Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009: SAFARI!

We posted these pictures from the Amsterdam airport as we were waiting to catch our flights back home.  They are just a few selections from our truly awesome Arusha National Park safari experience, during which we were just a few yards away from many of the animals that we most identify with Africa: giraffes, zebras, monkeys, warthogs, water buffaloes, and various kinds of bush deer.  We also saw a lake lined with hundreds and hundreds of flamingos (though we didn't get a very good picture to capture that sight).  We didn't see lions or other big cats (they don't live in this area), nor did we see elephants, though they might have been there out of our sight.  Our guide, Pascal, lives in Arusha and has led many safaris through the park.  All of these pictures were taken by Alec unless he is in them.  You can click on any picture to enlarge it.















Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

We did some final exploring of Moshi today, checking out a series of possible places to stay and learning a bit more about some of the schools and agencies with whom we might work in January 2011.  There is such a great need here that it will be difficult to decide what projects to pursue. 

We also made final arrangements for our safari on Saturday, which will take us through Arusha National Park not too far away from Moshi.  When we return in January, we hope to take a 3-4 day safari which can include a number of different parks (which may or may not include Arusha). 

We got a good feel for the city by walking its streets.  As seen below, we were joined by a herd of goats that just walked independently through town right with the traffic.  And we were excited to locate a few unusual souvenirs, including custom-made shirts for both Shane and Alec by a streetside seamstress in Moshi Town. 

We also talked again to our friends at Southwestern Elementary School in Hanover, Indiana, US.  We were all pretty amazed to be able to speak to each other from halfway around the world. 

As evening approached we watched a big thick rainbow form just off the slopes of Kilimanjaro, then walked back into town to grab dinner and withdraw the cash that we needed to complete our trip. Our day closed with an evening at an outdoor patio that featured live music and dancing in a magical alleyway just off the main drag of Moshi. 

Wow.  Just wow.


A herd of goats (above and below) joined the afternoon traffic uninvited, but no one seemed to mind.



Shane and Alec (in their new custom shirts) talked by Skype to third graders in Indiana to tell them about our trip.  Our video feed was a bit clunky, but we managed to communicate anyway. 


Our safari vehicle (a modified Land Rover) and driver (Pascal) visited today so that we could get a feel for the experience of tomorrow's safari. 


Some beautiful cloud formations surrounded Kili today.


And then a very bright rainbow appeared.  We took pics with two different cameras to try to get it.



Shane puts himself into the scenery surrounding Africa's tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro.


Shane and Alec show off their custom made shirts.


The clouds parted one last time to give us a final glance at Kili's snowy summit.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The conference ended today (but not until after Shawny gave a short presentation) so now we are free to figure out what else we want to see/do/learn before we leave Africa on Saturday.  We know that a short safari is definitely on our list, but there are so many other options that we are having trouble choosing priorities.  We managed to do a bit of shopping today and Alec and Shane also chased down tons of information about a possible January Term plan for 2011.  Their ability to make quick connections and capitalize on them is going to make a big difference for the students who journey to Tanzania next year. 

Alec also generated a list of about five really viable options for how he might briefly settle here (for a year or so) and now he can spend the next couple of months narrowing things down and deciding what to do.  Shane is starting to fantasize about finding some way to join us if all of the stars align for us to come to Moshi in 2011.  Thus, for all of us, we sincerely believe that even though this is our first trip to Africa, it is not our last.

Speaking of stars, the stars in the night sky here are unlike anything we have seen before.  All of us have seen the stars from places that didn't have a lot of interfering artificial light, but none of us remembers seeing the stars twinkle as brightly as they do here.  They even seem to be multicolored, enough so that we keep thinking we have seen the planet Mars (even though it can't be in all of the places where we think we have seen it at the same time). 

We even got to see a brief rainbow in the shadow of Kilimanjaro today, though we didn't manage to catch a legitimate picture to post here.

Our posts are rather thin because our days are pretty long and exhausting.   When we get "home" at night, we sit on our balcony and talk about everything that happened during the day and by the time we get through things, we are too tired to do anything but sleep. 

Happily, we got the chance to briefly connect with some of our friends out there when Shawny's sister Shelly managed to "skype" in to us in Tanzania from her third-grade classroom in Hanover, Indiana.  Our connection was totally unreliable, but we got to look at each other from half a world away and we got to tell each other just a little bit about what is going on for us on continents in totally different hemispheres.  What a wonderful world . . .


At the end of the conference, Shawny got the chance to visit a local school run by a Christian Brother (Br. Peter) from the Kilimanjaro Diocese.  The school is a "day school" (rather than a boarding school), so it is much more affordable than many of the other educational options that local families might have.  All of today's pictures are from that school.


