African Epilouge

Monday, February 28, 2005
African Epilouge- 02.28.05

Epilouge…….Well, I am home again. The dust of the village roads has washed out of my clothes and my sunburn has begun to fade. I wanted to leave you with a few final thoughts, though.

If the urge to volunteer in a third world country hits you, do not hesitate for a single second. It is scary and uncomfortable at times, but overwhelmingly fun, powerful and rewarding. All it takes is a credit card, passport, and a willingness to step into another world. I promise you will not be sorry that you did!

I could never have done this without the experience of my season on the Appalachian Trail. Every lesson I learned there, from conserving water to being open to the kindness of strangers served me on this trip. And I carried all of my fellow hikers with me here in Africa.

When you think that something is used up, be it a piece of clothing or a plastic bowl, give it one more hard look. I bet there are many years of use left in it. Seeing others treasure the most simple of things taught me to treasure them in return.

If a person from Africa walks up to you and asks if she/he can spend the night at your house, consider saying yes! This might seem strange to us, but it is the African way and this very thing happened to me at the Atlanta airport. I walked up to mom and dad and said, “This is Yop, she is from Nigeria and I am taking her home for the night”. Of course, being the parents that they are, they just shrugged and said “Of course!”.

Most importantly……I have said it before, but it bears repeating. When you see the pictures of Africa and starving children, all you can see is the need. The pictures seem to be completely about poverty. But make no mistake, even in the poorest village, there is a rich community here, built on family and values. Neighbors share what they have with each other, and in the midst of what we consider great need, find a way to lead very happy, productive lives. Do not let that deter you from giving, because the need is certainly there, but do not let that need lead you to believe that that is all there is to see. I learned a great deal about friendship and happiness from these people.

Thank you for following my journey. Your support has meant more than you know!
If you are interested in donating to Upendo Childrens Home, Kilamahewa School, or the Honey Badger Cultural Arts Center, do not hesitate to send me an email. Until our next adventure………
Asante sana na Karibu,
“When all is said and done here at the ending of the day, I look out on this world and it still takes my breath away…”
“Robin’s Song” Small Potatoes

