Monday, June 30, 2014

Departing for Mt. Kilimanjaro!!!!

OK, so for those following my blog, I am going to have to fill you in about our visit to an Arusha birthing clinic another day. It is 1:45 in the morning and I have to be up at 6 a.m. to get ready to climb Mt. Klimanjaro. That is right, the day has finally come. My bag is packed, I have everything the porters will need to carry. I am going to conquer the Roof of Africa!

I am very excited and nervous. I have told myself that unless I get very severe altitude sickness, I am going to the top. I will push through physical pain. It looks like we will have about 7 or 8 hours of hiking a day. If all goes well, it will be 5.5 days up, and 1.5 day down. Ryan and Jim Mayfield made it, and I feel that I am in very good shape, so I am hopeful that I will make it. Altitude sickness will be the only thing. We do not have much time to acclimate to the altitude, so it is possible I make get sick. If it is just the regular nauseau and muscle pain, I will make it through it. But I will have to watch for more severe symptoms. Making it to the top is not worth my health or life. 
I'm also going to have to watch out for my noggin. While getting in the van today, I stepped up fast, and since I was not quite all the way in, I hit my head with a resounding SMACK on the top of the door, and my neck snapped back. I have a pretty nice bump on the top of my head and would not be surprised if I had a concussion or whiplash. 

The dedicated climbers, with personal trainer Derek.
Thankfully I was in the company of oh, four or five nurses on our team (did I mention this was a medical mission?) and Karen Klemp managed to get me two small bags of ice for my neck and head. I did rest for a couple hours in the afternoon, and Amy Martin recommended taking ibuprofen. Although I still have the bump on my head, I am feeling much better. I think as long as I keep my neck and shoulders straight and avoid bumping my head, I should be fine, but I will keep an eye on it, and I am sure my medical friends will too. (:

I have received amazing support for this climb. Some of my fellow Edgerton Rotarians have sponsored my climb, as well as my boss, Diane Everson, and I am so grateful for all of the support. Every cent will go to the first Hope 2 Others Medical Center to give mothers and babies in Tanzania a fighting chance at life. 

I am not sure if there will be internet or any service on the mountain. If there is, I may be able to upload some photos, or at least share some status updates on Facebook. If not...well, then I guess you will not hear from me again until July 8. 

Please, everyone keep me in your thoughts and prayers. Pray that our team makes it to the top. Pray that if someone does get sick, God will protect them and keep them from harm. Pray that we will use this amazing climb to benefit mothers and babies in Tanzania, and that more people will come to know God and our mission. But most of all, pray that no matter how we do, or how high we make it, we will all return safely to the bottom. Amen.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What I learned at the Arusha market

I learned one very important thing during Sunday’s exploits: I should NEVER, EVER go to market alone. My mother and I are quite alike. We both are very compassionate and sympathetic to others, especially others who do not have all the blessings we do. It can be quite tempting to want to give to others, but when you are in the Arusha market, that can be a very dangerous thing.

An ua (flower) near the Community Church we attended on Sunday
When you combine that compassionate spirit with a lack of knowledge about how to barter, you could easily find yourself in some financial trouble. Fortunately, I had some market shopping veterans with me, and was able to get about 90 percent of my gifts in about an hour and a half.

The market is lined with store after store after store. It was a little overwhelming, taking it all in. The people there will greet you and try to get you in your store. That was the first difficult thing. I tried to keep my eyes to the ground and pretend I did not hear them when that happened. In the United States, that behavior would be considered rude, but here, it is the only way to keep from getting pulled into their store. 

When you finally arrive at a store with things you do wish to purchase, the bartering process is very difficult, especially for me. The vendors will price it higher because you are white, so you need to barter for a lower price. For example, yesterday Trish Helland wanted to purcahse 6 or 7 tiny animal statues. They originally priced them all at 275,000 shillings, but by the end she got them down to 85,000 shillings. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the conversion rate, that is a difference of almost $120!

