Tanzania 2014 – Day 10 March 2 and 3

We spent the next day down in the crater. We saw many of the same animals we had seen in the Serengeti, but they were much more abundant and closer together in the crater. It was stunning. The landscape diversity was crazy – there were marshy parts, forested parts, dry parts, and lakes/ponds. We saw flamingos, rhinos, elephants, zebras, wildebeest, warthogs, ostrich, jackals, hippos, and many more. We got the best look at lions we had on the trip. We saw one pair (male and female) lounging about. They got up and walked right next to our truck, not more than five feet from us. They were beautiful creatures.

Two Lions

We ended our safari around noon and started our trek out of the crater. The road our was even worse than the road in. It was more narrow, in worse shape, and right on the edge of the crater. One wrong move and the truck would plummet over the edge. Our driver was very confident, I’m sure he had done it dozens of times, but the rest of us were white knuckled passengers. The route seemed to be right out of Jurassic Park. We stopped at the final outlook point and snapped a few pictures and went to the restroom.

On the way to the airport we stopped a curio shop and had our box lunches. We did some shopping. Alana and I had a good bit of Tanzanian Shillings we had to get rid of, so we picked out some items. The vendor drove a very hard bargain, however every time we walked away, showing him all that we had, he accepted. After shopping were on our way back to the airport. We arrived at the airport around 630 PM and started the lengthy check in process. We filled out our customs cards, we were given a survey by the customs agent. The line to check in was very very long, and growing by the minute, so we sped through the survey and handed it over. As we started walking towards the line, the customs agent blocked our path and started questioning Alana about the survey. She asked why she didn’t put how many people were traveling in what age groups, if the money spent was for both of us or just one, etc etc. We humored her for a few minutes then just kind of walked away.

We stood in line for some time, the airport getting hotter and more crowded (no AC). Eventually we reached the counter, Jamal went first and had some trouble. They asked to see his itinerary, but he didn’t have it even through we specifically told him to bring it. We gave him ours to try, but the guy said he couldn’t find him in the system and couldn’t do anything since he wasn’t listed on our itinerary. He was sent over to another counter to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, Alana and I checked in with no problems.

We went over to help Jamal at the other counter. The guy said he couldn’t find Jamal in the system and wanted to see the itinerary. Jamal managed to pull it up on his phone. When we were looking at it, it became clear why they couldn’t find him. He had booked a flight for the next day, not the same flight we had. Panic ensued. They weren’t able to move him onto our flight because it was already oversold by 14 people. We tried getting in contact with Holly, but were not able. I went through customs to get Clarence’s phone, the only international phone in the group. We couldn’t get a hold of anyone. We ended up giving Jamal about 400 dollars and then put him in a cab to find a hotel. We went through security and got on the flight, only after Alana shed many tears. We had sent Holly an email through Clarence’s iPhone requesting her help. When we arrived in Dar es Salaam, she had responded back, and so had Jamal. He managed to get to a swanky western hotel in Arusha without any problems. Our driver was going to meet with him for drinks to make sure he was alright. Alana was able to relax.

The rest of our flights went off without any problems. In the Amsterdam airport we got a “fish foot spa” treatment. Little fish eat all the dead skin and grossness off your feet. It was ticklish, but felt quite good after the long flight and the long week of dirt, grime, and working. Our flight to Ohio was delayed by about two hours, which was very frustrating. We Finally arrived home around 730 pm.

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Tanzania 2014 – Day 9 March 1

The next day was more safari, and driving to Ngorongoro Crater. There were more amazing animals, views, and more rough roads. Ngorongoro is a conservation area, not a national park. This is because the Tanzanian government allows the Massai to live in the area and raise cattle in their cultural tradition.

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On the way to Ngorongoro, one of our trucks broke down. We were miles from anything and anyone when the driver mysteriously started slowing down and pulled of the side of the road. He jumped out and started talking to the other drivers. We found out his brake pedal had sunk to the floor and stayed there when he tried to brake for an animal in the road. The rear brake line was heavily leaking. The driver simply cut the line, and crimped it off with some pliers. He pulled out some “86 lubricant” and refilled the brake fluid reservoir. Our truck only had three brakes for the rest of the trip, and I was worried that he didn’t use real brake fluid.

On the way into the crater we stopped at a Maasai village. For a small fee (23,000 Tanzanian shillings, about 15 dollars), the village men and women performed a traditional “Welcome” song and dance, and the jumping dance. You also get a short tour of one of their homes, get to see the kindergarten class, and get to shop. The whole thing was clearly put on for tourists, the village clearly supported by tourism at this point. A lot of the items for sale were hand made in the village, but they had many items that we also saw elsewhere for sale, so it wasn’t clear how much and what items were actually hand made by the villagers.

