Saturday, July 12, 2014

My final day in Tanzania

Well, this is it. My last day in Tanzania has come to an end. I accompanied Karen Klemp, Nancy Comello and Amy Martin to the mother and baby clinic in Arusha today. The three of them hosted another Healthy Births and Babies and Helping Babies Breathe class. 
Practicing newborn resuscitation during Helping Babies Breathe

The classes focused on some good birthing positions, some complications that may arise during birth, such as shoulder dystentia, what to do if the umbilical cord is wrapped tightly around the neck, and what to do if the baby is not breathing.

Amy, Karen and Nancy stressed the importance of not cutting the umbilical cord right away. Leaving the cord attached for a minute or two after birth can prevent anemia in the first 6 months. They also told the gathered midwives that putting the baby against the mother’s skin helps keep the baby warm. Two very simple things, but they can make the difference in a young baby’s first moments and days of life. 

The second part of the class focused on what to do if a baby is not breathing. Amy told the midwives that if a baby is born and starts crying, that is good. But if the baby is not crying, they should clear the mouth of mucus and dry it. If the baby is still not breathing on its own, they should start doing newborn resuscitation, or rescue breaths. 

With about eight practice babies available, each of the 15 midwives in attendance was able to practice the skill. This is just the first class the trio will be hosting. They are planning to return to the clinic on Monday before they travel to Dar es Salaam, where they will host similar classes.

The graduates with Leah Narans (left) and Karen Klemp (right)
After the classes and lunch, we headed back to Eliza’s. Jane and I are sadly flying out tonight, and we needed to finish packing before heading to Ondo’s for the graduation ceremony. Leah Narans’ Medical Sciences and Lab Skills students successfully completed their five weeks course, and we had a fun ceremony to recognize their success. Leah said with all they learned during her class, they would be ready to draw blood at a hospital. What a blessing it was to have her volunteer her time and her summer to teach the students skills that can translate into a profession.

Speaking of students, I was finally able to meet the student I sponsor, Onory Godfrey, the other day. I began sponsoring his education at the New Life Band School last August, and my parents agreed to split the cost of his education with me this year. He is doing very well in school and would like to one day become a teacher. My parents sent me with a Brewers hat and Packers shirt to give him, and he loved the gifts. 

There is a very distinct difference between high school students in America and those in Tanzania. In the United States, high school students usually graduate at age 17 or 18. The average age of a graduate at the New Life Band School is 19-24. That is because their education may be interupted. If a student cannot afford to go to school, they may have to take a year off before they can find the funds. The big thing is getting good grades to continue their education. 
I have traded phone numbers with my student, and I hope to stay in contact and hear about how his education is going. 

My student, Onory Godfrey
Here I am, sitting in the Kilimanjaro Airport with Jane Krogstad, and I cannot believe that my two and a half week trip is at an end. It has been an amazing experience, and I am very sad to be leaving. I know I must return, but I am afraid that I will not see my own country the same way. 

Everyone in Tanzania is so happy, so cheerful, and they do not have the same opportunities I do as an American. At the same time, it seems like the people of Tanzania are happier than many people in America. 

Well, our flight from Kilimanjaro to Istanbul will be departing in about an hour. We have about a 3 hour layover in Istanbul before the final leg back to Chicago. Even though we fly out at 2:10 a.m. on Saturday, July 12, we will be arriving in Chicago by 5:30 p.m., and I should be back in Janesville by 8:30 p.m. World magic, I like to call it. 

To everyone who has followed along on my journey, thank you. I have immensely enjoyed my trip, and am glad to be able to share a bit of it with all of you. I know it is not a matter of if I will be back, but when. My goal? Summer 2016!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Serving others and more shopping

Nickson with the local pastor

With every passing minute, my time in Tanzania comes to a close. On Thursday, July 10 I visited Nickson’s village. While there we visited a local school. The children loved having their picture taken, and seeing the photos brought smiles and laughter. Amy Martin spent time with the youngest group of children, and they loved playing peek-a-boo with her.

