Zanzibar

We spent our last three days in Africa in Zanzibar- the mysterious, romantic island of yore, where pirates and slave traders rubbed elbows with sheiks and princes. We weren’t sure what to expect. We spent our first day and night in Stone Town, the ancient city. We wandered down the narrow, winding streets lined with shop doors and eager salesmen hawking their wares. Thanks to Google maps (because there are no street signs), we found our way to the former slave market which is now a museum. We walked through the dungeons where slaves were kept before they were sold at auction. It was a chilling realization of what one human can do to another. We managed to find our way back to our hotel and spent a pleasant evening watching the activity along the beach while the sun set over the ocean.

The next day we took a tour through a spice farm. This was very interesting and informative and we had a feast of fresh fruit at the end of the tour. We then went to our final destination – Footprints – a small resort along the beach. This resort is set up to be locally sustainable and though we applaud the concept, we found that it was tired and shabby. After the magnificent facilities that we had at Dashir and even in the bush, we were disappointed to say the least.

However, there was one very bright spot – we met the most wonderful family from Muscat, Oman. The father Lionel is French and is project manager for a French company in Muscat. His wife Martina is Czech and a teacher by trade. Their lovely children, Elena and Cedrik were chatty, cute and well behaved. As our conversations progressed, they suggested that we travel to Muscat and spend some time with them. They also have a friend who has a guiding business and we can do a few days tour with him as well. So, we’re off to Muscat in December. Once again, it’s all about the people you meet!

We are currently at the airport in Dar es Salaam waiting for our flight to Bangkok, Thailand. This is another overnighter so we will arrive there tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to the next leg of this grand adventure.

Our Last Day and Saying Goodbye

Our last day at the lodge was bittersweet. It was raining and the day was cool and gloomy. We had made arrangements to walk into the village to visit the nuns there. A-Leah found me a pair of rubber boots but unfortunately there were no boots of Richard’s size in the camp. He would have to slosh through the mud in his sandals. Off we went with our walking sticks and rain jackets. The dust from the week before had now turned to mud and the creek that we crossed earlier in our travels was now quite substantial. We made it through and across and arrived at the nuns residence about 10 AM.  They were so delighted to see us!! They had set out some snacks and poured us some tea. Their story is very interesting and inspiring. There are only three nuns here and they are from India. Their order is The Society of the Helpers of Mary and they have been in Kweki for only a year. The church owned a couple of acres of land with an old building on it. With no electricity or water, they turned this old building into a residence and a chapel room for the three of them. They finally got some solar electricity but recall that the first few months they only had candlelight at night. They have a well now but as it is outside their compound, the villagers use it until the water is gone. They have now fenced in their acreage and have a few chickens and have plans for a bigger residence and a school for girls. There is a half finished building on the property that they are planning to build into a hospital. However, they have yet to secure government permits for their land and without these, electricity and water cannot be run through and the hospital cannot be completed.  Things in Africa move pole, pole (slowly, slowly) so though they have big plans ahead, they can only do so much. They see a need within the community as does our host Darryl but changes are slow to come. Many villagers do not see the need for change though teen pregnancy and infant mortality rate is high. The nuns (who are teachers and nurses) are looking to empower the women of the community. It is a long, slow struggle with little rewards at this time. They are very optimistic though and said they can’t wait until we return so that we can stay with them in their new home and see all that they have accomplished. We left there feeling humbled by their dedication.

 

Our next stop was back at the secondary school to meet with the headmaster. He had been unavailable when we were there last week. He explained to us the trials of running a large school with little resources. However, his biggest concern was for the students that had to walk more than five kilometers each day to school and back. There is a residence on the property but it can only house a few girls.  There are no school buses that run for the public schools – only the private schools. After we left the school we had a discussion with A-Leah about taxes and where the government gets money to pay for schools (or the lack of them). They do have income tax for people that have a formal job but most work for themselves so do not pay taxes. There are no property taxes so most government income comes from park fees and tourism. With so many people to support, you can begin to see why things are slow to change and government cannot keep up to demand. Once back at the compound I asked Darryl what we can do. He said that though it sounds self serving, money for support of causes such as the nuns projects are probably the best way to help at this time. Communities need to rally together and help each other out of their current state of living. NGO’s can come in and build a school or a residence but unless they stay to maintain it or teach people to do so, it will eventually fall to ruin. There are no easy answers and we leave here with more questions than we anticipated.

