Author Archives: kathleen pulfer

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For my friends, family and anyone interested in following my work experience in Africa!

Changuu Island

We woke up a bit early today so that we could make our way to a bank, explore the city a little bit and have breakfast. Breakfast is held at the rooftop café so we started our day there with coffee, eggs and cake. It’s a really nice and relaxed atmosphere up there since it’s an open concept room with waited service. Afterwards, we ventured out to try and find a bank that would accept our cards and got some half fast directions from the front desk.

Going to the bank was an adventure in itself since there are no road or street signs. We turned down a street and just kind of hoped for the best; we tried asking locals what street we were on but the language barrier is still present. We past a food market that seems to go on forever, dodged cars and pedestrians and then made a right turn down a street which seemed like a real street (everything that we had passed at that point was just little alley ways). Half way down the street, not knowing where we were we finally tried to ask for directions again. This time the guy we flagged down actually spoke English and told us that there was a bank about two blocks further. We thanked him, moved on and found it in about a minute of talking with him.

Once we were all ready to go we decided to continue down this street since it seemed to us that it would lead us back to the main stretch (where the ferry harbour is). We got to the end of the road and discovered that we were at a T in the road and that these were just back alleys not actual streets. Being the adventure types that we are, we decided to go to the right and continue on. The alley reminded me tremendously of Venice since it has a European pedestrian/ Vespa side street feel to it. While we were venturing, we came across a lot of little corner stores, souvenir shops, schools, apartments and other lovely looking buildings. I was really glad that we decided to make a full circuit instead of turning back and taking the long way to the hotel. We made it back onto the main road and made our way back to the hotel, just in time for our excursion.

We were given snorkeling equipment, fruit, and towels; then they sent us down to the beach where we got picked up in a canapé boat. It took about 20 minutes to make our way across the water to Changuu (Prison) Island which wasn’t too bad of a trek. When we got up the island a little ways we were directed to the Tortoise Sanctuary. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the second our tour guide told us we could go right up to them and touch them I was in heaven! I didn’t think we would be allowed to touch them but I basically just petted a bunch of them and held the babies for an hour. This is my all-time favorite animal interaction experience, and I think the only thing that could top this would be to work there or at another animal sanctuary.

It was sad to leave them, but it was time to go for a tour of the Island “prison”. This island was supposed to be a prison but during its construction the plague broke out and it became a quarantine area. People who had the plague were brought here to help stop the spread of the plague. This venue is now a restaurant and a hotel was built right beside it. Its a very beautiful location but there’s just something about knowing about all of the disease and illness that was brought here and buried. The only real good thing about this island with that history is that by making it a tourist destination, it will always be commemorated.

After the tour, it was time to go snorkeling so we took off towards the boat. I’ve never been snorkeling but I have always been around water so I wasn’t worried about anything. That is, until I put on my gear, jumped in, stuck my head in the water and had some kind of vertigo issue. I wasn’t so much scared of the vertigo itself as I was shocked at myself for having this little episode. Then to top it off I couldn’t get my breathing under control so that freaked me out more! After about 5 minutes of slowly pushing myself to take deep breaths and to stop freaking out I got the hang of it. It was such a cool experience and I’m so glad that I did it because some of the fish, animals and coral that I got to see were amazing. My only regret is that I didn’t bring an underwater camera… but at the same time that gives me an excuse to do it again!

We were in the water for about an hour before we decided to have a beach break and suntan. We got to relax and catch some sleep for about an hour in the sun before we had to start heading back. I was excited to get back to Stone Town so that we could have a real big lunch, I definitely worked up a big appetite after all of our activities.

When we got back to town we headed to a nearby restaurant and had some vegetarian birindi. And after we all ate we all decided to head back to the hotel for the most amazing nap ever. It was really hard to get up but knowing that I could just grab a coffee gave me enough motivation to get out of bed. I got myself a cappuccino to wake up and then we all headed over to the Mercury for happy hour for a few drinks. Afterwards we decided to head over to the Farodony Gardens where the fish market was to see what that was all about. We had already been warned by numerous individuals to not eat there since many of the vendors sell their left over fish from days before; which is not a good thing since it could make you very sick (obviously). So with that in mind, we kept our distance but got to see everything that they were selling; and honestly it was hard not to at least try one skewer of shrimp or calamari! After the market we were starving again and decided to try out a new restaurant at the Grand Palace Hotel, which was located on their rooftop. What we didn’t foresee was that they were a Muslim owned hotel and therefore didn’t sell alcohol. It was a bit of a bummer since it was our last dinner but we dealt with it and ordered our food.

The Grand Palace Hotel was literally a block or two away from our hotel so it was a nice little stroll back to Zenji. I do wish that we had a full week here to really explore the whole island, especially considering that I kept hearing about how amazing the North was; but I guess that will have to wait for when I can travel to Zanzibar again. Sad to think that tomorrow is our last day in Africa!

