Tanzanian Adventures: End of A Journey

How I feel about mission trips. Exactly.:

Saying goodbye is hard. Saying goodbye to those who had an impact on you is even harder. As I made my way back to the airport to start the thirty six hour flight journey back to Seattle, I realized this maybe goodbye for sometime. As the van drove pass the by the same exact places I first saw Tanzania, I was knew I had come full circle. The sight of poverty no longer made me pity people, but motivated me to help them in one way or another as I return home.

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The airport was packed with people boarding flights, and it took awhile to get my boarding passes for all my flight home. Going through immigration again was not as easy as the first time. I think the lady decided to put me thought all the international security checks out there. Full palm print, full hand print, full thumb print, full face scan, full fingers scan and asking about my naturalization status in the US (I’m a born US citizen). The whole time one of the professors could see the whole screen from where he was standing and could not understand why she kept going when the screen kept flashing “clear” for everything. Finally she let me go on to board my flight.

The flight from Tanzania to Ethiopia was uneventful and I was provided with dinner which was not as good as I remembered. Once at Addas Ababa Airport, we all had to go through security again before we were allowed in to the terminal area for our flight. All of us went through without much problems, and even flip flops had to be taken off. I found this funny. Once in the terminal to wait to board our flight (which was at 9 pm) I realized there was no way to get any water! So if you needed water (clean water) you had to filter it from the bathroom! Thank goodness for snack with some form of liquid in them. Once on the plane we all pretty much were packed in (nothing like United flight) but there was leg room! And entertainment that was free! Win!

Here is a little physics for your brain. Since the airport altitude causes issues with planes disembarking, the plane can only take off with half the fuel for flight. This means there has to be another stop for fuel some where. So where did the plane refueled? Dublin Ireland. I saw Ireland from the window of the plane, and it was early morning with rain. I have flown over Ireland before back in 2006 on my way to England. The view is similar to the country side of England when flying over (all that green fields and moisture).  At this point I have flown over Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, England, and Wales. As I said in previous post, all those countries yet to be explored.

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We touched down in Washington DC (Virginia) to yet another warm sunny day. Getting through Customs and Boarder Control was easy this time. The Washington DC airport has the new customs and boarder control kosaks which speedily moves all citizens and Canadians through the lines faster. The boarder control personnel just stamps your entrance stamp in the passport and make sure anything you declare is valid, then off you go to get your luggage. Then off through second TSA security check, which went off without a hitch this time! And then off to wait in the terminal for the flight to San Fransisco.

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The flight the San Fransisco was on United and I go a window seat! The four hour flight from coast to coast was great. I saw from my window Virginia, Colorado, Rocky Mountains, and the Bay area before touching down at the airport. I only was in San Fransisco for forty-five minutes before boarding the flight to Seattle. I wish we could have had a little longer layover, but I can understand at this point we all just wanted to get home. The bay area was Cali sunny! To bad the Golden Gate Bridge was not seen from the airport or the plane ride. The flight to Seattle went off without incident, but I still dislike flying United Airlines! Still stuck in Y class (back of the plane where the toilets are), and no leg room what so ever. Two of the guys in our group had to trade people for aisle seats for their legs.

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Once touche down in Seattle to a rainy cold welcome, we all made our way to the baggage claim where our families were waiting for us. My suitcase was one of the first ones off the plane (TSA checked it, so it was part of the last aboard) and off to the parking garage to drive home during rush hour traffic. My parents did get me Dick’s hamburger for dinner, and then I just crashed for a whole twelve hours to sleep and get rid of a cold that was forming while flying home.

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A week was not long enough in Tanzania, and leaving was hard. For the whole week I was disconnected and cut off from the outside world. My phone on airplane mode the whole time, and used as a camera only. A unintended digital detox. For once in a very long time I was focus only in the present moments, and in my surroundings. I really didn’t care what was happening clear across the world in US, and I didn’t care what was happening at home in Washington either. As one of my friends said it was like a paradigm shift had happened in that short week of being in the Tanzania. When I came back from Tanzania I no longer wanted to hear the political crap spewing from the news every time it news was on. Finding the strength to tell a professor they were interfering with God’s plan for me, and needed to step back when it came to my career path.

