Day to Day

Extremely long and rather dangerous hike

On Saturday, we all left at 9;30 in the morning to hike to a waterfall. Julius, a worker at Neema, went on and on about how it was so beautiful and would only take about 3 hours. Julius drove us to a government building to park the car, and asked if anyone would like to use the restroom here before we started. About half of us went and were met with a hole in the ground. I was used to these considering this was about all they had in China, but some of the other volunteers were not so lucky.

The hike started off on a road which threw me off a bit because i expected there to be a trail like in America. We hiked on a gravel road uphill through a…neighborhood is the best way i can describe it. IMG_5605

(There is trash on the road because it was trash day) The more we hiked the more i realized why we couldn’t drive through the neighborhood. The roads were so torn up they barely resembled roads. Also the road was way too slippery and muddy. The hike on the road was over a mile. We passed tons of people sitting outside or selling merchandise. I think my favorite people to pass were the kids. They would run to the edge of their drive way or their for and yell “HI” at us until we would turn around and say it back. Then they would run off giggling.

Once we got passed the really busy part of the road we would only run into houses every several hundred feet. We passed one house that had a group of teenagers sitting outside and they joined us while hiking up the the remainder of the road. A boy named Albert was walking with me. His english was pretty good and when we ran out of small talk, he started trying to teach me Swahili. I am absolutely terrible at Swahili and i don’t remember anything he taught me. Still, he was very nice and friendly and i think i was a good excuse for him to practice his english. The Tanzanian teenagers followed us all the way to the top of the hill. They had a name for this place, but of course, i have forgotten. It was spectacular, though.

Pictures and words could never do it justice. One thing i absolutely love is that the land here is untouched. I am surrounded by so much nature and the best part is that i know i am purely looking at God’s creation without any human influence. There are gorgeous parts of America, but even national parks have been throughly investigated by man. The most amazing parts then exploited for human pleasure. Here, though, i feel as if when i look at the nature in front of me, theres a pretty good chance no human has altered it or exploited it. I see God in the nature around me because I know it is only his hand’s that have touched it.

Once we got to the top of the hill we finally started on a trail, if you could call it that. The trail wasn’t what you would immediately picture. In fact i wouldn’t have even recognized we were on a trail. I just followed Julius through the trees. DSC00374

The hike was nice and peaceful until we had to go down. There wasn’t nicely paved steps for us or hand railings to hold on to. I would say we ‘slid’ down the side of this drop off. We were constantly reminded to watch our step and go slowly because if we made the wrong step and slipped, we would go tumbling down and die. (those were the words of our guide exactly) It was muddy and steep, and I just kept thinking that this would be the perfect spot for a black mamba, the most poisonous snake in the world. As we continuously got our backsides and hands muddy, I thought of how it cool it was that i was hiking through the african jungle with the possibility of getting murdered by poisonous creatures with every step.

I learned in biology this year about how humans, more specifically Americans, have removed themselves from nature to such an extreme that Natural Selection cannot touch us. In a lot of ways it is a very good thing that we are developed enough to protect ourselves and people with disabilities that would have once just been left to die. However, I can’t help but think how by removing ourselves from nature, and, more importantly, the God-made process of natural selection, we are removing ourselves from God too. Therefore, to be immersed in nature to such a degree that I was rendered helpless to God’s more deadly creatures was a fascinating and marveling concept.

When we finished climbing down the hill. We were met by a stream. We took a couple of minutes to catch our breath and take some pictures.

When we started again, we walked about 20 feet before meeting a stream of water with now way around. We all ended up taking our shoes off and walking through knee deep water. it was awful. the stream was filled with sharp rocks and we finally had some relief it was mud that squished in between your toes and stayed there.IMG_5647

We walked with no shoes through water, mud, and rocks for about a mile until we finally got a glimpse of what we travelled all that way for.

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It was something out of a national geographic magazine. In fact, id go as far as to say it was the cover of a National Geographic magazine. It was absolutely breathtaking. We stayed there for an hour swimming and taking pictures. It is crazy to think that I have seen such breathtaking beauty that only a handful of people even know exist. Isn’t that crazy???

