Wow! I’ve had Quite the Adventure

I’m back in Nairobi. I still can’t believe how quickly my time in Enoosaen went by. It seems like just yesterday I was arriving in the country side.

When I arrived at the hotel in Nairobi, I felt like a kid in a candy store with all of the modern conveniences. Pillows, mirrors, electricity, running water, a gym! At this point, I’m just focused on next steps for the various projects I’ve been working on so the local staff can pick them up and continue running with them.

As I was enjoying my last few days of sunshine by the pool this weekend (I really didn’t think through leaving the sunshine to come back just in time for winter), I found myself browsing through photos from the past few months. It is pretty amazing as I look back over what I achieved and experienced.

As I contemplate an early retirement in a few years, there are definitely some good takeaways I learned about myself during this trip. If I’m volunteering, I want to be learning new skills rather than using my current skill set and not getting paid for it. I also don’t want to volunteer full-time. There are just too many other things I’m interested in doing with my time. There are a lot of creature comforts I can do without. But good bedding, a place of my own, access to/ability to cook a well- balanced diet (my well balanced diet includes good wine, beer, cheese, and bread 🙂 ) and the ability to workout are now non-negotiable.

I managed to knock out many good books that were on my reading list, but the problem is I also added significantly more. In terms of the bucket list, I crossed off quite a few items and as of yet I haven’t filled it back up.

There are lot of things and people that I’m going to miss, but there are definitely some things that I’m not going to miss, like despite having a wide-open road a motorcycle taxi or car will hold their line and not move over for people walking down the side of the road. There were a number of times where I almost pushed the motorcycle over to make a point. My hatred for this was similar to people not getting up on the bus or metro for those who need a seat or the way the school groups block the entire sidewalk in the spring. Those of you that have seen me react to those situations have a sense of how much this one drove me nuts.

Also add to the list the dust and mud. I am so done with having to have my clean my shoes every weekend. I have a whole new appreciation for sidewalks and washing machines! I also won’t miss the smell of raw sewage being sprayed across the road. It’s better than it being dumped in the river, which used to be the case, but still. I tried to get local folks riled up about it by saying they would never do this in Nairobi but most just accepted it as a way of life. I started filming some of the trucks as they were doing it, which actually caused a few to stop momentarily as they passed me only to start up again further up the road.

Lots more to say, but I’ll save that for when we catch-up in person. This time next week, I’ll be in the air on my way home. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.

Into the Jungle

Wow! Everyone that had been to East Africa kept telling me I had to go and see the gorillas. Boy were they right. It was truly an incredible experience and some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  I think if you are going to Africa, you really should add gorilla trekking to your itinerary.

Initially the plan was to just go to Rwanda. But Rwanda recently doubled the permit fees, so I flew into Rwanda then crossed the border (on foot – more on that later) into Uganda and went to see the gorillas there. Luckily Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya offer an East African visa that is good for all three countries for 90 days and multiple entries. My flight to Rwanda took me to Kenya and then Burundi before landing in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Our flight out of Burundi was delayed slightly because there were a number of heads of state flying out of Kigali due to the swearing in of the Rwanda president earlier in the day. Paul Kagame was re-elected.

Right off the back I was impressed with Rwanda, and that impression only increased over the four days. The airport had great wifi, and you didn’t have to fill out any paper work at immigrations. It was all done electronically.  I think even when you are coming back into the US, we are still making people fill out a piece of paper. It was late so I just got to the hotel and prepared for the next day.

My guide from African Adventure Safaris met me Saturday morning, and our first stop was the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The museum and educational program is extremely well done thanks to the Aegis Trust, but it is also absolutely heart breaking. In 1999, land for the memorial was acquired and construction began.  The process of burying the victims began in 2001, and the centre was opened in 2004, the 10th anniversary of the genocide. Today the memorial serves as the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide. Every year, more people are brought to the memorial for a dignified burial as the remains of victims in unmarked graves continue to be uncovered around the country. Many of those buried at the memorial remain unidentified. There is a wall of remembrance that lists the names of the identified bodies, but it only has a few thousand names, if that.