My heritage. Africa runs through my blood and makes my heart beat.:

Why Tanzania? Well….

ubuntu (n.) the belief that we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards others:

That is why Tanzania!

Asante sana kwa ajili ya kusoma adventure yangu katika Tanzania. Natumaini msomaji watapata Afrika kwa ajili yako mwenyewe siku moja. Asante!
(Thank you very much for reading my adventure in Tanzania. I hope you reader will experience Africa for yourself one day. Thank you!)

For more information on Convoy of Hope or to donate please click the link.

Previous Post: The Bells Toll and Shopping

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Tanzanian Adventures: Bells Toll & Bargain Shopping

Since it was a long drive back to Arusha from Ngorngoro, our team checked in to the Karatu Hotel run by the Lutheran Church of Tanzania in the town of Karatu. I would not exactly call it a hotel, but more like a hostel. The rooms are clean, there is a shower and bathroom, but the room I was assigned would have things left over from the last person who occupied it. The beds all have mosquito nets which hint at the fact there was a rather large hole in the screen of the windows in which these nasty insects could come in. For the first time on the trip I had to use DEET spray for the bed sheets, and put on my insect lotion before bed. At this point all those anti malaria pills I have been taking all this time better be effective since I did get two mosquito bites during the night (as of this writing I DO NOT have malaria!).

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After checking into the room, I found myself along with the rest of the group eating dinner communal style with the other guests in the large dining hall. Being college students we have no problem with this concept, but the other guests may have not. Dinner consists of a potato chicken broth soup with rolls, some Tanzanian pilau, cucumber salad and some Tanzanian dessert I don’t recall the name of. With dinner done, I headed back to my room and crashed.

My room-mate got the scare of her life in the middle of the night when she walked into the bathroom to discover a moth flying into her face and a rather large spider hanging out on the wall near the toilet. Earlier on the same day I too had a rather large insect attach itself onto me. I have never seen a grasshopper as big as the one who flew into the jeep window while at Ngorogoro crater. And it was black too!

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Morning was a real treat! I awoke to the sound of church bells clanging (it was Sunday after all) and the call to prayer from the local masque all blending together. The Lutheran church across the road treated us to a spectacular sounds of singing that when you listen to the recording of it, the sound is surreal. Breakfast was again communal style with the menu of toast, more Tanzanian pilau, omelet, and juice. After breakfast we all gathered our things, and headed for Arusha to do some shopping before leaving Tanzania.

Once in Arusha we were let loose on the Maasai market in town looking for whatever we wanted. I will say being American, bartering is not something we do much, and thus I am not very good at. The thing is it does turn me off when you have store owners trying to get you to buy something you do not want at all. It is considered to be rude in African culture to not buy something after viewing someone’s shop. I committed this offense and it was exhausting after all that shopping. I only got a few things for people, like a carved wooden giraffe, chonga for myself, African tea and coffee, and a shuka (Maasai wrap). One US dollar equals $2,000 Tanzanian shillings. So $10,000 shillings equals roughly $5.00 USD. So there was a lot of things we could buy with our American money, but mostly it was transactions in shillings since shop keepers would make a huge profit off you if dollars were exchanged. Also at one point all the street vendors gathered around one store waiting for us to come out so they could hawk their wears. A crazy adventure in itself trying to get back to the van.

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I would say shopping in Tanzania was a learning experience, and I wish I could have bought more, but when you have to keep in mind the weight and size of the suitcase, it just could not all fit in there. I really wanted to bring back a floor standing wooden giraffe, but it was not going to happen. Maybe next time I come back.

