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Entries in Tanzania (11)

Monday
Jun102013

Tanzania Mission, Day 2: Things I learned today

Spider-man is alive and well on the road to Iringa.

Leaving the towns behind, today we head for the bush and Pommern.

1) When driving ten hours in a van with eleven people, no AC, and 500 lbs of medical supplies strapped to the roof, Bob Marley on cassette makes it a pleasure cruise.

2) While taking photos you should avoid men in uniform: police, military, traffic cops, etc. We crossed a hill and I was so enchanted by the view that I completely missed the police station on my left. (Special thanks to Mohammed for gently, but firmly, lowering my camera from view).

3) I could walk around naked, playing the bagpipes and not stand out any more than I already do. We drove for hours without seeing another European-looking face and then glimpsed two white women as we entered Iringa-town and my first thought was, “Holy cow, do we stand out THAT much?” Why yes. Yes we do. Even more so because once we left Dar es Salaam, we’ve been traveling through villages and towns where tourists don’t tend to go (unless they’re really lost). I did see two Chinese men, oddly enough, but they looked like transplanted workers of some kind.

4) Speaking of work, we passed a school for Tanzanian children donated and run by the Cuban government. There are several that were built in the 70s and still operate today as strange specters of geo-politics past.

5) Don’t steal. Yikes. We passed a hillside with 100+ people who had tied up a local thief and were waiting for the police to arrive.

6) But, I can understand why: poverty. We saw so much today that it’s hard to quantify, especially when mixed with foreign marketing. Think tiny thatch-roofed mud huts with newly minted Coke signs. Crass commercialism boggles the mind.

7) People without Starbucks still smile a lot.

(P.S. I'll have limited net access from here on out, but I'll catch up soon).

Friday
Jun072013

Does anyone know how to say, "Turn off your freakin' iPhone!" in Swahili?

9,400 miles later, we made it. To Dar es Salaam at least. The plane rides (all four) were actually quite manageable. The TSA staff even complimented us on how well-behaved our teenagers were when we went through security at which point Leesha and me looked at each other and exclaimed, "YES, the Benadryl worked!"

18 bags, including 10 packed with donated medical supplies.

 The SeaTac tribe, gathered round the "fire".

The plane to Amsterdam was like a tunnel of bad moviesWell, it's night, we're weary, and I can't find my UK power-plug adaptor so time to turn in. Now if I can just figure out this whole mosquito netting thing around my bed.

Sunday
Jun022013

Next stop: Africa

I'm the luckiest guy in the world. Seriously. I have a wonderful wife, healthy children, I live in a state free from war, famine, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, and my problems are so few I feel as though I exist in a perpetual state of karmic receivership.

With that in mind I'm taking my family on a journey that I am affectionately calling Operation: Sleep Better at Night. It's a mission trip to Africa. Tanzania, to be precise. Or the village of Pommern to be even more precise. Don't bother looking for it on GoogleMaps, unless you have the coordinates you won't find it. (Here's a map if you're curious as to where we'll be for the better part of June. Click to enlarge).

My goals as a parent are pretty simple:

  1. To prepare my children for the world.
  2. To prepare the world for my children.

With that in mind we signed up with Global Volunteers. Leesha, will be putting her medical skills to use helping to deliver babies and do well-baby and maternal care while the kids and me will be doing...whatever is asked of us. Swinging hammers. Laying bricks. Teaching in the schools. Basically anything and everything else. We're also hauling a ton of donated medical supplies.

There's a remote chance that I'll be enlisted to blog about the experience for our hosts via an Internet connection 35 miles from Pommern, but either way you'll get the full report when we get back.

And in case you're wondering how someone gets to Pommern from Great Falls, Montana, it goes like this: Great Falls to Seattle, Seattle to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro to Dar el Salaam, and then a 10 hour drive to Iringa, followed by a 90 minute drive to Pommern. Roughly 45 hours of travel.

The journey reminds me of that Toto song that goes, "I know that I must do what's right, sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti..."

I'll post more tomorrow as we prep for departure.

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