Monday, June 28, 2010

Beautiful, beautiful world

June 16th, 2010
Woke up at 6 today... again. I stumbled to the bathroom with my sleeping bag cover stuffed with clothes, I didn’t bring a laundry bag so what’s a girl to do? With the buckets we use to flush poop down the toilet I washed my clothes. Yummy. Sitting on my camping seat I washed clothes in one bucket and rinsed in another, wrung them out, then hung them on the clothesline to dry. I had to get creative to save space on the line so I had a triple decker line of clothes, starting with a shirt then pants attached to that and then finished off with a pair of socks. High tech! We ate breakfast and then broke into two groups. First I went into Usa and then to the Upendo Leprosy Home. I have NEVER laughed so hard in my life as I did on the way to the internet room in Usa. The jeep we have here in Maji ya Chai is a stick shift, and poor Erin only learned how to drive it last week. First the car didn’t start, so our guards and rafikis, friends, Muneesi and Dominic, had to work on it to get it going. We had to back downhill our of the compound and stalled three times before getting out. Once on the dirt road outside we could NOT get going. Then of course there was Ms. Bottoms coaching Erin on how to drive the car from the passenger seat, on the left side of course. The grinding jolt of a stop became a trigger for me to start laughing, quietly of course as to not disrupt the driver’s focus. We finally got going down the dirt road and were fine until we attempted to turn on the main road, but grinded to a halt with some oncoming traffic. With a very quick, silent prayer to God to get us going and some coaching from Ms. Bottoms, we were on our way again. All was well for a good ten minutes until we were passing a biker and Erin wanted to warn him with a quick tap of the horn... but the tap turned into a 30 second long blare that surely gave the poor biker a heart attack. The horn got stuck and I was crying I was laughing so hard. So there we were, a jeep full of white people jolting to stops, letting the cows speed past the vehicle, and declaring our presence with prolonged horn honks. After we uploaded our blogs and came back to the compound for lunch, our group left for the Upendo Leprosy Center, a home for people cured of leprosy but because of severe nerve damage, can not live on their own for lack of feeling and an immense amount of danger. So far the leprosy center was my favorite part. Regardless of a loss of limbs and discoloration of their skin, the people have such a joy for life. I talked to, or tried to talk to a man who lived in Uganda for a while and then lived in Tanzania, where he contracted the disease. Another man spoke many languages, unfortunatley English was not one of them, and my favorite was a bubbly man with laughing eyes who happily babbled away, oblvious to the fact that I only nodded and sparingly mumbled a few Swahili words. I would love to work at a place similar to that someday! Later on we went to the dairy farm and eventually the kids from UAACC joined us. With them we went walking through the village again and they were so helpful in talking to the locals. My project I am working on focuses on females in Tanzanian culture, from a young child to a respected elder. Ernest, a boy from UAACC walked with me and helped me talk to many different women. It was a really successful day!

June 17th, 2010
Once again the UAACC students joined us and helped us talk to locals in the village. Ernest was with me again and we went pretty much throughout the entire village. I walked with him through back paths and wandered into Mkala’s house. Mkala is our Swahili teacher and takes us to do various activities. His daughter, Marsha, is one of the Mama’s who cooks for us but the little stinker didn’t have her glasses on and I didn’t recognize her! It wasn’t until after I left his house did I realize it was her. Woopsies. At the house I met Mkala’s wife, Marsha’s children, and went inside the house to look at the rooms and living room. I was confused when I didn’t see a kitchen but eventually found it... outside next to the bathroom. In comparison to other homes in Maji ya Chai, theirs is very clean and nice. I loved getting to see how they lived and observe everyday activites the women do such as clean the bathroom, wash the clothes, cook, and sweep the dirt. Mkala’s granddaughter also lives in the house while she goes to school and took us to an orphanage just down the road. I was suprised to discover the youngest child was 8 years old. When we were walking back I took photos of a few boys and that was the first time on the trip that I looked at the boys and was just heartbroken. A picture I took shows how tattered the clothes are and the complete point of destitution these people are living in. I wanted to scoop up one of the boys, make his cough go away and take him home with me, of course I can’t and that is the hardest thing is to not be able to do something that will instantly help them.
We went to lunch, the kids left, and then we went into Arusha to a market. It was INSANE how many people were packed into such a small area and how we were a target for people to sell us everything. One man was bothering us so much Ms. Bottoms bought a necklace for each person from him and we all wore them! We wandered through the stalls for hours and we ended up at a Masai market where I made my favorite purchase, a bible in Swahili. I love it. I might start collecting bibles in various languages. Another thing I bought was a UGA hat. We were walking through Arusha when Cam pointed out an old school Georgia hat, so naturally I had to get it. At the end of the day we went to a restruant and then home to the compound where, after a very long full day, I crashed in bed. Who knows what will happen tomorrow!