Ryan Mayfield gives David Deo a high view...and elicits a rare smile
So when I entered the market, I knew I was going to be shopping for not just myself, but my mother, father, brother, sister, niece, nephew, grandparents and boyfriend. Some things, like the T-shirt I bought my father, were easy to price. The cost of a T-shirt in the United States is approximately $15. I think I paid 23,000 shillings for it, which is about $15 and quite fair. 

But then there were other things. Statues, bowls (carved and painted), jewelry, kangas, dresses, hand-carved spoons, sandals and more. And I had no idea what any of it was worth. 

So for example, at one store I was admiring a couple carved bowls. When I inquired about the cost, I was told 35,000 shillings for each bowl, or approximately $22 each. In the U.S. I would think that would be fair, and frankly, would expect to pay $40 or $50 each for these bowls. But Karen Klemp was with me and said no, that is way too high. She tried to get the two bowls, along with this chief staff (28,000 shilling price) I was admiring, for 60,000 pesos. I was not sure if the man was offended by the offer or not, but he said that is way too low. He countered with 75,000 shillings, and Karen said that is still not good enough. She then started to walk away (with me in tow just like a duckling trailing after its mother) and he called after us. After a little more bartering (and Karen pointing to her watch and saying we are running out of time), she got the two bowls, chief staff and a pair of earrings for 70,000 shillings.

If I was by myself, I would have wound up paying a lot more. Definitely not the 98,000 shillings, but probably like 80,000 or 85,000 shillings. When Karen was bartering, I felt bad, like we were trying to rob him of a decent cost, or possibly even that he was taking a loss on the items. 

Dressed in my Sunday best for church
I did do a little bit of bartering for a kanga and scarf. The kanga was apparently made from a thicker and more durable cloth, which was more expensive than the other kangas I have. The material is reflected in the cost: 30,000 shillings versus 8,000 at the Maasai market. He originally said he would give it to me at 25,000 shillings, and I thought about it and countered 18,000. Eventually we settled at 23,000 for the kanga and another 12,000 for this beautiful scarf. I am sure my Mama Karen would have argued him down and probably gotten a cheaper total, but I still walked out of there feeling like I got a bargain and he got a good deal.

My spoils from the day included four bowls, one kanga, a scarf, four statues, a T-shirt, a wooden spoon and fork and three bracelets. Altogether it cost me approximately 250,000 shillings, or about $156. Not bad considering the number of people I was shopping for!

I am not done shopping yet. I plan to give Jane some money ot purchase more scarves for me at the Maasai market on Wednesday, and I have my heart set on finding a statue of mother and baby for my own mother. Karen told me that there is a vendor where we are going on a safari that should have them. I really hope so, since that will be my last chance at shopping.

There is a possibility that a private Tanzanite dealer will stop by the house later. While I may or may not buy something, at the very least I would like to be tempted. (: If the price is right, I may come home with a pretty piece for myself. Tanzania is the place to get it, if you really want it. Purchasing Tanzanite in the United States has a very high markup. Expect to pay hundreds if not thousands for your piece. But again, the price must be right. 

David and Dennis Deo overjoyed with their new soccer ball
Unfortunately, I do not have any photos from the market as taking a camera or even yoru phone is not recommended. We were told only take what you need, which for me was myself and my money belt, hidden beneath my clothes. 

However, we did have another piece of fun upon our return. Amy Martin brought a real soccer ball for our host family’s children, Dennis (3) and David (5) to play with. They were in heaven. The soccer ball they were playing with was nothing more than a big wad of paper. While it worked for their purpose, the shy boys lit up and flashed a rare smile when they saw the gift. It is so amazing, how a simple gift can bring someone so much joy.

Tomorrow we are visiting a clinic, where we will hand out the first Newborn Care Kits. After that, it is on to Mt. Kilimanjaro! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My Tanzanian education continues

Bananas anyone?