The welcome song and jumping dances were very cool. They do a harmonized throat singing that is very interesting. Jamal was filming them with his GoPro. When they saw this, they pulled him into the group to get a cool shot. During the jumping dance, we were invited to participate. When given the jumping stick you enter the middle of the group and jump your highest. I think I was able to get close to their vertical jump. I’m hoping someone got pictures of it. The tour of the hut was very quick because they are very small. It is three “rooms.” One area for the mom and dad to sleep, one for the children, and one common area. When entering the hut our Maasai host started pointing out the different areas, but we could not see anything. It was completely dark except for the glowing embers of the fire. Alana pulled out her iPhone and turned on the LED so we could get a bit of a look. There wasn’t much, just a few blankets in the bed areas, the fire, and small sitting area around the fire.

After our hut tour, we did some shopping. The village was built around a small circle that was set up with souvenirs. Our Maasai guide acted as our personal shopper. As we looked through the items, he would pick up anything we showed any small amount of interest in. After we had finished looking over the items, he pulled us back behind some of the huts and started pricing items. He was a little pushy, Alana had done most of the shopping, but she didn’t negotiate with him. I think they pulled us behind the huts to separate the groups of people so we couldn’t hear the prices other people we were getting. Since we didn’t negotiate we certainly paid more than most. We ended up spending 395,000 Tzh (about 245 USD). We bought a lot of jewelry and a few wood carvings, basically anything that looked truly hand made. After shopping we given a tour of the kindergarten. It was a small building made of sticks out behind the main village. The Maasai laughed when we sat down next to some of the children on the small benches in the room. There was a small heavily used chalk board and that was it. In the center of the room was a small locked metal box with a slot in the top. They asked for donations for the children when they go to primary school to pay for supplies. We put in 10,000 Tzh. One of the children kept poking me in the side when he thought I wasn’t looking. I got the impression he was checking to see if I was real. Maybe he didn’t get to touch white people very often.

After the village we continued our drive to Ngorongoro. It was a mountainous climb on some very rough roads. We ended up with another truck break down. The alternator froze up and the belt was melting. We moved all the people and as much luggage into the other two trucks. Several people had to stand for the last 1.5 hours of the drive to the hotel. The truck was left behind. When we were in the process of changing trucks, several Maasai that were walking by came up and tried to sell us the bracelets and knifes they were wearing. Dr. Clarence ended up trading one of them a paracord bracelet for one of theirs, we also gave them many rubberband bracelets that Dr. Clarence had brought to pass out. We gave them some of our extra food, and they asked us for any pens we had. Pens and pencils are very rare in area, we gave them the few we had on us, and they were very grateful.

After arriving at our hotel for the night, we were stunned by the view. The lobby had a deck/eating area that was built out of the edge of the crater with a gorgeous view of the entire thing. We checked in and went down to our room, only to be stunned again. It was definitely the nicest accommodations we had while in Africa. The view was outstanding, best I’ve ever had and probably ever will. The shower was excellent, almost as good as my home shower. If you go on Safari here you must stay at Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge.

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Tanzania 2014 – Day 7 Feb 27

Today was our last day at the school and orphanage. We arrived a little before 9, I went down to the orphanage, applied sunscreen, then went out back to work on building the kitchen. I moved bricks, sand (for mortar), and gravel (for cement) for about 1 hour or more. Then I split off to search for Joesph, who had been avoiding me all week. I needed to teach him to use the tablet computer we brought for him; Joseph is an old gentlemen, I’m fairly certain he is scared of the tablet. He had promised me the night before we would meet first thing in the morning. I came today with three goals in mind:

1. Teach Joseph how to use the tablet.
2. Get the internet working on the tablets (we were having issues with SIM cards).
3. Help Holly to wipe some sensitive files from the computers they were going to give to the some former students going to college.

I got the run around looking for Joseph, no one had seen him, eventually I had Anna give him a call. He said he was there, but his car was not. I took this as a misunderstanding meaning he was on his way. Since Joseph was not at the site, I started looking for Holly, she was also no where to be found.

Since no one was around, I helped with painting of the new lab building that was recently finished. We put three coats of primer on; the walls soaked up paint like you wouldn’t believe! When we were close to finishing the third coat I split off to search for Joseph or Holly again. I didn’t find them, so I took some lunch (cheese crackers and PB&J).

