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Circle of Life

The past few days, the team has been on a safari! Sorry for being out of the loop yall, but we have been getting a little experience of this beautiful country!

In Wednesday, we woke up to get on a bus to Arusha! After 8 hours we made it and hoped into our Safari with our two guides! Unfortunately it was too late to go adventuring, but we stayed at a very nice campsite that had a pool and even hot water for our showers!

The next day we woke up at 5 am to have lots and lots of coffee before we headed to the Lake Manyara national park. We saw baboons, elephants, hippos, zebras, water buffalo and many many other animals and birds. It was beautiful and we got to see the sun rise which was fantastic! We came back to the camp and had a wonderful breakfast made by our cook! After, we headed to the Serengeti! I still don’t believe it was real life. It is exactly like the pictures portray it, very flat.. very very flat. With some rock outcroppings, but mostly flat. We saw LIONS pretty much as soon as we made it onto the camp grounds! Many of the animals we saw were so close to the car, it was incredible.

We saw more zebras, giraffes, elephants, hyenas, ostriches, hippos … it was a fantastic day and we were very lucky, even our guide told us so.  We even saw a leopard! which is very unlikely in the Serengeti to be able to spot one! One fun story… one of the first hippo sightings was here in a pond… we saw it floating in the water. All of a sudden, a croc comes over!! We get our cameras ready, put it on videotape mode and get all excited, only to find out the hippo was actually dead to begin with! Oops.

Then we drove to our camp site… and camped IN THE SERENGETI! no fences or anything… needless to say, we did not want to leave our tents in the middle of the night in case an animal wanted to come say hi! After a great dinner, we just stood outside and watched the stars. It was a beautiful sight. In all directions you could see these fantastic twinkling lights as well as a lightning storm happening many miles away which just added to the beauty.

It was another early morning on Friday, 5 am. But, we got to see the sunrise over the Serengeti which is one of the most breathtaking sights. Pictures cannot do it justice.

We left the Serengeti park… but just after we saw 4 baby lion cubs as well as their mom with a fresh zebra kill! We  traveled to the  Ngorongoro Crater National Park. It was a beautiful yet terrifying sight as we drove down this huge crater on a dirt, steep road. We saw lots and lots of fun animals, including flamingos on the water, wildebeest, and many many more hippos at the hippo pond!

Unfortunately, after lunch it was about time to leave! So drove back up out of the crater… but it must have been a sign for us not to leave because a water buffalo was in the middle of the road!! Since they are so territorial and aggressive we didn’t want to risk passing this huge animal. It did turn around and gave us a death look at one point… we definitely backed farther out of his way once that happened. Eventually the water buffalo left the road and we were able to travel back to Arusha. After a nice dinner, we had to say our farewells to Miss Jennifer Jackson since she had to head to an internship! Good luck and do a great job! 🙂

The next morning, we woke up early again to travel back to Tanga and back to our hostel. After a fantastic trip, we were glad to be able to be home and take a nice shower.

It was absolutely wonderful… but tomorrow it is time to start work again!

Cheers and Hakuna Matata!

Working for the Weekend

Hello friends and family!

We have been hard at work for the past six days and are excited for our first day off tomorrow!

Yesterday, the team started on the gutter system. After arriving at the site around 8, we waited for Mmasa (the contractor) to show up. Thirty minutes…one hour…two hours later, he finally showed up and we were able to start work! It was a fun day of technical discussions and finally not so backbreaking work. Our main goal of the day was to attach the wooden spacers to the fascia board so that the gutters would not be too covered by the roof. We got a late start, but made a lot of progress on the task. By the end of the day, the team had mastered the art of using a drill, sawing wood with a hand saw (which is terribly exhausting), and gotten over the fear of being on the scaffold. We were also rewarded with fresh mangoes and other fruits from the community as a thank you for our work.

Today, on the way to the site, we saw Mmasa on the side of the road trying to talk himself into a negotiation with the police! We all waved as he shooed us away, and it was quite a hilarious start to the day’s work. We made quite a bit of progress and finished attaching all the spacers to the fascia board and the brackets to the spacers. On Monday, we will be ready to assemble the rest of the gutter system!

Tomorrow will be our first day off, and we are all SO excited to go see the city! Time to buy some souvenirs for our loving support system at home!

Team Tanzania out.

Working Hard/ Hardly Working

Hello to all! Or should I say jambo.  Or actually mambo, which means “hello, how are you”. 