OK, gang. It is 1:45 a.m. here in Tanzania on Sunday, June 29, so I am going to try and make this quick. Today was a longer day, but a slower pace, if that makes sense. We arrived at James Kiphizi’s house around 11 to greet Karen Klemp and Amy Martin, who arrived in Tanzania that morning. 

Excitement abounded and we were soon sharing our stories. Before I knew it, it was 2 p.m. and time to head out for lunch. On a side note, that is one thing that some of my fellow travelers had to adjust to. Meals are eaten later in Tanzania. Lunch is between 2 and 4 p.m., while dinner is served between 8:30-9 at night. I’ll be honest, the later lunch does get to me sometimes. My stomach will be growling and I will be like, oh, it’s 3 p.m. Yeah, no wonder I am hungry. But back home, I usually eat dinner no earlier than 7:30, and have it as late as 9 p.m., so that is not as big a deal.

I am all about trying new things, or things I cannot get in the states. Or, if I can, I would not know where to start. With my sandwich (avocado, chicken, lettuce and a special sauce) I had a tropical smoothie. I know it has avocado and passionfruit in it, along with two other fruits. So far everything I have had has been delicious. There was one vegetable, it is a kind of white tomato, that I did not really like, but then again, I do not normally like tomatoes. I figure if that is the worst of it, I am doing good. (:

Is it just me, or does this look like something from National Geographic?
I did do a little shopping before my meal. These quaint little stores surrounded the restaurant. The places had fixed prices and no bartering, but I thought the prices were pretty fair. I picked up a few postcards. I know my grandfather really wants a postcard from Tanzania, and I thought I would send some out to my family as well. 

I also stopped by A Novel Idea Bookstore. I am incapable of visiting a foreign country without purchasing some books. I walked away with a Swahili-English book, an informative book on Kilimanjaro and Northern Tanzania, Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby and Mwendo. 

My new reading project
When I saw Mwendo, I could not resist. Of all four of the books, it is the only one I purchased that is completely in Swahili. What good will a book with no English be? Well, it is true that I cannot read a word of it now. But every day I am falling in love with the people, the colors, the food, the scenery and the language. I am jotting some words down in my notebook and make a point every day to use more and more Swahili. 

Here is what I have learned so far:
Hujambo: Hello
Karibu: Welcome (to a place) or You’re welcome.
Asante: Thank you
Asante sana: Thank you very much
Leo: Aside from being my boyfriend’s name, it means Today in Swahili
Ndio - Yes
Hapana - No
Kiasi Gani  - How much?
Habari Gani - How are you?
Nzuri - Good

And some slang...
Mambo: No, it is NOT a dance. This is the informal way of greeting someone. It mean’s “What’s up?”
To which you can reply “Poa” which is “cool.”

Other words are not that different.
For example, mother is mama. Father is a little different, it is baba. So mama and baba.
If you can soma might be my new tutor! (;

Ni means I.
Na means am.
And soma means read. This word can be used for all tenses. 
So “Ni na soma” can mean “I am reading” and Ni spma can mean “I read.”

Then there is the most important word of all: Sielewi. If any of my high school peers are reading this, if we ever had a Spanish class together, you might recall my hand shooting up in the air and me saying, “No comprendo, Senior Ison.” Yup, you guessed it. Sielewi means “I don’t understand.” A vital word for me in any language. (;

Nothing like having the band follow you to spice up a wedding 
Ironically, my Spanish education comes in handy when speaking Swahili. How? Well, it is simple. The vowels are pronounced the same as in Spanish, and many of the consonants. A couple notable differences are the J and G. These are pronounced similar to English, with a hard ja or ga sound. But nine times out of ten, I can look at a Swahili word and pronounce it perfectly. 

My Swahili is very rudimentary, but I take advantage and practice it whenever I can. If I can string together a couple sentences by the time I get home, I will be happy. And with a little time, I intend to pull out Mwendo and begin piecing it together. 

The new bride and groom
If you are rolling your eyes and going, “I don’t really care to have a Swahili language lesson,” then you might be interested in hearing about the wedding we crashed. There, that got your attention, didn’t it? 