On my way back to painting, I ran into Holly. I had her show me the computers she wanted wiped. I spent probably two hours working on the computers. Holly had brought two AirTel SIM cards to try in the tables per my request, so once I finished working on the computers, I started back on the tablets.

I popped the AirTel card in, got the registration message, and after some fiddling with the connection settings, the Internet was working just fine on Holly’s tablet. I had discovered some hidden connection settings that I thought might allow me to get the Vodacom SIMs working, so I found Anna and borrowed her tablet to try. I fiddled with it for a good while, and eventually got it to work for about 2 seconds. The Vodacom network is just too poor out at the orphanage.

After I got Holly and Anna set up with their AirTel cards, I eventually ran into Joseph. I spent a good amount of time with him showing him the different features of the tablet. He was very impressed and happy with the capabilities, but I could tell he was not comfortable with the technology. I don’t think he’ll be to using the tablet much.

By the time I was finished with the tablets and computers, the painting was done. I went back down to the orphanage to see if there was anything I could help out with. Matt, Julie, and Susan had started cooking dinner for the night, a spaghetti feast for the kids. They had everything covered so I spent about an hour hanging out with some girls who were preparing some fish for morning porridge. They had asked me my name and giggled, hiding their faces. They were nervous and embarrassed to talk to me, which I found very amusing.
I sat down right by them, and forced them to talk more, it wasn’t long until they wouldn’t stop!

They had me play some music on my phone and tried to get me to dance. I said I wouldn’t unless they did. This went back and forth for sometime, eventually another girl came over and agreed to dance for us. They ran and got an old gas container to use as a drum and she did an African dance. They girls took turns dancing, it was very cute. Eventually they all sat down and told me it was my turn!

I said I would only do it if one of them would teach me. They eventually agreed, and two of the girls got up with me and the drum started. The dance was very basic, I really didn’t need instruction but just wanted them to have fun with me. They fell down laughing several times at me, especially when the butt shaking part came around!

After we finished dancing I said I was sorry but had to get back to work. They seemed disappointed, but there was a lot of work to do tearing down the dental lab. I went up and helped with this for some time, lots of packing and moving boxes, loading trunks, etc. We finished up, then all piled into the back of the pickup truck and rode back to town. I didn’t really get a chance to say goodbye to anyone, which was disappointing.

There was a movie and popcorn planned for the kids with dinner at the orphanage, but we decided not to attend because it was already 7, and the food would be gone because they started serving shortly after we left. We wanted to make sure we had some dinner, so that meant skipping the movie.
I had the spaghetti with minced meat for dinner at the hotel. It tasted like curry.

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Tanzania 2014 – Day 5 Feb 25

Today I took it much easier than yesterday. I was not feeling very well when I woke up and had no appetite all day. I had to force myself to eat breakfast and a small snack during the day. I had a little hunger at the end of the day. We arrived a the site around 9:15, I went to check in at the dental clinic to find out what Lisa had planned for the tablets. My goal for the day was to get them distributed to the people who are need them and train them how to use them. The first one went to the Charles, the headmaster of the school. I sat down with him for a bit and explained the tablet. He picked up it very quick and said he generally knew how to use them. We tried putting his SIM card in the tablet to get internet, but were not able because he did not have credit. I then met up with Holly, the American who is managing the project for Lisa. I showed her some of the basic stuff she needed to know on how to use the tablet, she also picked it up very quickly.

I ran into Jamal and wandered around a bit with him. We went to see how progress was going on the house being built for Anna, the head mistress. They painting was nearly complete, and it looked good. We then went and found Mr. Gilbert, the biology, physics, and chemistry teacher. We were able to sit in on one of his classes, which was very interesting. The students were very smart and involved in the class, very different from my experiences in school. A small group of students had prepared a lesson about sulfur dioxide, how to product it, what its properties were, effects on the environment, etc. They taught the other students, with the teach interjecting where needed. The teacher had the class ask several questions of the group presenting, then the group quizzed some of the students. Each time a student spoke they had to stand at their desk. Many seemed to be shy about us being in the classroom, they would cover their face or mouth when asked a question and try to suppress their giggles. After class was over I was able to attend tea with a small group of the teachers. We were served a sweet corn bread and some sweetened barley tea. I had a good time chatting with the teachers.

Later I found Anna to teach her how to use the tablet. She had many questions but seemed to be a quick learner. I gave her my email address in case she has any questions in the future.
After I was done teaching Anna, I went to find Lisa so we could go into town to purchase SIM cards for the tablets and to get Maaru some tools I want o get him. Holly had already taken the truck with some other members to deliver soccer balls to another village, so we went to see the new land Lisa had purchased.

