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.

The richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place -Want to Travel for FREE? Learn How To Beat The System. Click to find out..:

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

Tanzanian Adventures: Unexpected Hike

Hiking in Tanzania was an unexpected adventure with a whole lot of people. I was talked into going on this hike with a whole bunch of people because we could have a view of Mount Meru from the top of a hill just behind the hotel. The said hike was to hike to the top of Suye hill before sunset. We did all make it up just as the sun was setting, and we all got a great view of Mount Meru and the rest of Arusha valley below.

It all started with crossing the busy road full of crazy motorcycles and cars. Not something for the faint of heart in this country! The beginning part of the trail started up a steep muddy rock step between a cluster of houses along the slope of the lower part of the hill. Once in the tree line, it was climbing up the steep embankments with slippery mud clinging to our shoes, getting almost lost in the brush when the group was split up, and finding out the cobblestone path was not complete enough to take anyone to the top. It took around an hour to hike up this trail to the top to see the sunset over the valley and to see an unobstructed view of Mount Meru. The guide from the hotel said Mount Kilimanjaro could be seen from the top as well, but it was hidden by cloud cover and this was true for the whole time I was in Tanzania. Most interesting part of this hike was seeing two people living in the shack on top of the hill. Remind me of people living deep in the jungles of South America.

Now going down the hill was an adventure in the dark. I have never hiked in the dark, and hiking down this hill in the dark was not an easy task. What made it easier for me and those around me in the group was the headlamp I had packed just in case. Going down the side of the hill was a challenge with all the slippery mud on the steep parts, and the vegetation that liked to reach out to catch us as we passed by. People were slipping and falling at times. I even when down hard after I had told the people behind me to watch out for a slippery part. Slowly we all made if safely to the bottom with a few scraps, scratches, mud caked on clothing and shoes. It was worth it in the end! I earned the dinner back at the hotel, and it was one adventure worth going on.

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Tanzanian Adventures: On The Streets of Arusha W/ Convoy of Hope

James Baldwin----speaking truth.:

My first morning in Tanzania started with waking up to a dog fight outside the window at five in the morning. I would soon find out this would a common morning occurrence for the duration of my stay. The morning started off with me looking out the window at the street and seeing   people walking along the street on their morning routine. School children in their uniforms walking to school, adults on their way to work, and stores opening up for the daily business giving this traveler a glimpse into the daily life of Arusha.

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View from the hotel room window (Old Moshi Rd)

This pink building hides the reality of poverty intermingling near fancy hotels in this part of town. A reminder of why I am here with Northwest University and meeting with Convoy of Hope on the same day. Breakfast was at the hotel’s restaurant which consists of fried potatoes, African rice dish, Kenya sausages, pancakes, East African donuts (nothing like the ones with all the sugar on top), and coffee. After finishing, I grabbed a 1.5L bottle water and headed to the conference room to meet the team from Convoy of Hope.

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The team having breakfast (I’m the purple one) (Credit: Ingrid Navvaro)

The day’s agenda was to hit the ground running with Convoy of Hope and start working with them on some of their projects they are doing in the local communities around the area.

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Headquarters of Convoy of Hope Tanzania. (Credit: Natalie Douglass)

The main focus for Convoy of Hope in Tanzania is sustainability for communities around the area. The work done by this team was mostly done in agricultural/ small garden training, women’s empowerment, child feeding programs for nutrition, clean water, and crises relief. I did not realize how small the organization Convoy of Hope is compared to other humanitarian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse. Convoy of Hope concentrate its focus on a few areas and this makes them effective in their work. Even without medical component to their work, I can see great things they do for the health of those in the Arusha area and all of Africa. We all asked questions to get a better idea of the problems faced in the work being done, and learning what would be an effective way of asking questions to help better understand the needs of the community to better help them with issues being faced. After two hours of discussion we were all invited to have some tea (a custom holdover from the colonial days when British colony). The tea is nothing like any I have ever tasted before! Masala tea is a new type of tea to me, and it packs a powerful punch to without the caffeine! It has a spicy ginger taste that hits the back of the throat from the cardamom and cinnamon mixed with the black tea leaves. I ended up finding some at a local supermarket to take back with me.

