Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kilimanjaro (Day 1 & 2)

Kilimanjaro (via Umbwe, aka The Whiskey Route): Day 1

First of all, I do have to say I am a little upset I did not see any monkeys today.


I woke up at 6:21 this morning to finish packing and get ready.  I then spent some time with the other volunteers and had breakfast.  I had way too much coffee.  It was only a cup and a half, but it was strong, and with my excitement, it left me jittery.  Before leaving, I gave hugs to the volunteers, my friends, who were leaving and I will probably never see again.

The taxi with my guide, 3 porters, and chef were supposed to pick me up at 8, but they were on TFT (Tanzanian Free Time) so it was closer to 8:20 when they arrived.  Only my guide and taxi driver really spoke English.  I felt bad for the 2 porters in the back, buried beneath bags and supplies. 

We drove first to the Machame Route to get our permits.  Machame and Marangu seem to be the headquarters, and have a “touristy” feel.  Umbwe (pronounced oo-mb-way), on the other hand, is in the middle of nowhere.  I know that because we turned around about 5 times (the normal road had been washed out last year).  I also found it interesting that my guide drank a beer on the way up.  I chose not to say anything- that’s really pretty normal around here.  Plus, all I really care about is if he gets me up the mountain.

We finally got to the start around 11:15.  The last sign in was 1/22/12.  I knew Umbwe was much less traveled than the other routes, I just didn’t realize how much less.  To my surprise, 20 minutes later another van showed up with an American, a triathlete from Alabama, now working as an engineer in Houston. 

Around 12, we finally started.  My title then became “Rachel, Queen of the Jungle” (soon to be mountain), as I couldn’t help but be reminded of Tarzan with the lush forest around us.  My guide, Dharhi (he will now be “D” for short),  also told me there were many different types of monkeys that live there (Ha!).  I found out that D is actually kind of famous!  He was on the history channel in 2008 for a reality version of “Livingston and Something (okay, I know they’re important, but I’ll have to look it up later and You Tube it).  After walking a half hour or so on a jeep trail, we stopped for lunch and then made are way onto the real trail, simply called the “Nature Trail”.  It is a beautiful, steep uphill trail and I loved it.  I was like a kid, full of wonder and awe.  The trail definitely wasn’t easy, but going “pole pole” (slowly slowly), I felt great.  However, I think I’m doing a bit better than some of my team (very much to their credit, they had just finished the Rongai Route the day before), especially the chef, who we passed and then yelled “F**K the mountain!” when he arrived at base camp (he knows some English).  The others porters asked as we “walked of flew” as they were just setting up when we got there (I think they are usually way ahead of the guide and client).  The other American also made it, I think tomorrow will morning will be the last time I see him.
Now (and this is crazy), I am being waited on hand and foot.  The porter/waiter just came by and reminded me there is tea and popcorn waiting for me, so I better at least go and drink the tea.  Plus, it is starting to get a bit chilly out and I want to put some warmer clothes.  Tonight will be eating, reading, and sleep.  The hardest day should be tomorrow, and I can’t wait!

Kilimanjaro: Day 2

Day 2 is over…actually, it has been over for quite some time now.  I’ve already browsed around, changed into a warmer layer, ate lunch, read a few chapters in my book, and had 1 ½ cups of tea.  Today was supposed to take 5 hrs, we did it in 3.

I was pretty groggy when I got up at 6 am this morning.  I had a hard time falling asleep, then woke up around 2:30 to stumble to the “bathroom”, and again had a hard time falling asleep.  I was feeling a bit sick with a sore throat.  Either me or my sleeping bag smelled really bad, strange animal noised were coming from outside the tent, and I couldn’t get comfortable in a slightly unlevel tent (I was sleeping with my legs higher).

Soon after I changed in my hiking clothes for the day, I got cold.  I refused to put on another layer, because 1) it was packed and 2) I was trying to acclimate to the cold, just as much as the air.  Any thick skin I had built up in the mild Ohio winter was gone, as I had spent 3 week in mid 80 degree temps.  So, I sat around reading in the cold as I waited for breakfast.  Really, I would have rather gotten it myself.  I am uncomfortable having porters wait on me, as well as I’m cheating on my hike up.  However, I eagerly awaited the hot water so I could make the famous African instant coffee, and then the natural peanut butter on toast (plus the mango, and a small bit of the egg as not to be rude to the chef).

After more standing around in the cold, , we were finally off around 8:30.  It was steep, beautiful, breathtaking… though that could have been from the air too.  The climb was its own analogy:  Life’s journey might be hard at times, but the view at the end makes everything worth it. 

For awhile, I felt like Buddy the Elf on his travels from the North Pole to New York, filled with wonder and joy with all the new sights I was taking in.  We had started in the jungle, to large shrubs, to a rocky and almost barren cloudy mist.  The trail was steeper than I imagined.  With my short legs,  my knee was often parallel with my should as I climbed up (once D offered me a hand, which, in my stubbornness, I politely refused). 