Anna aka Mud Butt

Warm Pepsi and Good-byes

Friday, February 25, 2005
Warm Pepsi and Good-byes 02.25.05

FridayI woke up early and jumped out of bed. This was my last day at Kilamahewa and I couldn’t wait to get there! I had bags of candy to give all of the students and a fresh role of film in my camera. We were going to go out with a bang!
When I reached the school I asked Mr. Masawe to end class ten minutes early so that I could speak to the kids, give them candy and lead them in one more rendition of the Hokey-Pokey. The morning sped by and when it came time for recess, instead of the children all running out to play, many of them crowded around me for one last game of ‘tickle’. It is a simple game, really. I tickle each child until they laugh, taking turns with all of the kids in the middle of the tight circle that they form around me. Sooner or later, someone figures out that turn about is fair play and before I know it, twenty little hands are tickling me mercilessly! As I shriek with laughter, I have to end the game until I calm down a little bit. Then it starts all over again.
I was in the middle of counting to twenty in Swahili, (kumi na moja…..kumi na mbili…) when Mr. Masawe leaned out of the door to his home and motioned to me that it was time. As I stood in front of the children, Mr. Masawe came with all of his students to translate for me. “Tomorrow, I am going back to America…..”, I began, before bursting into tears. Seventy little confused faces looked up at me as I tried to pull myself together. I explained to them that I thought they were very, very smart and very, very special and that I loved them all very much. I told them that I would tell all of my friends in America about them and that I would never forget them. Realizing that this good-bye was more for me than them, I cut it short by bringing out the candy. They are squealed and jumped up and down as I handed it out. Mr. Masawe had them all stand up and led them in a chorus of ‘good-bye teacher’s and ‘we love you’s. It was more than I could stand.
With tears streaming down my face, I yelled, ‘Let’s Hokey-Pokey!!!!” and we all ran out into the yard and got into a big circle. I yelled out each line and Mr. Masawe translated it as we ‘shook it all about’. When we got to ‘put your whole body in’, the children ran into the middle of the circle and shook themselves with wild abandon, laughing like crazy. Then with one final good-bye, they scattered over the fields towards home. As I looked out at those small figures in blue uniforms I waved until my arm grew numb. When I could no longer see them in the distance, I sat down wearily on the bench. My time at Kilamahewa was over.
I felt wrung out and all I wanted to do was go collapse on my bunk, but there was still a full day ahead, so after a quick lunch with a few of the other volunteers, Christie, Sarah and I headed to Jesca’s house for the rest of the day. We did not know what was in store, but Mamma Digna and Jesca had been asking us to come over all week long, and knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing them again before I left, I was anxious to go.
We walked to Jescas house and upon arriving, found that all of the living room furniture had been moved out into a brick building that was to be their home in the future. They had begun building it some time ago and had run short on funds, so for the time being, it it four walls and a roof. It made the perfect place for a party!
In true Tanzania form, nothing went as planned, and what was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon at Jescas turned into a comedy of errors. Rumor reached the house that one of the Arusha volunteers was in the hospital so we all jumped in a taxi to go see if we could help. We thought it might be one of our friends from the waterfall hike so we hightailed it to the hospital. To make a long story short, it wasn’t one of our friends, but it was a very nice young woman from the Arusha program. She was doing all right and was glad to have the visitors. After a trip to our home base to get her some supplies and a trip back to the hospital to deliver them, we headed to Jesca’s once more.
When we arrived, we were surprised to see that a party had materialized! Approximately thirty of Jesca’s friends and families had come to say welcome to Christie, thank you to Sarah, and good-bye to me! A neighbor wandered around with a camera taking photos and Andrew, our cab driver, settled himself onto the couch to enjoy the festivities. Platters of food were bought out and we all set to a feast that included chicken, rice, plantains, fresh vegetables and fruit. To say that we were touched would be the greatest understatement in the world! We all ate and ate, and as we finished, a wooden box of bottles of soda were brought out. Warm Pepsi has never tasted so good. Knowing what a luxury it was and seeing the joy it brought to these people to share it with us really drove home all the lessons that I had learned about Tanzanian kindness, compassion and generosity.
As we sat and sipped our drinks, Jesca stood up and announced that they had a special surprise for us. She bought out a small round plate with a brown disc on it. Mamma Digna had baked a cake!!!! I know that it might not seem like much to us here in America, but here in Rau, this was huge! Tanzanians do not do desert. No cakes, pies, etc. I cannot imagine for the life of me how Mamma Digna even knew how to bake one! For these people, however, a cake was so symbolic of Americans, and it was something special that they wanted to do for us. Jescas cousin and I held the knife together and cut the cake amidst flash bulbs going off. She then took turns cutting bites and feeding them to each of us with pictures being taken of each one of us and our bite of cake. It was wonderful!
After the cake, Jesca stood up and gave a speech welcoming us all and thanking us. When she began to talk about me and how I was leaving, I just sat there and cried. She sang a good-bye song to me in Swahili and explained that it was about how much I had touched everyone’s life and how much they all loved me. I just sat there and sobbed as I reached up and grasped the wild flower charm that my friend Nicole had sent with me to Africa. She had told me to go and spread the seeds of wild flowers, and sitting on that couch in the middle of an African village, the moon rising up through the open walls, surrounded by people laughing and singing, I decided that this must of been what she meant.
Tears soon gave way to merriment as they turned up the music and we all started to dance. The mzungu tried to imitate the effortless hip swivels that Tanzanians seem to be born with and we all laughed ourselves hoarse. It was ten o’clock when Andrew gave us the high sign. It was time to go. As we all made our way around the room hugging and thanking everyone, I found myself crying again. Last but not least, Jesca and I stood by the taxi embracing. Who would have believed that this quiet young woman would have ended up touching my life so much? As I told her that I believed in her and that I wanted her to see all of her dreams come to fruition, we sobbed and sobbed. Christie, Sarah and I finally climbed into the taxi and headed slowly through the village one final time.
I climbed into my bunk feeling, at the same time, both a sense of heart break and completion. Heart break because I couldn’t bear the thought that all of these people that I have come to treasure might go on to lead lives that I am not a part of, and completion because I know that it is time to go home. The goals that I set for this trip are posted on the wall of the house, and are as follows:
1. To crack my world wide open
2. To make as many children as possible feel valued and loved
3. To help children understand how unique and special they are
4. To be an ambassador for the U.S. and C.C.S
5. To connect with people regardless of language or cultural barriers

Mission accomplished.

But as much as I wanted to touch the people that I met here, it was a small, small thing compared to what they have given me. Families took me into their homes, children hugged me with all of the love that they had to give, and a community made me one of their own. Africa has left my life richer than I ever imagined it could be, and that is what I plan on taking home with me.

