Pride and Prejudice

About a month ago, HOPAC middle and senior school put on a production of Pride and Prejudice. This involved learning a lot of very wordy lines, learning the etiquette of bowing, standing and sitting correctly, and of course dancing.

I asked our director, Sue Bramsen, if I could help in any way back at the start of last term, and she said she’d be really grateful if I could choreograph the dances!  My initial thought was that I had no idea how to dance Jane Austen style, but it did give me an excuse to watch many films and film clips of dancing. I did indeed choreograph the dances and towards the end I also helped at rehearsals and was the official line prompter for the performances, which takes a lot of concentration when it comes to Jane Austen – the characters just go on and on and on!!

The students did a fantastic job, and people really seemed to enjoy everything. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea (all photo credit goes to Abi Snyder)!


The Bennett Family – And Mr. Collins



Netherfield Hall with Mr Darcy (left), Mr Bingley (right), Mr. Bingley’s two sisters (middle) and Miss Elizabeth (right).




Mr Bingley


The infamous Mr Wickham, and Lydia


Mrs Bennett – always with such flutterings!


Mr Collins and his less than compelling proposal.






Jane and Mr Bingley



Lizzie and the dreaded Lady Catherine De Bourgh!

And, of course, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy.


New Library and Resource Centre


Over the last year or so, HOPAC has been raising money for a new library and resource centre to replace our old library, which was very small considering the number of students we have.

Well, after months and months or slowly seeing a building appear within the campus (a building completed without any power tools, might I add!), the library and resource centre finally saw its grand opening this Monday just gone (9th).

We had a big ceremony with all the staff, students and board members as well as members of the local government, teachers from different schools in the area and a variety of representatives from the companies involved in the building project.  The Commissioner for Education in Tanzania also came as the honoured guest, which was very exciting.


First, our director, Ben Snyder, stood up and gave a speech.  He talked about the many things that have changed since he first came to HOPAC, but then said that there were three things that would not change: providing a high quality education grounded in the biblical worldview; serving our local community; and supporting our students to the very best of our ability.  After that, the Commissioner stood up and gave a very complimentary speech about the new building, but also about HOPAC, which was lovely to hear.  Next, our chaplain, Shaun Graham, prayed and dedicated the building to God, and finally the Commissioner cut the ribbon and declared the building officially open.  There were huge cheers from everyone, and to say that the children were excited would be an understatement.



Grade 3 did, however, have to contain their excitement somewhat because their official tour didn’t happen until much later that day.  We all lined up ready for our 12:45-12:55 tour slot and then walked, for the very first time, through the double doors and into the library building.  The first thing we saw as we came in was the tree mural on the right hand wall, where every student and staff member was adding a leaf thumbprint to commemorate the opening. Then we got to have a look around.

I hadn’t been in until I went with my class and I was blown away by how brilliant the building is.  It’s a really big area with a primary section and middle and senior school section, along with a sixteen-strong computer lab and a variety of rugs, beanbags and desks to work or read at. Everything looks so crisp and shiny, with so much potential wrapped up in the small area, especially as it will be used not only by HOPAC staff and students, but also by students from the local community who come into school every week.

The whole building is a physical representation of God’s provision and how he has blessed us in this venture.  We are all very excited to see what opportunities the new library and resource centre will provide.


(Photographs courtesy of Karen Graham and Sue Kappers)

The Last Few Weeks


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining a UK Compassion group who were coming to Tanzania to visit several Compassion projects and meet their sponsor children.  While I wasn’t able to join them for the whole trip, I was able to spend the weekend and Monday with them. On Friday 4th, after school, I headed to the airport and flew up to Kilimanjaro (the airport, not the mountain) and then got a taxi from there to Arusha.

There were over twenty people on the trip; most were from the UK, but some were from the Netherlands.  I love my HOPAC international community very much, but it was nice to be surrounded by British people for three days.

We visited a couple of projects in the time I was there.  We saw how the Saturday Compassion program works, and spent time with the children: watching their classes; serving them lunch and playing with them.  We also visited a project much further outside of the city to see some of the Complimentary Intervention (CIV) programs that they have benefited from. The first program was a community goat initiative. Over a hundred goats were bought and then each family was given one. The first female goat that was bred in each household was given away to another family, but after that the owners could breed as many goats as they liked. We visited one recipient of the project and he and his family had seven goats. He told us that because of the CIV his family had more money, his children could go to school and he was even building a new house on his land.

Another CIV was a solar power initiative, and they had that up and running; we saw the solar panels on the roof as we drove in; and their final intervention was a library building.  That was where they served us lunch, and it was a really nice building.  It had an array of books for all ages that the children from the project and the local community could use.  It was really encouraging to see the impacts that these interventions were making on the local community.

It would have been nice to stay longer and get to know the people (who were all really lovely) on the trip a little better, but HOPAC was calling because that week it was…


Pamoja Week

Pamoja, for those who don’t remember from last year, means “together” in Swahili, and it’s an annual event that culminates in International Day. The rest of the days running up to International Day also have a theme. Because I was still in Arusha on Monday, I missed superhero/villain dress up day, but I think that was okay as I’m not sure what I would have come as.  Here are some of the offerings we had:


Next was African dress day; where we all had to come in our African styles or materials.  I had a dress specially made for the day.