Trish Helland just keeps on adopting children. In addition to her African grandbabies, Denis and David Deo, she was snuggling with some of the school children. I would not be surprised if she brought some kids home! It is a good thing they all have mothers, otherwise the teacher would be like, where have half my class gone? LOL

Elizabeth and I got a ride on a motorcycle from the school to the church. About two and a half years ago, Muslim extremists burned down a Christian church and destroyed everything inside. They are now rebuilding the church using brick instead of straw. The bishop of the church forgave them after it burned, and as a result some of the Muslim men and women converted to being Christian. We all joined hands and prayed for the new church, which is still being built, and that it will give new life and faith to the people who will be using it. I hope that the tensions will be eased and there will be no more problems between the groups. Apparently this was an isolated event, and in most places there is no conflict between the Christians and the Muslims. It just proves that no matter where you go, there will always be rabble-rousers. 

Handing out Webkinz animals from the Wizas
We also handed out supplies to the local children, including flip-flops, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and stuffed animals. I want to give huge kudos to my friend Jeff Wiza, and his wife, Hilary, for donating their unplayed with Webkinz plush animals. The children absolutely loved them. 

It is kind of amazing to see what the children have as toys. Like I mentioned earlier, the Deo boys were playing soccer with a wadded up ball of paper. An $11 soccer ball brought them so much joy. The other day, the two boys were playing with a truck made from cardboard and old soda bottle tops. In a world where our children have iPhones and iPads, Smart Boards and Wii, it is truly humbling to see simple things bring such glee to others. We are so happy for all the generous gifts that have been donated. 

Before heading back to Arusha, we stopped to do some shopping in Nickson’s village. When I first headed on this trip, my parents made a generous donation to my trip. My dad asked “so if I give money for you to go on vacation, it is tax-deductible?” While this trip has been a vacation of sorts from my actual real-life job, it is not really a vacation. It has been work, covering the Helping Babies Breathe and Healthy Births and Babies classes; helping paint whiteboards at the New Life Band School; serving needy families; being a part of the education at the school; even climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. 

Young Tanzanian schoolchildren. They know how to melt the heart.
And when we shop at local places like those in Nickson’s village, all that money stays local and puts food on the plates. When we stay with host families, we pay them for putting us up, and that money helps their own families. So while it has been a relief to get away from my regular life, everything we do directly benefits the local people.

I have been incredibly blessed to get to better know the families of the New Life Band, to see for myself what Tanzania is all about, and to use my talents to share the much-needed work. 

Check back tomorrow for what will most likely be my last blog post from my trip.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

On Safari!

Lions, and tigers and bears, oh my! I am just kidding, there were no tigers or bears on safari, although I did see a couple lions! My adventures in Tanzania are coming to a close, and as I prepare to say goodbye to one of the most beautiful and amazing places of the world, I appreciate that it will be on a high note. 

On Tuesday, July 8, our group traveled to Lake Manyara for a safari. While there, I came within a few handspan of a group of tembo, or elephants! They literally passed within mere feet of our car! When you think of seeing animals in their natural habitat, you do not think of seeing them up close and personal, right next to your vehicle. But there were zebra that were right alongside our path, and monkeys that were in the middle of the road and alongside the car. 

One of the most comedic was the blue-balled monkey. I’m not sure what it got into, but those monkey balls were almost a glowing neon blue! The mother and baby monkeys were my favorite, and some of those monkeys sure could pose! Lake Manyara also offered us a breathtaking view of giraffes, hippos (OK, they were not so breathtaking) and different types of birds.

The safari continued on Wednesday, July 9 at Ngorongoro Crater. When we arrived at the park entrance, we were told to watch the baboons and not leave any windows or doors open. After picking up a couple souvenirs inside, I headed back to the car to get ready to enter the park. That is when I was double-teamed. 

I spotted a monkey perching atop the side mirrors of a vehicle. I went for the camera around my neck, and my mind was focusing on the photo. Another baboon took advantage of my distracted vision, and snatched the brown bag with my souvenirs right out of my hand! He probably thought there was food in there. 

My Kilimanjaro bottle tumbled out and was rescued, although my postcards and earrings were still in the bag. Lewis charged at the baboon and scared it away, rescuing the rest of my souvenirs in the process. Leave it to me to get robbed by baboons. 