June 18th, 2010
Today has been very... adventurous. From wading through a Masai goat market to our bus crashing into the dense Tanzanian vegetation, we never slowed down. We woke up at 6 to make breakfast then left on the bus to Katiti Watoto Orphange, or happy children orphanage. As we pulled through the gates I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be pulling up to pick up my baby... but I have to wait a while for that! We played with the children and took tons of pictures, one of the boys I could have taken home with me right then and there, but he wouldn’t fit in my backpack. The joy the kids have is unbelievable and truly contagious- we could all learn from them about how to be appreciate for what we have and joyful for what is going our way, not dwell on the negatives. We left the orphanage and drove to a Masai market, but this was a little bit different. Instead of selling beads and hand carved statues, these people would lead a goat up to you to sell it or women would be braiding fibers to make rope. The reason we were there was to buy for dinner for the next night... who would have thought I would be sifting though bleating goats to find my meal. We also ate there and then while Peter and Erin were buying the goat, our group was surrounded by some younger boys, around the age of 16. We had an interesting conversation with one of them, Barack, who expressed his appreciation of Michael Jackson’s music but disgust for him being ashamed of his skin color. At the market some men also tried to buy Erin with Tanzanite... you really never know what is going to happen on this trip! After we put the two goats in the bus (named Appy-short for appetizer and Trey- short for entree) with us we started on an ADVENTURE to a waterfall about thirty minutes away. The bus, a lovely rickety vehicle just couldn’t make the trek up the mountain... so we pushed it. Ten times. And in a reenactment of Little Miss Sunshine would push the bus and run along the side and all jump into the moving vehicle. Even though I was shoved out of the way a couple of times by some eager beavers to get the bus going I tried my best! So we got the bus as far as possible then had to walk the rest of the way. The countryside was beautiful, various shades of vibrant green collided with the bright colors of locals who worked on the mountainside. When we finally got to the waterfall it was absolutely worth it. I had never seen a waterfall before and everything about it was calming: the sight, the smell, the sound. I thought everything was downhill from there but I was proved wrong when we tried to romp up a hill and next thing I knew we were tilted, crashed in a ditch with tree branches poking through the windows. Oopsies! I pulled a leaf out of my mouth and shimmied out of the door onto the ground. GAWD LOVE AFRICA ROADS! Anyways the village already knew we were there since we gave some wonderful entertainment as we huffed and puffed up the hill, pushing the bus along... so all of the men and boys came to our rescue. They literally lifted up the bus and put it back on the road. We all loaded back up and went home to go to sleep.

June 19th, 2010
Maji ya Chai on a Saturday night is hopping. Today was a chill day: we caught up on blogging, edited some photos, and Rachel and I went walking around the village one more time just to say goodbye to everyone. My baby who I have played with everyday started to cry when I told him I wouldn’t be coming back, and when we started to walk away I looked back and we was running around the corner onto the dirt road after us. It was too hard to watch him be taken back to the field by older kids so I just turned around and kept walking. We ran into a couple of older kids who would be attending our party we would be throwing later on. They were acrobats and would be the entertainment... they were very springy and athletic it was amazing to watch their body control. So I got Hajj’s email later on so we can keep in touch. One great thing about this trip is the people I have met that I will be able to keep up with, Hajj being one of them. The world is a HUGE place, and being able to talk to people who live such a different life is something I think is so important as far as keeping an open mind goes. Our party... oh what an event. Eventhough only twenty of the sixty invited showed up it was still nice! The elders of the village all came and the goats that were slaughtered earlier on in the day were served. This isn’t very appropriate but have to put it in here. Baboo, the oldest man who guards our house and is seriously one of the funniest people I have ever met, is the one who cooked Trey and Appy. During dinner one of the dishes was goaty-leftovers with some nice parts floating around in it, and I thought ALL of the leftovers were in there... little did I know Baboo kept Trey’s southern parts to cook later. He slipped that weenie right on a stick, roasted the little sucker, and gnawed away at it for a good amount of time. Ohhhhh the things that happen in this village. AFter the party we cleaned up and now I’m going to sleep since I have to wake up at six to leave on safari tomorrow. Lala salama (sleep peacefully)!

