Friday, July 1, 2016

Save the Date!

This year’s screening will be on Thursday, September 29th.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Flight Home

In Abu Dhabi, more of the group broke up.  Nick Chiang was flying on to Istanbul for a connection to Greece.  (That was scary, given the bombing of the Instanbul airport the day before.)  Jumana Zahid was headed to her home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  She and Nick departed for the same terminal.  Ivan left to spend several days in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before heading back to San Francisco. So, all of a sudden, we were a group of five.

We found our gate and learned what we had to do in terms of U.S. Customs before going to the food court and having lunch (dinner?) at an O’Leary’s in the airport.  There had been an announcement on the plane that, during Ramadan, no food or drink could be eaten in the airport during daylight hours.  I think we were all amazed that an international airport could restrict food and beverage like that. But we were there after dark, so we were able to get food.  Later, we went through U.S. customs – minus our baggage – in the airport and then had another long wait before the flight took off at 2:30 AM.

Some sixteen hours later, the five of us landed in San Francisco. We retrieved our luggage, and sorted out the equipment for return to the BECA Cage. Then we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  Another trip over.  It’s always bittersweet; everyone’s so glad to be home, but it’s hard to say goodbye.

Dar Es Salaam

As soon as we landed in Dar Es Salaam, Ashley said a quick goodbye to me and headed off to the international part of the airport – a taxi ride away – with Jumana in tow, to make sure she got to her gate and arrived in time for the flight.  I stayed at the domestic terminal to wait for the others and to look for the transport from our Salvation Army hostel in Dar to pick us up. The others arrived, with tales of landing on a tropical Zanzibar for a few minutes before making the last leg of the flight.

Finally, we made contact with the taxis from the hostel, which had been waiting for us at the international airport for an hour before receiving the call that we were at the domestic airport. Then all eight of us – with two pieces of luggage apiece  - squeezed into two taxis.  We still needed to pick up Jumana at the international terminal, so one cab headed there while the other went on to the hostel.  Because phones weren’t connecting in the new city, it took a good half hour to connect with Jumana. But finally, we were on our way.

By this time, it was rush hour and we were in traffic that made Arusha look uncongested.
The Salvation Army “compound” was a fenced-in area near the national stadium. (Soccer, of course!) From the outside, the stadium looks gorgeous! Inside the fence, there are many (50?) little cottages that contain two single beds with mosquito netting draped around them, and an adjoining bathroom. We learned the charge was $25/night for one cottage plus breakfast.  Wow!  And there was a big fan in each room to dissipate the heat (84º F) and coastal humidity. As everyone was tired and ready to go home, we decided not to leave the compound, but instead, to have dinner there. It was good food in a pleasant, large dining room.

The next morning we traipsed back to the big dining room for breakfast. Salvation Army “soldiers” were there this time, dressed crisply in white shirts and black pants or skirts. Unfortunately, this was the biggest insight we gained into the work of the Salvation Army while we were there. But we were surely grateful for the clean, comfortable, and inexpensive housing for our last night.  At !0:00 AM, we again stuffed ourselves into taxis – this time, three vehicles – and rode to the airport, a quick ride in the lighter morning traffic.  The plane left Dar at 1:30 PM for Abu Dhabi.

Back to Arusha

The drive back to Arusha was relatively uneventful. By now, we are used to seeing men and boys herding cows, goats and sheep, and people carrying huge bundles – on their heads, on their bicycles or in their cars. We did see Maasai boys who had recently been circumcised.  After the initial days of recovery, the boys wear warrior paint and dress all in black.  It’s not clear to me what the purpose of the attire is, but several boys dressed in that way were standing along the road, and I was able to get a photo.  Mount Meru, as you approach Arusha from Karatu, is pretty impressive, as well, and is much more visible than Kilimanjaro.

We had hoped to stay again at the hostel where we had stayed enroute from Sinya to Karatu, but Mama Simba’s place was booked up, so we stayed at a nearby hostel owned by Mama Christina.  It was a castle-like structure, and the nine of us occupied two rooms – bunk beds again.

