Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Tanzanian sky cried today

Last entry from Africa. We are leaving for the airport in two hours. This has been a remarkable trip.

Safari Day 1-

We left a little late today because Rachel fainted in the kitchen while making pancakes. She recovered quickly after Peter gave her some sugar packets and peanut butter. She has low blood sugar and this has happened to her before but it still scared everyone, including Rachel. When she fell she hit the hot griddle that she was using to cook and it left a burn under her eye down to her chin. Thank goodness she is OK.

Our Dorobo safari guides, Killerai and driver, Simon talked with us about what to expect the next seven days..

We finished packing for safari and loaded up on this giant MAN truck, which is an old German army truck. It can hold 20 people and all of our belongings and food. I road in the passenger seat with Simon, the driver. About 30 minutes into the 10 hour trip he laid the windshield down and we were completely open air. We drove on some wide dirt roads, dirt paths and no roads to get to our destination camp site. It took a little longer than usual because we saw many animals. It started with the wildebeest and the gazelles. We wanted to see giraffes and it was not long before off in the distance a herd of about 20 were gathered under the trees. Soon we saw zebras and more giraffes. It was surreal. Off the road, up the hill, Simon notice some vultures. We drove over and found a freshly killed wildebeest. It was still warm. After examining it for a while Killerai decided to cut off some fresh hind quarters. So he skinned part of the right back leg and cut several chunks of meat. Later that night we would grill it and have with our meal.

Our other exciting big find was a snake, the deadliest in Africa. It was laying dead in the road. It took a while to determine it was dead but once we were sure everyone enjoyed holding it and having their picture taken.

All of these finds put us into camp after dark. We were suppose to put our own tents up but we were all overjoyed when we arrived to find out that the other Dorobo safari guides had set them up for us. We unpacked in the tents and gathered around the campfire to eat. We were introduce to our other guides Jeremiah and Lomnyak. We also have three Massai tribesmen with us to guard everyone as we sleep. There are wild animals out there you know.

Safari Day 2-

The cold morning started before seven and all of us were eagerly waiting for breakfast. The plan today is to hike to the top of a small mountain. We set off about 8:45 and quietly walk in a single line behind Paua, the Massai warrior, who carried a spear and Killerai who carried a shotgun. "You never know what you may find when hiking," he said. The hike was through waist high grass and up a very steep incline. We saw several baboons scampering around the top. Upon reaching the first tier of the mountain I told the group I could not go on. My face was tomato red and I was afraid I would pass out and then what would they do trying to carry this dead weight woman off the mountain. One of the Massai, Julius, was assigned to bring me back to camp. We had a slow descent and I enjoyed looking back up the mountain to see where everyone else was.

That evening we went back out for a walk by a watering hole, looking for animals but did not see any. Back at camp we had another good meal, told stories around the campfire and finally went to our tents for bed. Did I mention that last night I slept on the diagonal and kept rolling downhill in my sleeping bag? Tonight I am rearranging my sleeping position so I can stay on my 1 inch mat. I forgot how much fun sleeping on the ground can be.

Safari Day 3 -

Sarah twisted her ankle on the hike yesterday so I will be "forced" to ride in the truck with her instead of hiking through the 3 foot tall grass for 4 miles. We need to charge camera batteries so Sarah and I will ride by the car charger area. Simon is such a nice man; he points out interesting wild life as we ride. There are lots of giraffes and zebras today. I still cannot believe I am seeing these animals roaming around freely.

The group takes a long time to meet up with us and they are exhausted from that hike. Sarah and I, on the other hand, have had a little nap. We are happy to reunite and off we go towards the Massai boma camping area.

A boma is a small community of several huts. This particular one was lead by Laurent, who has seven wives. Laurent died this past year of diabetes and now his eldest son is in charge. There are 150 residents who all descend from Laurent and his seven wives who live in the boma.

