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.


  1. Cathy:
    my eyes welled up reading this too---what an amazing experience--and i know, w/o questio, that first Sunday was nothing but the presence of the Lord you felt in and around that church with those precious people..............keep your eyes out for my cousins, Tiffany & Brad Morrow and their kids, Joshua, Emma and Samuel----they are in Tanzania somewhere!!!! :) LOVE reading these blogs--keep em coming when you can.

  2. Cath, I can't imagine the experience you must be having - priceless. I can't wait to hear more about your adventures and look forward to haering them in person in August. Take care, my friend.

  3. Hi Cathy,
    I have read all the blog entries and everything sounds like it is going well. The kids are great writers - you too! Thank you again for organizing this amazing adventure! Tanzania is a very special place - be safe and continue to do your great job and ENJOY! Oh I watched the Dads and Daughters special on CNN - very, very tender and special.
    Take care and hope to hear from you again soon.
    Pamela Butler


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.