Today was exam day, which marked the end of the term and the beginning of Christmas break.  Once school was out for the primary kids, they started running for the gates, at least until they heard someone speaking English along their path.



Once they heard a bit of English, they stopped in their tracks and listened in, trying to say whatever English words they knew all at the same time.  Students learn English in school here, but not until the later grade levels.


All of the students were pretty fascinated.  And pretty fascinating.  (To see a larger version of any of these pictures, you can just click on it to see it at full size.)




A set of 250 or so secondary school students gathered for their semester exam.


The woodpile in the courtyard is the source of heat for cooking at the school.  It also serves as a coat rack and bag holder. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 (All pics by Alec!)

Today we split up, as Shawny returned to the conference to continue the dialogue about educational partnerships with East Africa while Alec and Shane explored the area, scoping out ideas for Jan Term 2011.  We are all totally convinced that we MUST bring a group here from Saint Mary's.  They checked out the YMCA, which functions as a lively community center just off the center of town.  They also got a feel for the mad commerce in the streets of Moshi, as they were solicited by hundreds of locals to buy their art, their tours, and their food.  Though they felt a bit besieged, they never felt threatened or uncomfortable and found everyone to be really friendly and helpful to them as they made their way through town. 

We learned some more Swahili today, including the fact that two familiar "Lion King" terms are actually used constantly here: "Hakuna Matata" (no problem!) and "rafiki" (friend).  They also got the scoop on some adventures that we might take on Friday and Saturday, including a short safari in Arusha National Park!  More on this later . . .










Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Morning came a bit too early for our jetlagged bodies.  We had not gotten enough sleep, but we were so eager to get out into the town that we cranked into action anyway.  We had breakfast at our hotel then found a driver to take us to the university.  We traveled some of the same roads that we had driven last night with Tim, but we saw an entirely different landscape. 
All of Moshi seemed to be wide awake by 6:00 a.m.  Many, including us, awoke at 5:00 due to the prayers broadcast from a nearby mosque. The mosque takes over the roosters’ job, meaning that even though roosters are all around us, they didn’t start their crowing until about two hours after the loudspeaker opened up the day in the city.  (They even seemed to skip the sunrise, though maybe we just weren’t paying attention.)  The streets were humming with people, mostly on foot but some in cars.  Whoever was in a car was honking the horn, as car horns seem to be a primary tool of communication here.  Strangely, the honking becomes part of the environment pretty quickly and does not remain an annoyance despite its constant presence. 

The bus stop was buzzing all day long and cars zoomed in every direction.   But mostly, people were on foot – often barefoot – trying to get from place to place.  We actually see quite a few people (only women?) carrying huge loads on top of their heads, sometimes buckets of water, sometimes a huge bunch of bananas, sometimes stacked furniture.  We see bikes and motorbikes here too, but mostly pedestrians.  There are lots of paved roads here in Moshi, but lots of (red) dirt roads too; they connect awkwardly at some points, making it really hard to walk around at night without losing your footing every once in awhile. 

Our driver took us up the hill to Mwenge University so that we could connect with an international conference about building new partnerships between the West, Tanzania, and Uganda.  At the conference we met university professors, primary and secondary school teachers, and volunteers from Tanzania, Uganda, Europe, and North America.  The local conferees were particularly excited because both the regional bishop of the Catholic Church and Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Education had agreed to appear at the conference today. 

We spent the day mingling with this impressive group of individuals and in the meantime learned quite a bit about the state of education in Tanzania today.  The schools here typically sprang up out of communities or churches and there was little consistency about style, content, standards, or anything else for most of the history of the country.  One thing that appears to be consistent across all of the various schools that emerged was that corporal punishment (caning/beating) was (and still is?) the primary mode of establishing discipline in schools and classrooms.  Though such beatings have led to obedience among the pupils of the schools, they have also led students to dread and resent school, which, of course, makes it difficult to hep them learn.  Thus, conferences like this one are making serious attempts to establish what the Tanzanian approach to education will be now and in the future.

After the conference we returned into “Moshi town” (the center) and wandered around to get a feel for the place.  The streets were hopping and lots of people wanted to sell us safari trips or taxi rides around the area.  We expect to take a very short safari on Saturday before we fly back to California.  We’ll keep you posted . . .

The misty fog at sunrise rises over the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

One of our favorite new flowers is on the purple tree here: jacaranda.

Our neighbor has quite a collection of goodies in his yard.

Some of our neighbors process pineapples to sell from a street cart.


Sugar cane is another common crop here.

Huge termite hills line the landscape all around Moshi.

Shane was so fixated on the picture he was taking that he didn't notice the air freshener in his way.

The lovely conference center where we met today.

The local bishop (above) and the Deputy Minister of Education (below)