We are all very much alive and well.  We have a couple days of hard work under our belts at this point and are very excited to start day 3!  On tuesday, we got to the worksite around 9am to hurry up and wait for the contractor to show up.  Mmasa, the contractor, is quite the character.  We heard from others that he does not like to leave the house until 10am so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised that he didn’t roll up until about 10:30.  The hour and a half of downtime did, however, give us the opportunity to play with the kids at the school.  Play may be the wrong word.  They surrounded us and stared at us for a very long time as if they expected us to put on a show. We mostly just stared back because we didn’t know what to do.  We started trying to teach them to do head, shoulders, knees and toes but they mostly just laughed at us and our weird dance.  After a little while longer of staring and attempting to play games, the school bell rang and they all returned to class.  Finally, once Mmasa and his crew arrived, we started learning what building a tank entailed.  The rock foundation was already in place so first they covered the foundation in a blue tarp to prevent the cement that was to be poured to seep into the rough foundation and to prevent water from getting in and eroding the steel mesh.  Then, the large inner wall steel framework was placed on top of the foundation and mesh.  Mmasa’s workers then placed large L-shaped rebar against the framework, sticking the short leg of the L under the framework.  Throughout this process, Mmasa and his men were teaching us how to use huge wire cutters and how to tie rebar.  We worked quickly to tie the L-shpaed rebar to hoops of rebar going around the tank to form a sort of cylindrical cage.  While the rest of the team worked on the first few of these tasks, Enakshi and I (Hannah) learned how to use a leveling machine.  The machine looked like a sort of camera on top of a tripod.  The tripod and camera had to be leveled and pointed at the school building.  So, Enakshi stared through the camera and I held a huge meter stick, or “staff” as Mmasa called it, against the fascia board at the spots that the 5 meter gutters are to be attached.  We then joined up with the rest of the team for wire cutting and tying.  The work was hard and we were famished by the time we got back to the hostel.  Thankfully, our wonderful chef Mama had a wonderful meal of rice and chipati and beans and spinach on the table waiting for us.

Day two started off much like day one.  We arrived at the work site this time at about 8am to hurry up and wait for Mmasa to show up around 10am.  Evidently, he got stopped by the police because of all the men he had in the back of his truck.  Once Mmasa showed up, his men placed the outer formwork of the tank, fixing it to be vertical using logs and sticks propped up against the outside.  This went on for a few hours.  Meanwhile, we sat and chatted and played with kids and did all sorts of things that entailed very little manual labor.  At about noon, Mmasa brought a bunch of women to work with us once the concreting started.  We all waited around for a while longer for the water crew to bring back a huge drum of water from the local dam.  ONce the water showed up, it started raining super hard so we continued to wait.  Finally, around 2:15pm, Mmasa divided up the workers and they started the first batch of concrete.  We all got buckets and lined up for them to be filled.  The men, obviously doubting our ability to carry concrete, only filled up our buckets about 2/3 full.  They were right.  Did anyone else know how heavy concrete is? Very heavy. Very very very heavy.  We carried the buckets a variety of ways- from the top handle, from the side handles, like a baby, a combination of all of them.  However, none of us were quite tough enough or poised enough to carry them on our heads like the other women.  They gracefully hoisted full buckets of concrete overhead, placed them delicately on their heads and walked gracefully across the yard to the tank.  We were all floored.  Everyone kept suggesting we put our buckets on our heads and we said…… as if we could do that.  The work during this last part of the day was more than enough to make up for the inactivity during the first half of the day.  Also, the Tanzanian women made it fun.  Though we don’t speak the same language, we all communicated through smiles and motions.  They thought it was so funny to see us carry buckets of concrete.  According to Dorie (our Tanzanian intern friend) they were very impressed by our abilities because they were under the assumption that an American woman would never be able to do that type of labor.  I mostly felt like they were laughing at how we were carrying it and how dirty we were getting, which I’m sure they were to some degree.  It was so fun though, to laugh and joke with them.  

When we finished work, Mohammed (our in-country coordinator/driver/translator/local authority/guardian) surprised us with young coconuts.  One of the village leaders took a large knife, pealed the coconuts, and cut them open for us to drink the fresh coconut water out of.  Now, I love coconut water at home.  You know, the boxed kind that costs like $3 a pop at whole foods? That stuff, unsurprisingly, pales in comparison to the fresh stuff.  It was so light and fresh and delicious.  We were all so pleased with this surprise, almost giddy, honestly.  When we got home last night, we had a traditional Tanzanian meal of cassava and banana dishes waiting for us.  It was all very different but very good! After dinner, we took showers and were out by 9pm due to exhaustion from our hard work and because we planned to get up and watch the sunrise this morning!