Alright, I will admit, we did not really crash the wedding per se, but we did pull over to snap some photos. While driving around town, we noticed these cars that were decorate with ribbons and flowers. We figured, this has to be a wedding parade...or perhaps a funeral. We spotted the same parade later in the day. The front car had a woman in white and a man in a nice suit, so we figured wedding for sure. Behind them was a truck with a band in the back. 

A little later, we spotted them again and they were taking photos. While the fence kept me from getting a perfect shot, I did get a couple decent ones. Jane might have gotten a few on the sly, but when I pull out my honking professional Canon, all bets are off. Jane was like, “she is probably thinking you better not put those online or I’m going to come after you!” Well.......good thing the bride and I aren’t Facebook friends. (;

Reporters unite!
I also met a fellow reporter. His name is Charles and he may be the newest addition to the Kisongo Rotary group. We have exchanged contact information. The next time I visit, I would love to spend a day shadowing him and seeing what the life of a reporter in Tanzania is like!

Although I took far fewer photos today, I did manage to snap a beauty of Mt. Meru. It was totally clear for the first time today. Every time I saw it before the top was either shrouded in clouds or just the top was peeking out. Much thanks goes to my Uncle Dave, who lent me his telephoto lens for the trip. I am getting some AMAZING photos with it. 

I just realized that I have been typing for 35 minutes and have my longest post to date. So much for keeping this quick. 

Kwahere! Soma zaidi keshu!
(Goodbye! Read more tomorrow!)

Similarities and Differences

As promised, my latest blog post will discuss some of the cultural differences and similarities in Tanzania.

Home life: What do you think of when you think of Africa? If you are like me, you probably imagine brightly colored clothing and mud huts. That is what I notice when paging through National Geographic. While the Maasai do live in huts, families also have smaller homes. Our hostess, Elisa Deo, lives in one of the nicer houses. They have three bedrooms: one for her and her husband, another room with a single bed and a third with a queen size bed and two bunk beds. They do have running water for the toilet and tub, but not the sink. 

Having a flush toilet is nice, not going to lie. While their tub does have running water, it is cold water. When I need to shower, Elisa boils a kettle of water. The water is boiling hot, and you add some of the cold water from the tub to get the perfect temperature. Then I use a small pitcher to dump the water over my body.

A bucket shower? I could never do that! Actually, the shower is quite nice. I have enough water to wash my hair, shave and wash with my body soap. I usually have enough water left over to dump over my head for one last rinsing. 

McMoody's has nothing on Elisa's home cooking
Food: All of the food I have been served is delicious, and some of it is not that different from what I normally eat. For instance, one morning for breakfast we had hard-boiled eggs, watermelon and a type of Tanzanian pancake that tasted pretty similar to a Swedish pancake. As I mentioned before, mandazi is similar to our donut balls, and our dinner last night included a lot of rice. Then there was lunch at McMoody’s. 

If you are homesick and want some food similar to home, McMoody’s has shakes, soda, burgers, pizza, fish and more. It was absolutely delicious. The shakes were quite tempting, and I had to give in. The first time I ordered a pineapple shake. The second time I indulged in the Snickers shake. Both times I left with a smile on my face. Honestly, I have been happy and satisfied with everything I have eaten here. 

Driving: Traffic in Tanzania is both safer and more dangerous than driving in the United States. How is that? Well, people normally drive pretty crazy here, and as a result, people expect it. While traveling to the school the other day, I spotted a truck decide it was his turn and pull out about three feet in front of a car driving on the road. The car anticipated it and stopped to allow him to go.

People pushing or pulling carts also share the road.
If you are on a bike or motorcycle, Tanzania is the place to be. If you are driving a car, you are expected to watch out for motorcycles. Although I have not witnessed an incident, I have heard that if you hit a bike, people will drag you out of your vehicle and beat you up. 