For those that don’t recall, here is a brief synopsis based on what I remember, have read, and saw at the centre. The genocide by the Hutus against the Tutsis began in April 1994. In a matter of weeks (3 months) over a million Tutsis were killed and tens of thousands more raped, tortured, mutilated, and permanently disabled from machete wounds. The original Rwandans were Twa. They were gradually displaced by larger migrating groups, the Hutu tribes and later the Tutsi tribes.

The authority of the Rwandan king and the system of feudalism that developed in Rwanda was unsurpassed in Africa other than Ethiopia. When the Belgians took over as colonizers from the Germans after World War I, they added the ethnic status to identification cards. By providing advantages and more privileged positions to the Tutsis, the minority (approx. 15%), the Belgian government exacerbated ethnicity divisions and a culture of haves and have nots.  When the Rwandan king started calling for fast tracking Rwandan independence in 1956, the Belgians began switching their allegiance to the Hutu majority who wanted to introduce democracy before separating from Belgian. Following the death of the king in 1959, clashes between the two tribes marked the start of ethnic conflicts that culminated in the genocide.

In 1961, the first prime minister created the Parmehutu, a party for the emancipation of the Hutus. The following year Rwanda gained independence and became a single party country where Tutsis were isolated and resettled. The Hutu majority government introduced quotas for Tutsis, limiting opportunities for education and work. More than 700,000 Tutsis fled or were forced to leave the country between 1959-1973. Some of those who fled joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front which invaded Rwanda in the fall of 1990. The intent of the party was to establish equal rights and rule of law as well as an opportunity for all of the refugees to return. There had been cross border raids by both sides in the intervening years.

Around the same time the Hutus published in a local paper called the Kangura, the Hutu Ten Commandments. The propaganda machine was in full force and the UN military advisers on the ground reported to New York that Hutu youth (the Interahamwe, which was established by the Rwandan president) were being militarized, but the international community didn’t take action leading up to the genocide. Even when they still had an opportunity to restore order, UN military officers were ordered to stand down.  The trigger that ultimately pushed events to spiral out of control is when the president’s plane was shot down returning from peace talks on April 6, 1994.

Although there is controversy as to who shot the plane down, many believe Hutu extremist were responsible because within an hour of the president’s death there were roadblocks throughout neighborhoods in Kigali and across the country.  Members of the Interahamwe were working from already compiled lists of identified Tutsis and using id cards at the road blocks to check ethnicity, which had remained on the cards since the Belgians began the practice in the early 1930s. All Tutsis and moderate Hutus were under attack. Many fled to churches seeking refuge. Some of the clergy and nuns were extremely brave and compassionate, while others provided information to the Interahamwe. Some of the most horrific massacres took place inside churches.

By the end of the genocide there were over 1 million dead, 300,000 orphans and over 85,000 children were now heads of households. A UNICEF trauma survey found that 80% of Rwanda’s children experienced a death of a family member and 70% witnessed someone being killed.

In Rwanda today, ethnic identities are out. Everyone now just considers themselves Rwandan.

As I said, the museum and memorial are extremely well done. It is both peaceful and reflective, while at the same time horrifying that we as the international community did nothing. There are beautiful stain glass windows, but when you look at them closely you realize there are skulls woven throughout the glass. They do a very good job of talking about the genocide from the perspective of survivors and victims today, but also look at it from the perspective of Hutus that have also suffered as the result of the actions of family members and the larger community. There is one quote by Apollon Kabahizi that has stayed with me: “When they said ‘never again’ after the holocaust was it meant for some people and not for others.”