After the morning’s excitment, we explored the crater and its wildlife. There were more zebras of course, but no giraffes. Apparently it is very hard for them to get down into the crater. There were plenty of wildebeest roaming around, some new birds to photograph and what looked like impala. We also spotted....lions....about 15 feet from our car. Thanks to my uncle’s camera lens, I was able to get some really great photographs. 

We also had lunch next to the hippo pool. Boy, did they sure put on a show for us, what with the constant surfacing and swimming. Although my boyfriend says hippos are jerks and very territorial in the water, I will admit that the baby hippo swimming with its mother was pretty cute.

Right before lunch we spotted some lions crouching by a pool. It looked like they were setting up to wait for their own lunch. We saw some zebra nearby and figured they were waiting for one to come close enough to pounce. I did feel a little weird, anxiously waiting to see a lion hunt and kill its prey, but as it turns out, was not the only one of our group feeling that way. It kind of felt like the animal kingdom equivalent of a frat party and “chug, chug, chug!” But lions are patient creatures, far more patient than a group of tourists, lol. It is a good thing we did not wait for the lions to pounce, they were still lying in wait when we came back after lunch! 

It was pretty amazing to see all the animals coexisting in the crater. I was amazed to learn that zebra and wildebeest will travel together. Apparently they zebra can better sense a predator. We also saw two zebras with their head positioned over the other’s back. To me it seemed almost like a zebra hug, but they apparently do it to look out for each other, like friendly sentinels. 

As we were leaving the crater, we gave some of the Maasai children some food from our lunch. They were very grateful. We met a second group of children and they were very thirsty. In exchange for a bag of popcorn to share and a bottle of water for each of the three children, we were able to take their picture. 

Seeing animals that I have never seen in person before, or if I have, from behind the confines of a zoo, was unbelievable. It was like being transported into The Lion King. (Oh, and by the way, Simba is Swahili for lion, while Rafiki means friend. Way to go Disney, you got it right.) It was during the safari at Lake Manyara that it really set in: I am in Africa. And in that moment, I knew I was in love. 

I am in love with the people, and with the amazing friends I have made. I am in love with the culture and the colors and the animals. I do not have much time left, and I know that going back to Wisconsin and Edgerton will be hard, probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I truly wish I could stay and live here, and if it were not for my dog, Artemis, I probably would try to find a way to move there in the next year or so. But alas, I love my pooch to much to permanently leave him. It would be like moving and putting your child up for adoption.

I have enjoyed the slow African pace and Hakuna Matata (no worries!). It is such a change from my everyday life of deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! Going from Africa time to the hustle and bustles of my regular life is going to be like jumping in a pool on a hot summer day: very brisk and a wake-up call. But I know that it is not a matter of IF I come back, but WHEN I come back. I found a part of myself and my heart in Tanzania, and I know that it will be here when I return. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 7: The last leg of an amazing journey

Doing it for epilepsy awareness!

Some rest and food is exactly what the doctor called for. I felt much better today. Although my appetite is still not 100 percent back, I was able to eat an egg, a chapata and a second chapata with banana and peanut butter. Nurse Amy was satisfied with my breakfast. She is like our mother hen, looking after her little chicks. 

The three hours hike down to the gate took a little longer, and our guide Raphael held my hand for a good part of the time. I am never going to be good at going down. In my defense, both the ground and rocks were pretty slick with mud for the first half. But finally we arrived at the gate and went to sign in for the last time, only to realize that the permit number we were told would be at the bottom was not there. So we had about an extra hour to hour and a half wait before we could load up and leave. 

It was really hard to leave all these guys. I had such an amazing time, it is one that I will never forget. I really would love to return and conquer that mountain! And who knows, maybe one day I can work at a foreign desk in Arusha. It is so easy to love the people, the music, the dance, the culture. 

Our amazing Mt. Kilimanjaro group. Tembea Africa is the best!
It is hard to believe that my time here is coming to a close. I will be going on safari tomorrow and visiting Nickson’s village, and returning to Arusha on Friday. Then I leave early Saturday morning for the U.S. (NOOOO!) and will be touching down in Chicago around 5:30 p.m. 

I have made some great friends here, and cannot wait to return. There are more than a couple people I would like to see again, and I really hope to return to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. They really were the best guides and guys I have met. So amazing and fun! 