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We woke up at 5am, showered got ready and checked out of the hotel for the last time! We managed to get them to store our bigger luggage for the weekend to save us from having to lug it around all weekend. We grabbed a very quick breakfast and headed toward the harbour where the Kilimanjaro II was waiting for us. We were given some advice to make our way to the ferry a good half hour early to ensure we got on and got decent seats. It probably took us about 5 minutes to make our way down to the ferry and about 15 minutes to get through all of the checkpoints.

We boarded the boat and decided to find a seat up front on the deck for the view and to keep everyone feeling as good as possible. I spotted a spot right up front right away, but it was one of those things where I was wondering what was wrong with it since no one was sitting there; turned out it was soaking wet.  Luckily, I like to pack anything that I think might be useful like a towel and we ended up with the best seats in the house!

The scenery right from the harbour, to the fish market, to the little islands along the way were beautiful and definite postcard material. We were all pretty tired, so we were all pretty quiet and I think the girls might have slept a bit but I was too excited to sleep. I put in my headphones blared some dance music and just enjoyed the view.

We got to Stone Town in about an hour and a bit and since Zanzibar considers itself independent (but not really) from Tanzania we had to go through their customs. They checked our passports, yellow fever certificates and asked us all the normal kinds of border questions. It probably took us about 15 minutes to get through it and make our way into the city.

The Zenji hotel is where we stayed, it was about a 2 minute walk from the harbour and we got to stay together in a room called “Sense of Jasmine.” It was a really nice open concept room that had a double and single bed with a saloon door for the bathroom. What the hotel lacked in room views made up for it through its roof top café and the outdoor café out on the main street. I hadn’t had real coffee in just over a month and my first order of business was to get a coffee with a side of espresso!

Once we were all checked in and ready to get about our day we had to make some last minute excursion game plans. We decided to do one called the spice tour for that afternoon and a tour of Prison Island tomorrow; which gives us time to explore a bit on Monday before we take off back to Dar es Salaam. We came in a bit late so we had to take the private tour, but honestly it made it that much more special and memorable.

We got picked up by our driver and he took us to a spice plantation which was built specifically for tourists. There are examples of all of the different kinds of plants that they grow in large plantations elsewhere. This plantation is run by a community that makes most of its income from tourists and their crops. Our tour guide was very good and introduced us to all of the fruit and spices and along the way we were given a leaf cup to hold all of the spices. We got to see and smell different spices like cardamom, iodine, vanilla bean, pepper, cloves, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg (my favorite!!) and a few others. We also got to see how different fruit and produce grow like star fruit, clementines, coco bean, jack fruit, lipstick fruit, aloe vera, custard apple and more. We got to do a lot of cool stuff like trying a bunch of the fruit, drinking fresh coconut water, watching someone climb a coconut tree and getting hand made things made of leaves and flowers. After all of this they supplied us with a picnic for lunch, it was probably the best pilau I have ever had in my entire life! There were so many spices, some baked potato, fish and an amazing masala sauce! I could eat that every day and never get sick of it.

Once we were finished eating, our driver came back and picked us up for the second half of our trip which was an afternoon at the beach. When we got to a clearing down a little dirt road, we were asked if we wanted a tour of the coral cave. For 2,000Tsh we didn’t see a problem with that and headed over to the cave opening with our tour guide. I’ve never been educated on the slave trade, past the underground railway and what I’ve seen in movies; it was an eye opening experience to learn, on-site, how things got so out of hand. This cave was used to hide slaves at night from the British navy once this practice was exposed as a human rights violation. The cave didn’t used to have stairs so slaves were expected to climb down a rope and to go into the deepest part of the cave to sleep. When the slaves were bought and sold they were sneaked out a passage that leads close to the Indian Ocean where they would get shipped.

I learned a lot about how slaves were caught and brought to Zanzibar for the slave trade, I didn’t realize that it was such an intricate procedure with so much support behind it in those times. Warring tribes would sell the opposing tribe, people were kidnapped and tribe chiefs would sell their people for a certain price. The people buying and kidnapping them were from Arabian countries and were the middle men in this whole thing. Their strategy was to capture and buy individuals who were all from different backgrounds so that they couldn’t speak to each other and potentially escape.

The atmosphere in the cave is comparable to the atmosphere and feelings that I got while visiting Dachau (a German concentration camp). It just feels like there is a lingering energy of sadness and stillness. Having learned everything that I did in about a half hour and trying to sort through my feelings about this whole situation was difficult but I’m glad that I have a deeper understanding of this history.

After our cave exploring and history lesson we made our way down a little path toward the beach. This path turned into gigantic steps leading down to the beach; it was a workout in itself. We spent about an hour wading in the warm water, talking about the cave and what literature we should all look into to learn more.

On the way back to the hotel I was so tired I just fell asleep and woke up when we got back. The dangerous driving is still the same as on the mainland but the scenery is nothing but tall and healthy palm trees, plantations and greenery. We were all starving and decided to head over to “The Mercury Restaurant” which is named after Freddy Mercury from Queen. The view from the deck was absolutely gorgeous; we were there right in time for the sunset over the harbour. It was an expensive place to go but the view and the mood is worth it. I ate a lot, laughed a lot and talked a lot so needless to say as soon as I was finished my meal I was more than ready for bed!