June 20th, 2010
Some things that have happened here I haven’t been able to blog about so our parents don’t freak out, but this isn’t that bad so I’ll just tell it. I had just finished packing my stuff and went into the kitchen to sit around and wait for breakfast when I heard a crash and people asking Rachel if she was okay so I walked in the room and saw Travis and Cade laying her down on her back... luckily I knew Rachel had fainted before but it looked like she had some foam running down the corner of her mouth so I thought she was having a seizure. Ruh roh! I helped lay her down then the boys ran to get Peter and I rolled her onto her side just in case she was having one but looked closer and realized it wasn’t foam but a burn... when she fainted she fell onto the stove, specifically the pan the pancakes were being made on, and thankfully Cade caught her and pulled her back. Peter and Erin came rushing in and she finally came to. They bandaged her up and with in twenty mintues she was good to go, just had a burn from her chin to her eye and one above her right eyebrow. So the morning was off to a good start when I walked outside and spotted... the man truck aka Big Bertha. The truck we are taking on Safari is literally from World War II. It is the biggest chunk of loving metal you will ever see. The tires come up to about my hairy arm pits. Yup mmhmmm. We rode on the truck for about eight hours to our first safari camp. On the way I saw my first zebras, their stripes still amaze me even after seeing thousands of them. When they look at you dead on, they look like punk rock stars with a bleach jobs gone bad on their mohawks. We also were driving and screeched to a halt because a puff ader was in the middle of the path. When it wouldn’t move, Killerai and Simon, our awesome guides and friends, got out and poked it with a stick. When they were sure it was dead we all got out and held the thing. It was super muscular and I guess I was shaking because I thought the snake had moved and was coming back to life so I quickly passed it on. We also came across a dead wildebeest, cut off some of the meat, and cooked it for dinner. We just got to camp and I’m in my tent with Rachel, Lexi, and Cam. Tomorrow I wake up at six... again.

June 21st, 2010
The food here is REALLY good. So much for losing weight on this trip. The fruit is especially good and I can’t get enough of the pineapple and mango.Yummy. We woke up and had breakfast and gathered around with our guides to meet the Masai warriors that would be protecting us through out the safari. They are all... fierce. That is the best word to describe them. All very thin and willowy, they wear Masai clothes and carry spears. Killerai was very specific in his directions... walking instead of driving was very dangerous. There would be a warrior at the end of a single file line with a spear, another would lead with a spear and he would be at the front as well with a rifle. It was kind of scary at first walking through the thigh high grass and not knowing what was lurking, but at the same time it was fun to think a lion was about to eat us and the Masai men would need to protect us. Unfortunately, that never happened. We walked about thirty minutes to the base of a mountain, the Striped Mountain. I don’t remember the name in Swahili, but it was quite a trek and I loved every second of it. My favorite part was when we were in a crevice with nothing below us and we had to scale through the crack by being spider monkeys (we had to climb through with our hands and feet on the side walls). Nothing bad happened on the way up except Ms. Hartman put her hand on some baboon poop. Silly babs. At the top we took a picture with the National Geographic Society flag, which is cool since there are very few of the flags made. On the way down Travis was struck at by a snake but he was fine, and at the base of the mountain we all piled in one truck. Smooshed between Ms. Backsweat and Mr. BO wasn’t ideal, but I suppose it was nicer than walking back to camp. After a siesta for an hour, we loaded up in Big Bertha, drove about 20 minutes, and unloaded near a watering hole. We didn’t see any animals since we were walking but I learned all I will ever need to know about poop. It can be big or small, green or white, dry or soggy and I most likely have thirty different species of feces caked on the soles of my shoes. That night at dinner I was sitting by the fire and felt something crawling up my leg. I didn’t really think much of it except it seemed to be sort of... large. So I looked down and it took a second to register that it was a scorpion crawling up me and not a bug. For some reason I didn’t really freak out and Killerai saw it and used a stick to get it off, later telling Ms. Hartman that the treatment for that kind of scorpion sting is to get tazed, you know with a tazer gun... poor Tracy Ostrofsky. She actually did get stung later on and got tazed on the spot twice! That happened when the warriors were dancing and singing. I’m just glad it wasn’t me tehehe. Who knows what will happen tomorrow.