“When all is said and done here at the ending of the day, I look out on this world and it still takes my breath away…”
“Robin’s Song” Small Potatoes

Anna aka Mud Butt

Bath time with Scarlet O’Hara! Africa Continued…

Thursday, February 24, 2005
Bath time with Scarlet O’Hara! 2.24.05

ThursdayThe week is speeding by faster than I ever imagined that it could and as I went to school today, I reminded myself over and over to make each moment count. I have come to love these children so much and the thought that I am only a couple of days away from leaving them is more than I want to think about right now.
Today, I bought in a book that my friend Nicole sent with me to read to the kids. It is a book on taking a bath and it has elephants and other animals taking baths as well so I think it might be interesting to them. The story time is as follows……

Me: Bath time is fun! My little sister takes a bath!
…..long silence as I show the picture to all of the children……
….even longer silence as Jesca tries to figure out how in the hell to translate this….

Jesca: $@#!% ^@%^$°⁄fl·‹ Y&*@#&›·‹ &Z@*$&#@)$* Z&*97 %#$^!% &^@#&$(…..&$*#$)…..
(Translation: The time for one to bathe oneself is a time that brings much happiness to the family and to ones self….the daughter of my mother which is smaller than I also takes the time to bathe oneself so as to bring about cleanliness….)

And then I read the next page………..I could go on but I bet you get the picture! I add to the fun by trying to make up the story when the one that is written obviously won’t do. For instance, the long section about the pet dog getting a bath and having his own shampoo? Not gonna happen!! And the section about rinsing off baby sister in the sink with the spray attachment……well these children have never seen a sink, much less a spray attachment!! Needless to say, there was much confusion on the children’s part and much laughter on mine, but I think in the end they all enjoyed the story! As for Jesca, well she just thinks that I have lost my mind!
The morning sped by and I had a moment of panic when I heard the van coming to pick me up. Only one day left with my babies. It makes my breath catch in my throat when I think about it so I decided to do what any self-respecting southern girl would do….think about it tomorrow! That Scarlet O’Hara had the right idea!
Instead of going back to the house, this was the day that I was going to speak to the girls at Mama Lucy’s school and I was really looking forward to it. Christie and Julie opted out and instead, my friend Sarah asked to come. Sarah is 24 going on 40 and is really an amazing person. She has been here a couple of months and her life long dream is to come back and work in the Peace Core. It didn’t surprise me at all that she would want to come talk to the students…..she is not one to let an opportunity like this pass her by! I think that is why she and I get along so well!! We took a taxi to the Arts Center and Mamma Lucy was waiting there to escort us to the school. The young girls from a few days ago were all there and the first thing they did was take turns standing up and introducing themselves. Almost to a girl, they were painfully shy. One young woman in particular seemed overwrought with the thought of speaking to us. I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I asked Mamma Lucy to translate for me and I walked up to the young girl and asked her to stand up. I gently pulled her shoulders back and tilted her chin up. I told her that she was smart and beautiful and that no one in this world should make her look at the ground. I told her that she had strength that she was unaware of but that we could all see it and that she could claim her place in this world. A shy, wide smile took over her face and the other girls laughed with her. I think they all realized at that point that we didn’t bite!
When it was time for us to speak, I asked the girls what they thought of America and Americans. I asked if they all thought we were rich beyond belief, and that we were all famous. As I watched them nod, I was overcome with the futility of what I was trying to do. What was I trying to do? Was I trying to convince them that I wasn’t rich? Or famous? How do I tell a person that has no indoor plumbing, and that lives with twelve other people that I, who own a home and a car, is simply middle class? How do I explain that the luxuries that I seemingly have are very mundane in America? I just couldn’t do it. To even try seemed laughable. Instead, I talked to them about education. I talked to them about school being the key to all of their goals and how I had spent twenty years in school. As I explained to them that they are the future of this country, Mamma Lucy nodded her head in agreement. I have never felt the power of words so profoundly as I looked at that small group of girls listening intently.
After I was done, Sarah stood up and told them her story. Everything that she said, from having a father that thought she should get married rather than go to school, to working two jobs to put herself through university, was something that these girls could relate to. As she continued to talk about power and education and having the right to say ‘no’, all of the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I was standing at the rear of the classroom watching Sarah speak when I knew without a doubt that something powerful was happening. There were children gathered around the outside of the window to listen, several adults had joined us in the room, and the students in the classroom were engrossed in Sarah’s tale. And something was happening. I don’t know if I will ever know what went on in that room that day, but something moved, and someone was touched, and a difference was made in someone’s life. Someone’s in addition to my own.
Class wound up with us all taking pictures of each other and hugging. This is something that Tanzanians do not do often…..hug each other. I laughed and told them that we were going to show them what Mzungu did when they made a new friend. I enveloped each one of those young girls in a big hug, trying to commit their grins to memory. All of the forces that brought me to this country are coming to a head and I feel like I am being swept in a tide. All of those cliché statements about us all being small pieces of a grand puzzle are starting to make such sense and I can feel that I am almost done here.
Baba Charles drove us home slowly, swerving to avoid the bus-sized pot holes. Dust hung heavily in the air as the sun started to set., and everything seemed to be moving at a slower pace than normal. As I looked out on the people walking to their homes I realized that I couldn’t differentiate between the time I was an outsider here and the time that I found myself at home. Only one day left in Africa…..