Rumor has it that we will be able to shower this evening. It is Tuesday and my last bath was last Friday. I was afraid I would run out of shampoo while on safari but I now realize that will NOT be an issue as I do not need shampoo very much.

We arrive at camp in the late afternoon and I see the solar showers right away. We are given one bag of water per two people and told to use it sparingly. This also proves not to be a problem as the water is about 14 degrees and it takes my breath away every time it touches my body. I don't need much water.

After everyone has a chance to shower it is time for the goat blood ritual. The Massai people are herders of goats and cows. In honor of our arrival at their boma a goat has been chosen to be slaughtered and cooked over the open fire pit. It is very sad for me to know that this cute little goat that I am looking at will soon be roasting on the fire. I cannot watch. Neither can many of the students. I bowl of blood is taken from the goat and offered to us to drink. Several brave students try it. I am totally amazed at how many times on this trip they have tried new things.

It is dusk now and we walk over inside the boma. It is very interesting. Laurent's grave is inside with a special marker. We are invited to see the inside of a hut. It is tiny. There are two sleeping rooms and a kitchen. The sleeping area is a piece of skin stretched tightly from corner to corner…maybe 9 x 7 feet. Five people sleep here. The kitchen is about 4 x 8 feet with a small fire in the middle for cooking. There is one small window about head high. I would get claustrophobia.

The Massai women have set up their blankets to sell us the beaded bracelets that they make. We all love to shop.

We walk back to camp and have dinner. Several of the Massai men have come back with us. We sit around the campfire and are invited to ask the Massai questions about their lives through the interpreter, Killerai. This proves most interesting. Finally Jacob ask if the Massai will sing for us. About eight of them stand up and start chanting and singing…such a unique sound. They finish and they want us to sing; so we break out our "Deep in the Heart of Texas" song. It is easy for them to sing the chorus and they sing along. Then they want us to sing along with them. We all stand around the campfire chanting and swaying and jumping.

Safari Day 4 -

We tell the Massai goodbye and drive through the bush to Tanangire National Park to see more animals. The parks are thousands of acres that have been designated by the Tanzanian government as a wild game reserve. There are several in Tanzania as the safari business is a main part of the economy. For the first time we see other tourist. We have our usual picnic lunch and pay the entrance fee of $1100 for the group to go into the park. Finally we see elephants…it is very exciting because for days we have only been seeing elephant poop.

Simon hears a hissing sound as we are driving around and our 4 foot diameter tire has a leak and must be changed. That proves quite an ordeal to change. The good news is that it is dusk and there is a great sunset. I take one of my best photos of the trip while we are waiting for the boys/men to change the tire…thank you God, all things happen for a reason.

We pull into camp and our National Geographic photographer, Massimo Bassano, is waiting to greet us. He is adorable. Italian, very friendly, and eager to get to know us.

Safari Day 5 -

Two more safari drives through Tanangire and a new park, Manyara are on the schedule today. Massimo gives several photo lessons and we see more baboons, zebras, elephants, gazelles, warthogs, and interesting birds. We drive around all day in our MAN truck. It is against the park regulations to get out of the truck. We have been in the truck for DAYS now. Still, we are having fun. I am not sure what I expected going on safari was going to entail but this has been just perfect.

We arrive at our third camp site…on my gosh. This site has much needed electricity and for the first time in tow weeks we get warm showers. We are ecstatic.