In the morning, we set off for the airport.  The traffic in Arusha is miserable – much like Silicon Valley, but with poorer roads – and it takes a long time to get anywhere.  Even so, we made it to the airport with time to spare.  That was good, because we had to sort out the confusion with our flight.  Once again, we were booked on a small propeller plane between Arusha and Dar Es Salaam. BUT, much to our surprise, we had been split up between two planes run by two different companies. One made a short stop in Zanzibar enroute to Dar, while the other flew directly to Dar.  Ashley needed to catch an international flight to Addis Abbaba, a stopover on her way to Lebanon to be with relatives, and had only a 2-hour window to do it, so she, Jumana and I flew on the non-stop flight and the others flew on the plane with the brief stop in Zanzibar.

Tumaini Secondary School

Our final destination on Monday was the new Tumaini Secondary School just outside the town of Makayuni. Wow! The school opened in January of 2016 to fulfill a dream of Bayo’s – to start a secondary school to complement the primary school. And the only word for it now is WOW!  It is amazing!

Bayo had been thinking about starting a secondary school for quite a while, but neither the land – in Karatu – nor the funds were available.  In a rare coincidence, Bayo offered a ride to a man dressed for business, who was standing along the road, as Bayo was driving to Arusha for a meeting. The man turned out to be a member of the city council (or similar government body) from the town of Makayuni.  The man mentioned that the town was allocating land near town to people with proposals for projects that would benefit the town.  Bayo mentioned that he wanted to start a secondary school, and the man encouraged him to write a letter to the city council, proposing that he build the school on land near the town.  Soon afterwards, he was told that the town was giving the land to him for the school.  Within this same time period, Bayo received a call from TEC founders Carol Hall and Frank Lee, who told him that an alumus and parent of a Gould School student (Gould brings students to Tumaini each year.) wanted to donate funds to help with the construction of a school. So . . . building began, and a year later (!), the school opened!

There is now an administration building with a number of offices and a large conference room. There is a classroom building with four sizeable classrooms, as well as a science and technology building that houses the biology, chemistry and physics labs, and the computer room.  Temporarily, the school library is housed in the computer lab until a separate library building can be built. There are separate girls’ and boys’ dorms, and there is housing for teachers.  A garden, with drip irrigation, stretches between the two dorms. Between the administration building and the classroom building is an assembly area and space for netball. Along the side of the classroom building is the volleyball court, and there is a large space where a soccer field and a basketball court will be built. The World Leadership group that was at Tumaini the previous week started building the walkways between the buildings; it was physical labor that was accomplished in groups of three – one local workman, one Tumaini Secondary student, and one U.S. student from New Jersey.

When we arrived, we schlepped our stuff to the girls’ dorm. We all (SFSU students plus Adrienne) stayed in one large room equipped with bunk beds, with a bathroom next door.
Then the cooks – who work in a small kitchen building near the girls’ dorm – presented us with juice and bruschetta as we sat under new trees, caught our breath, and enjoyed the early evening. Later, we had dinner – a wonderful meal, served in the other side of the girls’ dorm, which had been temporarily converted into a dining hall. Then we gathered around a campfire built in the assembly area, and talked about our impressions of Tanzania, of Tumaini, both junior and senior, and the trip. When bedtime came, most of us had no trouble sleeping, even though Bayo warned us that giraffes, elephants and other wild animals in this dry, arid environment occasionally come up to the edge of the property. (One night during the school year, elephants broke down the fence and came onto the school campus!)

The next morning, after a great breakfast, we toured the buildings and began our shoot. (Note: our Tumaini video, as mentioned in an earlier post, will focus on sponsorship.  The idea is to encourage sponsoring children at either school, so we needed some footage on the secondary school, in addition to what we shot at the junior school.) Since exams for the secondary students are over and no students were around, Bayo and the staff of the junior school decided to bus the 7th form (oldest) students from Karatu to the secondary school for the day, both so they could pose as students at the secondary school for our video and so they could see the school and think about enrolling there in the year ahead. Their presence added a lot to the shoot. We simulated a class in the computer room for the purposes of the video. Then some of the students continued looking at the computers while biology models – a skeleton, an eye and a human body with all the “innards” – absorbed the attention of others.  I have never seen such an enthusiastic and “hungry” group of students as those left in the room after the shoot.

