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African Adventure – Waking up in Tanzania

February 27, 2010

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I woke up the morning of my first day in Tanzania at 6 a.m. with the sun streaming through the windows of my cabana.

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I took a much needed shower, then headed to the center of the compound for a fabulous buffet breakfast consisting of Spanish omelet, mini plums/bananas, passion fruit juice, & some of the best brown bread I’ve ever tasted (seriously, this stuff was amazing!)

The common area buildings were all open-air with thatched roofs.

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How about the hotel bar? Gotta love those pillows…
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With several hours left until our departure, I decided to throw on my cheesy safari hat (soon to be a staple) and hike around the gardens. There were dozens of paths leading from cabana to cabana; a virtual maze of vegetation.

Amidst the cacti, were bougainvillea in full bloom…

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I came upon several trees bursting with red blossoms and large dangling bean pods. These trees, called Royal Poinciana, are native to Madagascar (a hop, skip & a jump away from Tanzania). They are considered one of the most beautiful flowering trees in the world, and their reputation is well-deserved. Pictures don’t do them justice. They are also known as “Flamboyant” trees or “Christmas trees” in Tanzania since they only bloom during the holiday season each year.

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While winding through the paths, I caught my first glimpse of the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance. Then, after returning to my cabana and packing up my bags, I walked out of my room to be greeted by this guy…

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We were met at the hotel’s front door by John, the driver for Cross Cultural Solutions (my volunteer program) who would become our friend and companion for the next 3 1/2 weeks.

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With all the van windows open and our hair blowing wildly in the wind…we made our way for the next hour to our home-base in Karanga. We passed fields of gaunt cows, Masaii leading them along diligently. Women carried large baskets on their heads, and were dressed in vivid, brightly-colored cloths.

As I viewed the passing landscape, I was filled with a familiar yet overwhelming sense of anticipation and excitement to be experiencing a completely different culture for the first time. Somehow, you get a sense that waking up on the other side of the world… things will never quite be the same.

Eventually, we turned off the paved highway onto a dirt road. Children waved from the street with bright smiles. We turned onto a side road next to a maize field and came to a stop at a large gate.

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The driver honked and a security guard appeared to swing open the doors. We parked and stumbled out of the van. This was going to be our home for the next month.

(to be continued) πŸ™‚

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African Adventure – Arriving in Tanzania

February 13, 2010

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As many of you know, I recently spent a month volunteering with Cross Cultural Solutions in Tanzania, Africa.

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Although I know I can’t truly describe the experience in words, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my trip with you.

So why travel to Africa? Several of my co-workers thought it was a strange way to spend the holidays, but honestly, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the season than being of service to those in need and experiencing a whole new culture at the same time.

With those thoughts in mind, I packed up my bags (with lots of DEET and sunscreen in tow), and hopped on a plane. I connected first through Amsterdam, then went on to Nairobi, Kenya and finally landed at Kilimanjaro Airport, Tanzania some 25 hours later. To say my internal clock was off, is a massive understatement. There is a 9 hour time difference between Kilimanjaro and Dallas, and after spending 25 hours on an airplane, I had a drunken stumble as I exited the plane and walked the tarmac towards the terminal. Local time was around 11 p.m.

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Kili’s airport terminal boasts a single baggage belt and has wooden slat floors reminiscent of an old 30s movie or perhaps a Hemingway novel. I had a feeling I wouldn’t see my checked bag for a few days since baggage in Africa often gets mysteriously “lost”, but to my amazement, it was one of the first bags off of the belt!

I moved over to a counter to fill out customs paperwork and noticed a dozen or so large beetles walking around on the floor. I think I was encroaching on their territory. πŸ™‚ After handing in my immigration form, I made my way outdoors and met the van that would take me to my hotel for the evening.

We drove about 5 minutes in the pitch dark, and found ourselves stopped in front of the large front gate of the KIA lodge. Standing in front of the headlights, to my amazement, was a tall Masai warrior with spear in hand, dressed in full warrior garb (red plaid cloak, earrings, beaded bracelets, etc.) I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “Now, THIS is Africa! ”

Though it was late, the hotel desk clerk greeted me with a smile and gave me some fresh squeezed passion fruit juice (yum). A different Masai warrior escorted me down a dozen winding paths to my bungalow room. I found out later, the Masai are hired as security guards across the country at many establishments.

He unlocked the door, and we walked into this…

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…what a mosquito net! East Africa has a high incidence of malaria, so mosquito nets are really quite a necessity. This one, though, by any standard, is a serious luxury.

My escort left, and I stepped out into the night. Since there were very few lights on the property, you felt like the entire night sky could swallow you up. I’ve never seen so many stars at once. I took a flashlight and made my way back towards the main building so I could buy a bottle of water for brushing my teeth (tap water is a big no-no in East Africa unless you want to be best friends with the bathroom for the next few days). πŸ˜‰

I met up with some fellow volunteers who had also arrived late and we crashed shortly after. Looking back, we really had no idea what was in store for us in the next few weeks!

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Safari…

January 2, 2010

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Greetings from Africa – just thought I’d share a lil’ pic I took on safari. Many more to come. This young guy was hanging out in a tree next to our Land Rover…tired from the hot sun (hasn’t grown his mane yet). Luckily, he wasn’t too hungry!

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African Orphanage

December 28, 2009

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I visited an orphanage in Tanzania, Africa, last week. Thought I’d share a couple of pics from the day… lots more to share when I return to the States! Their smiles really do melt your heart. πŸ™‚

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A very special Christmas…

December 24, 2009

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Sending all of you wonderful wishes for a holiday season full of love and laughter. I’m spending this Christmas half-way across the world volunteering with Cross Cultural Solutions in Tanzania, Africa, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday than to be of service to those in need. I’ll be sure to post the entire adventure when I return to the States.

Lots of hugs and love to you all,

P.S. Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments. I’ll be sure to post new stamping & clay projects when I return!

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