We all mingled around the demonstration gardens looking at all the cool ways of using planters to grow crops in. Found a banana tree with bananas growing on it, and meeting some of the women who are a part of the women’s empowerment program in a gathering.

 

 

Lunch was at a local restaurant off the main road called Mile Stone Club. The restaurant is one of few places we are able to eat at without getting sick and the manager is good friends with Convoy of Hope. The atmosphere was open to the elements, with a thatch roof overhead, and an interesting playlist of music ( on this day it was Celine Dion’s greatest hits playing). Here I tried Tanzania’s national dish Ugali which is a cornmeal porridge served with grilled meat which was whole chicken (biriyani and mchicha) for me. Others had the beef, fish, beans as the main dish with their ugali. The fish one even had eyes still in the socket and a few daring people actually ate them whole which made for a disgusting sight to witness! BBQ goat was passed down the table for all of us to try. The BBQ goat had a cross between the taste of lamb and the texture of steak when you eat it. The goat tasted better than I expected, and I am surely going to try it again in the future. Pork is not seen much around Arusha, and the local butcher at any of the markets did not have pork product for sale. I wonder why? Is it an unclean animal in Tanzanian culture? Since water has been from the bottle source, I decided to try a new drink, Stoney’s. Stoney’s is a ginger beer drink produced by Coke Cola and is non-alcoholic. The ginger-ness is much more powerful than the ginger beers we have in the Seattle area. Sadly the drink is not sold in the US market.

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biriyani with mchicha  and ugali

After lunch, we all were split into groups to interact with the locals at the marketplace in Mianzini area of Arusha. The first encounter was a woman who just started her little shop in the middle of her neighborhood to sell staples of food items and necessities. She was very happy about how Convoy of Hope helped her start her shop and now she can afford to send her children to school by the income she generates through this little shop. I bought from her some chocolate cookies she had, and I pray her store will prosper into a sustainable business. The second encounter was a woman who has a shop along the main streets of the area who sold a variety of items. Her hard work, dedication to raising her son, never-ending faith in God’s provision, and hoping one day send her son to college is an inspiration for all of us to strive to better ourselves through hard work. At one point there was a fight in the street where a young man on his motorbike had a bloody face and other men were trying to force him off his bike. We did not stick around to know what happened, but there was a drunk man who did follow our group yelling at us in Swahili. Crazy moment!

 

 

As I walked through the streets of Mainzini it became apparent how different poverty looks from the pictures seen. Instead of shakes stacked on top of each other, the houses are spread out with small plots of land with crops growing. People are generally happy and kind to each other as they go about their daily business. The house might be made of whatever materials could be found, and the heat sources are wood gathered along the roads. Small shops everywhere sell everything possible, and someone always willing to help you find something. Chickens, cows, donkeys, goats and children run all over the place and everything needed to live is within walking distance of the front door. All mixed with pure determination, something most Americans do not see. All the people we visited did not want a free handout, and they are very thankful for the support they received from Convoy of Hope in helping the get out of poverty.

After a stop at the hotel for a quick refresh, we all headed downtown Arusha to eat street food. We all ate BBQ chicken, Nan bread and some beef kabob on a street corner in the middle of a bustling evening in the city. The chicken was not as spicy as I thought it would be, and the Nan bread was soo good! I have not had any Nan bread as good in my life! Sitting in the evening light in good conversation with the sound of Muslim call to prayer echoing through the streets. Something is not heard in the US very often and it has an eerie sound to it. Street dogs begging close by for scraps of food, and having rocks thrown at them to keep them away. Eating street food in Africa without getting sick was a relief. It seemed normal sitting in the street lights in the middle of Arusha and having a sense of magic in the air that only happens once in a lifetime.

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Previous Post: Beginning of An Adventure
Next Post: Love From The Maasai Children & Feeding Program

More Information:
Convoy of Hope
Milestone Club Arusha
Khan’s BBQ Arusha
National Dish of Tanzania-ugali

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Tanzanian Adventures: Beginning of An Adventure

Traveling to Tanzania has not been a small task. It took months (six months to be exact) to get ready for this one week adventure all the way across the world. In those months I  read about the area in which I was to visit, gather all the supplies needed for this adventure, and visit the doctor to make sure I don’t come home with any nasty disease. After all, this is Africa, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity few people get to go.