“When all is said and done here at the ending of the day, I look out on this world and it still takes my breath away…”
“Robin’s Song” Small Potatoes

Anna aka Mud Butt

Kum by Yah

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Kum by Yah

First things first……….
I am so sorry for the delay in e-mails!!! On the tuesday of my final week in Africa, several of us went to our beloved internet cafe to find it CLOSED!! Yep….bars on the windows and armed guards patrolling around it! Needless to say, we were heartbroken. Add to that the fact that I brought home a hitchhiking parasite that has interfered greatly with my first week back, and you have the reason for the absence of updates. In any case, here are the last few Africa reports.
I woke up this morning to a full, full day. After my usual breakfast of bread and peanut butter, I went to school. The morning flew by in a haze of children, chickens and ABC’s and before I knew it, it was time for the kids to leave. As they scattered off across the fields, Mr. Masawe and a young Tanzanian girl named Susanna came to sit with us and wait for the van. Susanna is volunteering her time between school semesters, and her goal is to be a teacher. Jesca joined us and we started talking about children and teaching. The day was sunny and bright, and we sat on low wooden benches under the tin awning watching the chickens scratch for a bit of food around our feet. Mr. Masawe asked if I knew any songs, so I launched into “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. It only took a few minutes for the others to catch on before we got brave and tried to do it in a round. We started the song over and over, each time getting a little further before we would disintegrate into garbled lyrics and giggles. As we progressed to “Twinkle, Twinkle”, “Itsy-bitsy Spider”, and “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, we got better and better. Suddenly Mr. Masawes voice rang out as he began singing Kum By Yah”. We all joined in and broke out into three part harmony. Chills ran up and down my spine and goose bumps raised on my arms as I sat back and listened to the sound of this song float out over Kilamahewa. As the song trailed off, I said to myself, ‘pay attention, pay attention, pay attention….I want to remember this for the rest of my life”. As tears filled my eyes, Jesca continued on with a verse that I had never heard, ‘disco dancing lord, kum by yah….disco dancing lord, kum by yah”. Huh? I laughed and laughed, saying to myself, ‘pay attention, pay attention…”.
When the van came to get us, we asked Simon to take Christie, Julie and myself to Honey Badger for the rest of the day. Mama Lucy, the woman that force fed me rum last week, , has invited us to come spend the day at the arts center and to learn about Tanzania. When we arrived, we found that Mamma Lucy had gone into town to buy food, but she had left a beautiful table set for four under the trees. We settled down to some idle chatter and cool water as the day got warmer and warmer. Before long, Mama Lucy had returned and joined us for a meal. Chicken, plantains and fresh fruit filled the table and we sat back to enjoy the company of this amazing woman. It seems that Mama Lucy and her husband had started this community center with the idea of enlarging it to a school, and possibly someday, a children’s home. There is a beautiful grassy lawn and a small stage where the tribal drumming and dancing take place, all encircled by a large brick wall. Outside the wall is the rest of the compound. There are camping spaces, meeting rooms and a small bar-type area for larger groups that come to visit. And there is a school. After lunch, Mama Lucy took us on a tour and the first place that we visited was the school. It seems that there is a group at the University of Georgia called OKAT, One Kid At A Time. It is a student-run organization and a group of the students come every summer to Honey Badger. They work with the school and the community, and the work that they have done here is profound. Mama Lucy said that two years ago, when the villagers would see a white person. they would run away. Through the work of OKAT and CCS, the villagers have come to welcome the volunteers and a rich relationship has sprung up between them. I cannot imagine how rewarding it must of felt to be here during the beginnings of that process!
The school is a whitewashed building with large windows that let the sun in. OKAT has built desks and seats and all I could do was eye them thinking, ‘oh man….I wonder if we could do that for Kilamahewa?!”. Seated in the room were six young women between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. The families of these girls could not afford to send them to government school, so Mama Lucy and the OKAT students have created this school for them. As I looked around at them, I found myself wondering if the students at OKAT realized what a difference they had made in these young lives! The students all introduced themselves to us and we agreed to come back later in the week to speak to the them. I couldn’t wait!
After our school visit, Mama Lucy took us out into the village for a walk. This is one of the poorer villages in the Moshi area, and I could see how the families would struggle just to feed kids, let alone educate them. However, like all of the other places we had gone, the people that we met were happy, warm, and welcoming. Grown-ups shyly tried out the english that they knew and children giggled and followed us at a safe distance. We walked between corn fields that had been tilled under as the sun beat down on us with a vengeance. I could feel my skin baking as we scurried from the shade of one banana tree to another. Small mud huts clustered together while goats and chickens ran free. Every time the wind would stir up we would cover our faces to keep as much dust out of our lungs as possible. It was with relief that we finally came back to the arts center and settled into chairs to wait for our ride home. Mama Lucy told stories of the villagers and the center, always circling back to the students from the University of Georgia. She asked if I would go and speak to them and deliver letters to them from the students. I tried to express what an honor it would be, and she took down my address so that she could make the necessary introductions.
Before we knew it, Baba Charles, Lucy’s husband, had come to take us home. We agreed to come back in two days and I left knowing that even after I return to the States, I had met a friend in Mama Lucy and seen a path to further volunteer work open before my eyes.