The porters continued to amaze me.  They climbed with gear on their head and heavy packs strapped to their backs, without the use of their hands.  My guide even hiked with his arms crossed (maybe because he felt like it, maybe because I told him how impressed I was with the porters).  I didn’t even pretend I could do it without my hands.

I started to worry a bit, as I was getting a bit light-headed, and my fitful night’s sleep had not helped either.  Before I could worry much more, D pointed out our camp for the night, and soon enough, I was signing in at the hut (with a slightly numb hand). 

So now, it is only 2:17 without much to do.  I’ll probably read and study some Swahili and wander around a bit more.  And I lied, the other American is somewhere at camp (lots of people are here now- I was the first non-porter).  Tomorrow is the day where we might skip a camp.  Hopefully I can figure something out where I can stay by the mountain, as I’ll then have a few extra days on my hands.  I’m not ready to go back to a busy and dusty Moshi!

So I just tried to walk around outside after a trip to the bathroom and we were engulfed in a cloud.  I nearly got lost trying to find my tent…I think I should’ve brought two books!  I am now wearing 4 layers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Africa (Blog 7): A Little Bit of Everything

Africa (Blog 7): A Little Bit of Everything


After last blogs fail on trying to be interesting on one topic, I’ve decided to mix things up a bit with a little bit of everything in this one. 

First, I want to start out with a brief description of some of the other volunteers.  Why?  Because they help complete the “plot” in this journey, and also have helped make up some of my main learning components.  With much respect, I will start with Janice, currently the oldest CCS volunteer (respecting elders is still a huge part of Tanzanian culture):

Janice:  Janice is from Northern California. She is in her 70s, sometimes uses a cane to walk, and is amazing.  She has lived! I first found her interesting because she has traveled all over the world, sometimes with family and friends, and many times by herself.  I found her remarkable when I learned more about her life.  She has buried her youngest son (and then his wife) and husband because of cancer.  That could easily destroy a person.  However, she got through it, and kept her adventure going.  She is proof that you are never too old to learn, experience, and get out and live!

Lynn:  I hope Lynn doesn’t mind me saying this, but she is 63 yrs old.  I wouldn’t have put her much past 50.  She is a spark of energy and lives with so much excitement.  Currently, she is a mom of 2 daughters and a high school teacher from Oregon, and you can tell she still lover her job.  She has also spent quite a bit of her life traveling to many different places.
I would also describe her as B.A. (if you don’t know what that means just ignore it).  Her ex-husband, who she had opened a small theatre with, left her for a younger woman.  She then took a chain saw and cut down his favorite tree in the yard J 

Jeanette:  Jeanette also lives in Oregon.  Actually, she and Lynn found out they live 20 minutes away from each other.  She has volunteered for CCS in many other different countries, and explored many other areas of the world.  Jeanette is very much her own person, and confident in herself.  If the group can’t decide on something, she isn’t afraid to take charge.  She was also unafraid to buy a really beautiful and neat pair of long dress capris, and when she wear them she owns it…now the rest of us want to go back and buy a pair for ourselves.

Jessica:  Jessica had already been here 3 weeks before my group came in.  She lives in Florida, and works as a private flight attendant.  I would have never known she was 31 years old unless she told me…I thought she was still in college (yes, I know, many people think Im still in high school…).  She has been our personal reference guide of Tanzania and always willing to help everyone.  Her passion for volunteering with the kids is amazing and she often does above and beyond what is expected.  Recently, she has told me about her plans to create an umbrella/reference organization for non profits in Tanzania, including a place for street kids to volunteer and become successful.  I am confident she will be successful, and I am hoping to become involved and help her in this endeavor.  Her enthusiasm is contagious!

(I am the next oldest)

Kate:  Kate is my roommate, soon to be 23.  She is studying psychology and social work in New York, right outside the city.  Out of 7 kids, she is the only girl.  To pay her way through college, she bartends a few nights a week.  She is extremely sweet and patient, and in her internship she works with high school students to help get them back on track.  But, if she were in a fight, I’d place my bets on her.

Jamie:  Jamie is our Canadian, residing in Ottawa.  She is taking a year of college to travel and volunteer (before Africa she spend a few months in Spain) before completing her nursing degree.  In addition to Jessica, Jamie and I connect very well.  As a kid, her family went on many hiking trips all around Canada and the U.S., so she also a trail girl.  Without a doubt, she is an old soul.  She is very well-spoken and I oftentimes find myself learning from her. 

Elizabeth:  Elizabeth, at 18, is our youngest volunteer.  She is from Denver, Colorado.  After graduating from high school, she is taking a year off to travel.  Already she has been to several other countries, including Costa Rica with CCS and has another trip planned right after this one.  As the youngest, her immaturity shows, but definitely adds and interesting dynamic to the group. There is no doubt that her year’s experience will be a wonderful learning and growth experience for her.

***Our CCS staff is wonderful!  All of them are local Tanzanians and are extremely committed to the cause, as well as ensuring all the volunteers have a wonderful experience.

