Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: Tanzania, A womans Perspective

Kilimanjaro, Chumbe Island, Zanzibar, and The Ngorogoro Crater. . . . now memories which flood my mind both day and night. I had planned, trained, saved, and waited with great anticipation for my
chance to join Dennis on the African Edventure. I missed my husband desperatly and could not wait to see him and experience Africa the way he had been experiencing it. Thus far, my experiences in Africa
were limited to South Africa. I knew Tanzania would be different, but I didn't know how different. I could not wait for my plane to touch down at Kilimanjaro International Airport!

As you know, shortly after I arrived in Tanzania, we began our 6 day trek of Kilimanjaro. Dennis has already done a great job of describing our day to day experiences while on Kili. When we finished the trek, he asked me to think about writing my thoughts about the experience. I was flooded with emotions as we finished the 6 day trek, and did not where to begin writing. And, as we were pressed for time, we were off to experience Zanzibar and more of Tanzania. The writing would have to wait.

Hiking Kilimanjaro was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. But also, one of the most disappointing as I did not make it to the summit. This was the most strenuous, most physically
challenging, most physically exhausting thing I have ever done. As I sit at the computer, I'm overwhelmed with memories from Kili. The beauty of the rainforest, the snow-capped peaks, the rivers, and the
team that helped us on our adventure. Remember, we had 7 other people hiking with us! The memory of our guides and porters working very hard every day is clear in my mind. I could not believe how much the porters carried up that mountain! I found myself
wanting to talk with them about their jobs, lives, families and country. Unfortunately, only our guide and one of the porters spoke English, so our conversations were limited. My Swahili consists of
about 4 words! I'm fascinated with other cultures and wanted to learn everything I could about being Tanzanian. Unfortunately, I found myself feeling very sad. Our guide often told us stories of the poverty and despair in his country. I looked at the clothes
and the shoes the porters were wearing and worried about their warmth and comfort as we climbed in elevation. I felt angry about the obvious corruption and injustice that exists in Tanzania just as it does in most of Africa. I wondered if there was anything
we could do.

As we traveled in Tanzania, I found myself studying the people. I noticed how the children played together and how they worked together. The children seem to grow up so much faster there than
American children. The children seemed so independent. I noticed groups of what looked like "toddler" classes of 5 to 10 kids playing by themselves in the fields while their mothers worked the crops. Little boys of barely 4 or 5 were tending the goats and cattle for the family. Often, without an adult visible for hundreds of meters. They seem very happy. The smiles from most of the kids are
bigger than they are. They make toys out of boxes and strings and whatever happens to be available. No expensive toys and video games for these kids! Even so, I noticed the poverty. It was hard to escape.

Everywhere we went, people asked for money. Children held out their little hands and asked for money. It broke my heart.

My time in Tanzania passed far too quickly. I loved being able to experience the mountains, the ocean, the wildlife, and the people. I look forward to being able to return to Africa to experience more
of the culture and it's peoples. Visiting Africa is a life changing experience. Since I've been home, I've looked around me at the materialistic society that we as American's call home, and wondered if it would be different, if we would be different, if we could all
go to Africa at least once.

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