While Tanzania may be more safe for cyclists, it is more dangerous for walkers. Pedestrians have no rights in Tanzania. It is not the responsibility of the driver to watch out for you, it is your job to watch out for the cars. While visiting the Maasai market, I was a little slow and a car was driving out, but luckily Tom helped me along and got me out of the way in time. 

Oh, three more differences: 1) You drive on the left side of the street, oncoming traffic is on the right. 2) The steering wheel is on the right side of the car. 3) The speedometer is a little different. At one point it said we were going 90, but in the U.S. that would actually be around 60.

Believe it or not, this photo was shot at dusk through the window.
Photography: I was really looking forward to taking photos of some of the people while I am here. Unfortunately, I learned that the Maasai will get mad if they see you taking their photo, and other people will demand money if they see you taking their photo. Now, that does not mean you cannot take photos of them, it just means you have to take them on the sly. Believe it or not, many of the photos I have taken have been shot from inside the van while Deo is driving. The windows are tinted so people outside cannot see much inside, but you can take photos outside that are clear as day.

Jane Krogstad’s secret photo hideout is from the balcony by the New Life Band School office. People do not look up, so you can get some great photos. If someone does spot you, you just go hide inside the office. (;

I would have thought I would be spotted as I have my professional camera, but I must be pretty good at being inconspicuous because I have not been spotted yet.

One thing that is the same is children love posing for the camera. During my time at the New Life Band School, I loved taking pictures of the students. They would often ask to take pictures with me. When I walked to the dorms and started taking photos, the students all wanted me to take their photo. They would say "take my photo" or "Madame!" And they loved to strike a pose. The same thing happens when I take pictures of children in the U.S. They never hide from the camera. It is good to know some things are not bound by cultural differences.

The students love picture time!

Clothing: I am falling in love with the Tanzanian fashions. Everything is so bright and colorful. On my first full day here, we went to the Maasai market, and I purchased a black kanga with teal and pink flowers. Although we have not had time to go to the Arusha market yet, I am looking forward to discovering more of the hand-crafted beauty that I see everywhere I go. Last night during dinner, I heard a comment from one of my fellow travelers that people in the United States always worry about everything matching, whereas in Tanzania people just pile it on, and there is always a lot of bright colors. I never really thought about it, but it is true. When I think of my own wardrobe, my jewelry and shoes are designed to complement whatever outfit I have on. And I have never seen anyone in the United States dress as colorfully as in Tanzania. 

A boy reverently prays while singing
Another major difference: In the United States, it seems like beauty is associated with sex appeal. Women dress very skimpily. The shorts keep getting shorter and the tops show off a woman’s assets. As a result, it seems like there is a lack of respect for women. Since coming to Tanzania, I have not seen a woman in a dress or skirt shorter than their knees. They are a testament to the fact that beauty is more than skin deep, it radiates from the inside. 

Singing: While at the New Life Band School on Friday, I heard something beautiful: singing. I wandered down a couple classrooms and found about 40-50 students singing. They were praising God at the top of their lungs, and it was breathtaking. When I attended the Edgerton High School graduation earlier this month, they had roughly the same size group singing, and their volume was about half of this group. It was music to my ears to hear the heartbeat of Africa from such amazing, strong and hopeful youth.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Serving at the New Life Band School...and making new friends!

The past couple days have been very busy. I get up in the morning, have some breakfast, take a quick bucket shower and get changed. Around 9:30-9:45 a.m. we load into Deo’s van and make the drive to the New Life Band School.

Yesterday (June 26) we began the process of putting up a couple new whiteboards in the school. We have this amazing paint that can transform brick walls into usable whiteboards. 

We did have some trouble today (June 27) because we did not have primer to put over the first layer, and the paint was not working over just the first layer. By applying about five layers of paint, it got to a point where it just might work. But then one area developed a bubble that popped. 

The whiteboards are a great help to the school. The paint was donated by 360 degree coating. It is a huge blessing because it lasts much longer than the whiteboard the New Life Band purchased last year.