The adventure started when I received my daily wake-up call from Maddie who no matter what major event is about to happen, still wants to be fed on her schedule. I did not need to board a plane until the evening (flight left at 10:15 pm PST) and so I went about my Sunday as usual. With suitcase in hand, and a uneventful ride to the airport, I started my adventure.

But things were not going to be uneventful for long……

Seattle Washington to Washington DC:
I feel TSA hates me at SEA-TAC. No other airport TSA has ever made me feel horrible as the TSA agents at SEA-TAC. Seriously they hate me. One minute everything is going just great and next I’m having a full body pat down all over my cell phone! Thank goodness the guy (yes it was a male who did this pat down!!!) decided not to explore certain places I should not mention. After finding nothing I was let go to board my flight.

But it still gets better! Getting told by United Airline’s gatekeeper “I’m in timeout” because there was a backup on boarding the flight. After awhile it got old when he went further in saying “don’t mess with me.” He was joking I hope because of a 10:15 pm PST. I really had not brain complicity to comprehend if he was. I joke about it, but in a way, it bothered me for some odd reason. I may have something to do with a certain incident involving a passenger being kicked off a flight three weeks prior.

To make matters even worst, economy class is horrible with all of us in our group crammed like sardines in the back to plane near the toilets. The turbulence was horrible for a red-eye flight, jolting out anyone from a little nap. At one point I did become sick enough to not know if it was low blood sugar, low blood pressure, or the stifling heat from all the bodies crammed in a metal tube. After eating a whole Pro Meal Bar and drinking some water I began to feel a little better and no longer felt like I was going to faint. I will not be flying United red-eye anytime soon after this experience. No one on the plane got any sleep except the guy in the same row as me by the window who snored all the way from Seattle to Virginia. He must have been a frequent flier to have that talent.

When we all arrived in Virginia (Washington Dulles International Airport) no one got any sleep, all of us were at Starbucks like  real true Seattle-lite and hoping the next flight would produce some sleep on the way to Ethiopia. The layover was five hours long of staring out the terminal windows at a beautiful sunny day in Virginia (and warm too) with flatness for miles.  Trying not to be perplexed by the souvenirs being sold with the word “Washingtonian” which is weird since this is what people in Washington State are called, and hoping we all can have some sleep before touching down in Ethiopia.

Washington DC to Ethiopia:
Thirteen hours of flying across the world at this point and you wonder how is this possible to be going forward instead of going backward? The flight was uneventful (unlike the red-eye) and I slept through most of the thirteen hours to combat the jet lag enough to function for the next few traveling hours to Tanzania. On the plane’s flight progress screen, the flight took us over Spain, Portugal, Egypt, part of Morocco, and Sudan. All those countries below ready to be explored in the near future. On the flight, I was in a row with a woman who was traveling back home to Ethiopia from the states, and she informed me it was winter time in Ethiopia. No snow on the ground except in the higher peaks (the plane flew over some white peaks) and it looked mostly arid desert. Snow is unheard of in these parts of Africa. The airport Addis Ababa is at the foot of Mount Entoto and near the city of Addis Ababa. The airport is an open, sparse hub for Ethiopian Airlines and got really humid waiting for the next flight to Tanzania.  It was here I first encountered a semi-squat toilet and learned toilet paper is not flush-able but instead has to be put into a little trash bin by the toilet after use.

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A glance at Addis Ababa Ethiopia from an airport window
After waiting four hours for our group’s flight to Tanzania in the airport terminal, we boarded the flight, and I can say I have stepped on Ethiopian soil while walking across the tarmac to the waiting plane. I was very much glad to have a whole row to myself which meant I could look out the window when the plane arrived in Tanzania.

