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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.


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.


How about the hotel bar? Gotta love those pillows…

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…


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.


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…


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.


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.


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) 🙂