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

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.

 

More Information:
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
Next Post: Bells Toll & Bargain Shopping

More Information:
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.
Previous Post: Unexpected Hike

More information:
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Cheeky Monkey Safari

 

 

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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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