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Day to Day

The Big Kids and Their Field Trip

Friday was my first day with the big kids, or Montana kids as we call them. We call them the Montana kids because they live in a building we call the Montana House. The Montana House houses 3-5 year olds, but upon meeting these kids you would think they were 7 or 8. The Montana kids are some of the smartest kids I have ever met. They are bilingual and can translate for you. They know all of their numbers, addition, and subtraction. Some can even read! They feed themselves and clothe themselves and have an excellent memory.  Additionally, they are wise and mature beyond their years. Looking at how self sufficient and smart these 3 and 4 year olds are makes me wonder how much we cripple our children capabilities in America. When driving through town, it is not uncommon to see 3-5 year olds walking to school half a mile away all by themselves. They will have their uniform and their backpack on and will be walking on the side of the road to school everyday. When i first saw it i was immediately scared for the kids because you would NEVER see such a thing in the United States. A four year old walking to school by himself? Child Protection Services would be there quicker than the neighborhood people could gossip about it. However, here it is just apart of the culture. They don’t have school buses and a lot of the parents don’t have cars. They don’t have time to walk their kid to school. Even so, i asked a few locals if anything ever happened to the children walking such a far way by themselves and she said accidents were so rare that she didn’t worry at all. What an amazing thing to have so much trust in your community. I think of America where our thought of any stranger is automatically that they are a rapist, kidnapper, or murderer. Granted, there are a lot of rapists, kidnappers, and murderers in America, but why is it such an issue there and not in other parts of the world?

We left for the field trip at 9:30 Friday morning. We were going to Shanga, a factory that hired disabled personnel to make blankets, bracelets, paintings and glass blowing designs.  DSC00340.JPG

It was actually a really cool place. They had trees, elephants, and other sculptures all made from glass bottles. The kids loved it and I saw the good it did for the community. They hired the disabled to give them jobs, and recycled used old glass bottles to makes beautiful things. DSC00315

The employees have a variety of disabilities ranging from being deaf, to being blind, to being crippled, to having no hands. The work they are doing there is absolutely amazing.

When we got back to Neema the kids all went down for their naps. The afternoon was filled with more kids and more playing. The kids got go to Micheal and Dorris’ small corn plants and pick and shuck the corn. The corn doesn’t have the anti- pesticides we do so there were bugs all over them and when shucking sometimes the corn would be rotten and squishy underneath. Think my repulsion was pretty evident on my face because the nannies kept laughing at me. The kids had so much fun though and after we picked and shucked the car, Dorris cooked it and all the kids and babies who could ate the corn outside in the playground. img_5544.jpg

It was a blast to have everyone out on the playground. The crawlers, toddlers, and Montana kids were all out there playing together and eating corn. When all the playing was done, went down to the Montana house with the kids and we got ready for bed and watched Ice Age before turning in for the night.

Day to Day

Violently Ill

I thought i was careful about not drinking the tap water, but i guess i was not carful enough. The first night I was here i ran my toothbrush under the water when i finished brushing my teeth. I dried it off and didn’t think much of it until I woke up at 11:30 Tuesday night violently throwing up every 30 minutes. I got a little bit of peace for about 2 hours until it started up again. I felt so exhausted and dead. Being so sick away from home with no one there to love you sucks. My roommate Lexi was so sweet though. She brought me a cold wet towel to wipe my mouth and put on my head before going back to sleep. In spite of her kidneys i was still miserable. I couldn’t even keep medications down. My stomach eventually completely emptied to the point where there was absolutely nothing left, and at 7am the volunteer coordinator, Emily, gave me a phenergan to put a stop to the vomiting and help me get some sleep. I slept the entire day and well into the night. When i woke up the next morning, Lexi had cleaned our bathroom and the only remaining sign of my sickness was some fatigue and soreness.

(i only have one picture of this horrendous day) IMG_5585

Day to Day

Tyler Arrives and I get ripped off

I woke up naturally at around 5am and at 5:15 my traveling companion finally arrived. Tyler went straight to sleep and i decided to go ahead and participate in Michael’s hike again. The clouds were more present and the mountains and sunrise were less visible, but the hike was still refreshing and nice. We were passing the homes and the people n the hike with me started talking about how the police here are not allowed to carry guns or arrest people and yet the culture is still so peaceful. We were trying to come up with conclusions as to why that is and it was honestly amazing just to think about the possibilities. When we got back it was time for breakfast. We had quiche with fruit. The fruit here is amazing. They have an abundance of pineapple, mango, and watermelon here so for every meal we get freshly sliced exotic fruit that is normally at least $10 a slice in America. I helped do the dishes, but it backfired just a little when everyone left to go to the baby home and it took an extra hour to finally finish off all of the dirty plates, pans, and cups. I played with the toddlers again, and i am finally getting their names down. They are all so sweet and lovable.. even the trouble makers of the group have kind hearts and sweet intentions. In the pictures are a few of the toddlers. The upper right baby is named Maria. She is a baby of the Masai village. Her mother and father are both dead and when she was brought to Neema, Dorris said she was the smallest baby she had ever seen. She said she looked like a toy she was so tiny. As you can see from the picture she is very healthy now. Rebecca, Micheal and Dorris’ daughter who live at Neema as the on-site nurse, is currently in the process of adopting Maria. Sharon is pictured below Maria. Im not sure what Sharon’s story is, but she is always smiling and laughing. She needs so much attention and love and it fills my heart to pick her up and see her smile. The last baby is Zuandi. Im not sure of her story either, but she is another sweet soul.