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For our last evening at the lodge, the Maasai gentlemen who are part of the Dashir family put on an excellent show of dance and theatrics,  We had a wonderful meal and a lovely evening. We packed our bags yet again and after a restless sleep and another fantastic breakfast, we said goodbye to our hosts and their wonderful staff. We will never forget this part of our journey and how well we were treated and the things that we learned. To us, (TIA) This is Africa.

The Maasai, Arusha and The Home Visit

While driving from Tarangire to Serengeti, we stopped at a Maasai Boma (village). There are over 120 tribes within Tanzania but it is the Maasai that are the most noticeable. They are herders of cattle and goats and their life is nomadic, following the grass and the water. They are visible because they wear colored wraps and are usually carrying a walking stick or staff to control their herds. We saw them along the roadways and in the fields, young and old alike. Our safari guide was also a Maasai as are many people at the lodge. However, they are considered modern Maasai as they do not live the nomadic lifestyle. So, when Ephata offered to take us to a Boma we were delighted. We were greeted with a song and dance by the tribe – first the men and then the women. The women wore bright colored beads around their neck and head. Our Boma guide showed us to his hut which was made of sticks, straw and cow dung. The hut was round, about 15 feet in diameter and very dark with only a small hole in the roof to let in some light. Inside there were two beds – one for the man and the other for the women and children. Most Maasai men have more than one wife and our guide proudly said that his father had nine wives and he has two. There was a cooking fire in the hut as well. There were about 10 of these huts in the village which was protected by a solid fence made of vertical tree saplings laced together. This is their protection against the wild animals that they live among.  Our guide told us that the tribe only eat milk, blood and meat – no water and no vegetables. He then took us back out into the village to show us some beadwork that the ladies had done. It was very beautiful and we bartered for a small bracelet. Our next stop was the preschool where the children were learning numbers, the alphabet and English words for Mom, Dad etc. They were pretty proud to come up and recite the numbers or letters in English, all the while indicating each with a pointer stick to the blackboard. Older children are sent away to boarding school to finish their education. Many will come back to live this lifestyle but others will become modern Maasai. We were quite in awe of these traditions and as we drove away, we realized how fortunate we were to have had a chance to see this lifestyle.

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On our way back to Dashir Lodge, we had a four hour drive from the Ngorongoro Crater. We passed through a number of villages but also through the major city of Arusha. We hit the city at about four o’clock – just about the time of rush hour. It was raining and there seemed to be pandemonium in the streets. There were pedestrians, motorbikes, tuk tuks, buses, vans, jeeps, cars, and freight trucks all vying for a piece of the road. At one point the traffic had stopped and everyone was trying to get around the hazard. As it turned out the hazard was a line that had fallen across the road. We are assuming that it was not an electrical wire as they were trying to use an aluminum ladder to hold it up and let vehicles pass underneath. Also contributing to the mayhem were the food vendors that were set up along the street. These vendors had a fire going in a container of sorts and were cooking all different types of foods. Our driver patiently wound his way in and out of traffic and got us back to the lodge safely. It made us appreciate the services of a good driver and may have us thinking about hiring one in other countries as we travel.

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On Thursday, we went to a home in the village for a visit and lunch. This was arranged by Dashir and it was Joyce’s, one of their employees’ homes. We got there about 10:30 AM and we were introduced to her husband Haggai, her 5 year old son Alvin and her in-laws that we called Babu and Bebe (grandfather and grandmother). As only Joyce spoke English there were many gaps in conversation. I took out my phone to show them pictures of our families back home and what snow looks like. They were amazed at the snow and could not believe how cold it can get.  I also had a number of pictures that I had taken of the safari and other things along the way. Alvin found my video of the sea lions in San Francisco and he was mesmerized. He and Haggai must have played that video ten times. It was fun watching their faces light up each time they heard the sea lions bark. So, there are always ways to bridge the language gap. We also watched Joyce prepare some of the meal over a fire in the outside kitchen. I believe that Richard has some video that will give you a much better idea of what this looked like. We had lunch at 1:00 which consisted of chicken and rice, ugali (cornflour boiled to a paste), dagaa (little minnowlike fish cooked in oil with onions and tomatoes) with pineapple and watermelon for dessert. Our driver came to get us shortly after lunch and we said a fond farewell to the family. This was a great experience and though I didn’t care for the food, I would do this again in a heartbeat!!