Safari Day 6 - Ngorangoro National Reserve

today's travels take us to a very large caldera…or crater. It is cold outside as we get our wake up call at 5:00 am. Three Land Rovers arrive at camp to take us because our large MAN truck is not allowed inside. We are divided into groups and load up in the SUVs. Our driver is Kevin. Off we fly to the crater. The entrance is on the rim of the old volcano and we have to drive down several thousand feet to arrive at the base of the crater. As far as the ey can see is waist high grass, a few trees and water off in the distance. We drive around searching for animals. Then the fun starts. Kevin is listening to two CB radios and a cell phone. There is lots of swahilli jabbering going on. There is excitement in the voices but of course I cannot understand anything. "There is a lion stalking a herd of zebras," Kevin announces and off we go in search. Sure enough, we get to the scene and there are many Land Rovers there ahead of us but we can see the two lions off in the distance looking at the zebras. We are not there ong when Kevin backs out and says there has been a zebra and just been taken down by a zebra so off we zip to the next location. This is a much bigger scene and there are many, many Land Rovers here all jostling for position. There are tour guide rules and one Land Rover cannot stay in prime seeing position or the other guides start getting angry. Soon we are very close to the lion and we see her blood red chin as she looks up from the zebra she is eating. We stay for lots of photos and then Kevin says there has just been a Cheetah spotting…off we go again. This reminds me of a bass fishing tournament and everyone trying to get to the fish first. It is quite exciting and we quickly realize the Kevin is the best driver of the three SUV's that we are in. We finally break for a picnic lunch and bathroom. Don't get me started on the bathrooms…that will need to be an entire entry by itself.

After lunch we find a hippo hang out with four - five hippos all sunning. One is laying upside down with his four feet in the air. Then he will stretch and roll over and then go back upside down. He is very comical. Next we spot a one month old baby hippo nuzzling up against her mom. Ugly but precious.

Massimo, tries to spend equal time in each Land Rover guiding each student with their photography. He is very outgoing and warm. We all really like him. When we return to camp he spends individual time again with each student. After dinner we will have a slideshow of the students best work of the day and Massimo will give his critique.

Another group of about 20 students from Switzerland set up camp in our camping area. Some of their tents are just a few feet away from ours and for the first time we are not alone in our camping experience. We visit with some of our new friends.

Saturday, June 25 - On the road from northeastern Tanzania to Arusha.

We leave at 9:30 and stop to souvenir shop along the way. Travel is very slow because our MAN truck can not go more than our 40 mph and when we go uphill we go about 3 mph. But the good news is that we are on paved road.

Massimo is going back to Italy today so we drop him off at the junction and someone from the safari company takes him the final hour to the airport. We go to the Dorobo Safari headquarters and have our last picnic lunch and we all buy a safari t-shirt.

Our last stop is the Massai market where we went last week. Now that we have been here for a couple of weeks we have more of a sense of the souvenirs we want. This market is much calmer then the main market in the city center of Arusha. We purchase all kinds of treasures.

Pete and Charlotte O'neal's place will be our final stop on the trip. It is about 30 minutes away from Maji ya Chai. We turn off the the main road and bump and jiggle for about 15 minutes up a dirt road until we get to the United African Alliance Community Center. The center is enclosed by a tall stucco like wall full of brightly colored art and sayings.

Pete comes out to meet us. He is 70 years old, has dreadlocks almost to his waist , was raised in Kansas City and says ya'll. We feel comfortable around him. The place looks like a 5 star resort compared to where we have been staying the past two weeks. There are 20, four to eight year olds that live here at the new orphanage. Our students are in heaven again. Everyone of them has at least one student in their arms. I love this. It makes my eyes well up again to see the happiness on both faces. I have got to get back to Houston and quit tearing up over everything.

The O'neals - Day 1

It is Sunday. We have a dance group coming today to teach our students some dances and then we are going to have a performance at 3:30 for anyone who wants to come watch. We have practice on the concrete slab close to the orphanage. The session goes well. The Houston kids decide to teach the African kids the Cuban shuffle. Both groups have fun learning each others dances. For the afternoon performance the dance group is now in native costume and they perform many dances. A small crowd gathers to watch. Soon it is the Houston groups turn to perform. they all receive parts of costumes to wear. It is fun to watch them.