It definitely took me a while to bounce back from the start of the day. Luckily we had a five hour drive ahead of us to clear my mind.  Rwanda is known as the “land of a thousand hills.” It is a beautiful country, extremely green, fertile, and lush. Rwandans have mastered the art of farming vertically on the hills. As we traveled northwest to Uganda the soil is nourished by volcanic ash and rocks from the Virunga volcanos. The other plus about Rwanda was that their main roads are nicely paved.

When we came to the border, I was forced to get out of the car and walk. I’m not really sure why, but that is the primary mode of crossing the border for the locals so I think that is just how they structured the system to process everyone. Although I had to wait in line for a bit, it was easier than I suspected and only involved having to go to two different windows to get my passport stamped and complete the biometrics.

As you cross the border you switch driving sides and time zones. Rwandan’s drive on the same side as us in the States. Uganda, like Tanzania, were under British rule at one point, so they drive on the other side of the road. From the border we drove another 2 ½ hours to right outside the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Uganda is known as “the pearl of Africa.” It is a much larger country than Rwanda, but the portion we visited in the southwest was very similar to Rwanda in terms of landscape. It was potato harvest time so as we were driving on the dirt roads, sometimes very close to the edge of the hills (yes back to African massage days) you would see people in the fields or by the roads with large bags of potatoes.  By the time we got to the lodge it was late afternoon. I didn’t do much other than relax (they give you a hand massage on arrival!) and enjoy the thunderstorm. It was the first thunderstorm I’ve experienced here in Africa. Another nice touch was the hot water bottle that was tucked under my sheets when I returned from dinner. It was so nice climbing into a warm bed. Being up in the hills with the rain, it cools off very quickly and turns cold easily.

After a quick breakfast we were off to the park for a briefing by the rangers. There were probably another 40 people or so trekking that day as well. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to 28 gorilla groups, almost half of the world’s approximately 700 surviving mountain gorillas. The park is also a World Heritage site. In addition to the gorillas, it has more mammal species (120) than any other park in Uganda,  but because of the dense forest it is very hard to see any of them.

You are all grouped together for a briefing by the rangers and then split up (I suspect based on our appearance and physical stamina) into separate groups. There can be no more than 8 people in a group. Of the 28 gorilla groups, nine of them have been habituated to humans.  Trackers were already out in the field, starting with the last place the gorillas were the day before and tracking them from there. They then radio back to the various guides as to where to bring us. There is always a chance you don’t find the gorillas. In fact, we started out going one way and the trackers then realized the gorilla group we were tracking had crossed the river and circled back closer to our starting point.

Each group is sent with two rangers that carry guns in addition to the machetes that all rangers carry. The guns are for the elephants. The jungle is so dense that you really can’t see anything in front of you other than green, and it is possible to startle the elephants. We didn’t come across any elephants, but the rangers would have fired a shot in the air scaring them off if we had. I loved hiking through the jungle. You had no idea what you were stepping on because you couldn’t see the ground with all of the plant growth. Sometimes it was sturdy, sometimes you were just stepping into a bunch of vines, other times you were in mud up to your shins.

We heard the gorillas long before we actually saw them. Once we finally found them, a number were in the trees and several were on the ground. The group we were assigned had two silverbacks and two babies. There really aren’t words to describe that hour long experience. It was incredible. At one point, a silverback crossed within 5 feet of me as he was coming down the trees and joining the others on the ground. One ranger was a bit too close for the silverback’s preference, so the gorilla turned back around and got in a threatening position until the ranger backed up. It was absolutely amazing. They are such magnificent animals. They eat leaves the way we would pull rosemary off the stem, run your fingers down the vine and pull off all the leaves. Watching the babies play and make mistakes was pure delight.

Before you know it, and way before you are ready, your hour is up. The permits only allow you to spend an hour with the gorillas and that is tightly enforced. It takes about two years to habituate a gorilla group to humans. Treks are only carried out in the morning when the gorillas are on the move and eating, and no gorilla group is exposed to humans any more than one hour each day. Today gorillas are only found in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

I seriously considered skipping my flight and staying another day to go out the next morning. It is beyond incredible to see these animals in their natural habitat. It is not a cheap undertaking, but when you realize a large portion of the permit fee is going to protecting these animals and preserving their habitat it is so worth it. Now having had this experience, I can say it is totally worth it no matter the cost.