Day 6: Another day, another stretcher ride

After falling asleep, I got about 6 hours rest. Then it was time to start packing our tent up, have lunch and begin a three hour journey down the mountain to our last camp. If there was any doubt in my mind about whether my decision to not summit was the right one, it was washed away today.

Once again, I needed help when it came to getting down the mountain. Climbing up? No problem. Climbing down on the other hand...
Another guide, Athumani, held my hand and walked me down the mountain. I learned a couple new Swahili words and phrases from him, like dada (sister) and kaka (brother). 

It took longer than normal with me slowly making my way downhill. Instead of 3 hours, it was probably closer to 4. When were were still about an hour away, I was overcome with exhaustion like I have never been before. I collapsed on the ground, to weak to lift my arms or legs, even hold my head up. I’m not sure who, but a couple people moved me to the side. Kaity tried to give me water from her camelback, but while I had strength to bite down on the tube, I did not have enough to suck on the tube to draw the water out. She wound up having to unscrew her water bottle and hold it to my lips. 

The best selfie in the world, in my humble opinion
I cannot adequately describe just how profoundly weak I was. 

The guys were trying to put together a stretcher to get me to the bottom. In the meantime I laid down on a rock to rest, and started to get hypothermia from the cold rock beneath me. Amy and Kaity piled on two emergency blankets, put my heat packs on my face and chest and Kaity even covered me with her coat. She and Amy also took turns laying on me to keep me warm. Eventually they got the stretcher together and strapped me in. I’m not sure, but I think like 6 or 7 guides and porters helped carry me down to the camp. 
Our Nurse Amy kept up with the stretcher behind me, even though her ankle is sprained. 

Originally they were going to take me to the gate, but it was getting dark and they decided to just go to the camp and let me rest.

Day 5: The final camp and attempt at ascent

We are in the home stretch. Kaity, Amy, Tom and I walked about 3 hours and 45 minutes to base camp five, arriving around 2:30 in the afternoon. Of course we had to have our traditional dance party when we arrived. I laid down in the tent for a brief rest, but was awoken for lunch at 3:30. Then it was back to sleep. Next thing I know, Amy is shaking me awake and saying it was time for dinner. I looked at my watch and was in denial. It was 5:30 p.m. I said no, it cannot be dinner. We just had lunch! It was really hard for me to force anything down, but I did my best. Still weary, I climbed back into my tent and was asleep instantly. 

I was woken up at 11 p.m. to get ready to begin the final leg of the journey: the 1,200 meter climb to the summit. We had some biscuits and tea or hot cocoa, then it was time to climb. Our camelbacks froze within one hour of hiking. Luckily, I had a water bottle with electrolytes that did not freeze. The dining times really began to wear on me. After about three hours, I had ABSOLUTELY NO energy. Kaity was a rock for me. She literally pushed me for about 20 minutes. “I will push you to the top if I have to,” she told me. But after a while, I was feeling totally fatigued.

Signing the log book at camp
I had to seriously consider heading back to camp, even though I really wanted to summit. I had to be completely honest with myself. I knew that if I continued on, at some point, whether it was 5, 10, 15 minutes or an hour, my energy would completely wear out and I would collapse. And at that altitude, I would develop hypothermia and freeze to death. There would be no porters with stretchers during this last stretch. 

Lucas agreed to guide me back to camp. Thank goodness for that because we had passed the “steep” part of the climb and were in the middle of the “steeper” climb. I would have totally tumbled down the mountain without him holding my hand. It was about an hour and a half back to camp. When I finally got there around 5 a.m., I had just enough energy to climb into the tent and eat the other half of Amy’s Cliff bar before climbing into my sleeping bag and passing out.

Even though I did not make it to the top, I am dissapointed. I made it to 5,000 meters, or 16,404 feet, and I did not have a lick of altitude sickness. My muscles were sore, sure, but doable, it was purely the exhaustion that got me. I know now that I am capable of reaching the top, and you better believe that I will be back one day.