Later that evening Pete meets with the group. We watch a documentary about him and Charlotte. You see, Pete was a Black Panther. He had some issues with the American government and the law and he fled the United States 40 years ago. He is in exile in Tanzania. The documentary, " A Panther in Africa" is very interesting. Pete shares intimate details about his life and ask for redemption. He feels he has made a complete change in his life and dedicates his livelihood to the people of this village. After the film we have a question and answer period with him. Holly and I are the most fascinated by this man and we ask lots of questions. I am extremely proud of the way the group handles the Q and A session. Pete concludes with the thought that he has presented his side of the story. He knows there is another side but he hopes that the young people get the message that one can make mistakes with their life and end up doing the right thing.

The O'neals - Day 2

The days have slowed down. We are no longer on such a rigid, hurry up schedule. We get to sleep until 8:30 every morning at the O'neals. This is a big deal. This morning we have a big tripod photo lesson on panning, zooming, HDR, panoramic, and painting with light. We go outside of the center's walls and take photos of the people and surrounding area.

After lunch we spend most of the afternoon in a common area working on our laptops and organizing photos and typing on the blog. It was very difficult to do this on safari and most everyone is way behind. The students present their On Assignments tonight. Each person got to select their topic and either work with a a partner or alone. the presentation range from the maturity and work load of the Tanzanian children to the types of animals that the country has. the kids to a good job. The orphans have come to see the presentations and so have the local teens that go to school at the center.

When the presentations are over the African teens begin to set up a sound system. Some kids are taking paint with light photos and others are playing with the orphans.

The orphans disappear for a while and then reappear in a procession with others from the center. The lead child is carrying a cake. We all join in the conga line and sing and dance around. It is a farewell ceremony. It is a happy and sad time.

We eat cake and the say goodbye to the little ones. The music is playing and soon there is a dance. What a wonderful last evening in Africa.

The O'neals - the Last day

We woke to a heavy rain. We have not had rain like this the entire time we have been here. I lay in my bed and I think it is the Tanzanian sky crying because we are leaving today.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It is something new everyday - Tanzania

Maji ya Chai, Tanzania - Thursday, June 17


Holly and I walked to a local vegetable market, while our go with the United African Alliance Community Center students around the village to take photos for their National Geographic On Assignment project. The walk was down a long dirt road. Everything is always covered with dust, including my body. I have never been so dirty in my life.

In the afternoon we went to Arusha market with Mamma Killerai. It was the wildest street market that I have ever seen. It is a Mexican market on steroids. From the time we got off of the bus we were being hustled to buy something. They never gave up. They followed us from store to store trying to sell us everything from jewelry to batik wall hangings. I have to admit…I bought 18 necklaces (for good price) so that maybe he would go away. It worked but then a whole new batch of men came around selling something else. Mamma led us to all the stores that we wanted to go. The most interesting purchase of the day was made by Jacob when he bought a green guitar. How we are going to travel around Africa and go on safari with that will be a treat for me to watch. We shopped for 3 - 4 hours and everyone was wonderful. It has been amazing how well this group gets along.

We went out to dinner and had pizza and even though the electricity went out three times, and dinner took three hours and some students that ordered pizza got a random chicken dish because they had run our of pizza dough; the kids had wonderful attitudes and just went along with all the experiences.

Day 6

Another eventful day…let's just say, that Peter getting his eyebrows singed from the fire does not even rate in the top three things that happened today. We started off the day with Peter trying to get the charcoal fire going. I was outside collecting my clothes off of the clothes line when I heard a burst of fire. I looked over and could tell that something had happened to Peter. He had been blowing on the fire and it back drafted towards his face and he lost some length on his eye lashes and singed his hair and eye brows. He was ok but it was scary thinking about what could have happened.

We ate breakfast and soon Mkala and the small bus arrived to take us to the orphanage, Our students were so excited. We brought the orphans clothing and pencils, games, hair supplies and other items. But mostly we brought them 13 students who wanted nothing more than to spend the morning playing with them. We hugged on them, sang with them, played soccer with them and loved being with them. They, in return, were so appreciative of us spending time with them.