A very, very brief summary of a few of the problems being faced:

The education system has not been changed much since 1976.  Not very long ago were girls even part of the picture.  School cost money, money that is hard for most to come by.  In primary school, the main language emphasis is English.  In secondary school, the focus is Swahili.  Then in H.S. and college/university the focus is back on English.  English is basically essential if you want any chance of success when you’re older.  Many of the teachers don’t know much English. Pre-k is based on repeating the alphabet and numbers.  Art work is almost non-existent.  It is a scavenger hunt to try and find any art material, and when you do, it will be expensive (makers go for around $8).  There is “structure”, but not the type of structure most of us is used to.  It is not uncommon for a teacher to answer their cell phone in class.  Before most of the pre-k students leave for home around 11ish, they are served a cup of porridge, their lunch.  There is a huge difference in many of the students performance levels.  (I also have to add that I cannot believe how intelligent some of the children are!  They are truly amazing…at the orphanage, a few of the boys were teaching me Swahili, as they could speak almost fluent English!)

Gender Inequality:
In America, the main issues women still face has to do in the workplace, regarding equal pay and maternity leave.  In Africa, most women won’t go beyond selling bananas on a street corner.  In marriage, many women simply become part of their husband’s life.  Some can’t even go visit their own families. It is much worse if you are a Masai women.  In this tribe, the women do almost all the work, but are ruled by the 1 husband (who has many different wives).  At the age of 12, a girl might be married to a 60 yr old man (and then become a widow with HIV). 
 Things are changing for some…just slowly.  I have had the pleasure of visiting a women’s empowerment shelter called WEECE (Women’s Education and Economic Centre) and meeting the woman who founded it.  I was inspired by a beautiful 13 year old Masai girl, who convinced her father to walk 2 days with her to be enrolled at WEECE.  Education means she won’t have to marry, it means independence.  She now lives with a local family and is thriving at school.

I’m not going to say much here, most is it is known. The death rates are high.  HIV/Aids is prevalent, as well as many other diseases, much of it due to poverty and lack of knowledge. However, there are many people working hard to set up clinics and educate people on hygiene and how to protect oneself.

My Activities/Experiences:

Step Up Nursery:
I figured the main I should begin with is my volunteer placement.  It is at a pre-k called Step Up.  From what I can tell by listening to the other volunteers, it is decently structured.  And, the teachers speak decent English.  The main downside is that an outdoors area is non-existent.  The kids (divided into younger and older students) are basically expected to stay seated at a desk for 3 hrs…they are between 4-6 years old, so this isn’t very practical.  The first few days I observed, observed, helped a little here, and observed.  Then finally, I talked to one of the teachers and he said I could plan some lessons…so the next days I was given 4 students, put into a very small room, for 2 ½ hrs.  I did this for 3 days.  The main activity I had planned always went well, and then things went not so well.  I am not a teacher, and kids listening to me for that long isn’t very practical.  Basically, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything productive.  I’m going to try and talk to the teacher about giving me 2-3 groups tomorrow for 45 min or so, or letting me do an activity with the whole class…but I don’t know.  The main for me to do right now is to learn, so I can take this experience with me in future endeavors.

Weekend Safari with Bushmen Expeditions:
Day 1: Masai
The Masai tribes are native of Tanzania.  They are beautiful people with very long lasting traditions (not that Im saying that is a good thing, but they get a lot of special attention because of it).  The women welcomed us with a song, even inviting us to sing and dance with them.  I was leaning against the wall inside one of their very tiny and very dark huts with the young Masai man told me they were made out of cow dung… 
(After that the women hounded us with jewelry tying to get us to spend all are shillings)

Day 2: Ngorongoro Crater:
It was amazing.  The air was so fresh, and the land was so beautiful.  We drove the steep uphill and looked down on a mist/cloud filled crater, then dashed down into the wild kingdom.  It was like stepping in to the lion king…in which the lion found shade right next to our vehicle!  Luck was on our side…we saw all the main animals, including many little ones.  We saw 5+ female lions hanging out in a tree, an elephant taking a drink just a few yards away.  Poa Sana!

Day 3: Tangarire National Park:
Not quite as cool the crater, but still a great time.  We saw many more elephant and antelopes.  However, we had one main animal we had not seen yet…a giraffe.  We drove around and around with no success, and by lunch we were getting a bit worried.  Thankfully we had a wonderful guide with a keen eye, who finally spotted one from a distance.  When we drove up, there were at least 7, including two young ones!  Safari Success!

Marangu is about an hour outside Moshi and at the base of Kili.  It is still crowded with people, but even more beautiful with the hills and surrounding vegetation.  We visited a local blacksmith (I was not coordinated enough to even fuel the fire), the Chagga Caves, tried banana beer (it was a good think we split it 4 ways because I would been walking in zig-zags), visited a GORGEOUS waterfall, and stopped at the Chagga Hut Museum.