Day 4: Danger on the mountain

Yeah, I feel really guilty today. After breakfast, Amy, Karen and I had a little pow wow in the breakfast tent. We were able to clear the air and share our feelings and everything that happened. Of course I had to cry again. But in the end, Karen forgave me and said it is all in the past. I apologized to Kaity as well, as what I said the previous day hurt her as well. As I said I was sorry and hugged her, she said she wished I was her sister. I told her I felt like I was, and she said we would have to get a picture together at the top of the mountain. I cannot describe what, but something kind of came over me, and all of a sudden what I wanted did not really matter so much anymore, and it truly became more about the team and supporting each other. 

I also apologized to Rafael, our lead guide, for any disrespect he or his team may have taken as a result of what I said. Everyone is such a better person than I am, they forgive so easily and freely. I really need to work on that. I do hold so much in, and hold on to pain for a long time.

Kaity Klemp and Amy Martin stop for a Xango break during our climb
Anyway, today’s climb involved a lot of rock climbing. Like probably two straight hours of rock climbing. I was in my element. It totally took me back to college and climbing at Wallcrawlers in Whitewater. Words cannot describe how much I loved it, even this one part where you had to grab onto this rock and step on a ledge, with nothing behind you but open air. Absolutely no fear. I was so comfortable on that mountain, I knew I would not fall. I told Karen about 3 points: always have at least three points of contact when climbing. That is what Leo told me when we climbed at Devil’s Lake for the first time, and it served all of us well. I never took a step until I had tested it twice for grip and solidarity. That is probably why I had such an easy time, I was totally used to everything. 
However, Kaity was a total monkey on the climb. At one point we looked around and wondered where she had gone. Then we realized that she had climbed way ahead. We were all really impressed with the ease and speed she had on the rocks.

Of course after we reached the peak (not the summit), it was time to go back down! Yeah....I am not so good with the going down. I tend to slip on the rocks. I had the same problem yesterday and Lucas held my hand while I went down a slope. Today Justin held my hand as we slowly made our way down. My guess is it took at least 40 minutes to descend. Climbing did not get my pulse racing, but the descent sure did!
Justin and I at the bottom. Whew!

Then as soon as we got to the bottom, it was time to climb up again to reach our fourth base camp. I wish I could say that the fear I felt going down the mountain was the worst of it, but all of that seemed oh so far away and pale in comparison when we arrived at camp.

Today was not easy for one of our members, Drew. A couple hours in he started coughing up liquid, one of the symptoms of altitude sickness. By the end of the day, he needed two guides, one on each side, to get him on the mountain. His O2 levels were deathly low, and he needed oxygen. At the same time, the guides and porters were putting a stretcher together. They borrowed another oxygen tank from another group and went straight down to the gate in 7 hours. Karen made the decision to go down with him, which was a relief, knowing that she was with him. By the time they got down, he was up and walking. It was the most scared I have ever been, and I am really grateful he is OK. 

I know how close he came to not making it down that mountain, and that things could have turned out very differently. Up until this point, it was a jovial and happy climb up the mountain. I think Drew's illness really hit home that what we are doing is not only challenging, but dangerous, and we have to be careful as we continue on our journey. 

This was such a long day. Here is hoping tomorrow will be less eventful.

Day 3: The trek continues

I’ll be honest, this was not one of my better days. I was so exhausted from yesterday that I was running out of energy and was really week. Drew and Tom took off with Justin to check out this Lava Rock area. The rest of us continued on the regular path. When we stopped for lunch, I ate quickly and laid on a rock to sleep. Well, I apparently slept wrong, possibly on my femoral artery because when I woke up, the oxygen got cut off to my left foot, and every step was agonizing pain. It felt like dozens of needles were being simultaneously stabbed into my foot. 

Yup, that's Kili behind me!
Our hike took long enough that some porters came down to take our packs...and I was not happy to have mine carried for me. I’m not going to rehash it, but suffice it to say, I snapped at Karen Klemp. I am not proud of it, but all these little tiny annoyances kind of built up, and I just snapped at her. 

I had to separate myself the rest of the night. I was so angry I did not want to go in the tent to eat. Even though all I wanted to do was sleep, Amy Martin was nice enough to bring me some food in the tent. She has been kind of a safe haven for me on this trip. I can talk to her and vent at night, and she does not judge me. For me, that is huge. I am not used to someone being so understanding and not judging, even when I am at my worst. 