We left there with a mix of happiness and sadness and drove about five minutes down the road to a giant open market. We saw things that I have never seen. In the center of the giant field were Massai tribesmen with their bright red clothing selling their goats and cows. There were thousands of peep. Around the animals were people selling everything, from bananas to used shoes. I cannot begin to describe this scene with proper adjectives. We came to this market to buy two goats that we plan to roast over the fire to feed to our guest who are coming to our compound on Saturday.

Peter, Erin, Dominque and Mnissi bought the goats and we stuffed them into the small trunk of the bus and drove off towards our final destination of the day. We stopped along the way and dropped off Mnissi and the two goats and continued to the waterfall.

Our bus was not powerful enough to take 18 people up the steep grade and soon we were out pushing the bus up the hill. After about an hour and many "get out and push" we parked the bus and continued with a hike. It really was a beautiful place that we were hiking but Mkala was walking too fast and not taking any rest stops and several of us were having trouble keeping up. We finally made it to this beautiful waterfall and enjoyed the accomplishment of all that was involved in getting there. We started our walk downhill to the bus. I was very excited to sit back down it the bus and head home. We were all exhausted and it was dusk. We had finished our hike just in time. As we were driving down the hill, everyone was happy and chatty. We had one final steep hill to go up and the bus driver gunned the engine to try and get enough speed to make it up to the top. When he did the tires hit a slick part of the road and in an instant we were jolted into the left ditch. We were all ok but startled that we had slid off the road. The bus was angled and jammed up against the hill. We had to exit through the driver door on the right and jump out of the bus. Were we going to be stranded again? It certainly seemed so but miraculously the local villagers came out and pushed the bus upright so that the driver could back out of the hillside. We walked to the top of the hill and slowly drove the rest of the way home.

As a reward, Peter and Erin gave us the last day in Maji ya Chai off to do what we needed to do; pack for safari, take pictures, tell our local friends goodbye, etc.

Day 7 - Our last day in Maji ya Chai

Very relaxing day. We needed this. Nothing scheduled until late afternoon when the locals are coming over to eat. This is our goodbye party to the community leaders. Baboo has skinned the goats and roasted them over the open fire all afternoon. Two gymnast come to entertain the elders and we sing our Deep in the Heart of Texas song. We have special food that the mamma's have prepared and we say goodbye to the people in the village that we have grown to know. It is sad for me to tell them goodbye and I barely know them.

At some point a giant safari vehicle arrives at the front of the house; ready to take us on the next leg of our adventure.

We sit around the campfire and tell highlights of this past week. The students share from their heart and Betty starts to cry and she says her highlight has been making so many news friends.

It makes me tear up also.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Finally updating from Tanzania

** I am keeping a daily journal of the trip. We will only get to have internet access once, maybe twice, on this three week trip, so uploads are very limited. We have to go twenty minutes away to a small, dial up internet cafe.

I have enjoyed writing in the journal but I am exhausted everyday that I write because it is usually close to midnight when I finish. Our days are long and busy. Therefore, pardon all the typos and grammar and subject verb agreements, etc. I cannot hardly think straight at this late hour but I do want to share what is going on with this wonderful experience. Maybe one day I will have time to edit.

Mija ya Chai, Tanzania - Sunday, June 13

After traveling for two days, we arrived at our compound about 10 pm. We flew into Kilimanjaro airport at night so we had no idea of what the area looked like. All we did know was that the Tanzanians drove on the wrong side of the road (like the British), that they do not have stop signs (only giant speed bumps or secret inverted bumps, and that our new home, the compound, was located down a long bumpy dirt road.

Mama Killerai and her helper mamas had prepared us a wonderful late dinner of chicken, soup, flat bread, green beans, pasta and fresh fruits. I would be skipping something important if I did not tell you about the seven inch, maroon skinned avocados that we are enjoying. The food taste very fresh, as I am sure it is, We have not been to the market but our National Geographic leaders, Erin and Peter were telling us that they bought many fruits and vegetables for very little money. Speaking of money, the currency is in shillings and it takes over 1300 to equal one dollar.