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On the Road Again

Last night was our last night at the hotel; we had a little breakfast and got picked up around 9am by Rodney (the VETA IT teacher and the same guy who drove us to Mikumi National Park). I was all set to leave when Rodney told us we were headed to VETA instead of hitting the road right away, because he had to pick something up. We got to the school and headed for the computer lab where I e-mailed and facebooked my friends and family to let them know that this would be my last time communicating with them until I get home on Tuesday. After about a half hour and more goodbyes, Rodney was ready to go. It was harder to say goodbye this morning compared to last night but it was still nice to see everyone one last time.

This road trip was a lot of fun and was a nice change of scenery for me. I got to sit up front with Rodney which meant I got to make sure that he didn’t blast anymore Shania Twain or Celine Dion with the bass cranked. I was also really thankful that we had done a quick grocery run yesterday considering that we didn’t stop once for food or anything else besides gas. I did try to subtle tell Rodney that I could go for lunch but I think something got lost in the translation; he just started talking about how he wanted to have ugali and that he was hungry, but I think he meant it more as a statement than anything else.

There wasn’t anything too interesting to really mention, the only thing that stood out was the insane traffic once we hit Dar es Salaam. We were switching lanes every couple of minutes to gain inches and almost cut off an ambulance since we were sideways and blocking two lanes. Luckily the car keeping us from merging moved ahead a bit and we squeezed in. We were in rush hour for a while and then went a bit off road. Rodney told us that we were actually going to meet his parents before taking us to the New Africa Hotel, so we went along with it. There wasn’t much of a point in meeting them besides saying a quick hello and taking a few pictures, but it was still nice to see a more intimate home setting.

We got a call from Anthony letting us know that the ferry bureau closed at 6pm and that we had better get a move on if we wanted to get to Zanzibar. We made it to the hotel with seconds to spare, got checked in, through our bags in the rooms and ran back down. Anthony was already downstairs waiting for us, and through sheer luck he knew the cruise company and asked them to stay open for us since it was nearing 6:30pm. We were running across the street when Anthony told us what the costs were so we had to make a quick bank detour and then fast walked as quickly as we could without getting hit by oncoming traffic or talkative pedestrians. We bought our tickets which are priced according to locality, so we had to buy the more expensive tickets; but they were worth it!

I can’t even attempt to begin explaining how epic it was to sit down, take a deep breath and then make my way upstairs for dinner. I was so tired, I had a wicked headache and I could sleep for a month; but the food I ate that night was a hundred percent worthwhile. It was a Thai restaurant located on the top floor of the hotel which overlooks the harbour. The atmosphere was very lively, they had karaoke and dancing and the restaurant off to the side. There was also a big football (soccer) match on and everyone was up there watching it and cheering them on. I picked what I wanted to eat and drink in about a millisecond and could not wait! I ordered a green vegetarian curry with steamed rice and spring rolls; A-MA-ZING! I’d recommend this restaurant to anybody traveling out that way, it was so good.

The only part of this whole experience that was a tad unfortunate was that my harbour view room was right underneath the dance floor and that wasn’t about to help my headache. On a positive note though I was so excited to wake up at 5am to grab the ferry over to Stone Town at 6:30pm that I didn’t care.

*Sneak peek of the harbour while we were taking off*

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Part II: The Fundraiser!

The time finally came to head out to Dessert Palm after getting ready for our big event. We took a taxi over around 6:30pm and to our surprise everything was already mostly set up! It was really awesome to see everyone so eager and excited to get started. Sarah and I manned the donation table, which was just off to the side of the courtyard. The set up was fairly simple there were tables in the back for the guests, the slideshow projection and our table up front and the stereo was set up on the other side for music. Lucas informed us that the MC we wanted wasn’t going to be able to make it so he graciously took over the role; which was fine by us since he is very charismatic and knew 90% of the people there.

There was only one very obvious and frustrating issue… the power was out!  There was some kind of work being done on some of the nearby power stations and the electricity wasn’t scheduled to come back on until about 7:30pm or 8pm. Being prepared and educated Event Managers, we came up with a plan to “set the mood” and have one of the guys buy candles so that we could have some light. Once we got the candles we realized that there were no candle holders, but we found a way to keep them upright by putting them in empty beer and pop bottles. Since the projector wasn’t working just yet, I opened the slideshow on my laptop, opened ITunes and let them play at the donation table. We also encouraged Lucas to talk to everyone to inform them of the night’s activities. We also got in touch with the hotel manager to try and get them to start the generator for us so that we could have some more lighting since it was pitch black out. In light of everything this could have been a big issue but using some critical thinking we made it work.

The power came back on eventually and we didn’t end up using the generator but we were still thankful that we had a plan B in place anyway. Everything got set up and finalized in about 30 seconds and then Lucas took over as our MC. We had set things up as a casual bar night for the community but I really don’t think that this concept translated at all to our committee or the attendees. Lucas had everyone introduce themselves, which was about 30-40 people taking a good hour to state their names, occupations and other tid bits about their lives. But once all of the introductions had finished, the donations started to come in. Again, most people wanted to do a little presentation of what they were donating, why it was important and how they got involved. It was great to see all of the enthusiasm but I wasn’t expecting all the formality and presentations!