Marangu Stroll and the Daladala:
Me and Jamie wanted to get out and hike on Saturday, for a cheap price.  We talked it over with Bushmen and arranged a day trip.  To save money, we took the daladala, their “famous” form of transportation.  Jamie counted.  We fit 27 people into one van.  The clown car at the circus has nothing on us.  Needless to say, me and Jamie have never been closer…
Our hike turned out to be a walk uphill from the daladala drop off to the gate entrance of Kilimanjaro National Park.  There is a famous Kili saying “pole pole” or “slowly slowly”.  Our guide took this to the 9th degree…if me or Jamie even attempted to go at a normal pace he told us to slow down.  One the other hand, I will say he was a very nice guy and good company.  We also went to another Chagga hut and another gorgeous waterfall.  On the daladala back, I was lucky enough to get a window seat, but felt very bad for the man next to me and my sweat.  Me and Jamie are now sporting some very interesting and very red tan lines.

Alright, that “sums up” the basics!  I have 4 more days of volunteering left and another week to climb.  Things are going by sooooo fast!  I still can’t believe I’m here, yet at the same time I feel comfortable and part of life here…until I hear someone shout “muzungo, muzungo!”

Safari Njema!
Rach J

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Roads of Moshi/Karanga

I wasn’t exactly sure what to write this blog about.  I mean, I have a lot going on, but I thought simply writing about my day, though very exciting to me, might be kind of boring to a reader (except yesterday's trip to Marangu was pretty fun-filled). So, I figured I'd write about the road...am I peeking your interest?  Probably not, but I've learned quite a bit just by simply going down a dirt road.

To start with, you drive on the wrong side of the road.  The wheel is on the wrong side of the car (or in most cases, the van or Toyota Land Cruiser).  I am going to be awfully confused when I get back to the States.

Anyway, to describe what a trip down the road is like:

Besides the main highway, it is made out of dirt and rocks, and is dusty and bumpy.  Somehow, our CCS van makes it down these tiny, roller-coaster roads every day.  People are constantly beeping at each other, not like the long mean honks in the city, just short little beeps to let others knowing your coming through.  There are cars, motorbikes, bikes, and people walking every which way.  I couldn’t drive here, even if I figured out what side of the road to be on.

 I'm probably still boring you, sorry (pole)!

To walk (or run) down the road is an adventure in itself, and a wonderful way to practice your Swahili. 

There is so much life here, people are always bustling around, kids playing alongside the street, or goat, chickens, or wild African dogs meandering about.  And no, as much as I have wanted to, I have resisted petting one of the dogs…although they would be wonderful running dogs.

During the first week here, me and some of the other volunteers would go walk around, just to check things out.  It ended up being a great way to practice Swahili, as so many people (especially kids) will stop and say hello.  Across from our home-base there is a little girl named Brenda who always loves to run out and wave to us.  Further down the street there are homes, little shops/shacks, and secondary schools.  One day on our way back to home base, a little girl, with her mom following, ran up to us and asked to get her picture taken.  They had no problem with us walking onto their yard and talking to them.  

On most mornings, I am out of our gate between 6:10-6:15, right when it gets light enough and I can see the road.  As the minutes go by, more and more people are on the road.  There are women and men carrying buckets to get water, women carry who knows how many lbs of food or other items on their heads, and lots of children walking to school.  I have no idea how far they have to walk, but for most of them, it’s is probably much farther than the length of my run.  Of course, it is really the kids that amaze me.  There’s 8 yr olds walking to school by themselves, and some probably younger!  And there are so many of them, all wearing the uniforms.  Many of the younger ones even wear sweaters…and it is mid 80s outside!  The coolest thing that has happened to me while running down a small dirt path alongside the road/highway was when a little girl ahead of me started to run too.  I pushed a little to catch up, and we were running together.  I asked her a few things in butchered Swahili and then some in English (most of kids know at least some English), and then we just ran and smiled.  Soon, we met up with some of her other classmates, all girls, started running with me.  There must’ve been 10-15.  I can’t describe how awesome it was.  When I saw a few slowing down, I stopped to tell them all “nzuri sana (very good)!”
and hi 5’ed each one. 

You know what?  I’m not really sure where I was going with this blog.  I really thought it was going to be interesting or profound in some way, kind of like Cormic McCarthy’s book The Road.  Unfortunately, I’m not a talented or established author, and this blog has been incredibly boring.  Maybe next time I will go back to writing about my day.  Or, I could right more about the schools, frustrations about my placement, gender issues, how crazy town is… Or you might like to hear about the safari, which was pretty cool… Please feel free to let me know what you would like to hear about before I rant about something again.