 

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Karatu Lutheran Hotel

Tanzanian Adventures: On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 2

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba (there comes a lion)
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama (oh yes, it’s a lion)
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba (there comes a lion)
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama (oh yes, it’s a lion)
Ingonyama
Siyo nqoba (we’re going to conquer)
Ingonyama
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabaal (it’s a lion and a tiger)

Once at the bottom of the crater the animals were all within sight. Pumbas (Warthogs) were very curious of us, and looked like they wanted us to feed them. There were three elephant sightings in various parts of the park, and the guide told us it is at time rare to see elephants in the park. Lions are hanging in the sun like fat house cats, and the whole place is alive with animals going about their day without a thought about the safari jeeps passing by.

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These guys were quite the animal. Nothing like the wildebeest that run out in front of the jeep like they wanted to get hit ( I think they would do more damage to the jeep then a deer would). They stayed pretty much away from the roads and hangout among the gazelles. Which leads me to….

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Gazelles are just graceful of all the safari animals out there. No wonder why there is a a car named after them. When they are running it is just pure ballet on the Serengeti. They didn’t disappoint us when they run across the road or chase each other around. Even the babies are too darn cute to handle!

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This lion is a male who is roughly around a year or two and is yet to get his full mane. My cat at home has a better well developed mane then this one does. The lions in a group saw him coming and greeted him with so much love and attention. This is the only pride we saw in the whole crater, so theses must be the lions everyone talks about.

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At one point someone did slip on the bank and put a foot into the hippo pool. Hippos are not cute creatures when they are upset! Lucky no one got hurt and they stayed in the water, but we all know it could have ended up ugly. We were allowed to walk around the small area while having lunch. As long as we ate in the jeep, the Black Kites would not steal or rip our fingers off to get our food.

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The elephant population in the crater is older elephants that come here for the soft grass and to die. They are safe here in conservation area away from the big game reserve close by. Most of the animals in the crater live in harmony of each other. Even with the lions, it seemed there were an overpopulation of wildebeests and zebras, but the flamingos were not in abundance this time.  As we ascended out of the crater we passed into Lerai forest where the monkeys were. It seemed like most of the animals here are nocturnal and were asleep when we passed through. The forest had those trees that have the look of an African tree with the vines hanging down. To bad a picture was out of the question because of a group of baboons were hanging out close by. You just have to take my word for it.

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Last stop before heading back into town was the Heroe’s point where we were earlier that morning. Here you can see the crater spread out, and the setting sun over where the jeep had been. A perfect way to end the day of safari, and perfect reminder of how precious this place is for future generations. An expereince that I will never forget and the people who made it special.

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The view
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Map of the area

Previous Post: On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 1
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Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Cheeky Monkey Safari Tours

Tanzanian Adventures: On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 1

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It was six in the morning when we all headed to the Ngorongoro Crater for our safari to begin. Along the way, the jeep passed all sorts of the scenery of northern Tanzania including the very large military base in the middle of the bush. As we got closer to Ngorongoro the driver pointed out the African part of the rift valley. This valley starts from Jordan and runs all the way to the West African coast. The Maasai are believed to have descended from the people who migrated through the rift valley and the first humanoid skeletal remains was discovered in the area of the crater a few years ago. We passed through Karatu, there were baboons hanging out along the side of the road causing trouble to all who walk by. As we drove further up to the main gate, there was glimpse of the lake Eyasi ( a huge lake when you see atop a hill) and the valley below. A few small shanty towns are along the way where a few people live within the gates of the park. At the park entrance we were all informed to keep all cameras, phones or anything you did not want stolen off you by the baboons in the vehicle. Our group was luck because the baboons were not around, and probably were the same ones we had passed earlier in town. After our bathroom break, we all began our safari journey.


The beginning of the safari there was an overcast fog hanging around the top if the crater. This is the reason why in the pictures below half of the crater is shrouded in fog. As you can see this side of the crater is lush and green compare to what lies on the other side of the crater (Serengeti National Park and Maswa Game Reserve) which is what you expect to be tundra like in the Lion King.