So, this morning we got up at a ripe 5am so head out at 5:45 to an overlook to watch the sun.  Unfortunately, it rained all night so we couldn’t see the sun through the clouds.  It was so beautiful and breezy out, though, that we could not be disappointed.  After it was fully light outside, Mohammed left us to stroll back through town to the hostel.  Tanga is so charming and the walk was very enjoyable.  We saw precious kids on their way to school and women riding side saddle on the back of bicycles (very impressive) and many many city buses.  Once we got back home, Mama had a beautiful rainbow breakfast laid out.  There was watermelon, pineapple, avocado, papaya, mango, oranges, hardboiled eggs and bread.  So beautiful, so delicious.  The fruit here is outstanding and we can’t get enough of it!! Now, we are about to head off for another day of concrete carrying as we fill the second layer of the tank.

Oh, I forgot.  Two nights ago, Mohamed took us to a woman’s house who is a part of a women’s group that sews beautiful dresses and skirts and shirts and handbags.  We all shopped the designs and fabrics and chose something for them to make for us.  It was super fun and I personally chose a very vibrant orange and blue tie-dyed fabric to be made into a long dress with a cinched waist.  Many pictures to come once we get the dresses! 

Mohamed is on his way now to take us to the site so I must put back on my concrete clothes and mentally prepare myself for another day of manual labor.  

Peace and blessings to all from this neck of the woods.

Asante sana (thank you very much) for reading! More to come! Be sure to check out the pictures in the picture section!!


We are here!!

Our team finally made it to Tanga after a very long trip full of hours of bus rides and plane trips!

Today we were able to meet with our village, Mtimbwani, and with the village leaders! It was a great and much needed meeting. We learned so much about the future of our project and construction of it. We have high hopes that the villagers will be able to put their time to help in the project, which will be fantastic. We are excited to start the construction of the tanks tomorrow.

The town has been very receptive to our visit and are very eager to join us with our project and to make it their own.


Our hotel view from Dar es Salaam



Our trip to Tanga!



Our trip to Tanga!



Our wonderful hostel in Tanga


Why Tanzania

Our team will be working in Tanga, Tanzania to install a water harvesting system for the use of a rural community.

Why water? Tanzania’s water situation is pretty dire. Not only does unsanitary water cause over half the disease found amongst the population, many children are forced to drop out of school to go in search of water for their families. There has also been a rise in reported instances of harassment and rape, as women are the main gatherers of water and often walk long distances alone or in small groups.

The government has over a 40 year history of failed water initiatives. And get this: In 2003, the World Bank gave Tanzania an ultimatum to privatize their water or they would lose international aid and funding. So, a British company called Biwater took over Tanzania’s water system. Well, the water situation just got worse and Biwater is no longer in Tanzania. Today, 80% of Tanzania’s potable water has been funded by outside sources.

While we don’t know the community, two general systems have been chosen to focus on during this time. I am one of the social workers in the group so instead of explaining all things technical, you can click on these hyperlinks:

The first possibility involves a water catchment system where rain water is caught and stored in a container(s). The second possibility is a type of sand dam that traps water in sand after a rain. It can even create a small oasis.

This is the Final Countdown

Tomorrow is our last day in Mtimbwani.  It’s slightly surreal that we are almost at the end of our time in Tanzania! A year of hard work and hard lessons later, we are turning over our project to the community tomorrow afternoon at our final meeting.

Back track to what we have been doing since the safari…

When we returned from the safari, we were filled in on the numerous happenings in Tanga while we were gone.  Our tech advisor, NGO coordinator and Tanzanian interns had a meeting with the community leaders of Mtimbwani to discuss a variety of topics.  The most exciting was the prospect of using our contingency funds to build a playground for the children at the school!  Designing a playground is a huge task but the team and the community were both very excited about it.  Along with designing the playground, we knew that this week we would be doing a community survey, building tippy tap systems, turning over a sustainability plan and having a final meeting to turn over the tank.  So, needless to say, we had a long to do list waiting on us when we got back.  