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We only have one more day left at Dashir and we are already terribly sad. We are planning to head back into the village tomorrow to visit three nuns from India that are working with the children and women in the area, and to revisit the secondary school to meet with the headmaster there. We cannot believe that our time here is coming to an end. As Richard says, “it has been food for the soul” and we will miss it very much.

Safari – Five Days, Four Nights

I decided that I would not bore you all with the day to day of 5 days of Safari. Rather, I will summarise the last five days in point form.

Accommodations – We were four nights out in the parks. The first night was in Tarangire in an executive tent. There were no fences around any of our accommodations so animals would be allowed to walk up to your front door – or tent flap – as it were. Richard swears that he heard a lion snuffling around our tent on the first night. So, when we arrived at our camp in the middle of the Serengeti on Night number two  and saw that it looked like the compound from M*A*S*H* and was even more in the bush than the previous night, we were a little nervous. We often heard and saw hyenas around the camp and lions in the distance. We stayed at this camp in the Serengeti for two nights. The camp was run by a few men and I have to say that both the food and the service were amazing. We had a bonfire each night before supper and our beds were turned down every evening after supper.  Our last night was spent in Ngorongoro Park and we stayed in a five star hotel. This place was absolutely beautiful but lacked the warmth of our tent camps. Though we felt very safe here, we missed the wide open spaces of the Serengeti.

Our guide and transport – As Richard and I were lucky enough to have a private safari, we were the only ones in our Land Cruiser. The roof raised up so that we could stand and look out around us without feeling threatened by any of the animals. Our guide, Ephata, was excellent. Always with commentary (some quite humorous) and information on various animals, he patiently drove to and fro until he found something for us to see. Because of this, we saw more animals than we ever imagined. Many of the roads in and between the parks were unbelievably rough. However, Ephata got us through it all without so much as a bump on our heads.   

Animals that we saw – Wow!! Where to start? I have heard of people on safari that are quite disappointed that they saw very few animals. We were not disappointed whatsoever. Here goes:

Deer Family – we saw everything from the large Elands down to the small little dikdiks that are about a foot high. There were gazelles and antelope in the thousands, Hartbeests, Top Deer, and many others that I cannot even begin to name. These were scattered across all three parks.

Baboons – These guys and gals are everywhere – in the parks, in town and even in the cities. They are a bit of nuisance and there are signs everywhere to beware and do not feed. Other than from a distance, we had no contact with them. As mentioned previously, they are pretty cute from a distance.

Crocodiles – We saw a couple of small ones in the Serengeti. They didn’t look particularly dangerous but I also did not get out of the truck to take a closer look.

Jackals – we saw a pair of these little fox like creatures on our last day in the Ngorongoro Crater. They look like small dogs and looked like they were up to no good.

Warthogs – they are known as pumbas in Swahili (anyone familiar with the Lion King knows who Pumba is). As I commented the first day, these are really homely creatures. We did see a family with some small ones and they must have started growing on me because they actually looked kinda cute. These were also in all three parks.

Zebras and Wildebeests – I put these together because for the most part they travel together in a herd. They migrate together and complement each other as the zebra is smart and remembers the migration route while the wildebeest has a good sense of smell. We were also told that the zebras let the wildebeest cross the river first so that the crocodiles will be full by the time the zebras are crossing. Yep, pretty smart!! We saw thousands of these in all three parks but I was thrilled every time I saw them.

Giraffes – Though we had seen some from a distance, I was disappointed the first day that we did not get very close to any. However, that changed on the way to the Serengeti as they were actually grazing along the roadway. Not only did we see them up close, I actually got a couple of decent pictures as well. Beautiful, elegant animals and we continued to see them throughout the Serengeti.

Hyenas – we saw these scavengers throughout all three parks. On our first day in the Serengeti as it was getting close to dusk, we came across a family lying across the road. The mother quickly shooed the babies into their burrow on the side of the road. Being kids though, they kept popping their heads out to see what was happening. They were awfully cute!!

Ostriches – Males are black and the females are brown and mate for life. On the morning that we left Tarangire, we saw a family with 10 fuzzy babies. They were walking in single file – mom in the front and dad following up the rear. A few times, a couple of little ones would lag behind and dad patiently waited for them to catch up. What a sight to see!!