Ethiopia to Tanzania:

Plane on the tarmac
The flight was interesting because it was four hours and they fed us all lunch. Surprise!  Once the plane touched down at Kilimanjaro International Airport, it was one of those scenes out of the Ladies Detective Series where there is a huge commercial plane next to a small town airport in the middle of nowhere Africa. As soon as I stepped off the plane the humid heat hit you full on. And being at the end point of travel all my traveling companions agreed we stunk of body odor and need to shower so bad! Getting a travel visitor visa took a while to complete especially in the humid heat with no cool air to relieve. Most of us girls had rosy red cheeks from heat by the time we all reached to window to hand over our passport, visa application, and our $100 USD (must be a  $100 bill, not five $20 bills, or pay in Euros or higher weighted currency, and not Tanzanian shillings)  to the immigration officer. Then after approval, get the real visa stamped into the passport at the visa verification line before picking up our luggage. It’s a process, a long one when there is a huge plane full of people, and I think next time I will apply for the visa prior to leaving the US. After all of us successfully got through visa line, we all boarded a bus to head to our hotel in Arusha.

Green Mountain Hotel, Arusha Tanzania:
Our drive to Arusha from the airport took little over an hour passing what is considered in America as slums where garbage dump is next to a muddy river bank, people rummaging around in it, dogs roaming around, people walking along the road carrying large bundles of stuff home, fields of maize or corn, and crazy driving like never seen in the USA. This is what would be called poverty with muddy dirt roads leading off the paved roads into muddy red dirt roads with shacks crammed together. It is very different from what you see in the Americas.

Our group checked into a small hotel in the middle a busy neighborhood outside Arusha proper. Green Mountain Hotel is where we all staying for five of the nights we were in Tanzania (other was a Lutheran hotel). Once checked in I crashed for three hours before dinner from all the jet-lag. Which did not help later when it was time to actually go to bed. Dinner was a gathering of all of us eating family style, and meeting four new members of our team. After dinner it was off to figure out how to use the shower and then crash again for bed.

Green Mountain Hotel from the road.
More Information:
Flights: United Airlines (Seattle to Washington DC) & Ethiopian Airlines (Washington DC to Tanzania)
Hotel: Green Mountain Hotel

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Christmas Lights, Sweaters & Snow

Even on a wet cold night, Christmas lights are still as pretty as in snow. On the first night the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Garden d’ Lights, the family and I piled into the car and drove to see this neat, but best kept secret light display. It is a little more compact than the ones you see at the two zoos in the area, but it is worth a visit if you like to see a garden all dressed up in lights. I wish the Lake Washington Arboretum would do something like this with their grounds in the Japanese Garden. Favorite displays were the fish tank (picture below) in a display window and the veggie garden with a rabbit (see below).

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Garden aquarium
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Herring in the garden
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Peter Rabbit stealing carrots in the garden
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Butterfly visiting the garden

Every so many years Seattle will get snow fall ( 2-5 years). Usually it is around Thanksgiving week, but this year it decided to fall during December and a week before college finals. I will admit, I cannot drive well in snow, and the reason is hills. I did make it to class the morning after it snowed, and it was an adventure in itself to get out of the driveway to a plowed road. Once on campus after a two hour delay, the snow was a site to see with snow hanging on the trees.

Northwest University Chapel with snow

Christmas sweaters seem to be in abundance these past few years. Last year around Christmas I purchased my first “ugly” sweater (really it is cute sweater) from Fred Meyers for a party. This year the church decided to have a Christmas sweater contest one Sunday to see who had the ugliest, cutest, and fun sweater. I did not win, but that does not mean my cute cat in a stocking sweater is not worth showing off. The other young ladies at church had similar “cute” sweaters on. I believe the ugly sweater is starting to become a “cute ugly” sweater the more I start to see them around.

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The sweater of ugliness!
Sweater Selfie with the gang.

Decorating the church this year for Christmas was in part a little sad since Nana could not stay long after Thanksgiving this year. This year’s theme was Home For Christmas, and it did not disappoint either. Christmas time is the only time of year the church looks fancy. I will say there was a whole lot of red and green colors this year compare to other years before. There is for the first time in a long time, outdoor Christmas display and lights.I guess if you want to see the whole thing you will have to make a trip to Shoreline Community Church in Shoreline to see it.

Decorating the church for Christmas

Of course this year Christmas lands on a Sunday, so this means there will be service on Christmas morning! Can’t wait to see what is going to happen!

Here is to wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!