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:
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: