Saturday, September 24, 2011


I had a last minute chance to go on safari last week and it was incredible! On Tuesday I found out I would be able to go, and I left Wednesday morning - good thing I pack light! We visited the Lake Manyara, and Tarangire national parks as well as the Ngorogoro Crater. Our outfitter was East African Voyages and they were wonderful. Simple but comfortable accommodations, perfect for my budget! Our delicious picnic lunches every day made all the other toursits with their box lunches pretty jealous. Check out the rest of the pictures here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It only takes a moment

       My heart hurts for East Africa this week. Two horrible accidents struck Tanzania and Kenya within days of each other, taking many lives. The world famous white sand beaches of the Zanzibar archipelago were crowded with locals, rescuers and bodies alike after a horrible ferry wreck off Saturday morning when a ferry bound for Pemba, an island near Zanzibar, capsized killing almost 200 people.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part is that this could have easily been prevented had the boat not been overloaded. The boats are not built to carry more than 600 people, yet this one had over 800 onboard in addition to more cargo than is recommended. The ferry sank in the early hours of the morning, making rescue efforts limited until after dawn. The lucky individuals managed to cling to mattresses, fridges and anything else that kept them afloat until other boats were able to reach the scene of the accident.

         In the Sinai slum in Nairobi, Kenya at least 120 were killed, and more than 100 additional people injured, Monday morning in an explosion from a fuel line leak. The number of deaths was so high partially due to the fact that at the time of the explosion many were walking to school or work. An even larger factor was the fact that many raced to the scene of the leak hoping to collect some fuel.

     Imagine living the kind of life where you understand the risk involved in flocking to such a dangerous spot instead of away from it, yet you do so anyway because one pail of fuel will pay for a month's rent. Imagine having little choice but to build your home, made only of corrugated steel, above an unstable pipeline because you cannot afford to build anywhere else. Imagine living in a place where a lack of roads makes it almost impossible for firefighters to access the scene. Imagine rushing home to find the bodies of your two children, perhaps the only part of your life that truly brings you joy-- an agonizing experience Joseph Mwangi and so many others were forced to live on Monday.  For many this is not something they have to imagine, it is what they live. 

       Take some time today to tell those you care about "I love you". Remember to be grateful for what you have, because you never know when it might be taken away. Tragedies like this happen every day around the world, and while they are truly devastating and heart breaking, they also serve as a reminder that anything can happen and that every day needs to be lived to its fullest. It only takes a moment for everything to change. 

Monday, September 12, 2011


First batch of books

         While planning my time in Tanzania, returning to the village where I had first fallen in love with this country was near the top of my “to do” list. While my expectation that Kyela wouldn’t be the same as I had remembered it ended up being true, it was only because it was an even more rewarding experience. This time, I knew some Swahili, knew more about the country, was familiar with its customs and most importantly, I had a connection to the people I was going back to see. I was only able to spend a few days back in Kyela,  but it was worth every bit of the 16 hour bus ride of motion sickness!

The second batch of books
     Most of my time was spent at the Mwaya Secondary School. This is the school that Cocoa Honors visited last summer and that has since received almost $10,000 worth of text books. This gift was made possible thorough the support of many people in Springfield who care about this small school in a little frequented corner of Tanzania. I was surprised that the textbooks had already had a significant effect on the school. Besides providing a much needed resource for the students’ learning and exam preparation, we found out from the headmaster that the simple presence of the books has inspired and motivated the students to excel in their studies. To the Mwaya students, these textbooks (books that made my peers and I groan mentally upon being issued each year) showed that someone cared about them. They are tangible proof that people outside their small school believe in them enough to invest money to ensure that the students have the basic materials necessary for learning. 


     Kellen and I met with a group of female students to talk about a range of subjects related to the Empowered Girls goals.  Interestingly, the topic that was returned to again was me. As at the previous secondary schools where we have spoken, the girls had an endless number of questions for me:  Do many girls in the U.S. go to university? How old are most girls when they marry? Do US parents want daughters to continue with their education or do they think marriage is better? Do girls in America face similar issues of pregnancy and being deceived by boys? - and many more.  They even ask the mundane of "do American teens have problems with acne?" It is fascinating, though often disheartening, to see the contrast between the teen experiences in their world and mine.
Part of their library!
         The Cocoa Honors group who visited the school last summer has been far from forgotten. The mzungu mrefu sana (really tall kid) was the Cocoa Honors student that the largest number of people seemed to remember, something I found fitting considering Taylor Curtis is still very involved with Tanzania and hopes to return in the near future. They also remembered ‘that man who took lots of pictures’, so thanks for outshining me dad!  According to the Headmaster, who extends a big thank you to everyone involved with Cocoa Honors and the Textbooks for Tanzania campaign, our presence has shown many of the students that the world beyond the one they know is accessible, but it requires hard work and determination. 

        While many aspects of my visit are memorable, there is one that stands out. While Kellen was giving a lecture on how to prepare for exams and I was acting as photographer (like father, like daughter?) one student stood up and asked the best way to manage his time. This student is an orphan who has no relatives able to pay his school fees. Instead of simply accepting this and not completing secondary school, he spends most of his time outside of school working in order to pay his school fees.

       That kind of determination is a reminder of how much I have taken for granted in my life. It also reminds me that some things are the same across cultures and continents and that not infrequently, teens at home must also hold jobs to help support themselves and their families. Once again it raises the question in my mind of where to help, how to help: how to step outside of my “wants” and into a world of need.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guess what I bought today...

A cow! Daudi and Kellen and I were at church, and afterwards they had an auction for the non monetary offerings and....we bought a cow!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Uganda (and some random thoughts)

       Sorry for the lack of updates recently! I have been in Uganda since the 28th and love this country! They get so much rain and everything is so green, quite different from Tanzania. I had planned on returning to Arusha today, but ended up staying until Friday with a family I know in Kampala. I'll be sure to post more once I get back home to Arusha!
       On an unrelated note, I cannot believe that I have less than 2 months until I head back home. Time has  gone by so quickly, and I know I will be very sad to leave. Thank you to everyone who has been following my blog and sending me encouraging thoughts and messages, they always make my day! When I started this blog I figured on a few friends and family members reading it, but to date I have had over 3,000 page views with an average of almsot 1,000 a month! I have to admit, I am a bit surprised by the number of people that are reading my blog but I am very excited that I am able to share my experiences and how wonderful East Africa is with so many!