We stayed up way too late and got Sunday started about 6:30. There was confusion with the mamas and they did not show up to help prepare breakfast so the students all pitched in to make pancakes and scrambled eggs. Then we were off to church.

We were told in advance that we would be wearing long skirts or buying kangas to wrap around our waist like a skirt. Erin and Peter had purchased some kangas for us to wear today, if we wanted and many of us wore them to church.

Now, the church adventure was none like I have ever experienced. Erin gave us all some shillings so that we would have something to give during the offering; and told us that we would be walking about 30 minutes, through the village to the church. ( Not sure what the denomination the church would be but that really did not matter.) Everyone looked very spiffy in their church clothes as we started walking up the dirt road. We had two escaris, (these are the men that guard the compound) walk with us and show us the way. Children would come running to catch a glimpse of us. It felt like we were in a parade. And at the same time we were on sensory overload as we were seeing incredibly interesting people, houses, animals, and countryside.

We were quiet a spectacle. All of these "white foreigners" looked totally misplaced. And yet as I watched and listened to the students I felt my eyes trying to mist up. What was that about? Was it about how I have wanted to go to Africa ever since I was 17? Was it about realizing that I always wanted to work with National Geographic? Was it ??? No, I don't think so. I think it was about feeling the warmth of the people of the village. It was about waving at the Tanzania people coming out of the houses as we paraded by. It was about our group singing Amazing Grace at the little dirt floor church and having the people sing Amazing Grace back to us in their swahili version. It was about our big white hands holding a little black hand and the child just staring at the hands and not wanting to let go. It was magical and nothing I was prepared for.

The rest of the day went by quickly as we had our first swahili lesson, took photos, had dinner that the mama's cooked, gathered around the campfire, downloaded our pictures, and called it a great first day.

Mija ya Chai, Tanzania - Monday, June 14

The day started again at 6:30. We have found out the the mama's do not come to prepare breakfast and that we are on our own. So Erin and Peter broke the group into four teams for breakfast and clean up each day. So after a scrumptious breakfast prepared by team A, we got ready to hike about 30 minutes to the area where we were going to be using pick axes and shovels to dig a trench for the new waterline. We really did not know what we were going to encounter. We arrived at the water tank at the top of the hill and were instructed to start digging and locate an existing water pipe so that we could lay our new line in the same trench. That's when the hard work started. We dug and dug. It was difficult and very dirty work. We worked along side several villagers who were incredible laborers. Many backs, hands and other areas of the body will be very sore when we wake up tomorrow and go out again for our final day of digging. There will be two more NG trips coming to continue working on this pipeline. When it is done it will be over two miles of new water line.

The days hard work was celebrated when Erin and Peter showed up with a surprise of cokes, sprites and orange fantas. We squealed in delight as the cold soft drinks were revealed. We have not had a soft drink since our arrival.

Miya ya Chai, Tanzania, Tuesday, June 15

Banana pancakes and wonderful omlettes with cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers, prepared by team B started our day off again bright and early. We crawled back into the same filthy clothes that we were yesterday and headed back up the hill to finish our portion of the water line trench. Today our digging would take us through the "jungle" instead of along the road as we did yesterday. The rich black dirt was much softer to dig and we made good head way. We stopped working and returned to the compound, had another swahili lesson, and then lunch. We were exhausted but we drug our tired bodies back up the hill one last time to finish. Then the highlight of my day came….

Holly and I had met a sweet local woman yesterday named Rose who speaks a little English. She is 33 and lives close to where we were digging, She came back this morning to see us again and she invited us to come to her home later that afternoon. What an honor. We met up with Rose and she lead us though several paths that wound through the corn patch, around the pond and up the dirt road to her home. It was the nicest home that I have seen in this village. It looks like it is made of stucco. She had a pretty green lawn with several goats staked to the tree. Purple flowers were growing on the hedge fence that surround the home. Swept packed dirt made a "patio" around the entry way. As we arrived three children came out to meet us…all were dressed up; Rose's two children, seven year old Angel a and four year old Honest and the next door neighbor, 11 year old Happiness. They were beautiful. Rose had prepared her children, her home and several gifts for Holly and I. We had a sweet visit and then Rose walked us the 30 minute walk back to the compound. Hopefully, we can go visit once more before we leave. It was a special memory for me.