June 22nd, 2010
We walked a lot today, about 4 miles, through waist high grass. Now even more poop has taken residence on my shoesies. Oh well! We saw some zebras and giraffes on the walk but nothing super exciting. I suppose now is the time to explain how we have all mastered the squat for a lack of bathrooms in the wild. All is good except when the wind starts a blowin, then things get a little bit tricky. Anyways we all rejoiced when we saw Big Bertha, had lunch, and continued driving to the next camp site. At the camp we were happy to see we would have the first hot shower in over two weeks and first shower in about four days... but wait the shower was ice cold. At least I was clean! Kind of... I used the same soap to wash my clothes, my body, and my hair, so I’m not sure how sanitary that was. After we showered the Masai warriors sacrificed a goat for us, and I thought I would be used to the slaughtering of innocent animals. And I was kind of until they suffocated the poor goaty. As if that wasn’t enough we drank some of the blood... yup mmhhmmm we did. I semi-gagged when the Masai told me to drink it before it clotted but didn’t want to be disrespectful so swallowed and smiled oblivious to the goat’s blood stuck to my teeth. Pretty girl! After all of that lovely stuff we walked to a Masai boma. A boma is basically a neighborhood of one family. One man starts it and has many wives and the children marry others from different bomas, and the boma grows. It was really interesting to see how close all of the people were and observe the little boys, really LITTLE boys, carrying spears around. I went inside one of the huts to see how it was constructed and was amazed at how sturdy it was. Poop really solves all problems. It holds the walls together which is nice. We left the boma and the main leader of the boma as well as other warriors sang and danced for with us as well as answered questions. In return we taught them the Hokey Pokey which they loved. Tomorrow we meet Massimo Bassano, the NatGeo photographer who will teach us. YAY!

June 23nd, 2010
We drove though Tarangire National Park today and I saw so many elephants! I love elephants! One of the young males got territorial and made a scene, thrashing its trunk about. I really wanted it to charge Berth but never did. We also saw tons of zebras, giraffes, water buffalo, and impala. Right when the sun was setting Simon pulled over and we thought we were supposed to “check the tires” or go to the bathroom. But we had a flat. Then I REALLY wanted simba to come charge the truck but once again nothing happened. When we finally got to camp we met Massimo. He is fantastic, Italian first of all which is great, and has such an easy going personality. He makes me feel at ease when I’m talking to him and gives me the BEST advice. It is hard to explain how unbelievable it is to have my work critiqued by a National Geographic photographer. He has made me so aware of the space, composition, and exposure of my photos. Now I know what to look for even more. At dinner he gave some background of his life and we went to sleep. TARANGIRE 1 night met masimo

June 24rd, 2010
We finished driving though Tarangire today with Massimo guiding us as we took photos. He has such an incredible eye. We stopped by a HUGE tree to take photos. It smelled a little bit like old cat pee but other than that it was enjoyable. Later on we drove from that park to Manyara National Park, famous for the monkeys and hippos. Baboons were everywhere. Really. Everywhere. We had to put all food away or else they would jump from the trees above and take it from us. Silly babs. We also saw some hippos, which is something I really wanted to see. At that point some of us really had to go to the bathroom but there were people driving in trucks everywhere. When you gotta go you gotta go, so we just went and I waved to people as they drove by, just to lighten the mood of course. We continued driving to our next camp site towards the evening and I’m going to sleep early since I have to wake up at 5 tomorrow to drive to the Ngoro Ngoro Crater. Yup mmhmmm five in the morning. Oh! Today I had my first hot shower. Such a glorious moment.

June 25th
God has created the most beautiful, captivating world. Waking up at five was absolutely worth it after seeing the sun shining through the clouds and fog and into the crater, illuminating the water and animals roaming below. Although the wind was blowing and it was probably about forty degrees I took in the beautiful scene. It was amazing! We drove through the crater all day and saw the coolest animals. I watched a lion stalk a heard of zebras and then later on saw a lion eating a zebra. My favorite thing I witnessed though was a Japanese tourist. What a gem. He had on a hat that covered his face from the dust and a back that blocked the sun from his neck. Classic. We went back to camp around four and sifted through hundreds of our photos to find a top five that we would present to the group. My favorite two of the day was a line of zebras, it had really strong repetition and horizontal lines, and one of a landrover with nothing around it but a bird circling in the sky. We presented our projects and I loved to see everyone else’s style and photos. I think you can learn so much from seeing other’s work. Tomorrow Massimo leaves us and we go back to Arusha.

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