One of the cultural differences here is showing emotions. While our hostess Elisa is not shy about laughing and having a good time, stuff like crying or showing pain is kind of hidden. I was in the tent crying when Cha Cha and Justin came to check on me, and both of them told me to stop crying. They did not seem to understand that is what I needed to do. It was like my soul was hurt and I needed to cry the pain out. Usually some sleep will make me feel better. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 2: A gradual ascent up Mt. Kilimanjaro

Yup, I was right, another long day, nine hours instead of six. The forests were behind us, but there was still green around us. We are also being birds. They sure have this down. They know hikers come through every day, and bring food. And perhaps they will find some crumbs left over, or a camper with a less than watchful eye on their lunch box. 

I have been asking one of our guides, Justin, to teach me Swahili, and he seems very happy to teach me. What is really nice is he is fluent in English, so it is very easy to converse. He understands everything I am able to say, although he speaks quietly which is sometimes hard to hear. 

With my downhill guide, Lucas
So far I have learned some basic words and greetings, such as Thank you (Asante), goodbye (kwahere), Yes (Dyio), No (Hapana), What’s Up? (Mambo), Cool (Poa), Or (ao, pronounced “ow”), flower (ua), father (baba), mother (mama), and a short list of verbs, along with personal nouns (I, you, we, they, he, she). I am looking forward to learning more words.

I think part of the reason he is so friendly to me is because I am interested in their culture. I want to learn Swahili and as he pointed out yesterday, I wore my scarf like the Tanzanian women. The people do appreciate when you want to learn more. 

The food that we are served is absolutely amazing. You think, what can you get on a mountain, cold cuts? No. For breakfast we have had eggs, porridge, chapata (like Swedish pancakes), and some fresh fruit like pineapple, oranges and bananas.

Queen of the rock
They give us a box lunch to eat in the middle of our hike. So far it has had either bread with butter or a slice of chicken, a juice box, banana, boiled egg and like this cookie bar. I usually eat most of it, and save a couple things for the hike. 

Dinner is absolutely amazing. The soup they have is TO DIE for. I am totally in love with it, it is the best soup I have ever had. I don’t even know what is in it, only that it is heavenly. There is also usually beans or rice, some more fresh fruit and hot water for tea or hot cocoa. It is kind of hard to eat at times. 

Apparently that is because as you get higher in altitude, your body needs more oxygen. If it does not get enough, it steals it from other parts of your body, and the first place is your gut. So you eat less food and feel full. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Mt. Kilimanjaro Diaries. Day 1: The Adventure Begins

Note: The Hope 2 Others climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro took place from July 1-7, 2014.

Welcome to Day 1 of our ascent up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Our day got off to a fun start from the moment we got off the bus. Our guides and porters were waiting for us and greeted us with song and dance. It was pretty much the best thing ever. Don’t believe me? Check out the clip at the bottom and see for yourself.

It was about an hour and a half drive from Arusha to the gate of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We had a little waiting to do, but were amused when we spotted some monkeys. We were told to put the lunches we were given away. One guy from another team must not have been listening because his sandwich and juice box got monkey’d away. 

It seemed like a land untouched by time, ethereal and mysterious
If anyone wants to see Mt. Kilimanjaro but not go all the way, I would recommend a day trip. Our first day was AMAZING. There were trees everywhere, tall trees, big trees, trees covered in moss. I was absolutely lost in the beauty of it all. And with the fog setting in, it just gave what seemed like a never-ending forest a beautiful and mysterious atmosphere. It was ethereal in its mystery, like this forest was untouched by time and we were the first explorers to glimpse its natural beauty. With every step, I became more and more enraptured. When we finally arrived at the first camp six hours later, I was disappointed that we were leaving the most heavenly haven I have had the pleasure of visiting.

Upon arriving at the first camp, we were greeted with song and dance from our porters and guides. I know I am going to love this. The excitement is so infectious, I just know this is going to be a great time. Some of the other campers were staring as we were all singing and dancing. I am preeeeety sure they were just jealous that we have the best group. (:

It sounds like tomorrow will be another long day, but I can hardly wait.