I spent a little time in some of the other rooms as well. The infant room is always such a peaceful precious time, but the babies all went down for their naps and i was no longer needed so i moved on. The babies from the infant room pictured below are Tumi on the left, Ezekiel on the bottom right, and Edith in the middle. Ezekiel is only two months old.

 

I ventured into the crawler room next. The crawlers are pretty much described by their names. They are all about a year old and are probably the cutest group at Neema.  I have tons of other stories where i will go in detail on the crawlers so for now ill just leave the pictures.

After i left the crawlers for their nap we ate lunch. (i am extremely proud of how visually pleasing this picture of my food is) DSC00206

After lunch, a group of 9 piled into the van to go to town to exchange money. Downtown was insane. There was so much activity and traffic throughout the streets. There was lots of noise and venders with tents outside of different goods. Some sold produce while others sold clothes. Some made souvenirs and others made baskets. On each corner of the street there was at least 20 people trying to make their living. After exchanging money, the driver dropped Tyler and I, as well as a few other volunteers, off at the souvenir market and would be back to pick us up later. The souvenir market was one of the more stressful events of my life. I am not good at haggling at all and having at least 15 people yelling at you all at once in your face and not accepting no for an answer, was extremely overwhelming. I ended up spending way too much on a painting and a shirt, but i just couldn’t help it. I’m here in Tanzania working at an orphanage where the prime reason for the mothers abandoning the babies is because they can’t afford to keep them, and these people at the market are just trying to make a living. Every time i looked at them all i could think was the fact that my money could be the reason they decide to keep a bay instead of abandoning it. So I got ripped off a little but I guess I’m not too upset about it because i was giving back to the community. When we got back to Neema after the market, I was so tired that i went straight to sleep.

Day to Day

First Day and Hard at work

Jet lag had me up at 3am wondering around aimlessly. I showered and facetimed a few of my friends until about 5am when Casey joined me. We talked until about 6 when a volunteer named Sophie came and joined us. She talked to me about some of the excursions she took and how great her trip has been. Sophie was flying out that day so she was up and trying to make the most of her last day. Michael does a mile and a half hike every morning at 6:15 so Sophie, Casey, a few other volunteers, and I all met him at the gate and headed out. DSC00045
The hike was beautiful and a bit challenging. The altitude made oxygen a little harder to obtain and I am not in the best shape of my life by any means. However, at one point in the hike, when we got to the top of this hill, you could see the sunrise in full view making the mountains a variety of orange and yellow and red with the white and grey clouds surrounding them.

Further on in the hike, we started walking through the town. There were people every where going on in their day to day lives.

The houses were modest and and the culture vibrated off the walls.

 

When we got back to the volunteer house it was time for breakfast. The cook’s name is Safina and for my first meal in Neema she cooked pancakes and eggs. They were amazing and delicious. After breakfast i headed down to the baby home. Started out with the toddlers outside during play time. Everything is a little awkward at first when your not sure what is going on.  The nannies were all very nice and welcoming. Which was surprising to me at first. With an endless stream of ignorant volunteers messing up the flow of the day always coming in, its surprising that they are still so grateful for us. After spending the morning with the toddlers, i switched to the infant room. I fed and rocked the infants until it was time for their walk. A couple of infants were fussy and needed to be held rather than pushed in the stroller, so i held a baby another nanny held a baby and the other nanny pushed the stroller carrying 5 babies. the stroller was so heavy that when we went uphill it took all three of us to push it up. After a full day, I was exhausted and passed out relatively early.. and ended my first full day at Neema.