Trish Helland and Kaity Klemp painting
The white board cost 500,000 shillings (a little more than $300 US) and after one year, it is badly deteriorated. There are holes in the board from where they had to nail it to the wall. The corners of the board are curling and it is wearing off from the back, which is just thing cardboard covering a metal frame. In comparison, Hope 2 Others put up 7 whiteboards in 2011, and they are still working amazingly well.

I was also able to meet with many of the students, and had a great time. One student, Anna, asked to comb my hair, and when she was finished, I had a splendid hairstyle. She is one of the girls in Leah Narans’ Medical Sciences and Lab Skills class, and I agreed to let her attempt to draw my blood. She did an excellent job and successfully drew a vial of blood.

Another girl, Evelyn, drew my blood today. I called her Dr. Evelyn and had to take a picture with her. 

Dr. Evelyn draws my blood.
After I was finished getting my blood drawn, I heard the most amazing and beautiful sound. A couple classrooms down, probably 40-50 students had crammed in a room and were singing. I managed to shoot a couple minutes of video of one of their songs. Internet is kind of slow over here, so I am not sure I will be able to upload it until I return, but I will give it my best shot.

The students absolutely loved my phone and camera, scrolling through my many photos, and even trying to take a few themselves. Esther, another student, asked me to show her how to take pictures on my Canon. I showed her the basics and she went around and took photos of her classmates. She did a great job for a beginner. 

Students singing at the school
As it turned out, one of the students at the school was also named Rachel, and I insisted on getting a picture with her (Rachel meets Rachel!).

When my camera was returned to me, the other students clamored for me to take their picture. They loved posing for the camera. At one point, I had about three students all asking to have their picture taken. I was torn on who to take first, and one of the students yelled “Madame” to get her picture taken. Before I knew it, the van with the rest of the people in my group was driving down the road. The students are like “Bye” and I said goodbye to them and hurried over to the van. When I got in, Trish was like, “We were going to drive to the end of the road.” Such nice groupmates. (;

Rachel meets Rachel
After our third day working at the school, we stopped by the food market in Arusha. Jane Krogstad was determined that we should pick up chocolate sauce and bananas and have a banana split for dessert. We not only picked up bananas and chocolate sauce, but oranges and avocadoes for fresh juice (Elisa Deo makes AMAZING juice!). 

Right now, Jane Krogstad and Kaity Klemp are enjoying a fun game of UNO with Elisa’s boys, Dennis and David. Although Trish Helland misses her grandbabies, she has decided the boys are going to be her “African grandbabies.” 

We should be going back to the New Life Band School tomorrow, and at some point in the next couple days, checking out the Arusha market for jewelry, cloth, carvings and more. I am very excited to go shopping! Also, our fearless leader, Karen Klemp, and fellow nurse Amy Martin should be joining us tomorrow. Finally, our group will be complete!

In the past couple days, I have noticed some cultural similarities, and many differences. Check back tomorrow if you are curious. And if you want to know right away about new postings, follow my blog!

Spending some time with the New Life Band School students.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 1: New Life Band School and the Maasai market

My first day in Tanzania is over, and I am glad it was not super busy. We arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport very early in the morning on Wednesday, and then it was an hour drive to Elisa and Deo’s house. There were some delicious snacks waiting for us, then it was time to go to 4 a.m. I slept until noon, I was so exhausted. 

I share a room with Kaity Klemp, Greta Duerst and Trish Helland. There is one queen size bed and two bunk beds. Guess which one I claimed? That is right, the top bunk. (: 
Elisa had the beds all ready for us. Not only were the sheets made, but she had sprinkled rose petals on all the beds. I never had that before, it was very beautiful. After climbing in bed, I pulled down the mosquito netting. It drapes around all edges of the bed. It reminded me of those curtains that sometimes surround a 4-poster bed. 