Hippos – These massive creatures look like big rocks in the water. If you are lucky, they may lift their heads a bit so that you can catch a glimpse of their eyes and ears. Though we saw them in all the parks, there is a hippo pond in the Ngorongoro Crater that had at least 40 of them. We were able to see them moving about, sometimes rising out of the water for a few seconds. At another pond on the same day, we saw one alone that was almost out of the water. She was huge!! I managed to catch a picture of her before she slipped back under the water.

Birds – There were birds of all types within the parks. We saw vultures, storks, little song birds, water birds, colorful birds, walking birds and flying birds. Though Ephata patiently told me the names over and over, I have forgotten most of them. What I do remember is that they were all fabulous!

Every safari goal is to see The Big Five – Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Water Buffalo and Rhino. I am pleased to say that we saw them all except for the elusive rhino. Unfortunately, these have been poached over the years for their horns and are now endangered. They are only in the Ngorongoro Crater and though we spent a few hours looking, we were unable to see any. However, that did not dampen our spirits as we were able to see all the rest.

Elephants – The day was never complete without seeing at least a few families of elephants. These massive, leather looking animals are absolutely breathtaking. They don’t seem to have a care in the world and were either standing together in the shade of the trees or just moving along at a leisurely pace stopping here and there for a little snack. We were lucky enough on a couple of occasions to have them pass right by our vehicle. I think we could have reached out to touch them if we were brave enough.

Water Buffalo – We saw a few in Tarangire Park but hit the mother lode on our first day in the Serengeti. We came across a herd of 200 plus standing around a watering hole. They look more like a cow than a bison and they moo like a cow as well. We watched them as they watched us, their large horns curled around their heads. It seemed hard to believe that these docile looking creatures are one of the most dangerous on earth. We also saw some herds in the Ngorongoro Crater but none as massive as this one.

Leopard – We managed to see three of these on our second day in the Serengeti. These are hard to spot (no pun intended) but once you do, you can’t look away. We saw two together early in the morning. Later in the afternoon, we saw one high up a tree having a sleep. Unfortunately, we were unable to get any pictures of these as we were not able to get close enough.  A camera with a telephoto lens would have been a great thing but as we are travelling light on this adventure, the camera stayed at home.

And of course, the LION!! We saw these in all three parks but finally got a really good look in the Serengeti. We came across 11 lions that had just had lunch and were all snoozing or rolling around in the grass. We were able to get quite close to this group and it was a thrill of a lifetime. That was until we came across Pride Rock and a large Simba (Swahili word for lion) overlooking his territory. He was absolutely breathtaking!! Though we took a few pictures, they could never do him justice. We moved along and away from the crowd (there are many jeeps in the parks all trying to get a glimpse of everything) and came across another two lions – one male and one female who looked like they had not eaten in a while. Ephata explained that they had been busy mating and would not eat for days as a result. The female looked a little grouchy and growled at us on our way by the truck. The male just followed passively behind her. We thought that this was the highlight of our safari. Over the five days, we saw many more lions but these three events were especially memorable for us.

Even though the Cheetah is not considered one of the Big Five, we did come across two of these on separate occasions. I thought that they were beautiful and I was thrilled to see them. One was having a nap under a tree and the other was out hunting in a field. I think if we had been able to watch this one for a while we may have been able to see her get her lunch. Unfortunately, by this time we were on our way out of the park and had a bit of a schedule to keep. I am sure that she did not go hungry that day!!

I must close this post before it really becomes excruciating for you, our readers. If you ever get the chance to come on a safari, I don’t think that you would be disappointed. Enjoy the photos!!

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There is a Leopard in that tree:

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The Cheetah: The cheetah does not show up very well, but Col fell in love with the cheetah when she saw it so we thought we would throw it in anyway.

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Our three hour ride to the Serengeti.

 

Our guide Ephata…..

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Pictures from Kilimanjaro

As Col had mentioned in her blogs I am having a fun time uploading pictures and especially video to our blog, but I have managed to get a few from our trip to Kilimanjaro.  Sorry for the delay.

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This is what greeted us when we arrived at Stella’s.

 

The Maasai house at Stellas:

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The Hike:

 

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Zebras, Elephants and Lions – Oh My!!

