Tanzania in Retrospect-Mark Biernacki’s Journey to Tanzania, Part I - December 6th, 2013

Journey to Tanzania – Friday/Saturday, July 5/6, 2013

A seven hour flight to Amsterdam along with a five hour layover kicked things off. From there, a jammed packed plane took us to Nairobi for yet another seven hour flight. The international flavor was all around me as I sat squeezed in the plane’s coach section. Across the aisle sat a French woman who was thankful one of the flight attendants spoke her language. Next to me in the center seat was an elderly Kenyan man who wore a baseball cap with the word “Texas” embroidered on the front and a replica of the Kenyan flag on the bill.

I’m still getting to know my travel partners, all of whom are volunteers for this TDS adventure (the students left with Dr. Thurmaier one week earlier). There’s Dan who will be my roommate once we reach our final destination. Jeanine is Dr. T’s wife and has done this trip before. Tricia is another returning volunteer having last been to Tanzania several years ago. Heidi is one of the architects who designed the library we will be building. Carol and Helen, both from Wisconsin and long time acquaintances of the Thurmaiers’, round out the group. Except for Heidi, we’re all in the 50 years plus age bracket.

Mr. MooshThe Nairobi airport is what one would imagine. Our layover here was only for 2 or so hours but they ended up having the most strict of security details. A small pair of scissors that made it all of the way from Chicago undetected was picked out by the one lone guy at the X-ray machine in the boarding area for our flight to Kilimanjaro. A problem with the plane’s paperwork delayed our departure from Nairobi, making the late hour even later. Finally, we made it into the airport in Arusha, Tanzania. This airport made Nairobi’s look plush and modern. We met our driver, Mr. Moosh, who took us to our hotel for the evening while playing and singing to the country and western music on the van’s radio. On Saturday morning, the wake up call came right on schedule. Our journey and our transit was to continue. I was feeling as if we’ve already been on an adventure with just the travels we have done so far. Yet, there are more travels to come before we start on the tasks we originally came for.

Mr. Moosh took us back to the Kilimanjaro Airport for our flight to Mwanza. Another travel snafu greeted us at the baggage check counter. For domestic flights in Tanzania, we each were limited to one checked bag. Of course, we each had two checked bags, most of which carried the school supplies and other donation items for those that live and go to school in the Musoma and Nyegina area that would be our final destination. The extra charge came in at $500 USD! Jeanine was ever the trooper, refused to pay a penny more when asked to, and then dug deep into her bags to fork over the cash. Most definitely this was an unanticipated expense not a part of the original budget and expense planning.

Father Leo KazeriFather Leo Kazeri, one of the head priests at the Catholic Church and the parish that covers Musoma area, greeted us at the airport in Mwanza. Again, with each successive airport, the facilities and services became more and more primitive. This one in Mwanza was definitely at the bottom end of any that I have been to. But, what is one to expect? I think it is a great experience to see these types of places and what people deal with.

Fixing a flat tireOne van was used for our luggage, the other was for us volunteers. First, we had lunch at a very nice place on the lakeshore. Then off on a long and dusty 4 hour ride north to Musoma. Many people walking along the road, donkeys, goats and cattle all over the place, bicycles, screaming trucks and vans rushing by each other with only inches to spare, wildebeests off in the distance as we traveled along the western edge of the Serengeti, women and young girls with large water containers or bundles of wood on their heads, people washing themselves and their clothes in whatever puddle or pond they can find, basic living conditions with homes made of mud brick with thatched roofs, and trash and garbage strewn everywhere. We blew a tire about halfway through the ride. Our driver worked effortlessly to change it out while the rest of us stood in the shade of a nearby acacia tree while watching a young boy shepherd a herd of cattle in the nearby fields.

Side of the roadFishingCarrying

Into MusomaFinally into Musoma and to the Epheta Retreat Center that is located right on the shores of Lake Victoria. We arrived right at dusk so weren’t able to see everything about the place just yet. The staff fed us a simple meal of rice, fish and beef along with some pineapple and legumes. We were soon dead asleep exhausted after our long journey.

What a whirlwind of the past two days! An adventure was already had, yet we haven’t even begun the real adventure and purpose of our trip.
—Mark B.

Tanzania in Retrospect- Brandi - October 7th, 2013

Tanzania, in retrospect: Part I

TZ Collage_1

June 26th, the day before we left for Tanzania.

For the previous two weeks, I had been finishing last-minute tasks as the management intern for TDS. Working with our Tanzanian partner UMABU to confirm the hostel accommodations, travel arrangements, and the schedule changes had proved to be an exhausting, yet rewarding, exercise in inter-organizational relations across borders.

I stayed awake until 1AM the day of our departure, emailing last minute scheduling changes and documents and putting my hair into small twists for the month ahead. I was bone tired and fell into a restless sleep. I awoke at 6AM feeling as though I had never slept. It took me another two hours to finish twisting the last of my hair and I purposely made the twists tighter than usual so that they would last the entire month without needing to be redone.

Once I finished my hair, my thoughts turned to packing. I had already decided to take just one large suitcase and my backpack. My previous travel had always been for long stretches of time (at least 8 months) and I was used to my two large suitcases, backpack, and carry-on. Tanzania was different though; one month meant I needed to pack far fewer clothing and other miscellaneous items. However, as I started to pack, I realized that I’d need more room. Even though I intended to give away roughly 70% of my clothing, I wanted to leave room for any gifts and cloth I meant to purchase. With thoughts of colorful (cheap) kanga material firmly in mind, I dug out my carry-on. This proved to be a wise decision later on.

I packed in a hurry, splitting my belonging between the three bags. A last minute search for two missing SD cards and my cheap European cell phone put me behind schedule. Further setting me back was the unexpected failure of my tablet. It was meant to be my electronic companion overseas—an inexpensive substitute for the expensive MacBook I couldn’t afford to lose or replace. In its place, I took my mother’s tablet and the transferring of files for school and work, as well as large media files literally took hours to complete.

I rushed out the door and carried my bags to the car one by one. Afternoon rush hour was just beginning in Chicago and I was late leaving home. I jumped in the van, set up the GPS to guide me to O’Hare and drove away. I stopped at the stop sign and it hit me. I didn’t have my passport! I put the car in reverse back to my front door and jumped out. I rushed into the house and ran straight to my mother’s room, grabbed my passport and Yellow Card from her filing cabinet. Out the house I ran, jumped into the car, buckled my seatbelt, and took off. Traffic was lighter than expected and we reached O’Hare in less than 90 minutes. Preparing to leave had completely robbed me of my anxiety of the long travel days ahead. That anxiety returned as I found my seat on our first flight to Amsterdam.

—Brandi S.