One of the most moving donations was given by a director of three local schools in the community. He donated 100,000Tsh from each of his schools (300,000Tsh in total) and offered 10 free spots for admission to his schools. This was my favorite donation because it represents so much to me. First and foremost, it directly affects the educational benefit for the children at the orphanage and will give them encouragement to seek higher education. This gesture also was a perfect demonstration of a win/win situation, where I finally saw all of the committee members have their moment of clarity and understanding. It taught them that this amazing act not only benefits the children, but also the director since this will be mentioned in the media, word of mouth and through the children. The kids who end up filling those 10 spots will become ambassadors of those schools with the positivity and support that they have received. They will also likely spend money at these schools, convince their friends to attend these schools and will always carry a positive response to these schools.

The other donations that were made were not all monetary, but they were just as important and just as needed by the orphanage. Individuals and groups donated bags of clothes, flour, sugar, soap, laundry detergent and other helpful items. This was a big surprise for us because when we first started advertising that people could bring material things as well as monetary we were told that people don’t really do that and that it’s a new concept that a lot of people may not understand. I like that this wasn’t the case and that the material goods were plentiful. One of my favorite stories about these donations was from one of the VETA teacher’s. He had gone home one day and explained the orphanages situation to his son, and what the fundraiser was meant to do for them. The son immediately ran around his room with an old backpack and collected clothes that he no longer wore or out grew. He then gave the back pack to his dad to bring to the fundraiser. If anything gave me hope for the future of fundraisers and neighbourly compassion in Dodoma that was it!

Games are a fan favorite here in Tanzania and Lucas has suggested that we play a game called “Do or Pay”. Basically, people write out funny and odd things for others to do, and if your name gets called and you can’t do what is asked then you have to pay 2,000Tsh. People responded really well to it and it was a lot like playing a party game with all your friends and family. It was a really nice game to have been a part of. Other than that, people could pay to have their picture taken with Miss Dodoma or could pay to dance with her. It was a lot of fun to watch everyone hesitantly come up, discreetly pay and run up to see her.

After the games and the donations people just started to quickly trickle out around 10pm or so which gave us some time to have a debriefing meeting afterwards. The guys ordered some drinks and a bit of food to munch on and then we got down to business. Anthony, Sarah and I went into the hotel to count up the donations, triple checked the number and signed off on it. When we got back to the table we made a quick drum roll and revealed that we had raised over 500,000Tsh in cash donations tonight and over 800,000Tsh in promised donations that will be collected next week. This is such a great accomplishment in that this is the first fundraiser event that has ever taken place in Dodoma and even though no one here knew what to expect, everything turned out better than expected. Our discussion quickly moved to having the teachers create a long term plan to have this event annually which they can now grow off of this experience. It’s amazing to see how much they’ve learned just by watching Sarah and I put this together in an organized and paced fashion. I’m very proud of what we accomplished and I’m still so moved as to how this all came together for the House of Hope.

The teachers had already put a game plan in place to bring all of the donations to the orphanage on Monday; unfortunately we won’t be here to celebrate and deliver the goods but we will be there in spirit! We were also sad to have to say good bye to everyone since we wouldn’t have much time tomorrow morning. We gave out lots of hugs and fist pumps and hopefully they’ll all stay in touch over facebook and e-mail.

Looking forward to opening a new chapter in this adventure! We’re off to Dar es Salaam tomorrow and then traveling to Stone Town, Zanzibar early Saturday morning!

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Part I: The Beginning of the Last Day

It’s weird to think that this is our last day here in Dodoma. It feels like it went by super slowly and extremely fast all at the same time. This morning we went into town to pick up snacks and things for our 8 hour car ride tomorrow (more cookies and pringles of course!). After a little bit we decided to go to the Free Point restaurant for the last time and split a really good pizza between us while we waited to get picked up. Anthony and Bertram came to pick us up the minute we took our last bites.

I was about to jump in the car when I realized that there was already two girls in the back of it. I asked Anthony who his friends were and it turned out to be the newly appointed Miss Dodoma and her sister. They wanted to be involved in the fundraiser and were coming with us to the radio station to help promote the event.  It was nice of her to have come out to support us since it generated a lot of attention on the radio. It was also a bitter sweet moment since this was our last radio broadcast since the fundraiser is tonight!

The guys have a bad tendency to not update us on event related changes. They let us know that they were already at the hotel in the morning and that the set-up had to change because of differing opinions. I was a little upset that we weren’t invited to make that decision with them in the morning but we ended up convincing them that we had to see the new set up for ourselves. We all headed over to Dessert Palm to evaluate what had been done; the set up was basically exactly the same just on the left hand side of the hotel instead of the right. The new location still works for us since the hotel is offering waited service because the bar and grill are located pretty far away from the event.

After our site visited we made our way back to VETA to sit down and have a late lunch with the teachers. We gave them our thank you presents which were mugs decorated with Canadian maple leafs, and they were filled to the rim with candy. I always love seeing their expressions with gifts like this since candy always seems to be a prize winner with them. (They loved it!)