Well as promised, today was Day One of Safari – which in Swahili means Journey. After three and half hours of driving, we arrived at Tarangire Park. We stopped for a quick lunch, got our park pass and headed into the park. Within 10 minutes we were rewarded with a procession of zebras and wildebeest making their way to a small watering hole. At the watering hole there was also a very spooked giraffe that really wanted to drink but everytime it made it’s way to do so, something (usually a bird) scared it off. Finally, it got the drink it wanted while the zebra and wildebeests were playing on the other side. Once everyone had their drink, they moved off into the same direction from which they had come. At this point, a line of elephants came out of the bush – big ones, small ones and middle sized ones walking single file. It was quite the sight!! They just walked past the vehicles as if we didn’t exist and carried on in a straight line. And this was only the first few minutes!! We travelled around the park for about 4 hours in total. We saw herds and herds of zebras but I still couldn’t tell you if they were white with black stripes or black with white stripes. Ha, ha. WE also saw more elephants. Most if these were standing in seperate herds in the shade of the Baboa tree. Our guide, Ephata explained the elephants lived as families with the grandmother as the head of the family. She could live up to 60 or 70 years old. When she felt that she was dying, she would pass along her knowledge to one of the younger members of the herd and then she would die. We also saw a few teenage males hanging out together. Not really sure what the deal was with them. They were probably smoking and talking about girls….One large male decided that he needed to be on the other side of the road so he just walked right by us. I probably could have reached out and touched him. How cool is that?!?!

 

We saw a number of deer and gazelle. Some warthogs – man they are UGLY!! A couple more giraffes but they were terribly shy. More zebra. More elephants. But where were the cats?!? Finally, a call came through on the two way and off we went. We found a number of vehicles and a dead zebra. Then after a few attempts with the guide’s binoculars, we saw three lions sleeping under the tree. They had obviously finished their zebra lunch and were having a bit of a siesta – the guide said up to 10 hours. We watched them nap for quite a while and then decided to move on. We drove around for a little while longer but decided to call it a day and head to our lodge for the night. Tonight we are staying at Tarangre Safari Lodge. We are in a tent much like the one at Dashir but our view is amazing!! It looks over the entire park which looks just like you would imagine it should. We had a wonderful dinner, met a couple from Calgary and are calling it a night as soon as this is complete. Tomorrow we head north into the Serengeti.  Looking forward to seeing more cats!!

 

The following is from me, Richard…..

The WiFi like Col said is not the best and I am having a hard time uploading pictures and video so I will get them on as soon as I can.  Other than that, this whole thing seems a little surreal. We are in our second country while visiting Africa and sleeping in a tent that is surrounded by monkeys, small deer and who knows what else.  Definitely a good supply of bugs and the dreaded Titsie Fly, not sure of the spelling, but what I do know is that they bite like the horse flies from back home. As a famous poet once said A Picture is worth a Thousand Words so I will get those pics to you ASAP.

 

A CUMA MA TATA…….  What a wonderful phrase…..   Until next time. No Worries…

 

Kilimanjaro

Day Two started with a breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola, warm biscuits, homemade jam, scrambled eggs and bacon, fresh juice and coffee – all locally grown or made. A-Leah and Moosah (phonetic spellings) greeted us with big smiles even though they they had worked late into the night serving dinner and drinks to the New Zealand group that left during the night.

 

Today was our day to go to Mount Kilimanjaro. We hoped to see the mountain that had been covered in cloud since we arrived. Spoiler alert – still haven’t seen it. The 60 kms to the gate where the climbers begin their journey up took us about two hours. Small towns, large, slow vehicles, people moving cattle and goats to market, and poor roads all result in this small trip being a journey in itself. We arrived at the gate of Kilimanjaro Park, watched the porters load up their packs, took a picture and headed off to our prime purpose – we were meeting with Stella, a woman who has set up a Homestay in order to empower the women in her community. After greeting us with a traditional Chagga song and dance, she served us some deep fried  banana chips and some tea – both delicious. She told us a bit about her organization, the different programs that she is implementing in the community – everything from growing gardens to running a small souvenir shop. She has a little museum of tribal tools and weapons and a traditional Chagga House which is round and not only housed the family but the cow, goat and chickens as well!!