We followed the same path to return to Kigali. I still had to get out of the car to cross the border, but once again didn’t have to fill out any paperwork for immigration on the Rwandan side. It was all computerized. I returned to the hotel and had a direct flight back to Tanzania in the morning.

I was sad to be leaving. Although I only spent a short time in each country, I felt extremely comfortable and could have stayed much longer. Who knows maybe a future trip…

It struck me as I was filling out the immigration card to come back into Tanzania that I only have 15 days left here. I can’t believe my 2 ½ months are almost up. My last day of volunteering is Wednesday, August 30. On Thursday, I start hiking Mount Meru. I’ll be back to the hotel on Sunday, September 3, and then I leave the next day for Kenya and my second volunteer stint with Kakenya’s school for girls.

By the way, thanks for all the feedback on my question about the jewelry vs. the mountain. I was surprised by how many of you said go for the jewelry. There were a few wise souls that said to do both. I’ve decided all of you can’t be wrong. I should splurge on both a tangible item and an experience. So in addition to packing up and making my round of goodbyes this weekend, there will be some jewelry shopping on the agenda.

If I can’t get a post up once I get down the mountain, the next time you’ll hear from me I’ll be in Kenya.

 

Checking Some of the Boxes

I’ve spent the past week chilling out in Usa River, outside of Arusha, and I’m finally beginning to feel like I’m doing the things I said I wanted to by going abroad. Although I already knew this, I’ve officially confirmed I am not the back-packing type who can jump from location to location. I like to feel settled. I can only live out of a bag for so long before I start to go crazy. I reached that point by the end of my trip to Zanzibar. I’ve very much enjoyed everything I’ve done and seen over the past month, but a month of being on the go was more than enough for me. I’m looking forward to settling down into my volunteer routine.

Although the week was low key, I did get somewhat into a routine of reading, exercising, practicing my language skills, thinking (okay maybe a bit too much of this :))  and getting better acquainted with the town/village. I also managed to get my visa switched to a work visa, which I hear is quite the accomplishment. So good news, I’m now legal. If you are doing any kind of work,  including volunteer, you can’t be on a tourist visa, which I entered the country on. My new talent for the week – I can pretty much tell when the tree movement overhead is monkeys or just the wind blowing. I know which trees to find the blue monkeys in versus the Columbus. And I find myself smiling every evening when I hear the Bush babies.

I also managed to score the recipe for cucumber cream soup (hot soup) from the chefs here at Dik Dik. So yummy!

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I’m moving into the volunteer housing later today and will start on Monday. I’ll be volunteering with Jifundishe for the next month. I have a general idea of what I’ll be doing (basic nonprofit management stuff), but we’ll see if that actually comes to fruition when I start. I’ll post more once I start.

Found some stairs to run Gary! And local gym.

Just a sampling of the beautiful flowers I get to enjoy everyday.

Exploring the Spice Islands – Zanzibar Part II

Who knew all this time I was walking among a plethora of spices and fruit trees? I was amazed by the variety of spices and fruit trees that grew both wild and cultivated. Zanzibar has a long history of cultivating and trading in the spices. Several of the spices were actually brought over by the Dutch East India Company since the climate matches that of Indonesia.  

On my way to Stone Town, I stopped and toured one of the local villages and spice farms. As I was on the tour, I realized how little I know about which spices and fruit come from trees, vines, shrubs, and roots. You can often identify a spice just by crumbling up some of the leaves and smelling them. It is easy to forget all of the other benefits that come along with spices rather than just flavoring our food. There is basically a spice that will improve every possible medical or cosmetic concern we might have. Just think if more of us had the knowledge to identify these plants and the ability to walk out into our village and harvest something to address our needs.

