Archive for the ‘Tanzania’ Category

Back to school

Posted: January 29, 2011 in Tanzania

Friday was our last day in Tanzania, but for the students at Munguishi Bible College it was the first day of a new academic year. We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet some of the students and get a glimpse of college life. Mike was due to take his first class at 8.30am, so we walked down with him & sat in on the class. We felt rather self-conscious – we certainly stand out in a crowd here – and the students treat guests with great respect, so there was no sitting inconspicuously and quietly observing.

We sat at the front of the class and each student introduced him or herself individually (there was only one female student in that class). They spoke in English, which was obviously a bit of a struggle for some of them. They ranged in ages, but most were married and had children. Their families do not live at the college, & must fend for themselves while their husbands are away studying. If they are farmers, the women do most of the work anyway, we are told. Still it must be a great hardship to be separated for so long. Two of the students had finished year 10 (equivalent) at school, most of them had only finished primary school. Another challenge for them. I was able to take a few photos, and we enjoyed watching Mike talk to the students in Swahili. He & Katie are very aware of their limitations with the language, but we were pretty impressed with how far they have come in such a short time.

Primary school education in Tanzania is in Swahili, but high school is taught in English. So anyone who finishes high school is proficient in English, Swahili, and usually their native tribal language as well. All higher education is in English, as are most of the resources. So for those students who only finished primary school, coming to college is a steep learning curve. If they want to gain a qualification, they have to also learn English & Mike has found himself teaching English, as the only native speaker at the college. We found English much more widely spoken in Kenya, apparently there all schooling is done in English, and we noticed that all the street signs & hoardings were in English.

The class usually goes for two hours, but Mike kept it short for the first day, and we went back to the house. But our student experience was not over. We were back in the church building for the lunchtime chapel service. Not only did we stand out for the usual reasons, but when we arrived the pews were full so we sat in the choir stall, right at the front. No falling asleep during the sermon!! (Not difficult to do since it was all in Swahili & it was stiflingly hot!). We loved the singing. It was all a Capella, in beautiful harmonies, & simple but lovely tunes. In fact we were able to sing along quite well, following the words (but not the meaning) in a hymn book. I videoed some of it, so when I get a chance I’ll post some footage & you can see what I mean. At the end of the service, everyone files out in single file, following the service leaders (and then us since we sat at the front!), still singing, and every person shakes everyone else’s hands. I loved that.

Mike saved the best “treat” till last – lunch in the college dining room. We were lucky because on Fridays there is meat. Otherwise the meal consists of Ugali, a porridge-like concoction made from maize & tasting a bit like wallpaper paste, and beans, which actually were quite tasty, and green veg of some kind, which are\ grown on the college far. Ugali is a staple food & apparently they enjoy it – I suspect it is an acquired taste. The student who sat at our table had a huge serve of it. We had the meat instead of the greens – a small unidentified mouthful of meaty goodness (probably goat). This is served on metal trays. We queued up with everyone else but the students insisted that we sat & they served us. Not one of the tastiest meals we have had while travelling, but certainly one of the more unique.

In the evening we were invited to dinner at the Parks’. Mchungaji Park is the principle of the college; he is a missionary from Korea and has been in East Africa for many years, & in Munguishi for around 6 years. He & Mama Park had just been back to Korea for a break, and they brought back lots of yummy Korean goodies. We had an amazing meal of various Korean & African food – and pizza. Totally made up for lunch!!

We were home fairly early. Even though they lived next door, everyone is very security conscious here, and they avoid being out much after dark. All the doors & gates are padlocked, and there are guards that patrol the college all night. We never felt in any danger, but it was good to know they were there. As it was our last night, we sat & chatted (in the dark – another power cut).

It was a great week, we got to know Mike & Katie a lot better, spent time with the kids, and gained a real insight into the life of a modern day missionary in East Africa.

