. We wanted it to be for the local kids as well as the kids from the orphanage, which is why it is going to be outside of the Tupendane gate. It should take about two weeks.

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Omary teaching

Things have been good, not much to report. Power has been out a lot more than usual lately, for days at a time. At the moment it is fine, knock on wood, but it has been pretty bad lately.  One day this week we went with two of our friends to help paint a classroom at their orphanage. The commute made mine and Amy’s seem like nothing. They take two dalladallas, a shorter distance than we do, and are then picked up by the school’s school bus and driven the rest of the way. But heres the catch…when it doesn’t rain. When its raining or too muddy, the school bus can’t make it down the road, and so the volunteers and a lot of the kids have to walk an hour and a half in the mud to get to school. It makes me think about how many of us at home complain about going to school, when there are kids here willing to walk through mud an hour and a half just to get to their tiny, one room school. The kids don’t get food at school either.

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We helped put a coat of blue paint on one of the rooms, and helped sand the walls of a second. It will be painted blue too. There are four classrooms, but each is its own small building. It was cool to see something different, and made me appreciate my education and how easy everything is at home even more.

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Tiny kitten that now lives at Tupendane