At the end of the tour, you are treated to a huge table of fruits that grow locally. It probably took us 20 minutes or more to sample all of the fruits. I took this opportunity to begin restocking the spice cabinet that I completely emptied before leaving the States.

 

From there I continued onto Stone Town. At Stone Town, I was struck by how cosmopolitan and crowded the city is. I often found myself exploring the narrow alleyways of the old city to escape all of the people and the heat. The architecture is incredible, especially the wooden shutter doors. Like many historical sites, the city is struggling to figure out how you preserve the history but also address all the needs of the locals. Understandingly, despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000, history is losing out.

 

The other thing I noticed is that there doesn’t seem to be the same interest in preserving the eco-diversity or marine life as there is in preserving the animals on the mainland. My perception is that the Tanzanian government has made some significant and important strides on the mainland in the protection of the animals and their habitats (largely because of the money tourist dollars bring in). I didn’t see that concern being applied in Zanzibar to the water or marine life. Despite this, the water was still pretty amazing even near the main port in Stone Town.  

 

Some of the other interesting tidbits I picked up on (Note some of the historical stuff is based on what I learned on tours and can remember. No writing any school papers based on anything in this post 🙂 )  

  • The local government still refers to itself as the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar. Although it united with Tanzania in the mid-1960s it is semi-autonomous.
  • The current sultan has been living in exile in the UK since the 1960s.
  • Back in its day, and actually even today, Zanzibar was the place to be. The Omani sultan (Al-Busaid family) moved the sultanate to Zanzibar between 1830s-40s. There is debate on the exact date.
  • The U.S. was one of the first countries followed by the Brits to set-up trade agreements with the country.
  • The shortest war in history (38 minutes) took place in Zanzibar when the Brits bombarded the Beit al Hukun palace because the death of the pro-British sultan led to the succession of a sultan the Brits did not support.
  • The “House of Wonders,” as it became known, was a real draw for tourists throughout Africa and the Middle East in the early 1900s. It was the first building on the island to have electricity and an elevator. Good old Otis elevator.
  • The first president of Zanzibar was assassinated.
  • The prevalence of trade led to a thriving slave trade and a diverse population of Arabs, Indians, Europeans, other Africans, and locals living and building the city together. Zanzibar was the center of the Arab slave trade. The second and third sultans worked to abolish the slave trade.
  • The Old Fort was erected around 1700s by the Omani Arabs after expelling the Portuguese in 1699.
  • Door shutters are male and female. The one with the chain lock is considered the male door. The female door has a decorative center post allowing the male door to fit in while at the same time preventing its partner from being opened. They are supposed to symbolize partners working together.

Wait, Life was Supposed to Stop While I was Away

Did you not get the memo? That’s the problem with having some connectivity in a developing country. You get a small glimpse into the fact that life is moving forward without you, but just when you want to engage with folks back home the power goes out and cuts your wi-fi signal or the four bars you had on your cell phone all of a sudden say “no service” and you haven’t even moved.

I know I shouldn’t be complaining. I remember vividly having to walk 4 km to call home 25 years ago once a month, but there are times here when the connection gods are smiling down on you (like on top of a mountain) and you are able to feel like you are only a state or two away. The fact that I can text regularly and even video chat occasionally via WhatsApp is still pretty amazing to me. But try to upload a few photos to WordPress or a short video to Instagram and you are asking way too much.

I keep trying to find logic in a system where there is none. Most Tanzanians have cell phones. As with most developing countries, they just bypassed land lines and home computers and went straight to cell phones. To get connectivity here you have to buy m-pesa, mobile money you can use to buy minutes and data. On the mainland there is a stall or store selling Vodacom m-pesa every few feet. In Jambiani, the small village I’m currently in on Zanzibar, the most I could find was three 1,000 shillings cards (a little more than a 1 US dollar). So earlier this week I hopped on the daladala (local small bus- really a carvan or a truck with an extended cab with small benches on the side) and ventured into the next town about 10 km away to purchase 20,000 shillings worth of m-pesa. 