We headed for the airport early this morning, and said our reluctant goodbyes. Kilimanjaro International Airport is quite small, so the entire checking in process was very painless. (And there was free WI-FI!) Until we got to Nairobi and realised we would have to go through immigration (and therefore buy another visa) just to get our luggage – it had only been booked to Nairobi, even though we were transferring directly to our Air Mauritius flight. Oops. We found the transfer desk & a helpful staff person told us he would try to retrieve our bags, though he warned us they usually have to be collected in person. He left us waiting for some time while we became increasingly anxious. We must have looked troubled, because the airport chaplain (who knew there was such a person?) came & chatted with us. Keith impressed him by saying “Bwana Asifiwe”, and we had a nice chat. Our friend eventually come back with our bags, to our great relief, but then he told us we would have to take our bags to the departure gate and check them in from there. It was all very casual, but we watched as they loaded our bags on to the plane, and finally were able to relax.

So, as I write, I am sitting on the plane & we are nearly in Mauritius. We have passed over some lovely tropical-looking islands with sandy beaches. Really looking forward to our week there.

Africa was incredible, we loved every minute (well, perhaps not the traffic & the dust & the lack of plumbing), we would definitely love to go back one day. We had so many unbelievable experiences! This was certainly the most exotic place I have been. When we said we were planning to go to Africa, most people said “I have always wanted to go there!!” To you I say – go! You will not regret it. But some people were surprised that we would even consider it. To you I say – go! You will not regret it! If your idea of a good holiday includes room-service and hotel swimming pools, then go to Tahiti. But if you want to have unforgettable sights and heart-pounding excitement, have your eyes opened to a different world, and step right out of your comfort zone, then start planning your trip now!

Craft, cuisine & creatures

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Tanzania

In complete contrast to yesterday, today we were tourists again. All week Katie has been promising to take us to the craft markets in Arusha, and today was the day. These markets were similar but different to the Masai craft market in Nairobi. Each trader had a separate little shop, and it was much smaller & less crowded. The wares were familiar, but the pressure selling, though ever-present, was not as bad. I have to say, it is quite difficult to leave these markets with empty hands and full pockets! The sales technique is very persuasive. And the jewellery, paintings, masks, carvings, fabrics and all manner of local crafts are really very attractive. And, when you translate the prices to Australian dollars, quite inexpensive. Needless to say, I bought one or two items.

Speaking of money, the Tanzanian currency is crazy. The exchange rate is approximately Tsh 1500 to $1.00 (Tsh=Tanzanian Shilling). So you might pay TSH 20 or 30,000, for something quite inexpensive. The biggest problem is that 10,000 is the largest note (worth about $6.70) so you find yourself carrying around huge wads of cash! And hardly anyone takes credit cards (even in the fancy shops). They ought to just lop a couple of zeros off.

Katie is obviously a regular visitor to the markets, as the stall holders all knew “Mama Samueli” (pronounced “Samwelli”). Samueli’s blond hair & general cuteness do make him stand out in the crowd.  And as she speaks Swahili they treat her more as a local than a tourist, so don’t jack up their prices quite so much. Probably. Everywhere we went we were told we were getting a very good deal because we were friends of Mama Samueli. And it was fun watching her bargain in Swahili. I imagine we paid more than we needed to, but we were happy with our purchases, and what we paid for them. There is an art to bargaining, and though we are getting better, we need to develop a ruthlessness to be really good at it. As soon as they realise you want something, you have lost!

All that bargaining was thirsty work, so we headed for the shopping centre. While Katie visited the supermarket, we had a bit of a snoop around. This shopping centre obviously caters mainly to tourists & expats. Lots of western-style shops, some quite upmarket, and a few very inviting cafes. And more white people than we saw in the whole 2 weeks in Kenya. And the supermarket was large & appeared to have a huge range of products.  It was such a contrast to the roadside stalls we have become used to seeing. We had lunch at a nice shady outdoor cafe, which served particularly delicious salads, and fresh mango juice. In all the 3 course meals we had been served on safari there were very few salads, so this was a welcome treat.

We finished lunch just in time to pick Harry up from school, but there was yet another treat in store.  Mt Meru Safari Lodge is a classy hotel nearby. They have a lovely, large, shady garden and a park full of animal & birds. We found a comfy table, ordered sodas and sat watching zebra, ostrich, eland, monkeys, storks, peacocks & more. The eland even came right over to say hello. It was extremely pleasant sitting there, and fun to watch the kids enjoying the animals, and the soda treat.