Later, some of the girls changed into uniforms to play netball, again for the purposes of the shoot.  Netball, in case you are wondering, is an Australian (?) game that used nets slightly smaller than those in basketball and smaller balls.  There are specific rules about what a player can touch, and how she or he pivots – and about many other aspects of the game, I’m sure. Anyway, two groups of girls had a short game, and then posed for team pictures.  At the same time, a group of boys were playing volleyball in their Tumaini uniforms.

After the shooting was over, we had lunch – again, a wonderful meal – and the children had soft drinks as a treat. When the meal was over, Bayo called each of our names and gave the women pieces of khanga cloth (Tanzanian fabric that has a slogan or motto written on it) and the men a shuka (the blanket the Maasai men wear much of the time). It was a lovely gesture. Then, of course, we had to say goodbye.  The children and Adrienne needed to get back to Karatu before the close of school so the buses could be used to transport students to their homes. And we needed to get on to Arusha, where we would spend the night.  It was hard to say goodbye, especially to Bayo, who is such a force of nature in the world of Tanzanian education, and to Adrienne, who has been so helpful to us while we were here. And of course, the kids are terrific!

Mto Wa Mbu

On Monday morning, we left Karatu.  That meant saying goodbye to our housemate, Allison, and sports volunteer, Chris, and to Janet Bayo and Agnes and her husband, who had cooked for us. I think we all really enjoyed being in Karatu, largely because of Tumaini, but also because there is a community of volunteers that welcomed us in even for a short time. We also enjoyed staying at the volunteer house, a great environment for us.

In two cars, with all of our luggage, we traveled to Mto wa Mbu, a small town between Karatu and Arusha, where we had agreed to shoot some footage at an orphanage called Children Concern Foundation. Gloria Upchurch, through A Global Connection, had donated playground equipment for the orphanage, and she had requested we go there.  Two other Bay Area women have been involved with the orphanage as well.

We toured the orphanage, which had moved to this site about five years ago.  Children are referred to the orphanage by a government agency.  They range in age from 6 to 18.  Children at this orphanage go to government schools, although they are hoping to start a school on the site.  Some of the children are also getting vocational training.  There are separate buildings for the boys’ and girls’ dorms, and there is a dining hall and kitchen. In addition, there is an administration building in which there is a large classroom where the youngest children (those not yet ready for primary school) have class. In the middle of the campus is a playground, with swings, teeter totters, a slide, and a jungle gym.

This was our only experience with an orphanage and with children referred to an organization through the Tanzanian government. It’s clear that the organization is well run and the children are well cared for. It’s also evident that the support of the U.S. donors helps a great deal.

We had planned to find a place for lunch in Mto wa Mbu, but before we had a chance to do that, Bayo arranged for us to take a tour of the town and have lunch at the end of the tour. The town is attempting to increase its potential as a tourist attraction and, indeed, it's a fascinating place. We looked up as we got out of the car, only to see what must have been hundreds of storks in the tops of the trees. We learned later that they are in the process of migration. That, in itself, was amazing! But the town is known for its banana production – and especially for red bananas.  We learned that bananas are used for eating, for cooking and for making banana beer. Red bananas, like the yellow ones we know, are used for eating. It is the green bananas that are used for cooking.

Our tour was through a banana-growing “forest” where we learned about banana cultivation, the flowers at the ends of the stalks of bananas, and the fertilization of the land – with elephant dung - to prepare for growing bananas.  The town depends on bananas because they are not seasonal; they grow all year. That means continuous revenue for the town.  In addition, we learned that one banana plant will only grown one bunch of bananas.  After that, it is cut down to make way for a new plant.  Our walk through the forest including the precarious crossing of a plank over a river, and took us to a workshop where several people were making articles out of wood.  There was some ebony and another kind of wood. The products – statues, masks, salad tongs, etc. – were beautiful, but we had seen most of the items in other stores, and no one wanted to buy anything.  Then we arrived at the place where we had lunch.  A variety of foods were being cooked outside over a fire. After a short wait, the cooks served our lunch – an array of food including two kinds of rice, ugale, a meat stew, vegetables, salads, and much more. It was an amazing spread – and delicious!