When I finally woke up, there was just enough time to grab a bucket shower and a couple mandazi (the Tanzanian version of donuts) and a glass of orange juice. The bucket shower was actually not bad. They heat up water in a large kettle and pour some in a bucket. Then you add cold water from their tub until it is just the right temperature. They have a tiny pail you can use to dip into the bucket and dump water over your head and on your body. There was more than enough water for my to rinse off with soap and water and wash my hair. It also helped that I picked up leave-in conditioner before my trip. One less thing to wash out.
A Tanzanian student practices drawing my blood

At 12:30 we climbed into their van and made the 20-minute trek to the New Life Band School, where Leah Narans was teaching Introduction to Medical Sciences and Lab Skills. They were in the last week of classes and were learning how to draw blood. After welcoming us and giving me a hug, she asked if I had good veins. Apparently the Tanzanian students have small veins and are deeper in their arms, which makes it harder to draw blood. Her own arms showed the markings of multiple blood draws. So I agreed and sat down in the hot seat. 

The student who was going to draw my blood tapped one of my veins which was closer to the surface. But Leah showed her one to the right of it. She told the student that while she could not see it, it was a larger vein with less chance to miss, she just had to feel for it. She put the strap on my arm (fairly tight, but that was OK), swabbed my arm and prepared to draw the blood. I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous having a student draw my blood, but having Leah there watching made me feel better. I knew she would make sure it was done right. Unfortunately the student did not go deep enough to hit the vein, so she did not draw any blood, but it was a good try. I will be going back today and maybe she can give it another shot.
A Massai woman sells beautiful kangas

After our time at the school, we went to the Massai market. It is only held on Wednesdays so this was my only time to go as I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro next week. We did draw some stares, but I kind of expected that, we were the only white people in the market. We saw handmade signs, beading and jewelry and food when entering. Trish wanted to get some tomatoes, and was very frustrated when she was told no. They did not know if the food was safe, and if it was washed with their water, we could get very sick.

As we got deeper into the market, we saw the beautiful cloth for kangas. It was hard picking one, but I eventually settled on a black one with yellow and pink flowers. I also picked up two gorgeous head scarves, a brown one for myself and a black one for a gift.

The Massai want to charge us more because we are white, but I used one of our guides, Tom, to make my purchases. Instead of paying 10,000 shillings (about $6) for my kanga, it was 8,000 ($5). And instead of paying 7,000 shillings for two scarves, I got both of them for 5,000 (a little more than $3). I took a loan from the bank of Rick and Leah since I have not had a chance to exchange any of my money yet. I am hoping to go today. I am also very excited to go to the market in Arusha and to Nickson’s village. I must find a statue of a mother and baby for my mother. I was told that I could probably find one in Nickson’s village. I am really hoping so since that will be in the last days of my trip.

It sounds like I might be helping make white boards at the school today. Well, time to get my bucket shower and have some breakfast. Elisa has made some delicious waffles. Asante! (Thank you in Swahili) 

We have touched down!

While I was a little peeved that the airport does not provide free Wi-Fi, the service aboard Turkish Airlines was excellent.
We enjoyed delicious four-course meals, including dinner (even though we left around 10:30 at night) and breakfast in the morning. They also provided ear buds for each of us, we each had our own television, a blanket, slippers and travel pillow. In addition, we also received a small bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, ear plugs and socks...and no, I did not fly first/business class. It made the 10-hour flight quite enjoyable, and I did wind up sleeping for about 6-7 hours of the flight.

Our group outside Kilimanjaro Airport. 
We arrived in Istanbul at 5:05 p.m., with boarding for our connecting flight scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. Luckily, our plane was running late. We managed to get through security and to our connecting gate by 5:45 p.m., and our plane had not yet arrived. I enjoyed the extra down time.

From there, it was another 8 hours to Kilimanjaro Airport. Again, we had a delicious meal (grilled salmon). I spent the first few hours watching episodes of The Mentalist and Bones, as well as a couple movies.

When we finally touched down in Tanzania it was around 1 a.m. My mom made me promise to call when I got down. Although I do not yet have a SIM card that will allow me to text and call, James allowed me to use him. The connection was a little spotty, but at least my mom knows I arrived safe.