I guess the funny thing is that the road was really interesting to me when I first got to Moshi, and, while it still is now, it’s just part of life.  Now, that is not to say I still don’t get excited to wave to the little kids, or watch in amazement as a women carries a huge bunch of bananas on her head, but it is simply life.  Different that in America, yes.  I can’t tell you how much I miss the serenity of the CVNP.  But it is just simply other people going about their lives and doing their best to make a living.  Going down the road, I don’t remark on the level of poverty here.  A house is a house, whether it is made out of bricks or dirt.  A home is anywhere you want it to be, as long as you fill it with love.  I can’t really speak of what should and should not be done here in regards to technology or leisure and business activities in comparison with first world countries.  Adding huge TVs, fancy cars, and sky-high terminals just wouldn’t seem quite right to me.  The culture includes both beauty and ugliness.  Tourist love to go visit the Masai (a native tribe) for their simplicity and long-held traditions, but at the same time, their ways are completely unjust and crude.
Is it possible to have the best of two worlds?
The main issues to be conquered all start with education (just like in the US).  From there, things move on to health and gender equality issues.  There’s a lot needs to be changed, and a lot that…well maybe doesn’t.  I guess I really don’t know.  Again, there is really no point to this blog… maybe you should just check out some of the pictures on Facebook.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Africa (Blog 5): A Letter to Family and Friends

(Slang for “Hello”, response is “Poa”, which means “Cool” in English)

I hope everyone is doing great!  I miss you all!  I can’t believe I am a half a world away from all my family and friends…and can still connect through the internet!

Anyway, I wanted to give everyone a quick update on how things are going and what I’ve been up to:

First off, things are going nzuri sana (very good)! Sorry for all the Swahili words, I need to practice a bit…okay, maybe a lot.  Anyway, the other volunteers a really wonderful.  There’s a few girls and one boy around my age/ a few years younger, and 3 older women…one is in her 70’s and has traveled all over the world!  The Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) staff is equally wonderful.  They are all from near or around Tanzania, and speak very good English.  Our rooms are quite nice as well, we even have hot showers.  Every day, we are served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which are so good that well all requested a cooking lesson before we leave.

Africa is beautiful.  The trees are beautiful, the plants are beautiful, the mountains (Kilimanjaro) is beautiful, and the people are beautiful.  The roads are usually busy with life and people (including children running freely around), and guess what?  People say “Hi” (or actually “Jambo” “Habari” or “Shikamoo”- to elders) to each other! I don’t think I could go more than 5 mintues without someone saying hi or trying to talk.  When was the last time you walked down the street in the city and someone, anyone said “hi”?  Actually, you can even freely go to your neighbor’s house and they will welcome you in, not call the cops (yes, we did this).

As for volunteering, I am at Step Up Center, a pre-k/nursery school.  You know what?  Those kids are smart!  They can say there ABCs and count to wwwaaayyy past 10…in English!  Yes, they speak Swahili much better, but still, speaking another language at 4 (4-6) years old is amazing (a lot of the locals speak very good English- I don’t feel as smart anymore!). Plus, they sing a ton of the same songs we do in America.  We had a speaker come talk about the education system here the other day, I guess the main drawback comes when switching schools and the language barriers.  I am still trying to find my place at the school, or how I can be useful, but Im sure Ill get there in a few days.  The kids are absolutely awesome.  But, they do lack a lot of resources.  No markers, work books, coloring books, glue, crayons, paper, or air conditioning, water fountains, tvs, or, in one class room, a tiled floor. I’ve tried to find some of the materials at stores myself and the best I came up with is a small pack of colored pencils.

Thursday was a holiday for Zanzibar, so there was no school and we went to one of the many local orphanages.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.  These kids had nothing…almost no toys (1 soccer ball to split among 52 and some books and crayons), ragged clothes, little food, no whatever kids have these days, and…no parents.  Yet, there smiles could light up the world.  (Its funny…there’s adults who have EVERYTHING, well every materialistic thing you could think of, and they’re still unhappy.  These kids have next to nothing, and they spread their joy to everyone.  Some would say that’s because they don’t know any better…and that could be true…but even if it is, they’re still the happy ones.  I do think happiness can be found anywhere in life, and most people know this.  So really, I think it is much worse that most of us/or wealthier people do know better, but they ignore this knowledge and try to get happiness with $.)  And, these kids were smart too!  They were teaching me Swahili!  We also sang a song in Swahili in a circle where one person had to go in and sing…of course I was picked, but luckily the little boy next to me went with me and helped!  Later, they were singing “Lean on Me”.  It was so precious.  I also had the privilege to meet a future Teacher, Pilot, and Artist.

