Service and Safari Trip to Tanzania March 7-16 2015

First impressions

Arriving to Tanzania is what you expect for a 3rd world country - bad roads, lots of motorcycles, dirt floor houses, people walking on the side of the road with baskets or buckets on their head ! Little kids going to school in their uniform. General craziness…
Arriving at Dinka after a night by the airport, I was overwhelmed by tears when the kids sang the welcome song to us.. (they sing a lot and it is lovely). We stayed and worked at the DINKA school, which is private school available to paying middle class students and sponsor students from the local village.

Teaching Time

While we were at the school we taught different subjects: Marci taught science and Spanish, recorders/music (Tera), art (Ankie and Karen), drama (Brooks and Karen) and a PE day (Brooks and Patrice). We did all that with each class within 3 days. About 80 kids from 4-13 yrs. We were so hot and tired each day, then in the afternoon/evening we planned for the next day, pulled together supplies and played cards/ games with the 20 orphans that lived there. We also focused on teaching the teachers – providing them with new ideas for curriculum – science experiments, art projects, recorder lessons and Tennis, kickball games. The school founders, Kimberly and Eric, want to distinguish DINKA school by providing special activities that are not offered at other private schools. We taught art and music class by class and then had a special day for sports and another day (with science stations) in the cafeteria so that all students could rotate to science and sports at the appropriate age level.

The teachers were eager to have some extra plans and ideas to work with, and hopefully will continue them since we left the materials for them to use. The method of teaching is more rote..so we tried to incorporate some different methods… however it was hard for the kids to “break out of the box “.. I found the kids to be respectful and I loved the fact that they would raise their hands and rise up when a Madame (teacher) entered the room. Of course, some of the younger kids are still learning some of the basics of discipline. The 4 and 5th forms were very well behaved and embraced the subjects that we taught them ! (Including Spanish !) The recorder lesons were a big hit and the kids embraced tennis with a passion!

Local Community

One evening we also walked in to the houses in the village/countryside near the school, met lots of locals and kids, really fun. It was interesting to see the type of houses with animals that the kids who went to the school lived in. The average income is about 150 E. per year.. Usually each house was very neat… with an assortment of animals in the front yard and water faucets that are shared among neighbors. One memory that stands in mind is of a little baby about 9 mo. Old sitting in the dirt while the chickens and goats walk by.. Our white skin scared him ! We also met some local 14yr girls who enjoyed playing clapping games and who later stopped outside the school fence to say hi and show us the corn that they were carrying in bags on top of their heads. We were very appreciative of the fact that DINKA school is very strict about visitors not giving donations directly to the people… since it promotes a “give me” attitude… we were not hassled for donations and it was a positive interaction with the local people.

Projects

We also painted a preschool classroom with ABC's and numbers and did it all by headlamp as the electricity had gone out for about 24 hrs! It was so fun and two teachers joined us in painting. We could also hear the neighboring secondary school singing their African prayer songs, which sounded like southern spirituals with an african twist, amazing voices and power. We ate in the cafeteria with the children on a basic diet that about 75% of all Tanzanians eat—ugali, rice, cassava, noodles with a meat sauce and some kale in it… We also picked mangos from a tree, which were delicious. It gives you an appreciation for vegetables and fruits! But is humbling to know that this is what most people are grateful to eat on a daily basis. While we were at the school we stayed in the dormitory with the orphans and boarders. Conditions are simple with squat toilets and cold showers and mosquito nets over the bed. (I think I will hear the buzz of mosquitos in my dreams!)

The Challenges of Running DINKA

The frustrations of running a quality school are immense...managing and retaining good teachers is an issue, discipline issues, lack of electricity some days (not really a huge thing during the day as you don't need lights and there is no AC, or internet..., sometimes no water (pump went out when we were there), , issues with neighboring school who did not want to pay their half of the electricity bill (seeing DINKA as RICH), and getting good supplies like tables and chairs, etc. The walls crumble easily, so nothing sticks, or if it does, it takes off the paint. Roofs fall in, maintenance needs to be done, materials are either non-existent or expensive, and of bad quality. The school is also about an hour ride on a very bumpy road and the teachers take the same crowded school bus that the kids are on… its packed to the gills- so they could use another bus. Another issue is fundraising for sponsorships to support all the children who go to school for “free” or are orphans. It costs about 900 Euros to sponsor a child per year and it is important for DINKA to have a few years commitment.

Fundraising and donations

We raised over 4100 Euros to donate to the school, plus about € 500,- in donated new materials to the School. Funds were raised by a piano recital (performed by Nathan Schauman, Athletic Day (organized by Ankie and Patrice), A Drama Workshop for 3 and 4th graders (Karen,Tera, Brooks) and Assorted Donations by Generous ASH Parents and Friends. DINKA is anxious to use the donations to continue with the immediate needs of building desks for the teachers, to purchase a 3rd school bus, and to build an additional water storage area. Future plans include building an administrative office and additional dormitory space. Obviously, our donations will not provide all of this, but I am confident that the donations will be used to improve the school facilities for the children and teachers.

