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Posts Tagged ‘Overseas Adventure Travel’

Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

I am dedicating this Poetry Friday post to my mother-in-law, Anne Simon, who took me on an amazing adventure to Tanzania, Africa to celebrate her 85th birthday.

I have been blogging about this trip since I’ve returned.  You can read previous posts: Safe Water for Eastern Africa, Tarangire National Park, Maasai village, and Lions on the Serengeti.

The only way to thank Anne “Minga” for this fabulous opportunity was to thoroughly enjoy it.  I immersed myself in Presence, my one little word, taking in the experience with my whole mind, body, and spirit.

On the day of Minga’s birthday, we set out at sunrise to tour areas on the Serengeti with rocky outcrops called kopjes.  Kopjes are places where lions linger and hide their young.  We stopped to have breakfast on one of these kopjes.  Before any of us got out of the vehicles, though, our guides scouted and clapped away any animal life.

Kopjes (pronounced ko-pee-us) dotted the Serengeti landscape.

Kopjes (pronounced ko-pee-us) dotted the Serengeti landscape.

 

Singing "Happy Birthday" to Anne on the kopjes breakfast.

Singing “Happy Birthday” to Anne on the kopjes breakfast.

I created a video to capture the birthday celebration complete with a cake and the camp workers singing a favorite celebration song, Hakuna Matata (not the Disney version).

 

Since today is Poetry Friday, I found an appropriate poem to share.  “The Journey” by Mary Oliver describes the individual that my mother-in-law is, strong and independent.  I am very grateful that she is willing to share her journey with me.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

–Mary Oliver

This poem, along with many other poems from women, can be found in The Woman in this Poem, selected and introduced by Georgia Heard.

 

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Serengeti tent camp

Serengeti tent camp

The drive to the Serengeti was a long, hard, bumpy, rocky road.  Our vehicle was struck by a flying rock that shattered the lower left windshield.  No one was hurt, but we all jumped out of our skin for a moment.

The tent camp on the Serengeti was not as luxurious as the lodges we had been staying in.  Alex, our guide, handed out the “digital keys,” a cardboard strip with our names and tent number on it.  He warned us to keep the tent zipped at all times.  He said to scan the tent for snakes and to blow the whistle for emergencies.

I admit I was too scared to sleep much the first night.  When we came into the tent something flew out and hit me in the head.  I tried to turn on the lights and ended up de-wiring the place.  So we were left with no electricity.  I decided this was a whistle blowing opportunity, but hence our whistle would not blow.  (A protection against irrational females like me, I’m sure.)

The next day I realized that the thing that hit me in the head was a switch for the lights.  When I pulled on it, the wires disconnected.

Our showers were adventurous as well.  Behind the tent was a bucket and pulley system.  When you were ready for a shower, you would let the boy in back know and he would load the bucket with warm water and hoist it up.  To turn on the water, you would pull a string hanging from the shower head.  Each day we were given a specific time to shower and about 5 gallons of water.  I actually came to appreciate these showers immensely.

Sunrise on the Serengeti

Sunrise on the Serengeti

Each morning we were awakened at 5:30 AM and headed out about 6:30 to find wildlife activity.  We encountered lions almost daily.  Each time was a miracle.  I’ve compiled a video of these views as well as our guides evening talk about lion behaviors. Simba is the Kiswahili word for lion.

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

Me with my new Maasai friend, Namitu.

Me with my new Maasai friend, Namitu.

 

Visiting the Maasai village was a moving and heartwarming experience.  The Maasai tribe has managed to hold on to their traditions and culture in the midst of modernization in Tanzania.  Some of the practices are controversial and should not be continued.  Some, however, are kept as deep-seeded practices that define them as a people.

In the village, each woman in our group was matched with a tribal woman.  They dressed us in traditional drapes and jewels.  They taught us how to bead and weave baskets, to carry thatches on our heads, and to do some of the tasks of women.

My friend’s name was Namitu.  She could speak limited English and asked my name.  When I told her, she pointed to her 2-year old daughter and said, “My baby, Margaret.”  This type of thing happened once before to Karen, a woman on our tour.  I think this may be a way they honor us.

Learning to bead a bracelet

Learning to bead a bracelet

We walked to the cow pasture where men blooded a calf.  Apparently, this does not harm the calf.  They shoot a spear to the jugular vein.  When the blood gushes, they catch it in a long gourd-like container that holds goat’s milk.  I did not bravely partake, but a young traveler said it tasted like salty, creamy soup.

Blooding the calf

Blooding the calf

Another tradition that we participated in was a dance.  This may have been a mating dance of sorts because Namitu asked me to pick a husband.  Her little son held my hand and led me to a line of chanting men.  One of these men turned and touched me shoulder to shoulder.  If I had accepted this marriage proposal, I would have had to pay in cows.  Wealth is measured in cows.