Well, it’s close to bedtime (9:15) so I need to get some rest for tomorrow.  Usually I run between 3-5 miles at dawn (and people are already filling the street-people carrying water, off to work, children to school), eat, get ready, and go to volunteer.  AND, WE ARE LEAVING FOR A WEEKEND SAFARI TOMORROW! I’ll tell you more about it later J

Lala Salama (Sleep Well),


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Africa (Blog 4): Learning

Africa (Blog 4): Learning


            We got to explore town today!  The locals are eager to sell, but very nice.  They are even helping us learn Swahili!  However, I’m not exactly sure how to use Tanzanian shillings and I thinking I paid too much for coffee- but it was very good and very strong.  I cant wait to start my placement and go on some adventures- the mountains look beautiful.
            Today we also walked down the road from the home base.  There is a big orphanage down the street.  Chickens were running around at a nearby house.  Most of the people were very friendly and said “mambo!” (slang) of “Jambo!” (hello) as we passed.  A young man named “Elluge” started talking to us a bit.  A little boy tried to talk to me but I couldn’t understand what he was saying.  I need to practice my Swahili!
            Soon, I have to go apply for my CTA stamp.  I told the airport workers yesterday I needed it, but they insisted I did not.  Janet, who was with me, said we should just go, so we did…but we do need it! Lol
            After dinner, we are going to Pristine Trails to learn more about the hikes and safaris. 
By the way, the food is delicious!  Lots of fruit of veggies, fresh and local- YUM!  I even got my oatmeal for breakfast.
            Did I mention a rooster lives next door?  Actually, there are at least 2.  One on either side.  I think they are talking back and forth now.  And there is a crying bird- sounds just like a baby!

Kwaheri! (Bye!)


Right now, I am sitting on the balcony of the CCS home-base with a headlamp on, underneath a starry sky and a beautiful African night. Wow.
            Today was good.  Im just waiting for a bit more excitement, but it will come.
Anyway, my dad started right at 12 a.m.- This is because I woke up at 11:07 to go to the bathroom and didn’t fall asleep until over 4 hours later.  Then I slept until 7:30, without my morning alarm going off at 5:45 so I could run.  I guess I’m just not sensitive to roosters and light coming through the windows- but oh well, I didn’t come to Africa to run anyway, but that did leave me a bit off my game for a few hours.
            After breakfast and going over some things, we got to go on a bit of a scavenger hunt.  My group first had to visit the neighbors and get the sayings of 5 karangas- …karangas are pieces of cloth with sayings on them, usually positive and cam be used in many different ways.  Like, for instance, an apron or a skirt, and a place to put a basket on your head, as I modeled for the group.
            Second, we had to walk to the river and ask someone it’s name, so we asked the two boys to come with us and found out it was the Karanga River.  It was beautiful, and just a short hike from home!  On the way back, the boys pointed out all the fruit trees (bananas, mangoes, lemons, plus avocados, etc.)  Then we went back for some more group work, including KiSwahili lessons.
            Finally, lunch came (I always look forward to meal time).  Members of our partner programs also came so I got to meet Hussein of Step Up Center.  He was very nice and spoke good English.  I think my program is a lot more structured than others, and includes math and English lessons.  I’m a bit nervous to go, but very excited to get started.  Then, we just went to town, decided we are going on a weekend safari J (I’m just trying not to stress about the price), and got phones to share (to call a taxi or for emergencies).
When we got back to home base we took some of the others to the Karanga River.  Soon, we got kicked out by boys who wanted to swim/take a bath.  On the way back, there was a dog that looked like Apache!
            The rest of the evening has been pretty quiet., though I admit I am spending a bit too much time on the computer trying to download pics, check FB, and finding running/hiking routes.  You would think after last night I would be tired, but I’m not.  I think I’ll read more of Ellen’s book.  Here is a good quote I just read : “It makes a big difference in your life to stay positive.  I am positive of that.”  It then goes on with many short, silly sentences with bits of knowledge thrown in.  I hope I don’t start thinking in random short sentences again tonight.
Lala Salama! (Sleep Well)


            Just got back from my placement at Step Up Center.  The kids were GREAT and I was surprised at how much some of the 5 year olds know, though there was quite a difference between some.  Fist they sang (in English) and then did some letters, sounds, and even short words.  I helped a few with some writing, before others went askew.  I did what I could to keep them occupied.  Then Hussein came back and we sang some more songs, tired to rest (pumzika) and then read Little Red Riding Hood and the 3 Little Pigs (not the nicest fairytales).  I read in English and Hussein repeated in Swahili.  After that they had their porridge and it was time to go. 
            The kids were soooooooooooo cute and friendly!  I really loved being with them.  I guess my placement is quite a bit more structured and (thankfully) uses much less corporal punishment (some yelling and hitting with a pen or stick).  I’m still a little nervous and trying to find my place there.  I’d really like to get some good activities, it is just a little tough.  I just hope I’m useful, but I’m sure it will get better in a few days.

(more from 1/10/12)
I finally got in a short run this morning (I was tight!)  I left around 6:15, after the chorus of roosters and birds.  Soon, there was already many people on the dirt road- children going to school and people carrying buckets for water (I was def. acting my part as a mzungo! Or, crazy white person).
            During our Swahili lesson, I was getting pretty frustrated.  Making my own sentences was tough and many of the other volunteers were picking it up a bit quicker than me…but, Hakuna Matata!  On the other hand, I really enjoyed the speaker from the health clinic, who talked about the top 10 diseases and what is being done in Tanzania.


Rach J

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Africa (Blog 3): Brave - It doesnt mean you're not afraid, it just means you do it anyway.