Anthony was giving us a ride back to the hotel but had to go and do something first, so we waited for him at registration. While we were just waiting there, a sweaty white man came up to me and asked if I spoke English. I told him that I did and he handed me his camera and asked me to take a picture of him and his friends just outside. That wasn’t a problem for me; I love it when people do that for me so I didn’t hesitate. After I took their picture I asked them where they were from and what they were up to (and you have to take into consideration that these are the first Caucasian people we’ve seen in a while). There were only 6 of them and they told me that some of them were from Holland and some of them were from Belgium. They had just come from a four day bike trip from Arusha, were taking a break in Dodoma and were going to head back North afterwards. That’s an insane trek considering how bad the road conditions are in terms of the roads, traffic and other obstacles. We chatted for a little bit and then Anthony came and picked us up so that we could go back to the hotel to get ready for tonight!

~To be continued!!!~

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I know this game!

We had an early morning appointment at the radio station with Anthony to keep promoting the fundraiser. We still couldn’t understand most of what was happening since everything was in Swahili but every once in a while Anthony would fill us in. There were people calling in to ask questions and one of them was really interesting. They wanted to donate money but couldn’t make it out; so they asked if there was a number that they could use to donate money digitally. There is a system set up, a lot like online banking where they can send money over their phones but without a data plan. I’m still not a hundred percent sure how it works exactly, but it’s pretty cool that they have that technology available to them in such a remote community.

After the radio broadcast, we went back to the hotel to finish some of our outstanding work. Since we had all of our rough work made out for us, we started working on our finalized work for the fundraiser. I took to making the logo and putting together the slide show, while Sarah worked on the posters and the MC script. It was nice to be doing some physical work and having a real action plan for something we put together.

We finished up and were invited to go out for dinner with Eston, who is one of the English teachers. He had been wanting to take us out for a while and finally got an opportunity to invite us all out. We all met up downtown at the square and made our way over. It took us about 45 minutes to make our way down a busy highway, in the dark, with oncoming bicycles with no lights or reflectors. It was one of those moments in my life where I really thought that my gaming as a kid came in pretty handy; it was kind of like playing Frogger but in real life.

The place that we went to was called Roger Hotel and Eston was very fond of it because he used to live in the area and frequented it regularly. It wasn’t anything special, it was a lot like many of the other little bar/restaurants that we’ve been to so far but it was nice to be somewhere new.

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We got picked up at the hotel by Anthone and Lucas so that we could go into town and get permission from the orphanage to partner with them for our fundraiser. There was a bit of a miscommunication and the guys thought that there was a headquarters for the orphanage in the downtown area. It turned out that there isn’t and that we had to go out of our way a little bit to go to the orphanage directly. While we were discussing what we should do, Anthone got called into a meeting and had to leave for a little bit so Lucas took us to visit one of his lawyer friends. He asked him to be our MC for the fundraiser and explained to him what we were doing and what he would have to do. It was nice to see how invested Lucas had become in this project; it really makes me feel like the guys are serious about helping us to put this event on! While we were still there, Lucas showed us and his friend a rough guest list which was a basic table of names, numbers and other information.

When Anthone was finished with his meeting we decided to go and visit the orphanage which goes by “House of Hope”. It was about a 20 minute ride or so north of Dodoma; it was hard to find because the guys had never been there and there were no road signs. When we got there, we were brought in to see the sister in charge of the orphanage. The first thing that I noticed was that it was so quiet; I only ever heard one or two giggles from inside of one of the rooms. The orphanage itself is actually pretty nice, it is also pretty self-sustained with a large garden and livestock. We were seated in a small office and introduced ourselves and our project to the sister. She was very pleased and excited that we were doing a fundraiser for the orphanage and explained to us what the children’s needs are. Apparently, a lot of them get sponsored through programs like World Vision so that they can go to school. Unfortunately, not all of the children get sponsored so any money raised will be directly supporting education for these children. We got permission to put on this event and we were about to leave when the sister told us to wait where we were so that she could introduce us to the children. In that moment we also figured out that it was so quiet because most of the older children were at school so only the young children were there at the time. We waited for a couple minutes and then the children started to come in; they formed a line and shook hands with all of us. They were very shy and unsure but after smiling with them and saying hello they got a bit more comfortable. We ended up taking a few group shots with all of them to be able to show pictures of them at the event. They are so adorable and well behaved! This visit has definitely had a profound effect on me and how I view orphanages. I had never been to one previously so all I know about orphanages is what I’ve seen on TV and movies. The children interacted with each other like a family and they all had big smiles with a glow to them. The sister explained to us, after the kids had gone, that a lot of them have HIV/Aids or other disorders and diseases. It broke my heart to have seen them so happy and easy going and to then find out that a lot of them are not only orphans but they are also fighting for their lives. This visit made me open my eyes to the reality and severity of these types of issues that children have to face.