She bought a 1 acre site for 2.5 million Tanzanian shillings (about 1700 USD) and another 4 acres for 10 million Tanzanian shillings (around 8000 USD). The plots are nice and abut directly to the orphanage property. We went to meet the woman who sold Lisa the smaller plot. She was probably in her 60s or early 70s. She invited us into her home, which was a small compound with two mud huts and a small cement building. There were a lot of baby chickens running around and a small, completely adorable, puppy. She thanked Lisa for buying the land and said it made her able to send her grandson to school, but she was sad she could not afford to send her daughter. She asked us to help her. Lisa said we would think about it. As we were leaving the woman picked up a chicken and gave it to Lisa as a gift, “for dinner.” I think it was the first time I’ve ever been asked to hold someone’s chicken for a moment while they tied their shoe.

Later we went back to the school, I helped cover some children’s books with plastic protectors, and there was a girl who passed out so I ran and got our dentist with the most medical experience. She recovered after a bit but was very shaken up. She was on some kind of medication and forgot to take it. We are not sure if she at an asthma attack or seizure.
Once that was cleared up, there was a small dedication for the sewing building that was recently built in honor of a girl who passed away. Her parents donated the money because their daughter loved to sew.

We made our way back to he hotel and had dinner, it was a chicken curry with mashed potatoes. It was very good.

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Tanzania 2014 – Day 4 Feb 24

Alana woke up sick around 3 am this morning. She was puking and had very bad diarrhea. It was very difficult to sleep because the power kept cutting in and out and the hotel generator would kick on, which is right below our window. It is very loud and the exhaust comes in our window. The dogs were going crazy all night, Alana kept getting up to run to the bathroom and the fucking rooster outside our window started crowing around 4 am, and would not stop.
When I did get up I felt alright, went downstairs to have some breakfast, it was picked over. I ended up custom ordering scrambled eggs (good but small serving) and eating a left over breakfast “sausage”(basically a hot dog). I went up to the room to check on Alana, ended up having some diarrhea of my own. I took a Cipro and started to feel a little better. I went down to the bus waiting for me to go out to the site. At this point I was feeling very sick and was worried I wouldn’t make it through the ride without vomiting. The worst part was the dirt road out to the school. I was greatly relieved when we arrived.

I was not feeling well, so I planned to just stick around for a bit then head back to the hotel. I went to check out the tilapia pond that was recently almost completed. It was basically a concrete cistern filled with river water. Jamal was with me. and we decided to follow the supply hose down to the river. It was probably about half a mile to a mile through fields until we got there. The river was completely filthy. We passed a few folks building a small structure. I asked them what they were building, he pointed to the river, then to the talpia pond saying “fish”. My suspicions were confirmed – they were building a pump hose for the pond.

We walked back to the school and poked around for a few minutes. I looked for the bus or truck to take back to the hotel since I was still not feeling well, but it had already left. I was stuck so I figured I might as well be productive. I re-rigged the small swing that was bought with the rope and hose we purchased yesterday. I borrowed a chair from the staff and hung the rope swing. It was discovered a few hours later by a little girl, I ran over and snapped a picture of her playing. Much later Lisa said she had to break up a fight over the new swing. I caught another boy playing on it and snapped his photo, he was having a grand old time.
Again on my mission to find the bus I wandered back to the dental clinic to see if they knew anything about it. I was feeling a little better at this point, but still wanted to go visit Alana and take a bit of a rest.

The dentists were in semi crisis because they could not find the boxes left last time to raise the patient chairs. They were constantly bending over at the waist or kneeling on the concrete floor. I was drafted to work with Joseph to find the boxes. We searched for a while and tried calling Tanzanian Holly to ask if she knew were they were. She did not, so we called Anna, she said her husband Maaru had stored them from last time in the shed. Maaru did not know where they were. He took us to the storage shed where he had put them. We did not find them, so we were asked to try and build something. Bob and I worked with Maaru and found some plywood (a very rare item, I am wondering if it was being saved for something else). Bob and I started planning while Maaru went to gather tools. He eventually came back with a very old hand saw, a tape measure, pencil, and hand poured nails. Maaru went to try and find the hammer, while Bob and I got to work measuring and sawing.