We were keen to repay Mike & Katie’s kindness in putting us up & entertaining us for a week. Keith came up with the idea of giving them a dinner out & babysitting so they could have a real night off. And this was the night. It is a long time since we have looked after small children, so I admit I was a little nervous, but I guess it’s like riding a bike. We’ve been here long enough that the kids were quite relaxed with us, and we had no problems at all. (Mind you Katie had bathed & fed them, so all the hard work was done.)  Once they were asleep we spent the evening culling photos. Oh, that job is going to take a very long time!! Mike & Katie tried a restaurant they had heard was good, and they came back raving. And as a bonus brought dessert home so we were able to taste the fare. Mmmmm. A successful evening on all fronts I think.


Waiting, waiting …

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Tanzania

This would have been one of the more unusual days we have spent while travelling, but an eye-opener nevertheless. Katie had an appointment at KCMC (Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Tanzania’s best hospital). It is a large teaching hospital in Moshi town, at the base of Mt Kilimanjaro. In fact from the hospital we had a great view of the snow capped peak. Being medical myself, we thought it would be interesting to have a look at the local facilities. (Katie is not unwell, in case you’re worrying).

When I said she had an appointment, it doesn’t quite work like that. In fact, she had been advised to attend today, but they don’t make appointments. She needed to be at the clinic by 9am to register. Then someone goes to the medical records department to get her file. Once they return, she is given a number, then pays some money & is seen by a doctor when her number comes up. Sounds fairly simple? In practice the whole process took over 4 hours, of which the doctor visit was about 10 minutes. Lots of waiting, sitting on a hard backless bench in a crowded waiting room. Even though, as a white person, Katie was charged extra & was given a degree of preferential treatment. And this was the best clinic in the country. We really do take a lot for granted in Australia, don’t we!

While Katie waited, the rest of us (Keith & I, Mike, Miriam & Sammy) went for a wander around the hospital. The first thing that struck us was the unusual visiting hours. 6am-7.30am, 1-2pm, 4.30-6pm. Pretty much the opposite of visiting hours at most Sydney hospitals. We commented that those were meal times and we realised that the hospital does not provide food, but the families are expected to bring meals for the patients. In fact at 1 o’clock we saw literally hundreds of people suddenly streaming in to the main entrance. They must have been waiting to enter as soon as visiting hours started. Naturally I wanted to take photos. I snapped a couple of the main entrance, but was immediately chastised by a security guard. I later noticed a sign saying that photography was not allowed, but apparently it is also forbidden to take photos of the national flag at any time – and there was a flag at the entrance! I wonder why?

We went into the hospital and headed for the children’s ward. The corridors were clean but very dark, with only an occasional fluorescent tube, and bare concrete floors. They badly needed a fresh coat of paint. There were chairs lined up along the walls with people sitting & waiting. The wards themselves were very basic. They also were quite dark, with many old metal beds lined up with barely space to walk around them. Children of all ages were there, most with a mother (or female relative). It was a sombre experience, and we didn’t stay long as we felt quite intrusive. We were warned not to bring the children in, as many of the patients had infectious diseases. We created quite a stir as a large group of people gathered to have a look at these healthy blonde children.

There were a number of overseas doctors. We spoke to 2 American student doctors there on a short term placement, and they introduced us to 2 Australian medical students from Perth. They all spoke very highly of the KCMC, but also mentioned their very limited resources. They told us how many of the patients only present there in the late stages of their disease, when treatment is unlikely to be beneficial. They said there is no ventilation equipment for newborn babies, so there are many deaths. The students were very enthusiastic about their experiences there, they found it challenging, quite a culture shock but rewarding.

We filled in some time by driving around Moshi, just to have a look. There were quite a few large impressive houses surrounded by high walls and English-style gardens (complete with topiary trees), in a suburb incongruously named Shanty Town. We drove to the centre of town, the main street was a wide avenue with a few blocks of western style shops which soon gave way to the now familiar African-style roadside stalls & shops, which look like a good wind would blow them away. Although the main road was paved, you could see the side streets as we passed were dirt roads with dusty shacks in very poor condition. The poverty is everywhere.

By the time Katie was finally finished, we were well & truly ready for lunch. We didn’t really know where to go, but as a tourist town (the Kilimanjaro climbs start from Moshi) the safest place to eat was likely to be a lodge or hotel. We found one that looked inviting, and sat at a shady table overlooking a small but leafy garden. We were the only people there, which was probably a good thing as the kids were able to run & play & make noise to their hearts content. Somehow they managed to find a garden hose, which was great entertainment for them, as they gradually became wetter and muddier.