After all the festivities, we went into the chief’s hut to have a discussion of controversial issues.  They allowed open discussion.  Karen asked the Maasai woman (29 yrs old and mother of 3 daughters) if she was circumcised.  She is, but now they are educated about this, so she will not pass this mutilation on to her daughters.  Karen was so touched she rose and hugged and kissed the young woman.  I was moved to tears.  This practice should be stopped.  Our guide assured us that as more and more of the Maasai are sent to school and educated, they learn of the practices that should be abandoned.

In the end, we were given the opportunity to shop for beaded items.  I bought the circular ring Namitu made.  She said it took her a month to bead it.
Even though this visit was organized to show us an enjoyable time, I felt the spirit of the Maasai and came to respect their culture.  I hope they are able to keep the spirit of their traditions as they come to know and understand the world.

Laughter is universal!

Laughter is universal!

 

This is my third Tanzania journal entry.  To read about clay water filters, journal entry #1, click here.  To read and enjoy a video of Tarangire animals, click here.

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I am writing a series of posts about my recent trip to Tanzania, Africa.  You can find the first post here about ceramic water filters.

The second day of our tour led us to our first safari experience on the Tarangire.  Tarangire means “river of the warthogs.”  Geographically, it is classified as a wooded grassland savannah.

I was fascinated by the movement of the animals.  They do not seem to care at all that their territory is being invaded by these monster safari vehicles.  They just carry on with the business of eating and drinking.

The birds are beautiful here.  Even the pesky birds that peck the ground at the picnic area are amazing.  They are called the superb starling.  And they are truly superb.

Splendid starling

Superb starling

In the Tarangire, we witnessed a part of the great migration with zebras and wildebeests rushing to a watering hole.  I captured this movement on video.

 

zebra with wildebeest

zebra with wildebeest

The guides communicate by radio.  We would hear quick Swahili words then drive to something amazing.  One of these sights was a python that had obviously eaten something really large.  It lay still under a bush.  We were told it would not be able to move for a month.  Thank God.  After that sight, I stopped drinking water.  I was not going to have to go in a bush (water the flowers) for anything.

For these next few days we stayed on Lake Burunge.  The dining area overlooked the lake where thousands of pink flamingoes waded.  We had a nature hike to view these birds closer up.  We were accompanied by a Maasai warrior with his spear in case we encountered any dangerous animals.

Lake Burunge sunset

Lake Burunge sunset

 

flamingoes

flamingoes

 

Maasai guard

Maasai guard

Our guide assured us that Maasai are trained at a very young age to defend their animals.  We could hear hyenas in the distance and were told the following morning that our guards were awake all night chasing them from our camp.  These tents were permanent solar-powered structures up on wooden platforms.  I was not afraid.  I trusted the guards would keep us safe.

Click on the video to view the zebras and wildebeests flocking to the watering hole, a family of elephants crossing our path, and a harem of ostriches.  I thought about toying with the sound but decided to leave it in for you to have an authentic experience.  Enjoy!

 

 

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I have returned from the trip of a lifetime.  For my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday, she treated me and my sister-in-law to an Overseas Adventure Travel tour of Tanzania, Africa.  O.A.T. is a tour company that prides itself on providing a total cultural experience.  You don’t just view a country, you experience it.

Our trip to Tanzania began on June 25th, but we did not arrive into Kilimanjaro airport until the night of June 26th after two lengthy flights, Houston to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Tanzania.  There is no way around it.  Africa is far away!

This experience was so full that I will be writing multiple blog posts to share as much as I can with you.

We spent the first few days in Arusha.  Arusha is a bustling city.  Our first stop was a clay water filter project.

Front of Safe Water Ceramics in Arusha, Tanzania.

Front of Safe Water Ceramics in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa produces clay water filters to provide clean water to families and schools around Tanzania and Kenya.  The number one health problem in Africa comes from limited access to clean water.  We were fascinated by the process of creating these filters.

Surrounded by drying water filters, Mesiaki demonstrates his foot powered pottery wheel.

Surrounded by drying water filters, Mesiaki demonstrates his foot powered pottery wheel.

In 2005, Tracy Hawkins met Mesiaki Kimerei, a master potter in Arusha, Tanzania.  After learning of the dire need for filtered water and the process for making these clay water filters, she teamed up with Mesiaki to produce these ceramic filters.  In 2015, Safe Water Ceramics won the Energy Globe Award.

Proud of his Globe Award, Mesiaki is passing the skills to his daughter.

Proud of his Globe Award, Mesiaki is passing the skills to his daughter.

Eleven people in our group lined up to donate.  One water filter for a family or school costs $40.  You can learn more about the project and donate here.   Already, on the first day, I knew that this experience would have a profound effect on me.  Something that we take for granted, clean water, is a privilege in the country of Tanzania.

At the end of our first day, we were treated to a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro peeking out and saying “Jambo!”

Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance.

Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance.

 

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