 

After this visit, she took us on a walk through the banana and coffee plantations, and the gardens which stretched for a couple miles and were growing tomatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, and beans. She also took us down to the river – quite a challenging walk- to show us the caves where the Chagga tribe would hide when the Massai would come to steal the cattle and women and children.  We were quite happy for our walking sticks on this day even though Stella moved up and down the hills like a mountain goat with no stick in sight.

 

Once back at her lodge, we met a young man from Uganda who is studying tourism on an exchange program in Tanzania. We enjoyed talking to Emmanuel as he gave us pretty good insight into the politics of Uganda and how he sees things for the future. He is very positive about his future and that of his country.

 

We headed back to Dashir Lodge, met a group of Manitobans that had just returned from safari, had our dinner and hunkered down for the night. We are off on safari ourselves tomorrow for the next 5 days so not exactly sure what we will have for wifi along the way. Thank you all for continuing to read my posts.

 

Note from Richard.  Before Stella took us to the cave she guided us down into a valley to view a small waterfall.  That is it. Thank you.

NB – I will continue to post as I can even though Richard is having some problems uploading photos and video (wifi issues). He will catch up eventually.

TIA – This Is Africa

After 13 hours of travel, we landed at Kilimanjaro Airport. Our host in Tanzania had sent us some visa documents to fill out ahead of time which we are quite glad that we did. The lineup for visas was very long and because we had our paperwork complete, we went straight to the front of the line. We zoomed through customs, picked up our bags (which unfortunately were very wet – it was raining in Addis Ababa where we had our stopover. Apparently our bags sat on the tarmac there for a while), and met our driver that would take us back to the lodge. The drive took about 45 minutes and we spent that time staring out the window, asking the odd question and just generally enjoying the scenery. “Now this is Africa”, we kept saying.

 

At the lodge, we were greeted by our host Darryl who gave us a quick orientation and then showed us to our room. This turns out to be an executive tent complete with a luxurious bed, beautiful bathroom, clothes closet, wooden locked chest and anything else that one would need. We unpacked all our wet clothes and hung them to dry. Then we went for a dip in the pool for an hour or so and got ourselves ready for supper. We met a group from New Zealand that are just winding down their stay here. They have had a wonderful time and had some great stories to tell. As we were pretty exhausted from the last couple of days, we headed back to our tent around 9, went straight to bed and slept right through until 6 this morning. Probably the best sleep that we have had for a long time.

 

This morning we met again with Darryl and he took us to meet the staff and take part in their morning meeting. This is conducted as a stand up circle behind the dining lodge. Darryl introduced us and then introduced the staff based on which tribe they were from. They were then encouraged to discuss any issues that had arisen on the previous day, ask any questions or make general comments. Darryl asked us to say a few words and we both found that we were very emotional and had a hard time speaking. The meeting ended with a prayer led by one of the employees and everyone headed off to their various tasks. We then sat down with Darryl and his wife Shirley, went over our itinerary for the day and then they spoke candidly about their struggles to get the lodge to what we see here today.

 

Dashir Lodge and Safaris began many years ago as a dream. Shirley told Darryl before they were married that if he was not prepared to move to Africa at some point in their lives, that he could just move on. That was 37 years ago. They raised their family in Manitoba and once their youngest had graduated from high school, they sold everything they owned and moved here to Tanzania. That was eight years ago. They bought a few acres to start a little business. They employed some local people to help clear the land and started to build. Their little business continued to grow, though not without trials and tribulations, and they are still building today. They employ about 35 staff now and are helping the village prosper as well.  They are very candid about their lives here and again we became very emotional as we listened to them tell their story. Their faith is amazing – in God and each other. We are already so completely in love with this place that we are dreading that day in two weeks when we have to move on.

 