I’ve never used a hand saw to cut a 3/4 inch piece of solid plywood. I never will again. Oh. My. God. It took so long and we had to switch back and forth to get through the full 4 x 8 piece of lumber. By the time we had a few pieces cut, Maaru came back with a “hammer.” It was a piece of pipe with an old hammer head crudely attached. Gotta work with what you have. We finished one box and took it in to Dr. Edelen, he was very happy to have it. We noticed the other doctors kneeling on the concrete floor, so before we started the next box (needed four total), we rustled up some cushions for the doctors to kneel on temporarily.
Bob and I went back to start work on the second box, Maaru helped us with some of the cutting so it went much more quickly. We finished up the second box and delivered it to Dr. Moening, he was super happy.

We went to start on the third box, and Bob got pulled away to talk to some of the staff about what he will be teaching them while here. Maaru and I finished up the last two. He did most of the sawing, God bless his soul. He could not have had a better attitude. The saw was very dull by the end of the last box, and he was really struggling to finish the last cut. I could tell he was disappointed about losing the saw. I told him I will buy him another. Between the 3rd and 4th box, we took a lunch break. I had to force Maaru to come inside for a short break, I tried to get him to eat some of the food they older volunteers had prepared (PB and J), he refused until the older black lady basically forced it on him. This is very common in this area. Many people are lucky if they get one meal a day. I was never able to get Maaru to drink some water, but I was happy he at least got some food.

Maaru and I went right back to work after finishing our small meal. We finished up the fourth and final box for the doctors and delivered it. I took a small break from the work to check out the shop that was setup to help raise money for the orphanage. They are teaching the girls how to sew purses, shirts, and wallets to sell. I ordered a custom African shirt, they took my measurements and said it would be ready tomorrow. Cost will be forty US dollars. When I was getting my measurements taken Maaru came back to ask me to help him install the camping showers Lisa had brought. I was feeling very beat, exhausted, and sunburn, but I just had to help him after all the work he did for us.

I was incredibly moved by working with Maaru, he worked so hard, never complained, hardy ate or drink, all for what is probably only a few dollars a day. Reflecting on the experience later with Alana I broke down in tears talking about it.

We went and hung the showers in the boys bathrooms first. Their current bathing method is to fill a small tub with water and basically rinse off with the tub. We installed a battery powered camping shower. There is a battery pack and switch (4D cells), connected to a small pump with a hose and small spray head attached. The pump sits in a bucket of water, when turned on the water sprays through the hose. According to the reviews, one set of batteries should last about 1000 showers. We left extra batteries and solar rechargeable batteries for them to use. We moved on to the girls shower. We installed three of these showers in each bathroom. One of the girls was soooo exited to have a “real” shower she turned it on and jumped in with all her clothes on and did a little dance! Installing the showers took a very long time, and the smell in the bathrooms is awful since there is no running water or flushing toilets. They are all squaty toilets that just basically drain to a hole in the ground. I was feeling okay up to about half way through the installation, then the smell started getting to me. I started to feel very sick again, and I think Maaru could tell. I felt bad because I couldn’t help him as much as I would have liked.

I helped Maaru clean up his few tools, he was very appreciative of my help, grabbed my hand with a big smile on his face and asked if I could help more tomorrow, of course I said yes.
After putting the tools away I started walking back up to the dental lab to see what the plan was. There was a land cruiser just about to leave so I hopped on board. I was worried I would be sick on the ride, but managed to survive. On the way back to the hotel we passed a large field with maybe forty kids in it, tilling the soil by hand with hoes. The truck had to slow down for a speed bump, the kids caught site of us and ran over screaming for us to take their pictures. They were working insanely hard. Some of the folks tried to snap a few pictures when the supervisor noticed us and started running toward the truck scream very loud, the driver speed away, a little scared. He obviously didn’t want us taking pictures of his child laborers. The older black lady (Dr. Clarence’s mom) was very upset by what we just saw, she kept asking the driver why the children were working. She eventually screamed at him, “Why are there children working in the field and not adults like you and me?!”she was very deeply upset, and I don’t blame her. The driver politely ignored her, either because he didn’t want to get into it or he didn’t understand what she was asking.

We arrived back at the hotel shortly there after. I stripped and jumped in the shower. I felt so exhausted, sick, sunburned, and just worn down. It doesn’t sound like we did much, but I’ve never had a harder days work, physically or emotionally.

I relaxed for a while and recapped my day for Alana. I wondered of Maaru was able to relax or if he was still working. Visited briefly with my mom and Jamal and eventually wandered down stairs for dinner.

I spoke for sometime with Lawrence’s cousin, Chris. He lives in Nairobi and is currently between jobs so he is working as a translator for the week. He does PR/marketing for oil and gas companies. Dinner was vegetable curry. It was good.

Video courtesy of my brother in law.

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