I'm at the airport.
I made it through check-in, although I dont know if my carry-on will fit on the plain.
I'm still a little bit nervous, but more confident than I was yesterday.
When I signed up for this trip, I only thought of my upcoming adventure with excitement.
I didn’t realize that as the time go nearer, I’d have moments sick to my stomach with apprehension and the thought of leaving my loved ones for a month (I don’t know how soldiers or PeaceCorp volunteers do it).
Sometimes, I am so overwhelmed with love that it is difficult for me to control my emotions.  (I blame this on my mom.  She always used to cry during sad, or just kind of sad, movies and me and my sisters would laugh.  Now I think I’m worse than she is.  I just cried during “Waiting for Superman” last week, albeit that was a documentary.)  I received calls from my mom, Jim, and Sandi.  My uncle bought me a book on Kili and altitude sickness.  Jerecia gave me a hug.  Marie stopped over the house before schools to tell me she’ll miss me, giving me a teary eyed hug.  I received well wishes from so many others.  Steve hasn’t been himself all week.  As he dropped me off at the airport, I can’t say I didn’t let a tear slip out.

But, I walked through the doors.

This is the most alone I have ever been in my whole life-but I am loved; so, I guess alone is relative.  (Yes, I know Im a bit of a baby- there’s college students here- but I am who I am!)

This is going to make me stronger, more confident in myself.

Yesterday, while I was running on the Plateau Trail (my last run at “home”), I realized a lot of my anxiety and negative feelings still came from some feeling of slow self-worth.  There are still times I don’t feel good enough, not accomplished enough. (It funny what we can uncover if we are truthful with ourselves).  For the first time, I realized what “unconditional love” meant.  That despite my “failures” or my self-conceived short-comes (especially in comparison to others), my loved ones still love me, and think nonetheless…and this time, I believed it.  So, what I guess  I need to do, is love myself unconditionally.

Right now, I know where my thinking is misguided (step 1). I hope this trip to Africa will help me grow and strengthen as a person, for my family, friends, and me.  Then, I can take what I’ve learned and spread my happiness to the rest of the world.

Safari Njema.

I’ve made it to Africa!

As I knew it would, the plane rides, were exhausting…but I met some interesting people.

At the Washington-Dulles airport, a contractor from Kuwait sat down at Starbucks with me.  He was from Cincinnati.  He had a hangover.

The plan to Addis Adaba (or something like that) was huge!  It was  like the one in the Wedding Singer where Adam Sandler starts singing to Drew Barrymore down one of the aisles while dodging her fiancĂ©. There were a ton of people going to volunteer.  Of course me seat was right next to some from strong Baptists from Tennessee.  The group was very nice.  The woman basic, as nicely as she could, told me I was a sinner and needed to have a stronger connection with Jesus.  She then prayed for me.  That was very nice of her.  But, I don’t like people enforcing their religion on others.  That’s why I picked a volunteer group without a religious affiliation.  I think all religions have beautiful pieces to them.  Whatever you believe, I think that’s great, as long as you’re a good person and you’re happy.  However, don’t push it on me, thank you.  Anyway, there was also to Lost Boy on the flight, going back to help build a school in Sudan…how cool is that? 

At the Addis Adaba airport ( I was in Africa!) I found a fellow CCS volunteer, Janet who has traveled all over the world and is a retired special ed teacher, and woman from Africa who teaches nursing, and college student from Sydney, Australia volunteering at an orphanage, and a woman from Denver teaching at an international school.  Just a reminder of how many good people there are out there, and so many great things being done (which may confuse you if you watch the news a lot).

Finally, a very groggy me made it to Kilimanjaro Airport (I do have to say I was pleased with Ethiopian Airlines). Thank goodness Janet it was with me.  No one told me I need a yellow fever paper (somehow I slipped by without it).  I was also told it was very important I get my CTA stamp, which the workers their said I did not and shoed me away with all my paperwork (I have a feeling Im going to have to go back and get one).

The drive back to the volunteer house was so neat.  Donkeys lined the street, old Land Rovers and old motorcycles/dirt bikes were common the road (and to my American mind, we were droving on the wrong side of the street and the wheel was on the wrong side of the car).   Many people were walking about, some selling fresh groceries, some just hanging out.  The woman were wearing beautiful dresses, and I saw a few balancing baskets on their heads.  The landscape was mostly fields, with small and shabby houses, and mountains in the background.

The volunteer house is very nice…I would post pictures…but I forgot the cable to do so. Dang it.  Maybe I’ll see if I can borrow someone’s. Dinner was delicious.  Looks like I will be having a lot of fresh local food…yum!  I kinda feel like Im back in college with roommates…but all the people seem really nice and interesting.  Im still a little apprehensive because I don’t know anything about my location, but tomorrow we will tour the city and have orientation, so hopefully that’ll relax me.  (And, I asked the other girls, I should be able to run!  And, Kili is for sure on my to-do list.)