When we arrived at Elisa and Deo's house, we were greeted very warmly, with hugs, smiles...and snacks. Never mind that we got to their place around 2:30 in the morning. Elisa had mandazi (similar to our donut balls, but a little larger), chips (fries), and bread. What I thought was just too adorable is Elisa had baked bread in the shape of a teddy bear. It was almost too cute to cut!

Mandazi...way better than donut balls
I am going to spend the next week serving needy families, helping at the New Life Band School, and hopefully doing a little shopping. I am looking forward to doing a home visit. While I am excited, I expect I will feel some sort of culture shock. Right now I only know Hello in Swahili (Jambo!) but I will be purchasing an English-Swahili book to help me communicate. Most people here know at least a little English, and our host families can help translate (and bargain at the market!)

I will post when I can as Internet connection allows. Until next time!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Departing for Tanzania!

And...I’m off!

Where to, you may be wondering. Well, for those of you who don’t know (and let’s face it, I’ve been talking about it non-stop for a while now), I am leaving for three weeks to participate in and cover a medical and educational mission to Tanzania in Africa.

In March 2013, I signed on as the social media/web manager for a non-profit, Hope 2 Others. Since then, I have added Public Relations Director and Fundraising Coordinator to the list. Since I started volunteering, Hope 2 Others Founder Karen Klemp has talked about having me come on a trip. Long story short, I have been planning this trip for 15 months now.

The day is finally here. I am actually typing this from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill. It has been a crazy and hectic whirlwind between trying to write about 10 stories in advance for my newspaper (in addition to the regular workload) in the past two and a half weeks; helping kick off the Climb for a Cause fundraiser; finding time with my boyfriend; and making sure I have everything I need and getting it packed. The past 72 hours have been crazy, with my working basically around the clock to get everything together.

And yet, a few things got left behind. My contact case, for one; my razor; and the special freeze-proof water bottle that I purchased yesterday for my ascent up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Oh well, life goes on. I’ll improvise. The important this is I have all my medications, right? Check. 

I’m currently waiting to board. We got through in about an hour, and I have a 3 hour wait. But since airlines are hell-bent on milking every last cent out of their patrons, you won’t be reading this until after the fact. I just can’t bring myself to pay $5 for internet for 90 minutes. No free WI-FI for you, our paying customers!

I am a little concerned that my carry-on will be a little too big. My climbing backpack is serving as my carry-on, and with my dad’s sleeping bag inside, it is a little...bulgy. When in doubt, smoosh it down! Right? Right?! I am also allowed a purse, and purple Thirty-One purse will have to do. It is more like a tote bag, but women need our space. Keep your fingers crossed everything goes off without a hitch. 

Jane Krogstad and I, on the first plane to Istanbul.

There is a group of 28 on our flight headed for Kenya to build a church. Right now, some of the female members of the group are doing what I assume is either yoga, a dance routine or perhaps some post-supper stretch near the gate. 

I’ve been a little cranky today (lack of sleep will do that to a person), but am really excited to make my first (and hopefully not last) trip to Africa. Climbing the Roof of Africa will be an adventure, and I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me on this trip. 

My parents have been incredibly supportive and have sponsored a portion of my trip and also helped provide me with climbing gear and clothes. My grandparents on my mother’s side and my Aunt Joan and Uncle Ned have also been kind enough to donate to my trip, and I have received close to $400 in sponsorships for my climb. That is amazing! Every cent will be used to bring health, healing and hope to the people of Tanzania through the building of the first Hope 2 Others Medical Center in Kisongo, Tanzania!

In a matter of a few hours, I will be lifting up, up, up into the air for the first leg of my 18-hour journey. It looks like it will be about 10 hours from Chicago to Istanbul, Turkey (also an amazing city!), and from there another 8 hours to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania! I will be touching down in Tanzania around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, June 25. For those of you back in the states, that will be approximately 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24.

Up, up, and Tanzania!