This is one of my Grade 3 girls!

Then was back-to-front/inside-out day.  Thankfully that one was pretty straightforward to dress up for.

Thursday was crazy nerd day, which involved a lot of glasses, pigtails, high trousers/shorts, shirts, braces and other similarly nerdy things. I also found that one quite easy to dress up for, but I think that’s more to do with the fact that I am actually a nerd!


And just a few other random pictures.


And then…

International Day!

This is probably the highlight of the year, and such a celebration. These pictures will tell you far more than I could.


And some entertainment.


Thankfully, this last week has been a little more normal, but there’s plenty coming up: reports (always fun!), Christmas Family Fun Day, Primary Christmas production; rehearsals for January’s performance of Pride and Prejudice, staff Christmas party; the artisan market and a little bit of teaching in there somewhere as well.  Safe to say, I won’t be bored!

My Not-So-New Class – 7 Weeks In

We have just finished our half-term holiday in HOPAC. I have had a very relaxing week: reading, writing, spending time with friends. It’s been great and I think I’m just about ready to head back to school tomorrow for the long two month road to the Christmas break (not that I’m wishing my life away).

In this first half term, I’ve gotten to know my new class pretty well, and I have to say: they’re definitely a good bunch.  Here are a few things I can tell you about them:

1) They’re kind to one another.

As a class, they are always willing to help and encourage one another.  I have seen them tie shoelaces for each other, fetch things for their friends that were accidentally left in class; compliment each other when I hold up pieces of work to the class and remind each other of things that might otherwise have been forgotten.

2) They’re a hugging class.

This doesn’t go for all of them (I’m sure some of the boys would be horrified at the prospect of being called a good hugger by their teacher), but there are several students who will hug me multiple times a day, just because I happened to walk past them. I have one student who I sometimes have to threaten with detention if she doesn’t stop hugging me.  Safe to say, they’re a loving lot.

3) They enjoy homework!

Again, not all of them, but on more than one occasion I have told my class that there isn’t any homework and half of them pout in disappointment.  Of course, the other half shout, “Yes!” and punch the air, but even so, having more than one child that wishes they had more work to do is a novelty indeed.

4) They can play football without me having to ban the game!

Most of the boys in my class are football crazy. In their mind, the only reason to come to school is to play football at break time (these are probably the same students who aren’t disappointed when there’s no homework), everything else they do is just an unnecessary extra. But what has amazed me with this class is that they never seem to argue about football. They play, they disagree, they sort it out and they carry on. Even when there are injuries (one child ran into the goal post and got hit in the face with the ball in the same week) they just help the injured player to the nurse and then carry on playing. It makes my life so much easier!

5) They work hard.

Generally they want to do well in the tasks that I give them, whether it be writing, reading, drama or anything else that they’re challenged to during the course of the week.  Of course, there are several who need frequent reminders that they are in school to do work, but that’s all it takes to get them back on track. Most of them want to improve and make progress; they genuinely enjoy learning.

6) They sometimes forget that they’re the students not the teacher.

I think it really comes down to being in a class where the majority of children want to get things done well, but there have been many occasions when some of them have taken it upon themselves to boss other children around; to tell them to be quiet and to remind them of things that should really fall under my jurisdiction. One classic example last week was child A bossing someone around, child B asking child A, “Are you the teacher?” (one of my phrases, I’m afraid) and me saying to child B, “Are you the teacher?” I feel like half my class might become teachers when they are older.

So there are just few things to give you an idea of what my class is like. Now, that’s not to say that they’re perfect robot children (although we do sometimes play that game if they’re a little hyped!). There have been a few moments where they were less than angelic – running like crazy people during the fire drill, and writing on the bathroom walls to name two – but generally they’re such a pleasure to teach. I feel like God has big plans for these children. I think they will be leaders, educators, pastors and creators when they grow up. But in the meantime, I have the great honour of teaching them for one year.  I intend to make the most of it!


The Solar Eclipse

On the 1st September, Tanzania experienced a partial solar eclipse. I didn’t find out about it until eight o’clock that morning when one of the kids mentioned it in assembly, but that then started some excitement throughout primary school.

Having listened to several less than scientific and highly inaccurate explanations of what an eclipse was when my class decided to teach each other, we digressed from our usual lessons to look at what a solar eclipse actually was. That cleared up a few misconceptions.

One of our science teachers had made a pinhole camera to view the sun, and had invited the children to come and see the image and so at 11:45, twenty minutes before maximum coverage, I took Grade 3 outside; however, the cloud cover was too thick and we weren’t able to see it. There was one moment when it cleared for a few seconds and some middle school students yelled “Look!” in very excited voices. Well of course all my instructions to NOT LOOK AT THE SUN flew out of my students’ heads in a split second, save for a few girls. One of them had her hands shielding her eyes and I praised her for not looking, to which she said in a very strained voice, “But it’s so tempting!” And I have to agree, it really was. Thankfully none of them went blind, so all was well.