SAFARI portion with Maasai Wonderings and our guide was excellent and would highly recommend this company! 

We left with tired and full hearts (but tears as the kids sang the goodbye song!) And hopped in the Safari Range Rover to start another adventure by visiting 3 different parks.
Oh yeah! Safari was fantastic!!! Lions, rhinos, zebras, hyenas, babies everywhere, leopard in a tree with fresh wildebeest kill, monkeys, and 3 cheetahs!!!!! Wow!!!! Not to mention volcanoes and calderas.

Lake Manyara National Park: This was our first glimpse at wild animals and we were not disappointed. We started off seeing baboons by the side of the road and our first animal was a giraffe in the trees… wow… then some zebras, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants up close and personal… a leopard turtle. Also the blue balled monkey (vibert monkey) Later we drove to the edge of the crater to the with a great view of the sunset And as a bonus the hotel had HOT showers and no mosquito nets and a soft soft soft bed.. ah… sleep so good that night!
Ngorongo Crater - This a very large crater-about 10 miles by 12 miles wide - kind of like a fishbowl for animals… they pretty much stay there all year. So everywhere you look there are animals….We drove down the crater and saw the beautiful acacia trees…. Saw tons of zebras, wildebeest, buffalo, our first hyena and jackal… then we saw our first lions… about 5 of them magnificently walking by the edge of the woods.. We also saw hippos from a distance several times. We watched as our rover was surrounded by animals on all sides and saw 3 rhinos in the distance and a group of hippos with baby far away., elephants and ostriches grazing. We saw thompsons gazelles.. We watched 2 different kill sites while the lions were eating their prey, the hyenas off I the distance.. Saw tons of flamengos in the lake, while we were watching the zebras try to stay away from sleeping lions… oh- and the highlight was to when a older Lion walked next to the Rover and sat down against the wheel to take a rest from the sun ! cool! I could have petted him if I would have leaned out the window… talk about up close and personal with the animals!

Masai Village

We climbed back out of the crater and saw more giraffes and lots of masai villages and herders with their red outfits. We stopped and paid 4 young boys who were in their rites of puberty month- called esipolio (they spend a month in black cloth away from their families). 

We also stopped at a Masai Village (we paid $20 to get a tour) - where they danced for us, showed us the school, talked to us in individual huts and answered our questions and then tried to sell us their beaded projects (bargaining is a must.. they are overpriced.) We gained an understanding of masaii life and learned lots of interesting facts about this tribe that relies on animal protein, blood and milk for food. The money raised goes to buy them water. The men can have multiple wives, and in the hut which is built by women, the women and children sleep together, while the man has his own bed. Secondary school students walk 6-7 miles to school and back The experience was very national geographic, but it felt a little invasive on our part.. but they benefit and we learn.

Serengeti - 

We pasted the Oldevui Gorge (but no time to stop) and We entered the plains of the Serengeti to be greeted by the “great migration”- lines of zebras and wildebeests walking and grazing (this is an annual walk to Kenya that over 2 M. wildebeest and 700L zebras do, passing through the serengeti) We saw a baby wildebeest separated from its mom that would most likely be Lion or hyena food before long.. The highlight of the day was to see a tree that had 8 lions sleeping in it. That night we arrived in the dark (through the tste flys) to the Nona Mora Camp in the Serenghetti where we “glamped” two nights- the tents had bathrooms and real beds.. and you had to be escorted at night to ensure no animals ate you.

The next day and half we drove around the middle part of the Serengeti (which is vast) and a few highlights included: 

  • Visited kopjes- rock formations 
  • Views of the great migrations- tons of zebras and wildebeest
  • Watching the elephants cross the road – elephants eat 16 hrs per day and live 70 yrs…22 mo. Gestation. Saw a group of 25 by the river with babies!
  • Mongooses at lunchtime - drinking gingerbeer – Stoney
  • Circle of Life - vultures finishing off a kill made by the hyenas - 25 birds! Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be DINNER.
  • Babies, babies - Pack of Baboons with new baby, baby zebras…and wildebeest
  • Bunch of Hippos in the water - looks like you could walk across them
  • Leopard in a tree with its kill with it from a far distance
  • Cheetah mom and her two cubs close up! The final BIG 5 - we saw them all!
  • Lions, cheetahs, leopard, wildebeest and zebras..

We boarded a plane and flew back to Kilimanjaro airport, with great views of some elephants, herds of zebras and wildebeest, a view of the Ngorogo Crater and Mount Meru and tiny dots of masaii villages.

Practical Considerations

Bring Mosuito spray, bring US dollars in small denominations. But change some money to shillings for smaller purchases. It is easier to bargain if you have smaller bills. Dress conservately. There are souvenir stalls at the airport for last minute purchases!