After breakfast, we met our guides who were taking us for a walk through the village. They handed us our walking sticks “to help us fit in” and off we went. The first stop at the village was at the local miller where the lady dries corn and then grinds it into cornflour. This is used to make a corn paste called ugali which is the staple diet here. From there we met Joyce who is a young, single mother and is running a small store in the village. We bought a couple of soft drinks and sat and had a few laughs with her. It was fun watching her face when we showed her pictures of snow. She was so expressive and though she knew little English, we were able to communicate quite well. From there we ran into a few preschool children. They loved to have their picture taken and it filled out hearts with joy to see these kids so carefree and fun loving. One of the teachers gave us a tour of the secondary school. They have few teachers, large classrooms (over 50 children per teacher) and very little resources.  They teach a fairly full curriculum which includes Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics – all in English. We met some of the young people as well as a few of the teachers. We then moved on to the primary school. About 300 children in this school which is taught in Swahili. The resources and teachers are even less than the secondary school. However, the kids are all respectful and happy. One classroom stood and sang a song for us. They were so cute that you couldn’t help but fall in love with each and every one of them. These children and young adults are making do with so little that it is even hard to imagine how a person could begin to help them. Darryl has explained to us that things move very slowly in Africa and you must build an entire community over time or it will never flourish. Everyone must rise up together which is a very difficult concept for us in the West. We are taught that we must get ahead, make more money, have more things. This is not the case here. They have so little but still are happy. How can that be?

 

We are only beginning to scratch the surface of this great place. I cannot wait for our next adventure with our new friends.

Our Executive Tent:

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The Children:

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Joyce.  We sat with Joyce and our guides and had a lot of laughs.

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The kitchen at the Primary School where lunch is prepared each day for the students.

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The children washing dishes after lunch:

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Johannesburg, Soweto and the Apartheid Museum

We arrived in Johannesburg from Cape Town on Sunday, October 14 mid afternoon. It was dreary, rainy and cold. We took the shuttle to our hotel and hunkered in for the night – and all of the next day as it turned out. We spent Monday working on future travel plans which now include a tour of Egypt in December, Midnight Mass in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and a tour of India at the end of November. This was like putting a full day’s work so we had a nice supper in the hotel restaurant and watched a couple of movies back in our hotel room. We did ask the front desk clerk if it would be safe to go for a walk around the neighborhood and she said “no”. So, the rumors of crime in Johannesburg is not exaggerated then.
We booked a tour for Tuesday so in the morning, we checked out of our room, stored our bags, had breakfast and waited for the van to pick us up for the tour. Our tour guide was a young black man who is very proud of his city and his country. He spoke of the politics, the corruption and some of the other problems that face South Arica today. However, he is hopeful for a great future even though he knows this will take time. Apartheid has only been abolished for 20 years following hundreds of years of white rule. It will all take time, he says.
Our first stop was the Apartheid Museum. This would prove to be an emotional experience. It started right from the time we got our ticket. There were eight people on our tour. Four tickets were printed “Whites Only” and four tickets were printed “Non Whites” When we got to the entrance, there were indeed two seperate entrances. This was the start of our emotional journey. The museum took us through the history of South Africa and how colonization, first with the Dutch and then the English, took place. There was a complete Nelson Mandela section which explored his roots right through his years of incarceration and finally freedom, the presidency and a new Democracy. The final section of the museum had pictures and commentary from people that lived through the Apartheid era. There were news clips of politicians proclaiming how great this was for the country, subsequent riots and beatings. It was to say the least, disturbing. We had two hours to complete the museum but 5 hours would be more realistic. How can a country recover from this type of racism and oppression? We have many of the same issues in our country and we have had 150 years to figure out a solution and we still do not have one that satisfies everyone. South Africa is still in the infancy stages of making their country whole again. With young people like our tour guide Tsholo, I believe that they are headed in the right direction.
From there we travelled to the township of SOWETO. This is an acronym for South West Township. Remember in an earlier post I wrote about townships and how these were the areas that black people were forced to relocate to, or ended up squatting in, to be close to the city. This is the largest and most famous township of South Africa. It houses 4 million people in 9 subdivisions. We weren’t sure what to expect but there were some pleasant surprises. Firstly, since the end of apartheid, education has become more accessible to marginalized children. More students are going to colleges and universities which is improving the economics of these people. However, many have chosen to stay in Soweto and are building homes within the community. We saw one area that was quite affluent with nice homes and cars in the driveway. Not to far from there, we stopped for a Braai. This is the South African equivalent of Brbq . Though the venue was a little interesting – underneath a couple of decomissioned power plant cooling towers – the food was delicious. From there we took a walking tour through the heart of Soweto. We started at the Freedom Circle of 1955 where a number of South African leaders (white, black and colored) got together to form a list of 10 items that would determine a fair and just society for the future. These principles were later used to form the constitution that they are using today. From there we walked through the open air market where the people of Soweto are selling their wares – anything from bracelets made from recycled copper wire to fresh fruit and vegetables. This is one of the community initiatives that these folks are using to raise themselves out of poverty. From there we walked along the dirt path past the homes of the poorest of the poor. These homes were tin shacks with no water, plumbing or electricity. Water is taken from a communal tap in the ground. Toilets are portapotties and electricity is stolen from businesses down the street with wires strung haphazardly along the houses. As in most poverty stricken neighborhoods that I have seen, garbage is everywhere. I would imagine that this is a result of no proper infrastructure in place to take away the garbage. One of our tour participants suggested that the community should take matters into their own hands and clean their areas. Our guide responded that garbage is collected by residents on a regular basis but the garbage trucks never come to take it away. Dogs, rats, wind and rain redistribute the mess right back where it started. From there we moved onto another community initiative which was an after school program for children. There, the makings of a playground, some balls, a garden project, books and games give the children something better to do than get into trouble with gangs. This is giving hope to the community that their future will be better than the past. We also noticed in this area that there was always clean laundry hanging on the line, people always looked neat and tidy and there were hair salons of every type everywhere. These people are proud of their appearance and are all looking for a better life for themselves and their children.
We wrapped up our tour with a walk down Vilakazi Street where Nelson Madela and Desmond Tutu both lived. We then went to the memorial square where the 1976 Soweto Uprising took place. In short, this was a protest march by students against the education system of the time. Even though it was a peaceful march, police came out in force and killed 69 people including an elementary school child, Hector Pieterson who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The memorial is a touching tribute to all that have fought for their freedom and was a perfect way to sum up the day.
Back at our hotel, we collected our bags and took the shuttle to the airport. We now have a 13 hour trip to Tanzania where we will be staying at a lodge for the next couple of weeks. We believe that this is where we will see the “real” Africa!!
This is Richard now just adding a bit to Col’s blog if you will indulge me. As Col mentioned the apartied museum was a very emotional epericence and I felt it most as we were walking in, came around a corner and saw the signs that read White and Non Whites. My first reaction to seeing the sign was to verbally say “Oh No”. I was given a ticket for the Non White entry and made my way in. I will be honest, when walked in through that turn stile I had tears in my eyes as I was overcome with emotion. How can we treat another human like they are not human, but something less. It is so hard to put into words. Also, I can’t begin to say how impressed I was with the positive attituede our tours guide had and the volunteer who ran the drop in center for the children after school. If ever a situation would validate someone to say, what’s the point in trying, we might as well throw our arm up and give up they choose not to. They are working towards a better life one day at a time. It is just amazing.

