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) 🙂