I then took my dejected Grade 3 students back to class and told them that hopefully the clouds would go. We passed a few minutes looking up the dates for the next solar eclipse that would be seen in Tanzania and their mood didn’t improve when I told them that the next partial one (about half an eclipse, though I don’t think that’s the scientific term) would be in twenty five years and the next major one (nearly a full one) would be in forty eight years. They weren’t overly happily about that either.

As it turned out, the clouds did clear up a little bit and we were able to use the pinhole camera to see the eclipse. It really was incredible to think that the sun was all but covered. I can see why it frightened people so much in centuries past. Hopefully you can see the crescents of the sun in the pictures below. (Photo: Jeremy Pickel)

It was also quite eerie when the eclipse was at its most complete, especially because the heat and light in Dar is so strong. When it changed, as it did that day, it was very noticeable. It was much cooler (actually it was great temperature!), and the light had a different quality to it. I really enjoyed walking around outside while it was happening.

After that, it was a slow return to normal. I walked around later that afternoon and it was hot and bright once more. It was hard to believe that the sun’s power had been hindered for a while earlier that day.

Apparently the next “deep” partial eclipse (that’s what Google called it) in the UK will be in August 2026, so that’ll be something to look forward to! And (again according to Google) the next total solar eclipse will be visible from the US mainland on 21st August 2017. If you happen to be there DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN!

Back to Business

Apparently it’s only been two and a half weeks since I got back to Dar, but it feels like a lot longer than that; probably because it’s been quite busy, but probably also because HOPAC is home as much as Catshill is in many ways. It seems that whichever place I am, I can trick myself into feeling like that particular home is the one I’ve always been in.

When I first arrived back, I took a few days to settle back in: I unpacked; Brittany and I went shopping and stocked up; and I mused about life in between reading and meeting up with people and watching DVDs. It was a very relaxed start.

After that, though, I had to tackle my classroom, so I headed back into school. There is something wonderful about seeing everyone again. The people here in Dar are people that I have shared life with for three years; who have seen me and helped me in this phase of my life that sometimes seems so unreal and sometimes seems so natural. There were lots of hugs in those first few days; lots of friends to catch up with and to tell about my time back in the UK. It was fun.

Classroom set up took several days, but in between time we had our staff retreat when everyone was finally all back together again. We went to a very nice hotel, had meetings and some very nice food, but the highlight of that day was our staff rap competition. There can’t be many schools that give the staff ten minutes to write a rap as part of their teacher training, but we had a very good reason.

You see, our middle school principal, Carley, and her husband, Victor, are currently back in the States because they have just had quadruplets! The babies (three girls and one boy – poor boy) have been named the QuadSquad by their dad – though they do have real names as well – and so it was decided that a good way for the staff to celebrate with Carley and Victor would be to write raps for the QuadSquad. I do believe there’s even a video you can click on below to see the very talented HOPAC staff team in action.


After those epic creations, though, we did actually have to start school. So this Tuesday (23rd) our kids arrived in their brand new uniforms, bright eyed and bushy tailed (for the most part), ready for a year of learning. So far, my new class are making a very good impression on me, and I’m excited about teaching them. I think that they’re going to be a fun, hardworking class, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better.

Other news from the last few weeks includes my church worship band (including me) playing at a wedding, so that was a new one; and me getting sick with some sort of cough/cold malarkey. It’s not that bad, but a bit annoying if I’m honest. It does seem to be making the rounds through HOPAC, though, so hopefully it will be a passing thing. It’s all these germs being flown in from around the world to meet and play on the HOPAC campus.

But basically, everything’s going well so far. I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead.

Grade 3 Assembly

Two weeks ago, Grade 3 once again put on a performance for their assembly.  This time it was the Jesus Is Life Game Show, where the contestants had to answer questions about events from Jesus’ life and parables he told.

Once again, Grade 3 did a fantastic job: they worked incredibly hard and put together a great show. Here are some pictures:

We started the show by doing a dance to Jesus Is Life by Steven Curtis Chapman.


Then we met the contestants. Petra: an enthusiastic open-minded young lady; Faris: a very intelligent professor who was not shy about sharing his opinions; and Thomas: an uncertain young man, who was never really sure about the answers.


After that came the rounds. The contestants had to watch the start of the event or parable and then it would be paused in the middle. Then they would try and guess what happened next. The first round was the parable of the lost sheep.


Then the feeding of the 5,000.


The parable of the banquet at the important man’s house.


Jesus healing a man with leprosy.


And the parable of the workers in the vineyard.


There were also some multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions thrown in there.

Our hard working crew member had to start, pause and stop all of the acted out events and stories; work the computer for the fill-in-the-blank questions and change the scores on the contestants’ podiums.  She was very busy.


We did two other songs: one was Wish by Brian Littrell; and the other was Love Take Me Over by Steven Curtis Chapman.


As always the children did really well, and I was very proud of them.