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:


The Children:


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


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


The children washing dishes after lunch:


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.


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.