Day to Day

The First Sunday Morning

I decided i would try to fight the jet lag by staying up. After my shower, my roommate Lexi told me she couldn’t sleep and was going to sit outside watch the sunrise. I sat outside with her and watched my view reveal itself to me slowly. DSC00026

The picture shows the beauty, but I promise it does not do the actual visual justice. In my first couple hours in Tanzania I was experiencing such beauty and peace that I could feel how fast this month was about to fly by and I was already trying to put the brakes on. A few minutes after the Sunrise, a boy named Casey came out and joined us. We all were talking and it turns out that both of them are from  ACU too. Casey and Lexi were apart of world wide witness. They are here for two months helping start a program for the mothers of these babies so that hopefully they can keep the babies rather than abandon them. Casey offered to make me some eggs and Lexi made me some coffee and i read Psalms 68 out of my bible. It was an amazing way to start my time in Tanzania. As the sun rose higher in the sky we started to accumulate more company out on the porch. An older couple, probably in their late 30s named Chad and Rebecca, joined us and i quickly learned they were alumni of Abilene Christian University! Another girl tat looked around my age appeared with coffee and joined out conversation. As I was explaining the story of how i learned about Neema Village, with my mom’s ex-boyfriend Rob’s parents dropping everything to start an orphanage, the new girl interrupted me and exclaimed that her dad is Rob and her grandparents are Micheal and Dorris! What a small world. It turns out their is another ACU student named Abbe who is also a granddaughter of Micheal and Dorris, but she is the daughter of a different brother. After the conversation died down everyone left to get ready for church. Everyone had previously picked a baby to take to church with them, so we all went down to the baby home. The volunteer director Emily gave me a quick tour while everyone else was grabbing the baby that they were taking to church with them. We all pilled into two vans and were off. The ride was bumpy, but the kids are tough and didn’t seem to mind at all.DSC00035.JPG

When we arrived at the church a man came out, personally greeted all of us, and escorted us inside to our seats. The church was a single-roomed building with window frames and door frames but bars and chain-links rather than actual doors and windows. Inside were rows of chairs arranged like pews. The chairs were plastic and colorful, kind of like those you would see at a daycare. At the front was a piano, a guitar, a drum set, and three microphones. We worshiped for around an hour in Swahili. The worship at this church was the most soulful experience I think I have ever experienced. You could feel God in that building. Their voices filled with love and intention and praise. There was no alternative motive. No lingering thoughts in the back of their minds. No after-church chores distracting them. The only thing they were thinking of was their undeniable love for Jesus. I could not understand anything they said, but I felt the love of God and that was all i needed. The service only lasted an hour and a half, but they say most church services in the area are around 3-4 hours long. They say that Sunday mornings when they get to worship God is the best time of their week and they want to make it last as long as possible. I think that is a beautiful thing. It is so opposite from how America works. I just think it is something to think about when we are talking about where our priorities truly lie. After church, I decided to take a nap because, after not sleeping in at least 48 hours, I really needed some rest. i didn’t end up waking up until 13 hours later at 3 in the morning…

Day to Day · Traveling

28 hours of traveling…

At 9pm on May 18th I was anxious and excited to check in for my flight leaving 24 hours later. I logged on to Turkish Airlines, clicked the check in button, and filled in my information. I closed the app and went along with my last day in the United States for a month. I woke up on the 19th with ants in my pants from excitement. I was checking off my packing list and checking it off again. I was changing my outfit at least 4 times trying to find the perfect comfy cute traveling style. I was beyond ready for the journey that lay in front of me. My dad was supposed to arrive home at 4pm and we would leave for the airport at five. When he finally showed up i decided to check one more time on my flight status. It was then I realized i had made a huge mistake. It turned out that at 9pm the previous day i had forgotten a step in the check in process and had actually not checked in at all. There was only two spots left and both were middle seats… It looked like I would not be sleeping for 14 hours….

If that was not bad enough, on the way to the airport I got a message from Tyler saying her flight to Houston from Midland was delayed long enough that she would be missing our flight out. I got very nervous when I realized I would be traveling all my myself. As independent as I am, I have always had a traveling companion with me when going out of the country. I might have felt a little more at ease if the flight was going to a more modernized country that spoke english, but I was flying to Istanbul, Turkey and then Arusha, Tanzania all by my lonesome. However, I had to keep my brave face on because my parents were worried enough for all of us. Surprisingly though, In all of my nervousness I felt anticipation and excitement. Traveling to foreign countries all on my own would be a test to my independence and capabilities as well as proof to my friends and family that I can do such things. Before I knew it I was on board and about to take off. Since it was around 9pm, I figured i would take some melatonin to help me sleep. I have never had trouble sleeping on planes, but this flight made it impossible. My eyelids felt heavy and my brain was shutting off, but no matter what I could not seem to fall asleep. They would not turn the cabin lights off and there was commotion going on all around me. When i gave up on trying to sleep I asked the flight attendant for a cup of coffee only to be told they weren’t serving coffee at this time. I turned on a movie and struggled to fight the drowsiness. Finally, two movies later the passed out eye masks. I was so grateful. I put on my mask and got comfy. The most irritating thing however was they turned off the cabin lights two minutes later and the flight attendant informed me that they were now serving coffee… Despite the darkness, I still could not sleep. I stayed wide awake all the way to Istanbul.