As we drove to pick Harry up from school, I realised I was recognising streets & landmarks, and felt like I was almost a local. Our main purpose in visiting here was to see Mike & Katie, and to get a picture of the life of a modern missionary family. Taking part in the ordinary every day activities has given us a much better understanding than we would ever have appreciated as “tourists”.  Today we didn’t do any “sight-seeing” but perhaps gained some insights into life here that we will always remember.

Over the top

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Tanzania

Arusha National Park is very close to town. You’d think we’d be over national parks by now, but there is always something to see & photograph. Thanks to the Taylors’ connections we were able to hire a car & driver for a day and head for the bush. Arusha NP is quite different from any of the parks we visited in Kenya. It is very hilly, and includes Mt Meru, the 5th highest mountain in Kenya. It is volcanic with craters and lakes and rocky outcrops, and rich soil supporting both rainforest & savannah. Very beautiful.

We were very fortunate with the weather too. There has been rain the past 2 afternoons, so the sky was very clear, and we had perfect views of both Mt Meru & Mt Kilimanjaro, which spend most of their time hidden in low clouds. We could clearly see snow on top of both, and they were quite spectacular. Even our driver was getting excited about it.

Our driver, Humphrey, took us all over the park. We didn’t really expect to see anything new (although there are – allegedly – leopard living there), but were mainly interested in seeing the landscape. So a few new birds were a bonus, and some up close views of both Colobus & Sykes monkeys, sitting on branches right next to the road.  The park is heavily forested, so spotting wildlife is not all that easy, but just before we left we stopped by a herd of giraffe grazing very close to the road – possibly the closest we’ve been yet. While we were enjoying that, we spotted a baboon.Then another, and a few more. Soon there were probably a hundred or more baboons parading right past us, all ages & sizes, some stopped to have a bite to eat, youngsters squabbled, babies rode on their mother’s backs, all of them completely oblivious to us. 

The other highlight of the day was visiting the crater lakes, which are heavily mineralised and home to flamingos as well as lots of other waterbirds. The water was quite milky & varied from deep blue to aquamarine to green. There weren’t anything like as many flamingos as at Lake Bogoria, but since Keith missed out that day when he was sick, it was good he had to chance to see some up close. We also saw ducks, stilts, sandpipers & plovers. We had lunch at a little picnic spot on top of a hill, with 360 degree views from Kili to Meru, and overlooking the lakes. The photos won’t do it justice.

Mchungaji Joseph & his wife came to bid us farewell, because they will be away & won’t see us again. They brought us a gift & spoke very warmly. It was so good to get to know them & so encouraging to see their commitment to God. I videoed a short interview with them & Mama Mchungaji sang a gospel song in English which was just lovely. I will post the video eventually.

Tuesday night is games night in the Taylor household. I like that idea. We played Carcassonne. There were a few challenges. For one, Keith & I had never played it before. And we were playing with a 2 year old and a 5 year old. By torchlight as we had one of those regular power cuts that lasted until just this second! (As I was typing “power cut” the power came back on!). By the way, I came last. But it was fun.

The bonus of the lack of power was a spectacular night sky. No lights, no clouds & no moon. But many many stars. Sweet dreams.

Art & About in Arusha

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Tanzania

So much for chilling out! Today was go, go, go! But fascinating & fun. We started, as you do, with breakfast. I must say, though I did enjoy the indulgent breakfasts on safari, it is nice to just have a bowl of cereal! Although Katie’s home-made raisin toast is rather delicious too. We headed off early so we could drop Harry to school on our way. He attends a small British school, where most of the children are ex-pats. The lessons are in English but they also learn Swahili.

Our first port of call was the Shanga Bead Project ( Katie had told me about this place before we came & I was really looking forward to seeing it. Shanga is the Swahili word for beads, and it is a private company which employs mainly deaf & mute women (but also other people with & without disabilities), where they make hand-made beads & jewellery.They also support the children of the workers, giving them scholarships for schooling. 10% of the profits goes to this (they call it Pink Balloon).  We had a tour of the workshops, and then were led to the shop. So many temptations!! Their methods are very manual & labour intensive, but the results are very beautiful. I may possibly have purchased one or two (or several) items, but they were just too nice (and inexpensive), to refuse.