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Below is the restaurant where we had South African BBQ..

The Ten Commandments or rules that the new constitution of 1994 was based on.

A local barber shop in Soweto.

Washing dishes in the public water works.

The program of the after school community center.

 

Below is the street that Nelson Mandela and bishop Desmond Tutu love on.

Below are pictures from the Soweto school demonstration which happened on June 16, 1976.

Our tour guide for the day.

Leaving Cape Town

Well, today ends our 10 day vacation in Cape Town. What an amazing place!! Other than the pickpocketed phone incident, we enjoyed every minute of it. We would recommend this destination to anyone. There are so many attractions, beautiful beaches, great food and great music. It’s a one stop destination – just hang onto your personal belongings!!     Col…

Some interesting aspects of Cape Town.  On many of the streets and especially in the city center you will find quite a few people working the streets.  Some are just there to guide people as they are parking their cars or watching the cars while they are parked.  Other people are acting as street security and they are identified as such.  We had quite of few of these workers on the street where we were staying and I had an interesting encounter with one of the young gentlemen who was acting as a street attendant.  I had taken a walk across the street to pick up a six pack of beer for my wife. (Editor’s and wife’s note – not likely) On the way back to the apartment I gestured to the young worker, pointed at the beer and pointed at him.  With a smile from ear to ear he came over and I handed him a cold one.  He seemed so happy and I have to admit it sure made me feel pretty good also.  There are also a lot of people on the street selling their wares or people just begging, but the interesting thing is that they don’t stand on the side of the street, but right in the middle and the vehicles go around them.  Well as Col said the Cape is an amazing place and I would also highly recommend it as a place to visit.

We will now spend a couple of days in Johannesburg before we head up to Tanzania for a couple of weeks. Looking forward to making more memories in Africa.