After this visit, I got a bit unnerved thinking about people that I have on my social networks who go to a third world country, take a resort excursion and take photos of themselves with underprivileged children like they’ve done something to improve their lives. I’m so proud of myself, Sarah and everyone else involved to have taken a sad situation and to have actually done something about it. This is one of the biggest things that I have taken away from my entire trip. Don’t just stand there and take pictures of underprivileged children, do something to better their lives; just taking a picture of them to show your friends when you get home isn’t going improve their lives in any way.

After our moving visit to House of Hope, we made our way back into town to promote our event over one of Dodoma’s radio stations. Since Sarah and I don’t speak Kiswahili we needed the guys to help translate and answer questions for us. Lucas has a very good voice and persona so it was fun to watch him promote even though I didn’t have a clue as to what he was saying. We were on air for about a half an hour before we headed over to Desert Palm to check out the venue space.

We got there just in time for lunch and had some chips and mishkaki as per usual. After we finished eating, we met up with the owner and Lucas’ friend so that we could get a tour and a feel for our space. We decided to have it on the right of the hotel where the BBQ and bar are so that we can attract more people on the night of. Once we got a real feel for it, we sat down with our new committee (Anthone, Bertram, Lucas, Sarah and me) to brainstorm the event title and goal. Sarah and I have a better feel for English so we collaborated, decided on calling our event “HOPE” and came up with an acronym for it – Helping Overcome Poverty for Education. We also worked on putting together a new logo, Sarah came up with the design and I created it through Photoshop. It all turned out really well and looked really professional. The committee decided that our goal would be to raise as much money as possible for the orphanage and to give them 100% of the donation. We are going to promote by inviting the public through the radio and word of mouth; as well as, personally inviting well known individuals from the community who would better their image trough associating themselves with our event.

Since our event is a $0 we couldn’t splurge on getting a band or decorations and just had to be creative. It took a while to convince the committee that spending money to make money was not appropriate for this type of event. One band was interested in playing for us if we paid them 250,000 Tsh ($100 approx.) and the guys were all for it. Sarah and I explained to them that if we spend any money on things we could get for free and were not 100% necessary then our goal would not be met. Also, I wasn’t going to give anyone any money that wasn’t going directly to the orphanage. Most of them saw where we were coming from but there was still some doubt in our methodology. Sarah and I have both done big Ottawa events for the Children’s Wish Foundation on a $0 budget and so we know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into. Booking a venue for free is always the biggest challenge so since we already had that, there wasn’t anything that was going to change my mind that we were going to pull this fundraiser off successfully.

It was about 8pm when we got back to our hotel and our first stop was the Chinese restaurant for dinner. I had my very last duck and black mushroom sizzler since tomorrow we will be going out with Eston for dinner and Thursday is our event. After dinner, we decided to have a movie night which we had in my fort (AKA the mosquito net around my bed). We ended up watching the Emperor’s New Groove because Heather had somehow never seen it, and Sarah and I had been quoting it off and on since being here. It was nice to just sit down and do nothing since today was such a busy, non-stop day; I am definitely ready for bed!

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Gotta Get These Wheels Moving

Working out has kind of taken the back burner so Sarah and I decided that since we expect to be in bikinis all weekend it might be a good idea to work out all this week. We started a new regiment where we run on the treadmills for a pre-determined amount of time and then do workouts that she had gotten from her ultimate Frisbee team. My legs and arms are already killing me, but it’s worth it to tone up for this weekend! Afterwards, we decided to work on our reports that are due not too long after we get back. It was really hard to stay focused but it was easier to finish since we had our leftover cookies and sweet buns! I can’t wait to have all of these reports finalized and handed in.

In the afternoon we decided to get the material that we bought for scarves hemmed so that they won’t fray any more than they already have, it costs a whopping 2,000 SCH to get a meter of material in total hemmed (about .75 cents). While she was doing that for us we took some time to just walk around one of the markets. After checking in with the seamstress and realizing that she was still going to be a while we decided to go to lunch at the free point restaurant. We ended up getting a large vegetarian pizza which includes pineapple slices and some mishkaki to share. It was such a great lunch because for the first time in weeks I didn’t have a lunch that included chips! We all felt really good for finally having more of a light lunch instead of a big heavy meal.

We picked up our finished scarves after lunch and then headed back to the hotel. It isn’t uncommon for strangers to randomly come up to us asking for anything from our personal information to our life stories. We tend to keep these encounters casual without giving away any real information; it gets a bit annoying since for me culturally I find it odd, but most of them actually just want to chat and be friends. Sarah encountered someone named Jackson outside of the hotel and talked to him for a bit. He ended up asking her if we all wanted to go to his uncle’s hotel called Desert Palm for food and drinks. She politely declined and came back to the hotel to tell us about her encounter. We just kind of laughed it off as another random encounter and left it at that.

It was a really hot and sunny day and we had the rest of the afternoon off, so we decided to go sun tanning. The pool is in a bit of an awkward part of the hotel because it faces all of the conference halls; we made sure nothing was going on, stripped down and lounged. About 5 minutes after getting comfortable about a hundred people came out of one of the halls and walked right by us. It was really uncomfortable since showing skin is pretty riské in general and people decided to take their tea time outside all around us. I think we all had a really big laughing fit and tried not to open our eyes; because every time we did there were people looking back.