They also had a tanzanite showroom. Tanzanite, apparently, is a mineral found only in Tanzania (hence the name) which (allegedly) sparkles more than diamonds. It is remarkable in that any individual crystal shines in 3 distinct colours (blue, red & violet) depending on which way you look at it. We saw a demonstration of that & it is quite impressive. But with a price to match. Pity, they were very pretty. And sparkly!

Shanga has a lovely garden, with groups of large couches covered with luxurious cushions in a vast green lawn surrounded by huge trees (surprisingly, quite a few Australian natives such as Silky Oak). We had a cup of tea & watched monkeys jumping from tree to tree. It felt very ‘colonial’.

Not far from Shanga was the Cultural Heritage Centre. This is a large complex consisting of shops, a cafe & a large art gallery. We made a beeline for the gallery, which was very impressive. A very modern curved building, there were several levels connected by a circular ramp. There were paintings & sculptures, featuring works by local artists or depicting Africa. They varied in style & content, but it was a very comprehensive display and contained many very beautiful & impressive works. We particularly liked the wildlife paintings and had fun showing off our vast knowledge of African wildlife to Miriam.

We passed through the shop but were running out of time so were saved from the danger of spending any more money. Though we did browse a while in a rather nice bookshop and may have bought a book. Though as we were with Katie (a resident) we got a 15% discount, so that was a nice surprise.

The drive home took us through Arusha itself. The traffic is almost as bad as Nairobi, except that the road is only one lane wide (in either direction). There are fewer signs in English than in Kenya, but otherwise it is similar, with people walking everywhere, hand carts, motorbikes & pushbikes, and countless small shops. But Arusha is also a tourist town, as a starting point for safaris to the Serengeti & the so-called northern circuit, so there are some very smart-looking hotels & restaurants.

Katie had a bit of shopping to do. First we stopped at a quite modern shopping centre, with a supermarket, a wine & cheese shop, restaurants & cafes, even a Woolworth’s. Then we visited a corner vegetable market, which was quite different. As soon as we got out of the car we were mobbed by several women offering bananas and avocados. Katie shops there regularly so seems to have it all under control. The veg looked really fresh & the sellers were very friendly. Have I mentioned how good bananas are here? They are tiny (about 3 inches long) but are soo sweet. The best bananas we’ve ever eaten. Luckily they are also plentiful! Especially here in Tanzania,  there are banana palms everywhere you look.

Tonight Mchungaji Joseph & Mama Mchungaji Joseph (aka Joseph & Martha) came to dinner. If you remember she is the one with the wonderful singing voice, and as promised she brought me a couple of her CDs. Can’t wait to listen to them when I get home! It was an interesting dinner party. Firstly the conversation – their English is quite good, but  Martha especially is not all that comfortable. And Mike & Katie’s Swahili is impressive, considering they have only been here a year, but they still struggle somewhat. So they all slipped between the two languages freely, it was fascinating to watch. And Mike quizzed Joseph on some of the finer points of grammar. Then there is a difference between Kenyan & Tanzanian Swahili – some of the few words we had learned are not used here (e.g. they say Hamna Shida, instead of Hakuna Matata).

Secondly the dinner was held entirely by candlelight, as we had no power. All of Tanzania is on hydroelectric power, so in the dry season (i.e. now) there just isn’t enough power to go around, and it is shut off for part of every day. It seems likely there would be some sort of schedule, but no-one knows what it is, so you never know when it will go off, or for how long. Fortunately the Taylors have a gas stove, so we we didn’t have to eat our dinner raw, and they are well supplied with solar powered torches. After only 2 days we are already used to the power cuts, you just carry on as best you can.

Joseph & Martha are only recently married, they told us about a recent journey that they had taken to meet various relatives. They had to walk for 4 hours from the end of the bus route to their destination, as there is just no public transport (and back again). They didn’t seem to think this was anything unusual.

We are settling nicely into life here, getting to know the kids, chatting to Mike & Katie, and learning to understand the Tanzanian way. It feels a hundred miles from our game drives and tented camps, and was it less than three weeks ago we were in Dubai?