We decided to use Sunday to knock out as much of this work as possible.  In the early afternoon, we took a break and had lunch with Enakshi’s uncle at the beautiful Tanga Yacht Club.  The restaurant was on an open patio on the ocean.  It was so pleasant and the food was wonderful!  After lunch, a few of us stopped by the “European market” to buy some produce and other odds and ends for dinner.  We bought 5 avocados, 5 mangos, 5 tomatoes, an onion, and 2 limes all for 8,000 TSH, which is about $5.  We will definitely miss the low prices here!  After the market, we headed back home for some more work and a meeting with our NGO coordinator.  The meeting was relatively long and involved but afterwards, we used our bounty of produce to make guacamole!!! All of us Texans had a hankering for some Mexican food, and the wonderful avocados made for some wonderful guac.  Sunday night after guac time, Jennifer worked hard with the interns to create and translate a community assessment survey to be given Monday morning.

We got up very early Monday but hit a few speed bumps and weren’t able to get to Mtimbwani until about 10:30 to start the survey.  However, while waiting for the day to start, the team cooked up a plan to fit a beautiful beach vacation in Zanzibar into our last week in Tanzania (more on that shortly).  Once we arrived in Mtimbwani, we separated into five teams.  Each team had at least one student and at least one village person.  The five teams were to spread out across the seven sections of Mtimbwani to survey the residents.  The survey contained various questions about malaria, overall health, poverty, access to services, and community involvement.  I was with our technical advisor, Mary Lou, and two men from Mtimbwani, one of whom is a community leader.  We were in charge of covering the Kilole and Subutuni sections of Mtimbwani.  These heavily rural areas are located about 4 miles off of the main road that the school is on.  This meant we got to enjoy a very long walk down a dirt road, overgrown with mango, cashew, coconut and banana trees.  As we walked, our companions taught us some Swahili.  We were not very quick learners but they thought it was hilarious to hear us try.  One of the men was relatively fluent in english so we discussed the differences between America and Tanzania.  He was shocked to find out that in America, you might pay up to $2 for a single mango!

Once we finally arrived at Kilole, Mary Lou and I both went with one of the men to a house to do the survey.  We continued doing this for the next 4 hours, surveying about ten households, then we turned around for the long trek back to the school.  On the way back, we were given mangos, maize, oranges, young coconut (fresh coconut water!), and cassava.  When we walked up to the school we had a bag and backpack bursting with freshly picked goodies.  

The survey was definitely a highlight of the trip for the team.  We were given the opportunity to sit down with this community in their homes or on their porches and observe their lifestyle.  The whole survey was in Swahili so none of us had a clue what was going on, but that gave us the opportunity to watch and be in the moment.  I was sitting on a stump outside of a mud hut with ducks around my feet, goats across the yard from me and precious kids waddling all around me, and I was like whatttttt.  It was very much surreal.  Despite the language and cultural barriers, we all figured out how to communicate and connect with the community through funny looks and body language and smiles and giggles and sad sad attempts at Swahili greetings.  

Monday night over dinner, we told funny stories from the day, most of which involved miscommunications with community members.  We all had fun, though and learned a lot about the community we are serving.  After dinner, we were back to work on our long task list.

Today, we went up to the school and constructed the three tippy tap systems.  These hand washing stations were relatively simple to construct but we ran into various technical issues that the engineers enjoyed working out.  We also met with the contractor for the tank and worked out filtration issues to ensure the highest quality of water for the community.  Mmasa and Enakshi especially worked hard to create the best, most durable filtration system possible.  We also enlisted the help of a few young people from the community to translate the surveys into english as our main translator/intern Dorice went to the hospital because she was not feeling well.  Turns out she has Malaria! She got some medicine and is feeling better tonight, thankfully.

Tomorrow we will finish up the tippy taps and have our final meeting with the community and our Afren contact.  We are very sad to be leaving our friends in Mtimbwani but we are working hard to leave them well equipped to maintain the water tank for years to come!

Thursday morning we are heading off to Zanzibar to experience the beaches and the culture as we have heard it is not to be missed! We will be staying on the beautiful beachy east side of the island Thursday and Friday night.  We hope to find time for a spice tour and the stone town tour as well as plenty of time on the beach!  Saturday we will head back to Dar Es Salaam on the earliest ferry to head to the airport and back to the states!

Be on the lookout for a good ‘ol photo dump, final plans for the playground, the results of the community survey, and the results of the final meeting!

See you soon, USA!

-Hannah Jones