Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Safari: Oldonyo Sambu, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park

Hello family and friends,

Sorry to be incommunicado for so long, but we had no computer access while on safari, and our students were so busy preparing their final presentations upon our return that this is our first chance to get online since we left for safari over a week ago. And by "our" I mean Zik's. The group is actually boarding the plane for the States as I write this. However, I asked them all for quotes before they left, so you'll hear from each student on the trip in just a moment.

But first, let me give you a brief update on what we've been up to since our last missive. Our cultural safari took us through Maasai lands where we first hiked to the top of Oldonyo Sambu, a small mountain overlooking the vast savannah leading up to Tarangire National Park. That night we conversed and danced with Maasai around our campfire, and the following day we hiked 16 miles through the savannah to a Maasai boma near Lobor Sirret. Along the way we walked in the tracks of lions and hyenas, and we spotted impalas, dik diks, ostriches, and giraffes. At the boma we witnessed the sacrificing of a goat in our honor. Many of the students took part in the ceremony, skinning the goat and drinking its blood. We also learned a bit of the boma's history, how its 100+ residents are all descended from Mzee Loure, a patriarch who was a self-made man of wealth. His 550 cows and more than 1000 goats afforded him 7 wives who yielded him 32 children and 44 grandchildren.

The following day we embarked upon an animal safari which took us through 3 parks in 4 days: Tarangire National Park, Nogorongoro Crater, and Manyara National Park. It was AMAZING! The group was constantly on the lookout for wildlife, and was attentive and inquisitive as Anna Estes, our National Geographic expert, and Douglas, our safari guide, enhanced our experience with detail about the flora and fauna we came across. We were rewarded with fantastic sightings: hundreds of elephants and calves, a leopard and cub, ungulates galore, two rhinos, AND 25 lions, including a live-action zebra kill!

And now, quotes from the students:

"As an African American male representing a place where people barely travel outside of the state, traveling to Tanzania has truly been more than dream fulfilling. What I've learned about this country and the beautiful people who reside here will remain in my heart forever." - Rashawn

"Being able to participate in this trip has truly been an incredible experience. Getting to know Tanzanian people and the Tanzanian lifestyle is an irreplaceable experience and I truly feel lucky to have been able to do this trip. Thank you NG!" - James

"The strength, energy, and vitality of the people here are sources of inspiration." - Jackie

"The trip made a great change on my vision of the world. I never thought I would learn so many things about Tanzania in such a short time." - Adriana

"The safari was awesome, the intensity of the kill situation was so cool." - David

"I loved meeting the children at the orphanage. Their friendliness was unbelievable and they were all so sweet." - Emma

"Eye-opening and awe-inspiring does not even describe my time in Tanzania. My life has forever been changed by the amazing times I've had and the exceptional people I've met. I've learned more than I thought possible" - Loren

"Everything was amazing, especially the safari, which was so beautiful. And I also really appreciated learning about this population and visiting the families. It was very interesting." - Tess

"This trip has truly been an experience of a lifetime. Words can not express the impact these last few weeks has had on me. I am forever grateful for this opportunity." - Jessica

"This trip was amazing. I learned a lot and was changed by many aspects of it. The children were a big highlight, just their smiles and friendliness." - Anna

"This trip has taught me more than I ever thought. It has changed my views on the world in such a way I will never forget. The people are incredible'" - Alyssa

"This trip totally rocked. I've never done anything like this before, but I loved really delving into the culture and being a traveler instead of a tourist." - Tara

"This trip was a dream come true. It has really opened my eyes to more of the world and has inspired me so much." - Liz

"I will remember this experience for a lifetime and carry a bit of Africa with me in my heart and will forever remain thankful." - Alex

"This is about the best trip I have ever been on, but it was so cold I needed a tuque." - Eddie

"This trip took unfamiliar people, cultures, and places and opened my perspective on the world in such a short time." - Jenny

"I never expected to meet so many nice welcoming people. I felt at home with this group and in/around Maji ya Chai." - Amanda

"This trip opened my eyes so much to the different lives hat people live and what real necessities are. It will definitely change my habits at home." - Meave

"This trip has changed the way I view life." - Trev

"The most amazing trip ever. The safari, hike. The experience was thrilling. It was more than I expected it to be." - Jon

"I never thought I'd change my view on food and see a zebra become food in the same week." - Lewis

"This trip has been amazing. it was totally worth it. Safari was awesome and everybody was sooo nice. I'm happy I chose this trip." - Thomas

I think I can safely speak for both Hope and Mike when I say this is one of the best group of students I have ever worked with. They were respectful, inquisitive, and engaged, and their final presentations were impressive. We look forward to staying in touch with them and seeing the great things they will accomplish in the future!

Kwa Herini,
Zik, Hope & Mike

P.S.: We'd be remiss not to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the UAACC. Mama Charlotte invited us to celebrate Mzee Pete's 69th birthday with them on Sunday, and they hosted our final presentation on Monday. Asanteni sana, Mzee Pete and Mama C!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Habari Gani

Hello all!

Shortly after the group arrived at Kilimanjaro airport, we were living it up at Club Afriko. First we indulged in an authentic Tanzanian meal of kuku, ugali and sukumawiki - chicken, 'stiff grits', and greens. Sukumawiki, greens, literally translates to "to push the week." Then we enjoyed the jazz, funk, reggae, hip hop, bongo flava, and spoken word of Mama C & Company. Mama C is the matriarch of the United African Alliance Community Center ( which happens to be where we are today, learning about the children's home and all of the center's initiatives to empower the community. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. . .

When we first arrived in the village of Maji ya Chai, our students expanded their knowledge about local customs and cultural traditions in their new home. During this time the students befriended villagers and were invited to join some of them in a soccer match that afternoon. A few students played in the soccer game while others conversed with village youth on the sidelines. Some students were surprised and overwhelmed by the welcoming and friendly nature of Maji ya Chai villagers.

On our second day in the village, the group was put to the test with a full first day of community service. They worked diligently-- with hoes, pickaxes and shovels on rocky terrain, digging a trench in order to lay a new piping system which will deliver clean water to parts of the village. The following day we continued our work digging as well as laying several kilometers of hefty pipes. Despite the hard work, spirits were high!

Later that night the students were given a brief introduction and lesson on their respective On Assignment projects (Photography and People and Cultures) before their immersion into the Maji ya Chai homes as part of day-long homestays.

During the 4th and 5th day of homestays, students worked alongside Maji ya Chai residents on some of their typical daily activities, including such chores as collecting water, harvesting corn, shoveling cow manure, and making and laying bricks.

We've also learned how to make beaded necklaces and bracelets, will be visiting a snake farm this morning, and making our own batik artwork later this afternoon! Time is flying, but we're having a great time.

Kwa Herini,
Zik, Hope and Mike (with help from Alex!)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The group has arrived

We've received word from the expedition leaders that the group has arrived in Arusha. After arrival, the group ate dinner and headed to a jazz/hip hop/fusion concert starring Mama Charlotte O'Neal. All is well and, despite being tired from their travels, students were smiling and in good spirits as they headed to bed.