After the meal, we went to the Maasai market in Mto wa Mbu, where a number of us made purchases of items to take home. The market is a tourist paradise, with masks, wooden statues, beaded jewelry, shukas, and other items for sale.  It is also a place to bargain – and we did just that.  Our suitcases became much heavier before we left the market.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ngorongoro Crater

A short distance from Karatu is a national park called, “Ngorongoro Crater.”  It is a HUGE crater in which many animals live. It is also a Maasai area; the Maasai live and herd their animals in the park. We saved our trip to the Ngorongoro Crater for our last day in Karatu, a Sunday when school was not in session. We started from the volunteer house at 7:30 in the morning.  It was foggy and threatened rain; in fact, when we got to the edge of the crater, we could hardly see in front of our faces. (We may as well have been in San Francisco, given the fog!)  Soon after we went through the entrance to the park, baboons appeared out of nowhere, all along the side of the road. On the edge of the crater, as the fog began to break, we saw a large boma. In this case, “boma” refers to a large, fenced-in enclosure to keep the Maasai cattle and the people in the houses protected from predators.

We started down into the crater and it became sunny.  By the time we reached the floor of the crater, it was warm enough to pop the top of the Land Rover so that we could stand up.  And we immediately began to see animals! Wildebeests and warthogs were among the first animals we saw. There were African buffalo and impalas. We saw herds of zebras in several places. They are so beautiful! And we had the good fortune not only to see ostriches, but to get up close to them two or three times.  Near a river, we saw two hippopotamuses curled up together. THAT’s quite a sight! And we were fortunate to see a rhinoceros – and at a relatively close distance. Rhinos are quite a rare sight; in 2013, we saw one at the end of the day and from a huge distance, such that it looked like a speck against the landscape.

It’s easy to tell where someone has spotted a “must see” animal because the land rovers gather into a traffic jam in the middle of the savanna. That happened in front of the rhinoceros. It happened again later, and that’s how we found the lions. At first, we saw three adult lions lying in the sun, rather close to the road.  They weren’t very active; they were much more interested in taking a nap in the sun than in doing much else.  After awhile, we drove on and saw more ostriches and zebras, as well as a couple of hyenas. Then we circled back and saw that a buffalo was alone in the middle of a pride of five lions. What this meant to the guides was that the lions were going to attack. So . . . we sat, watched and waited, hoping to see the food chain in action.  It appeared, however, that despite the fact that this buffalo was fairly slow, and was really cornered, it was not his day to die.  Our guide speculated that the lions had already eaten this morning, and as a result were not interested in more food.

Eventually, we gave up and went on to the place where we had lunch – a small lake or large pool where there were many hippopotamuses that would surface periodically to take in some air.  This is the place where most, if not all, of the guides park their land rovers for lunch. I was looking out of the car and saw a friend from San Francisco – a woman who works with the orphanage that we will visit tomorrow in Mto wa Mbu. Amazing!  I had no idea she was in the country; our arrangements to visit the orphanage were through Gloria Upchurch.  The friend, Betsy Collard, was in the park with a group of people from the Bay Area who help raise money for the orphanage.

From the lunch spot, we started back toward the road that leads out of the crater. On the way, we saw Thompson’s gazelles, flamingos, a couple of beautiful birds, one with a crown that is spectacular, and more of the animals we had already seen. We also saw a jackal heading through some bushes, clearly protected from view. Unfortunately, there were no elephants today, although they are usually in the crater.  Giraffes do not go into the crater because there is no food for them there.  Sometimes, people see giraffes at the top of the crater on the way in, but the fog made that impossible today.

When we got back to the lookout where we had started our day, there was no more fog, and the view across the crater was spectacular!  It is hard to explain how large this crater is; you have to see it.  We were standing at the lookout, taking pictures and absorbing the view, when out of nowhere came a swarm of bees! All of us ran for the road and escaped being bitten! What a rush of adrenalin – and an addition to the list of wild animals we had seen! When we were all safely back in the car, we drove on to the park entrance, where we were met by another slew of baboons. They were sitting on both sides of the road and in the middle of the road.  Amazing!  As we got out of the car to go into the gift shop, our guide told us to shut the doors and windows of the car to keep the baboons from taking anything.  But we were too slow.  A baboon came up and grabbed an uneaten sandwich and pack of cookies out of the land rover.  He dropped the cookies but climbed up a tree with the sandwich, wrapped in plastic, and proceeded to eat it. Unbelievable!  The baboons are strong and quick – and they are hilarious to watch!

It was a great day – really satisfying!