On Monday, we traveled from Sinya to Arusha, the first stop on our trip to Karatu and Lake Eyasi. Leaving the gravel and dirt roads for pavement was the first sign we had left Sinya behind, although the fields of sunflowers and vegetables – corn, potatoes, and beans, in particular – followed us all the way to Arusha.
Now out of money again, we stopped at the same ATM we had traveled to before, but the Internet was down, so we had to wait. After lunch, we stopped at Shanga, a project where people with disabilities make artisanry to sell to tourists. We watched two men make earrings out of beads and metal. We saw a woman adjusting the threads on her loom. A hearing-impaired man made glass beads out of recycled glass; he was working with a very hot fire and long wires with which he put glass into the fire and turned it. Ivan volunteered to try the glass work, and he was able to make one bead! We also watched women make the distinctive necklaces that combine beautiful, African cloth and beads. It was these necklaces that put Shanga on the map and led to the growth of the organization.
When we were in Tanzania in 2013, Shanga was located in a huge facility right in the city of Arusha. There were a lot more crafts being done, and we were able to watch that process. Since then, a decision was made to move the sale of crafts to a safari lodge just outside the city to make it more convenient to the tourists who come through. That meant that only a few artisans work at the new location to demonstrate what is being done. The rest are at the original location, and they are the ones who add to the inventory of products to be sold. There is a gift shop at the lodge where we stopped, and we were able to begin to pick up gifts to take home with us.
We went on to a hostel called, Experience Tanzania, run by a woman called Mama Simba. It was a very comfortable hostel, with Internet and hot showers. After the ice cold showers in Sinya, this was pure luxury. Within minutes after arrival, we were all glued to our phones as if we had never left home. Mama Simba teaches both Kiswahili (the Swahili language) and English, and her daughter will go to Iowa in August to teach Kiswahili at Iowa State University. It turns out that Mama Simba was Modest Bayo’s 4th grade teacher. That was the connection that led us to this hostel. Mama Simba hosts people from all over the world who are coming to Tanzania for volunteer or educational experiences.