It was nice to go in once the sun started to set, to get away from all the prying eyes. We took some time to get ready and headed down to the Chinese restaurant to eat. We were supposed to meet up with Lucas but he never showed and his phone was turned off. As soon as we sat down and ordered, we got a call from Lucas saying that he was at reception and ready to go; and he apologized for being over an hour late. We apologetically told him that we got hungry and had already ordered so we invited him to sit down with us; luckily he brought his friend with him who was offering us a place to host our fundraiser. We pitched our idea for the fundraiser and explained to him our intentions of raising money for a local orphanage. We convinced him that if he gave us the venue space for free that we would promote his hotel over the radio and acknowledge the hotel at the event for its support. He was very understanding and accepted our proposal with no opposition or hesitation. The hotel that he works for is called Desert Palm in Area D and Sarah and I both kind of stopped in our tracks. She asked him if he knew who Jackson was and it took him a minute but he told us that he was the owner’s nephew! Dodoma is definitely a small town!

After our lovely meal celebrating our success we started talking to a guy next to us who was from India. He told us that he is helping to produce and promote a new Tanzanian reality show called “Bongo Stars”. It’s supposed to be just like a regular musical competition show with auditions, rehearsals and shows. We really wanted to attend one of the auditions but they don’t start until the 14th of June. We let him know that we were traveling to Zanzibar at the end of our trip and he told us that there were riots the weekend before over the constitutional installment. I haven’t been keeping up with the news so I had no idea about them; but he did mention that they had calmed down so that by the time we go it should be fine. Fingers crossed!

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Free Refills

Lucas wanted to keep us busy today and decided to take us for a tour to a local winery, about an hour away on Dodoma’s outskirts. He was late with picking us up so we decided to take a walk, buy some fresh bananas and make a few other errands. We were just about to get to the main road when a car came out of nowhere drove right up onto the sidewalk and wasn’t slowing down. Sarah and I both ran out of the way, and just as we did the driver slammed on the breaks. We were both ready to give him a piece of our mind but it turned out to be Samson (the first groom from the first wedding we went to). I still wasn’t impressed but he told us to get in and that he was on his way to pick up Lucas at St. Gasper and then we would be on our way.

Once we got Lucas we headed down this dirt road that looked more like a pedestrian path.  I wasn’t a big fan of his driving considering how fast we were going and his apparent lack of care for pedestrians, animals and other cars. On a positive note, he did get us there in a timely fashion and no one inside or outside the car got hurt.

We passed another local university called, Local Government Authority University and continued on. We got to the winery which is called Cetawico which is Italian owned and run by locals. Lucas chatted with a few people and ended up getting us a private tour. The guide took us to see all the fermenting tanks, the grape crusher, the wine aging room and the holding tanks. The tour was of course in Swahili so it was a bit hard to follow along, but Lucas did his best to translate for us to keep us in the loop. We got to see their bottling practices and how they cork and label their bottles on an assembly line which is half machine half hands on work. Afterwards, the guide asked us if we would like to try some wine samples. I like dry wine and so the guide directed us to some white wine that had just been freshly stored. It was really nice and there is definitely a difference between drinking wine from a bottle vs. from its original holding tank! He then directed us to one of their more popular red wines called “Presidential” and poured us a bit to try. As I was just finishing my sample I Lucas and the guide were letting us know that if we wanted more, we were welcome to pour our own full glasses. Being that this was my first winery experience and that I love red wine I jumped on the chance. It was a really great way to spend a couple of hours!

When we had finished our drinks we headed into the little township and that’s when we noticed our first peek at a lake! Lucas noticed our curiosity and decided to show us a little beach that was near where we were. There were women washing clothes, a young guy fishing in the water and a couple of men cleaning a truck; it was kind of an odd thing to see all together like that but it was still very scenic. Afterwards, Lucas and Samson took us down this little path just wide enough for a car and a half and parked up on a little hill by the lake. We followed them down a little winding path to some fishermen at work on the beach. They introduced us to the guys working to catch, cook and sell tilapia and anchovy. What they do is set up nets in the water and use a handmade wooden canoe to bring the nets out farther. We ended up all getting little rides on the canoe to experience a bit of fisherman life, it was pretty cool, I was just a little afraid of it capsizing but we were lucky and no one got dumped in the lake. After that we got to see the fishermen bring in the nets to reel in their catch. There were tons of little anchovy and a couple tilapia fish that they caught which were then gutted and strung onto some reeds (gill to mouth) so that they can sell them in bunches. It was a unique experience for me to see, since it was done so efficiently and quickly and that they didn’t mind that we were watching all of them work.

We had worked up an appetite so the guys took us into town again to get some lunch at this little bar that looks more like a sand pit with some shade, tables & chairs, a little stick cabin as a kitchen and a pool table being used by some of the locals. Lucas ordered us some chips and pig bites which were absolutely amazing! I love dipping meat chunks & chips into lime, salt and piri piri, it’s so tasty! We stayed for a while just hanging out and talking and then it was time to head back. The drive back wasn’t really any better at all, but I sat in the back that time and looked out of the side window which helped calm my nerves a bit.