Bwana Asifiwe

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Tanzania

Today was certainly very different to our recent experiences in Kenya! After a leisurely breakfast it was Sunday school time for the kids. This was not the usual Sunday School, but was a family affair in the lounge room. Mike played guitar, Katie sang and they all did craft together. Harry is 5, Miriam is 2.5 & Sam is 18 months. Then Katie insisted we ate a snack (some delicious home made sultana buns) because, she said, we would need sustenance to get us through church, which can run for up to 2 hours or more. Mike & Katie gave us a crash course in a couple of Swahili phrases we would need. “Bwana Asifiwe” means “The Lord be Praised” and is a greeting. “Shikamoo” is how young people address their elders, to which we needed to respond “Marhaba”. Katie said there is no English equivalent for that one!

We walked to church, which is part of the Munguishi Bible College campus (Munguishi means ‘God lives’). We were late but apparently the starting time is rather fluid, so no-one seemed bothered. We really enjoyed the experience. The whole service was in Swahili, but the head pastor Mchungaji Joseph,(mchungaji means literally shepherd, and is equivalent to Reverend) sat with us and interpreted for us, which was very helpful. We were personally welcomed (in Swahili) by one of the elders, and we responded (in English) with greetings from Australia. The singing was wonderful, there was a small choir of young people who sang and harmonised beautifully, and Joseph’s wife Martha (more properly known as Mama Mchungaji Joseph) lead (from her seat) in a couple of songs. We didn’t understand the words but she has a magnificent voice. It turns out she has recorded a couple of CDs so hopefully we will be able to bring one home with us.

After lunch and a siesta (still recovering from all those pre-dawn starts) Katie & the kids took us on a tour of the college. It is quite a large block of land, with a number of different buildings – lecture hall, dining room, dormitories, staff offices, the principle’s house, the library & computer room. The buildings are solid, plainly furnished but in quite good condition. We also saw the worker’s cottages, which were very small & primitive, sharing one toilet (just a concrete hole in the ground). There is an outdoor kitchen where the meals for the students are prepared – it is very basic & I can’t imagine cooking there. The college tries to be self-sufficient, and much of the grounds is devoted to farming – maize, sweet potato, green vegetables, also pigs, cows & chickens. We saw a meal plan on a noticeboard, and the food is very basic & repetitive, but it must be challenging to feed that many people (up to 70 at a time) on very limited resources.

By the time we finished our tour Mike had cooked us a delicious stir-fry, complete with his home-grown Thai basil, for dinner. We spent some time planning our week  – craft markets, art galleries, and another national park (allegedly containing the elusive leopard) but this is going to be a quiet chilling out week most of the time. Nice.

The next chapter

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Kenya, Tanzania

We are sitting on a plane, flying from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. We have farewelled Kenya, and all our fellow travellers, sadly. We leave with mixed feelings, sad that the safari is over, looking forward to our next destination, and keen for some down time after a very packed two weeks. We loved every minute of it, it was an amazing, unforgettable adventure. But I’m getting ahead of myself – I’d better fill you in on our last day.

Having still failed in our quest to see the elusive leopard, we added in an unscheduled extra game drive before breakfast. It was a beautiful morning, the sunrise was especially gorgeous, and we just enjoyed being in the park for the very last time. We saw lots of animals, and even spotted a few new birds we hadn’t seen before (that is, our guide John spots them and then we see them), but no leopard. I’m quite sure there were dozens of leopards around, but they saw us first!

Of course it would have been nice to get a good photo of a leopard, but we saw and experienced so much, that there was no possibility of disappointment. I have over 10,000 photos to sort through, and innumerable wonderful memories. We counted at least 48 different animal species and 96 birds that we did see, the highlight (if I had to pick one) being our close encounter with the lion, and every day had its special moments.

We enjoyed one more delicious breakfast by the river bank, and piled into our cars. But the fun wasn’t over yet. Very soon we arrived at a traditional Samburu village. The Samburu are similar to Maasai but live in the north of Kenya. They descended, we were told, from two brothers who settled on either side of Mt Kenya. So their appearance & traditions are similar, but not the same. For one thing, they talk really really fast! They are traditionally nomadic people, but have settled more permanently in recent times so that their children can attend schools. They still live a subsistence existence relying on cattle and living in basic huts made of wood, cow dung & cattle hide. During drought times, the cows die and they have no other income. So they have opened up to tourism and hence we were invited to visit.