After many selfies taken by the whole group, all of us jumped back into the jeeps to warm up after the chilly wind blowing.

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The jeep had to climb up the side of the crater in thick vegetation. Here there was not much to see of animals since this part of the park was within the rain shadow, and overcast. It is amazing at all the lush green there is and trees with jungle vines hanging down. It makes you think of the Jungle Book and Mowgli is about to come swinging through the trees or maybe Tarzan.

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Seeing the Maasai village as we take a view of the slope in the crater. This picture does not capture the real true beauty of this scene. You dear reader need to see it for yourself!

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Following the red dirt road towards the floor of the crater. This section of the crater has a view of the Maasai village below. As you can see the sun is out! This part of the road had a few wildlife such as cows that were fat from grazing all the lush grass.

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The Maasai tribe here in the crater want money if you want to take a picture of them, and the children we saw as we made our way down to the crater floor ask for “lunch” which is begging for money. This Maasai tribe are the only people permanently living within the park’s boundaries and have grazing rights for their livestock and hunting. Not such as friendly as the ones I previously encountered back in Arusha, but when you think about it, a lot of tourist hand them money all the time and this is why they are so bold into asking for a handout.

After a while we descent down into the crater we all had another pit stop to use the toilet (another squat toilet) and to stretch our legs. From here we can get a sense of how vast the crater is, and there we could see the large lake in the crater (Lake Makati) along with seeing a pair of elephants in the distance. From here it was windy with puffs of heat. Having sunscreen on is a must even under the shade of the safari view canopy. I could feel the sun’s full force on my skin after a minute exposed. After spending twenty minutes taking in the view and everyone hopped back into the vehicles to start the finding animals. Next post is where the real safari begins.

Next Post:  On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 2.
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Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Cheeky Monkey Safari

 

 

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Tanzanian Adventures: The Maasai Women & Community

 

Half the Sky Movement- Women Hold Up Half the Sky: Going to the Tinga to visit the Maasai children was not all about playing with the children and feeding them, it was about getting to know the Maasai tribe. A part of the children’s feeding program is women’s empowerment program. Just like the program on the streets of Arusha, this program is to empower the Maasai women in their community. The women in our team sat down with a few of Maasai women who are a part of the program to discuss their culture, customs, what they need in order to provide for their children and community. Surprising all the questions asked and answered pointed to how each of us women is interconnected with wanting the same things in life. All women no matter the culture want the same things in life, and those some things are what connects us as women in this world. We asked so many questions of them and they asked a lot of question of us as well. Here is what I gathered from the discussion;

  • Maasai women marry at a very young age 15-16 years old
  • First child come roughly after marriage
  • Marriage is seen for bring children into the world and raising them.
  • Maasai women are surprised by how Western society marriage is more for companionship, love and not all about having children
  • Children help support the parents when they get old
  • Women in Western world marry later in life and produce children much later as well.
  • Women are more educated in Western society then they are in Maasai tribe. Maasai women are encourage now to finish primary school.
  • Maasai women want to see their children successful.
  • Convoy of Hope as helped them find ways to help feed their family and they are grateful for all Convoy of Hope has done for their community.
  • They considered us women like daughters to them. Daughters who are empowered to do great things in our own tribe.

I love their humor and their warmth towards outsiders who take an interest in who they are. I found their humor about western society’s concept of contraception methods to be hilarious (especially pull out method) and cause a roar of laughter from them. As a gift for participating in the discussion, we gave them each 2kg of nutritional rice to take home to their families. We also have the opportunity in seeing their village and going inside their huts. It was a cool experience in seeing how they live, which is primitive, but cozy feel. I wish our team has the chance to spend the night with them, but this time of year with the rain would make it difficult to do. The tribe is very welcoming, not like the other Maasai in the area that like handouts first before being hospitable. The only downside to being at the Maasai village was the flies that were everywhere! The amount of flies became almost unbearable when we all decided to a prayer circle with them. At one point it became difficult to concentrate on the prayer when the flies where crawling all over my face and in my eyes. I really don’t know how Maasai tolerates having flies crawling all over them.