Anyway, I think I’ll go get ready for bed (it’s 9:07 here, so a little after 1 in the U.S.).  Plus I still have to tuck myself in…aka put the mosquito net around my bed.  Here’s to not letting the bed bugs bite!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Africa: Preparing to Depart (Blog 2)

Africa: Preparing to Depart
(Blog 2)

            I would love to tell you that right now, I am completely confident and excited to leave Ohio and begin my African adventure in Moshi, Tanzania. 

However, it would be much more accurate to say that I am, gently put, scared sh*tless.

It’s like that starting a new job feeling, making a presentation in front of a large group, or going on a first date….times 10.

I’ve been having some stomach issues that past few weeks (that did not stop from eating loads of fatty but wonderful holiday food) and yesterday it occurred to me that it is probably from the fact I’ve been so dang nervous about the trip.  After all, I am flying half-way around the world to go into a country I know very little about, with a language I don’t speak, and a culture I am unaccustomed to.  In addition, I’ve never navigated an airport by myself nor am I going with anyone I know.  On top of that, I’ll be working at a pre-school and I am no pre-school teacher…will I be able to make a difference to them?  And last, but not least, there are bugs (and contaminated food).  Now I don’t mind swatting the occasional fly away, but I could get a tick, a tick that makes a home in my skin and could make me really sick and half to be dug out by a doctor….YUCK!

Anyway, I do realize I am being a bit irrational here and that part of my anxiety is to be blamed on myself.  Lately, I’ve been reading “Unlimted: How to Build and Exceptional Life” by Jillian Michaels (I’m a bit of a fan…many of her workout DVDs are in my workout room/basement), which has helped re-bring to my attention some errors in my thinking.  So, how can I blame some of my anxiety on myself?  Well, simply because I believe in taking accountability for my actions, or in this case, lack there-of.  For example, I really should have spent more time studying Swahilli and memorizing cultural practices.

The good thing is that it is not too late to be proactive now and work on how I think about things.  For one, I’m writing this blog, which is helping me process and rationalize some of my thoughts.  I still have enough time (especially on my 1+ day plane trip) to study key Swahilli phrases and basic cultural practices.  I have 2 ½ half days to pack and make sure I have everything I need.  I have gotten all my immunizations (it was hard to lift my arm for 2 days) and have my malaria prescription ready to start taking on Thursday.  I’ll get to the airport early, can ask anyone if I need help, and have the numbers I need in my phone if I have problems with my flight. 

And, if I look at the worst possible situations (that are realistic, so Im not going to mention my  plane crashing or getting eaten by a hippo…plus if it is my time to die, it’s simply my time) it will probably be embarrassing myself in front of all the natives (like forgetting to eat with my right and using my left, which used only for “hygienic” purposes) or, yes, getting sick and having to spend a day or 2 bedside or finding a doctor back home to tweeze out a bug...still…Yuck!  Really, being patient with myself and not getting frustrated is the big key.  Just like in an ultra, I’ve got to keep smiling (lucky for me, smiles are universal) and thinking positively. 

Everything else I just need to rationalize or just deal with.  I am going to miss my family and friends, I know that…but I will be back in a month.   Of course I am already a little nervous about a job and finances when I get back too, but really I know I’ll be fine.  I’ve paid off all my bills for the next month, so it is best just to stay in the present.  Plus, I know I’ll have so much more knowledge to bring back with me that I can also bring to starting my own youth compassion and/or adventure program.  I’ve already proven by this trip (and some races) that if I dream it, know it, and work for it, I can achieve it.  (Ex: I dreamt about going, I came to believe it was a possibility, I placed in BR to make a down payment, I got a temporary job at the United Way and spent very conservatively for the past 5 months, and now…I am about to depart).

Okay, maybe now I am not as scared sh*tless as I was yesterday.  I guess I have changed to more of a nervous/excited and throw in some extra praying that I don’t forget anything. 
But, I think that’s okay.  I’m going to leave at 6 am Friday (admittedly yes, I have thought of different excuses I could come up with for not going), and I will be in Africa before 3:00 pm on Saturday.  Everything is going to be new to me, but oh, what an Adventure it will be!
Anywho…I better go get packing! Hakuna Matata!


Some of you (if anyone besides Steve actually reads this) may remember from last post I was unsure about whether or not I was going to climb Kili.  Well, I’m still not 100% sure, but I am feeling more confident about it now.

I still have almost none of the gear I need, but I found a place where I could rent it, and I’ve connected with a few people who have climbed it before.  My main fear about the trip is honestly being cold! Lol

Plus, before my reasoning for wanting to climb Kili wasn’t exactly where it should be, now it is.  Either way, it is not a necessity to climb, but, if all goes right, I am going to.  It sounds like a nice little climb ;)

O yea, they do have internet in Tanzania so I will try and update everyone when I can.  I will miss you everyone, but I know you all have your own beautiful adventures to get on with as well.

Safari Njema (Have a good journey),