But once you purchase it that is only the start. You then have to use a coin to scrap off the gray paint covering the code. You text that into the phone and the credit is applied to your account. Once the credit is applied you then have to decide whether you want to purchase texting, calls or internet. I’ve been sticking with internet but from there you have to decide whether you want to buy 3 days, 7 days or a month and how many MBs. If you don’t use up the allotment it is gone after the period is up. You do all of this through a series of text responses. You have no way of knowing really how much you are using unless you text for a balance regularly and do the math yourself.


The other frustration I think has more to do with the speed of the tablet sometimes than the actual speed of the wi-fi connection (as I am watching Word slowly type out the letters I’m punching into the keyboard). Searching for a hotel or posting a blog can take hours and result in absolutely no progress. I’m actually a somewhat patience person but the technology challenges have definitely pushed my buttons here.

I’ll have to contemplate my first world expectations and why I’m even having them when I’m supposed to be checking out this afternoon while I’m lounging on the beach and looking at this view.

High tide

The solution though really, is if all the nieces and nephews would stop doing neat new things and all of you stopped enjoying summer vacations. You can all just live vicariously through me until I return. Once I return, all of you can go on with life, give me a new niece or nephew, move across the country, get new jobs, get sick, etc. Until then, just stop moving forward without me.  Just kidding (but not really).

Anyway, this is just a long way of saying I miss all of you and giving you a glimpse into my life in Africa. Despite my complaining, keep me posted. I really do want to hear about all the new developments in your lives.

The Baboons Can Open Sliding Glass Doors

IMG_0281That warning was stressed when I checked in at reception at the Lake Manyara Lodge and again when the bellman walked me to the room and explained that just shutting the sliding glass door wasn’t enough. It had to be locked when I was in the room.

The other interesting phrase I became very acquainted with is “African massage.” Those of you that know me, know that I tend to indulge when it comes to massages. This is not what you are thinking. The massage comes from being bounced around in the 4×4 constantly because of the roads, if you can even call dirt pathways with huge potholes and rocks, roads. Add in dust that is generated from traveling on these roads and the fact that you often have the roof popped so that you can stand and see the animals, you are filthy by the end of each day. We had the extra pleasure of blowing one of our front shocks. They weren’t able to fix it on the road so the solution was just to take it off and continue. Think hoopdie cars from the mid-90s and that sums up my ride for the last three days.

My seven day safari began with the Arusha National Park, followed by Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, two days in the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and finally Tarangire National Park before returning to Arusha. These parks are often referred to as the Northern Circuit. I arranged the tour through Dik Dik Tour Operator & Hotel. To say they took good care of me is an understatement. I became quite spoiled over the seven days on the road and the few extra days I stayed at the hotel.

IMG_2387.jpgAs part of the package, I was provided with a driver/guide (Erick) and my own cook (Michael) who prepared hot lunches in the bush. Most of the other operators only provide box lunches. I have to say I could really get used to the idea of traveling with my own cook.  Anyone want to volunteer to travel around with me and cook at my beck and call?

Given that Tanzania is currently in the dry season, it makes for great safari viewing as you often find animals gathering around the limited water sources that still exist. In terms of animal sightings, I couldn’t have really asked for more.  The diversity and sheer numbers of animals I saw was amazing. And to see them in their natural habitat is quite stunning.  The only animal that I didn’t get to see was a rhino. Unfortunately their numbers have dwindled significantly over the years.