We were greeted by the tribal chief, who spoke very good English, and then welcomed by singing and dancing. We were encouraged to take photos, which we did, although it did seem a little voyeuristic. Then they took us inside one of their huts which was much bigger than it looked on the outside, but had no furniture and was very primitive. There was a kitchen area with a fire – no chimney as the smoke from the fire helps deter mosquitoes. There was a small pile of cooking pots, and lots of cow hides on the floor. There was also an old man sleeping on the floor, which was rather odd, and we felt very intrusive. They showed us how to make fire the traditional way, then there was a marketplace set up & we were “encouraged” to purchase something to help support the village. And we all did. Mostly jewellery & carvings, and we are getting better at haggling – though we will never get as good as the locals.

It seems the people are bridging two cultures quite well. One of the Samburu making fire looked quite sheepish when his mobile phone went off! Everyone in Kenya seems to have a mobile phone, even though many of them don’t have electricity at home, so we haven’t quite figured out how they charge them. And one man borrowed a digital camera from one of our group & looked very comfortable with it.

If you remember I wrote about the lack of apparent road rules, but said that I felt comfortable in the traffic chaos. Well, I take it all back! We hurtled back to Nairobi, tackling potholes, bicycles, pedestrians, goats, donkey carts & other drivers in cars, buses & trucks at (apparently) breakneck speed. The close we got to Nairobi, the heavier the traffic, and there was more roadwork and even less adherence to any semblance of lane markings. How there aren’t more collisions I’ll never know. In once incident we saw a car overtaking on a curve in front of on-coming traffic. There clearly wasn’t room, so he just drove onto the shoulder on the opposite side of the road, without slowing down in the slightest. Scary stuff. (Mum, Dad, our driver was excellent and we made it in one piece!)

There seems to be quite a major road building program around Nairobi. When it is finished it should make a big difference, but meanwhile there is even more chaos than usual and it is a complete nightmare. I will never complain about Sydney traffic again! (Actually I probably will – but I shouldn’t).

We eventually arrived at our hotel for the night, after a long day in the car. We chatted and reminisced about our holiday, and our photos and the photo albums (Storybooks) we are all going to make. Our accommodation wasn’t quite up to the standard we have become used to, but we spent very little time there. We all gathered at the nearby Roasters Restaurant for an evening of food & fun & farewells. We were up early to head to the airport for our flight to Tanzania – and now you are all caught up. Except we are not on the plane any more – the flight was so short I only got one paragraph written before we started to descend – and it has taken me until now to get some internet access.

The flight was uneventful, except we got a great view of Mt Kilimanjaro above the clouds as we passed over it. But I’m a little worried about the return trip. Apparently the airline (Precision Air) is known locally as Imprecision Air, and it is unusual for all one’s luggage to arrive at the destination. We had been told by the Tanzanian consulate in Australia that we should have obtained a visa before departure, and were a little worried. But there was a visa counter, we paid our money $US50 each) and our passports were stamped. Very straightforward, and it meant we avoided the much longer queue for those who had visas already. We found a taxi immediately and were on our way to Mike & Katie’s before we knew it. Well, sort of… We were in a taxi, but the driver spoke no English & could not understand the instructions Mike had sent us. Several phone calls, dirt roads & wrong turns later we eventually arrived, much to our relief.

Mike & Katie Taylor, with their children Harry, Miriam & Sam, are Australian missionaries working at the Munguishi Bible College here in Tanzania, near Arusha. The college trains local pastors to equip them to go back to their own churches. We are staying in a little guest house attached to the college. The accommodation is basic but very comfortable, and we are surrounded by lush tropical gardens, with mango trees & banana palms & bougainvillea and lots of other unidentified greenery – it’s a welcome change from the dry dustiness of Kenya. By the time we arrived yesterday, had some lunch & unpacked we were ready for a nanna nap. We had a quiet evening in, catching up & sharing safari stories. (They haven’t seen a leopard either). Looking forward to a very different sort of week. Just about to head to church which is going to be a very different experience, given that it is all in Swahili. I’ll let you know.

PS. Chris has posted a great video summing up our trip. Jess spent most of the safari working on it & she did a great job. Click here to watch it & enjoy.