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The road that leads to the school and village in some parts had crushed African pink quartz with some specks of Tanzanite (yes the gem stone) and rubies mixed with the red clay. I was told there are mines further down the road which mines the quarts, the precious gemstone Tanzianite and other gemstones. I did not get a picture of this unfortunately, just imagine walking along and seeing the ground with specks of red, blues, and semi blue-brown lumps in pinkish-red sand. These natural resources give huge profits to multinational gemstone enterprises, but most of the people of this region and Tanzanian people do not see any of it flowing into their communities or country. Some of the Maasai men have been recruited into working in these mines with little to no income generated from their work. To pick these gems off the ground would lead to being confiscated at the border or worse jailed.

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Clean water is a vital resource we all need in order to live. In Africa clean water is hard to come by for the Maasai people. The school through Convoy of Hope was able to secure $22,000 in funding for a well that pumps clean water to the surface. In Tanzania the real problem is most of the water is not exactly safe to drink even in the cities, and out in the bush water reservoirs are polluted by the wild life using the water as well. Taking a shower at the hotel results in brown tinted water coming out of the pipes and everywhere I went there was massive amounts of brown muddy water. Bottle water was always given to me on this trip, and there were a few times some of the children wanted to take a drink of water out of my bottle. The well Convoy of Hope built has a pump that pumps fresh clean water to the surface for children to drink and carry home to their families. Once the well was put in the school there was  fewer children sick and those who benefit look a lot more healthy.

Also the school grows its own garden to teach the children agricultural practices. In the small green house there was Chinese cabbage, and a few other greens. Upon further inspection there was a lot of plants with something eating at their leaves. It looked like a tiny moth was flying around the greenhouse was possibly causing the plants to die from disease. It could also be locusts that are finding a way into the greenhouse and eating the plants. I saw a whole bunch outside in the bushes when viewing the water pump. Sadly the old enemy of all crops strikes and caused damage. I hate grasshoppers and locusts with vengeance!

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On the way back to civilization of Arusha, we were all treated to a sighting of a giraffe. My joke for the following picture is “run away from life’s problems like a giraffe.” It is amazing how graceful these large animals are! It closeto a run like a horse with a very long neck!

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Meeting the Maasai is and will always be a highlight of my trip to Tanzania. I found the whole day full of surprises and full of laughs. A moment of time I will surely hold onto until I return again in the future.

***Bonus story***
Learning To Squat Like A Pro:
TMI alert ahead! You are warned!
Let’s talk about squat toilets. I mean not the ones you think when going in the woods. I mean the ones you see in Africa and not Asia. My real first encounter with a true African squat toilet was at the Tinga primary school. A hole in a concrete floor with a water bucket nearby without toilet paper. Think what the water bucket was for, now you know why there was no toilet paper. I have a hard time as is in peeing in the woods, let alone trying to squat over a public toilet in the States. So imagine me “squatting” over a hole in the middle of Africa. An adventure in itself. So here I was confronted with a hole in a concrete slab, with foot markers to help keep my feet from slipping, and wondering what the hell did I get myself into. So here I was squatting over the hole with both hand resting on the walls keeping me balanced (yuck I know), with my head  between my legs looking down the hole and hoping I don’t pee on my pant legs or shoes. Lucky I figured out how to squat which meant putting my butt at an angle, aim my vagina towards the hole, and make sure to keep the pee stream from missing the hole. It was torture when I realized how full my bladder was from drinking all that damn water, and realizing no matter how much I squat in the gym, it did no prepare me for this type of squatting. In the end I did not pee on myself in the process (Yay!) and someone had the sense to bring toilet paper for all of us to use (no nasty bucket water!). Good thing is the squat toilet does not even smell awful as a Honey Bucket or God awful boy toilets. I hear the Maasai women just go where ever even while standing and talking with someone! Just creates a puddle around their feet.

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Drop it like a squat!

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