Each day by the time I was wrapping up lunch if not before, the baboons always seemed to turn up. Baboons fighting sounds something like cats fighting just magnified about 10 times. I learned so many new things. You can tell the difference between the cheetahs and the leopards by their spots, and because leopards are usually found in the trees. Cheetahs on the other hand don’t climb trees. The zebras rest their heads on each other’s behinds for protection. One is looking off in one direction and the other has the other direction covered. Quick way to tell a gazelle from an impala is the black strip that is on the side of the gazelles. Wildebeest form a straight line and follow one another when on the move. The term big five comes from hunters who defined the five hardest animals to bring down (elephants, buffalo, lions, leopard, and rhinos).

The landscape was incredible. We went from the lush green of Arusha and Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the plains and then woodlands of the Serengeti. Next was the dried up alkaline lake and fresh water lakes and rivers of Ngorongoro Crater. There are a lot of similarities between portions of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti. The big difference is that the Maasai aren’t allowed in the Serengeti whereas they are allowed in the conservation area. In Maasai culture your wealth is determined by how many animals, primarily cows, you have. As you cross the conservation area you see children from the age of 8 plus tending to the herds or flocks.  They actually move the animals a considerable distance each day to a water source then back to home. We stopped at a Maasai mobo on the way. Their houses are constructed of sticks and cow dung. There is a tiny hole in the top to vent the fire that is burned for cooking and warmth. The houses are used for about 10 weeks, and then they will move on to the next location and set up house all over again.

Along the way, I stayed in a series of upscale lodges, but given the remote nature of some of the locations, hot water was only available for a few hours in the morning and evening. Power was completely turned off from about 11pm to 5am and during the day from about 10am to 4pm while everyone was out viewing the animals. At each lodge you would have a group of people crowded in the lobby or bar trying to access what little wi-fi was available.

Enjoy the limited photos I was able to get posted. I finished this post before I left for Zanzibar but have been struggling for the past week (actually the past month) with limited internet. And because I’m finally giving up and posting this via my phone the photos are not getting stylized. You’ll just have to wait till I’m states side again to see all the great photos (several 100 from this week alone). 

Getting Settled In

I made it to Tanzania safe and sound.

The flights were long but uneventful. Even at 6 in the morning, the Hamad International Airport in Doha is quite impressive.  I’m now settled in Moshi, Tanzania. The Stella Maris is home for the next few days before I tackle Kilimanjaro.

For those not familiar with my plans, the idea is to mix in travel with volunteer work. I was hoping to jump right into volunteering after finishing the climb, but it looks like July will be devoted to relaxing and exploring. In August, I’ll start volunteering with Jifundishe, and then in September, I’ll begin volunteering with the Kakeyna Center for Excellence. Once I start working with the organizations, I’ll provide greater detail about what I’m doing with each.

I’m using my downtime before the hike to plan out the rest of the month. I arrived in Tanzania without anything specifically booked after Kilimanjaro. Yes, for those that know me well, I know you’re blown away by this statement. But this is all part of the journey … to just go with the flow, right? I’m still trying to convince myself on that one.  If you’re going to be anywhere near me over the next few months please let me know. I’m always game to travel and meet up in exotic locales.

Before we start the hike on the 26th of June, I’ll write up what I know about the climb.

I managed to make it into town this morning to pick up a local SIM card and tour some of the food markets. Lots of similarities here to my times in South East Asia. Vendors selling the exact same thing as far as the eye can see. Really need to teach them about the laws of supply and demand and differentiation. Maybe if I get bored with this relaxation thing, I’ll come up with a little project for myself in the market.

There are photos of the hotel and market on Instagram (@Jessuntethered). I’m definitely finding it easier to post photos there rather than getting them uploaded here.  Thank you Millennials for giving me the push I needed. All of you were right. I was wrong. (Those of you that pushed me should frame/screenshot the “I was wrong” portion. That’s not something you will hear or read from me often.)

Not too much on the agenda tomorrow other than planning out the rest of the month. I think I found a place where I can go for a run, so I may do that in the morning. I’m also going to visit the school that this hotel supports. Other than that it’s all about relaxation.