Back at our home we had some local lady drummers come over to entertain us as well as several special teenage guest.

Again, it was a very full and rich day.


You fill a 5 gallon bucket 1/2 way with water that you have boiled so that you can take a bucket bath instead of a freezing cold shower.

You get back spasms getting under your mosquito net at night.

You wash all your own clothes in a three bucket process and hang outside on the line to dry.

You are greeted by people younger than you with special respectful greetings.

You yell "Jambo" and wave to everyone and they respond just as enthusiastically.

You have as many children as you will allow, holding your hands and hanging from you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One More Day of Class in Houston

This is my wonderful group of students and my co-teacher Holly Hartman. We have been working hard in the classroom to learn as much as we can before we leave Friday. We have the software loaded on the computers, the cameras ready, the blogs set up...whew.
Front: Rachel, Tracy, Lindsey, Kylee, Cameron, Lexi, Sarah. Back: Kevin, Travis, Betty, Me, Cade, Holly, Claire, Jacob.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Summer Adventure to Africa

On June 11, I will leave Houston to fly for the next 28 hours to Arusha, Tanzania. We will be flying into Kilimajaro Airport, so that should give you an idea of where we are going. I will be traveling with co-teacher, Holly and 13 students. The above photo is something I hope to duplicate during this adventure.  We will spend the first eight days in a small village and will be doing some ditch digging and community bonding as we shovel.  The next seven days are on photo safari, something I have been wanting to do for most of my life. We will have to spend the night in tents (not the 5 star that you read about) and we must bring all of the camping supplies with us. Sadly, I recently found out that the 16 miles hike has been cancelled and instead we will go 3-4 miles before the Land Rover picks us up.
The students will be keeping a blog also but the internet will not be too accessible so post will be infrequent. I will list all the blogs next week when we meet in the classroom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Top 10 Tips to Improve your Photos

There are many ways to improve the quality of your photos but the easiest way is to just get back to the basics. Look at these tips:

1. Get on their level. Too often we stand over children or pets or people sitting and we take the photo which is a bad angle. Instead, get eye level. For subjects on the floor, bend your knees or even lay down if possible to get the best picture.

Sunset on the Amazon

Sunset on the Amazon
We had some of the most spectacular sunsets. Our cabanas over looked Piranha Laguna. From our open air lodge you could see the most beautiful close to the day.

National Geographic Ecuador Group

National Geographic Ecuador Group
We gathered with Massimo (front and center) for a group shot before he had to leave us and return to Italy. We are all back in Houston now and have made many wonderful memories.

White water tubing

White water tubing
In freezing cold river water, our group loaded onto two tube rafts for an adventure ride. Lots of gasping for breath as the cold water hit the body, lots of screams as your tube raft headed into the rapids, and lots of smiles from everyone.

Watching and waiting for Hummingbirds

Watching and waiting for Hummingbirds
Biologist, Nicki, names some of the birds that we are trying to photograph.


Day four started with a ride across the canopy in the tarabita.

Bug Hunting Hikes

Bug Hunting Hikes
In the evenings, when it is not pouring down rain, we hunt along the road for nocturnal critters. It is quite entertaining to see the students excitedly looking under leaves and rocks. I would have to say that Callie and Madeleine Ham won the most critters found award for our time in Mindo.

Making Chocolate

Making Chocolate
As one drops the cocoa beans into the press the other pushes down and out come delicious chocolate. We had bananas, kiwis, apples, and pineapple to dip. We even had left overs....wish I knew where that tub of chocolate was.