When we got back, we took a little bit of time to ourselves and then got ready to meet with Baptiste who runs a local radio station. We got to get a little tour of the building and where everyone works. Baptiste has lived in London and knows English really well so it was easy to better understand what we could do for him and what he could do for us in return. He is basically hoping to have us as overseas advisors that he can e-mail if he has any questions. We would like him to give us some free air time for our potential fundraiser this upcoming week. He let us know that he regularly gives free airtime to non-for-profits so he agreed to those terms. The only catch though is that he wants us to read a script in Swahili to read live on air! I’m not sure how much I like that idea but I’ll do what I have to do to get the message out about our important event!

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Kigwe & the Miss Dodoma Pageant

Anthone and the other teachers invited us to come out and experience a large market just outside of Dodoma called “Kigwe”. I don’t think any of us had expected to see and smell and experience what we did; was a totally new experience overall! The little town is about an hour or so West of Dodoma; we took the highway for the most part but to get there we had to turn down this little bumpy dirt road which could have been a lot of fun had there not been 4 people crammed into the back of a little Toyota 4×4. One awesome part of this trip was that we got to see a wild chameleon! I’m starting to think that I might need to get one once I get back to Canada, they are so cool!






Once we got there all you can see are tons of people, booths, a livestock auction area, animals and carcasses. I’m not a vegetarian or any kind of animal activist but it was really hard to see a full dead cow being skinned, a second one being gutted and another one that was still alive who had to watch. I completely understand where meat comes from but I still feel like that’s a bit hard to watch and a bit cruel for the cow that was still alive. Anthone of course was just laughing at the fact that we were all horrified to see a cow killed so he took us away so we wouldn’t have to see it.

We explored the grounds a little bit and then we were invited to sit down for lunch which would of course be meat (I felt so guilty eating something I probably saw alive an hour before). The teachers bought us a goat thigh and a chunk of beef meat which was roasted over a pit fire. Our driver is actually a member of the Masai tribe and knew his way around a knife and meat! He carved so well, and every time he found a nicely cooked piece of meat he offered it to one of us. This type of a meal is really special because they consider it to be a family way of sitting down and eating dinner. The meat is usually just put on the table but (thankfully) they bought a big platter plate to put the meat on. People are then encouraged to eat meat chunks with their hands and to dip the meat in salt and piri piri (hot peppers). I’ve definitely fallen in love with putting fresh lime on my meat, dipping it into a little salt and then rubbing it onto the piri piri to get a sweet, sour and salty taste all in one – absolutely fantastic!

We might have seen a lot of animal innards hanging from trees being displayed and smelled a lot of manure, smoke and decay but the food was so good that all that just becomes a kind of side note.

When we left the little town Sarah and I decided to head back to Dodoma in the bed of the truck so that we could have some more room. Probably not a good choice in the end though; it was a lot of fun on the dirt road and we got to wave goodbye to all the little kids along the way (my favorite thing ever! They’re all so cute and sweet!). Once we hit the highway things were a bit different considering the driver was probably topping 120mph I had to sit down and hold on tight to my things and my hair! It probably took me an hour to finally brush out the last knot in my hair after that one! Luckily, the driver pulled over just before we got into Dodoma so that we could all take pictures and that’s when we decided that we had enough of that. When we got home I had to take a shower because the sand was so fine there that it got absolutely everywhere, it just looks like red powder.

During the day we kept hearing about how there was going to be a Miss Dodoma pageant at the Kilimani Club in town. I was really tired and almost didn’t go, but I pumped myself up at the last minute and went with the girls to go check it out. It was a much more lavish layout then what I’m used to seeing here – there was a regular audience seating area, a large VIP area, a stage and lots of lights and decorations. When we got settled in and sat down, we realized that the entertainment playing was the same band that we’ve seen play twice before already… with the same set list; it was still good but their songs were definitely dragging on after a while. The pageant was supposed to start around 9pm but didn’t take off until about 10:30pm or so. The MC came on and spoke in Swahili the whole time so I had no idea what was really happening, but eventually all the girls came out and did a little intro dance and went back to the back to get ready. The band came on again and played for another 15-20mins and then the girls were all introduced individually. I’m pretty sure that all of their formal wear was made by hand and that it was supposed to be unique to represent their personalities. Some of them spoke English and some of them didn’t, most of them were university students and they all looked like super models. Lucas joined us half way through and he definitely loved every minute of it; he made sure to let us know when he liked something (lol). We ended up leaving before it finished though since we had a long day and wanted to get to sleep – except Heather who went to Club Life with one of the VETA teachers afterwards (not sure where she found the energy!). On our way out we ran into a Caucasian guy that we keep seeing at the hotel and found out that he lives in the area and was initially here through a church HIV/AIDS prevention and education initiative. It’s nice to finally know who he is and why he’s always around even though he isn’t staying here (he comes for the free/cheap facilities). An odd coincidence that we discovered is that he’s planning to go to Zanzibar the same weekend were going so maybe we will see him there too – how weird would it of been if we spotted him there without having talked to him!? Haha!

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