When we landed in Turkey all i wanted was to change clothes, brush my teeth, and wash my face. American airports are good about having spacious bathrooms that allow these things. However, in Turkey I had no such luck. There was ten gates to one bathroom, and the bathroom only had two stalls. There was a line that stretched down the hall and took about 30 minutes. When I finally got into a stall i felt so rushed that I changed my underwear as fast as I could and bolted out without brushing my teeth or even applying a fresh coat of deodorant. I smelt, and my face felt greasy, but the line back into the bathroom had grown. Even if I was willing to to wait again, I didn’t think i had it in me to hold up the line and tend to my personal hygiene through the judgmental impatient stares. The turkish airport showed almost no signs of english. I never heard a person speak english either. I stayed to myself mostly and watched a couple episodes I had downloaded before the trip. When it was time to board, a shuttle drove us about 20 minutes to our plane. I really liked the fact that we had to take a shuttle because it provided me with the opportunity to see Turkey. Istanbul is a beautiful city. There were hills that were covered the houses that were a variety of colors. It made it look like you were looking at the top of a crayon box. We were flying out at the time of sunset in Istanbul. From my window seat, I could see the Black Sea that was a vibrant blue and the white beaches. The coast was absolutely breathtaking. However, the sunset on the coast was something of dreams. The sky was a bright red with hints of pink. I have never seen such colors in the sky. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. I have never given Turkey much thought, but i think i would really like to visit Istanbul one day.

 

My flight to Kilimanjaro was a little rough. I felt gross and being in a window seat was great until you had to go to the bathroom or get something out of your bag. I got up once on the 14 hour plane ride, but now that I was a window seat on a 6 hour plane ride I seemed to need to get up every hour. In the last hour the man siting next to me started a conversation with me. My inner instinct was screaming ALERT, probably from my father reminding me of the movie Taken so many times before I left, but the man told me he wasn’t getting off at Kilimanjaro and was staying on the airplane to fly to Zanzibar so that made me feel a little better. I had also been on high alert for about 23 hours and was craving some human conversation. He was from Belgium and a group of them were headed to Zanzibar to help build a public library. He told me their trip was relatively short because he had to fly to America for a basketball conference when he returned. His accent made me a little confused but I think he was the equivalent of an NBA player. He told me that they didn’t have anytime to do excursions but he hoped to one day bring his girlfriend here for strictly touristy purposes. It was really cool to talk to him and I wished him luck as I got off the plane. The airport was probably smaller than the size of my house. There was no air-conditioning and customs was awful. I filled out the visa form Neema House had sent me and gave it to them only to be told i had not filed it out correctly. Confused, I filled out the visa form that they provided at stands seat up around the room. By the time I finished filling mine out, the line was about 20 people long. I waited and waited. When i got back to the front, I was told the form I filled out was the wrong form and I was handed the form I had originally filled out incorrectly. I was now extremely tired and exasperated. I filled out the form to the best of my ability and was now that very last person in line. I finally was able to get my visa and my luggage and leave the airport. Being the last out of a one-room airport is advantageous when trying to find your diver. There was only one man standing there with a sign that said ‘Neema Village.’ His name was Julius. He is probably one of the kindest souls i have ever met. His english is excellent, and his general happiness is contagious even after 27 hours of traveling. Neema House is an hour away from the airport and it was about 4am Sunday morning. Looking put of the window I noticed three things: the people, the houses, and the dogs. It surprised me to see so many people walking. It was 4am, and  I saw at least 25 people who were walking or running in nice clothes. When I asked Julius about it, he told me that most people here do not own cars and have to start walking very early in the morning in order to get to work on time. The houses were also surprising. If you have ever seen shrek and have seen the outhouse he uses, their homes are about the size of that. Some of the houses or huts were so small it seemed almost impossible that a person could sleep, let alone live, there. Some of the other houses were decently sized, and I saw a ton that were under construction. Julius told me that the family builds the house themselves and Its bad luck to live in it before it is completed. Therefore, i would see nice   well made homes under construction with a small hut set up next to it.

When I arrived at Neema Village, it was still dark and I felt as if I was a walking pile of dirt. I entered into the volunteer house and was greeted by Micheal, one of the directors, immediately. He was extremely nice and gave me a quick tour or my room before allowing me to rest. The volunteer house is very modernized so the showers and beds are much like that in America. I was able to finally shower and end my 28 hours of traveling.