“When all is said and done here at the ending of the day, I look out on this world and it still takes my breath away…”
“Robin’s Song” Small Potatoes

Anna aka Mud Butt

Baboons and Cheerleaders Part 2

Sunday, February 20, 2005
Baboons and Cheerleaders, Part 2

Sunday, February 20, 2005I woke up this morning soaked in sweat and just a little grumpy. The shower is unacceptable so I have to spend the day encased in the dust of Lake Manyara. Add to that a night of little sleep and the fact that there is not a Starbucks for a million miles around, and one can see how I would be a little bit ornery!
Note: After my first two days at the coffee plantation, I have been relagated to instant coffee. (Can you hear the gnashing of teeth and ripping of hair!?!?) In any case, it is normally too hot to drink any coffee or tea, so I have managed to live, but when we arrived in Arusha yesterday, we saw a sign for “Stigbucks Coffee”. Yep…you heard me right….Stigbucks! Christy and I begged for a chance to run in, and for our troubles, emerged with piping hot lattes. They were WONDERFUL!!!!
Anyway………my mood lifted almost immediately when we got on the road and started to dodge the baboons. We had a two hour drive to the Crater, so I sat back and tried to memorize every single detail of the road we traveled. The heat rose up off the pavement in hazy waves and dust hung in the air, unable to settle before another car came along and stirred it up. We passed small villages full of people selling fruits, vegetables, goats and chickens. Women walked up and down the road in brightly-colored kanga carrying huge bundles on their heads while men rode bicycles, sometimes two and three men to a bike! Through the open window, I could smell dust, manure, hay, exhaust, and smoke from cooking fires. It is the smell of Africa. I know that it might not sound pleasant, but somehow it is. It is the smell of a community, and of homes, and peoples lives, and I love it.
Soon, the land changed around us, and we started climbing steeply. Ngorogoro Crater is a caldera created a ba-jillion years ago by a volcano. The result is a huge crater in the middle of a ring of tall hills. Imagine if you were to throw a watermelon into a pan of concrete. It is stunningly beautiful and home to several different types of geology. This means lots of different animals! However, the animals do not live here alone. There are many Masai villages here in the crater, and we are scheduled to visit one this morning. As we climb up the wall of the crater and back down inside of it, Masai men, women and children appear along the road. There is a group of young boys in tribal make-up jumping up and down….they are in the three month training period before their circumcision and subsequent entry to manhood. As we passed by them, we could see a small village down in the crater, surrounded by a fence made of sticks lashed together. This was the Masai village!
Again, unlike areas in the U.S. where you can tour an Indian village, or a Colonial outpost, this is a village where these people actually live. As part of their livelihood, the Masai allow tourists to come in, at a price, and learn about their culture. They sell crafts and answer questions about their lives and in return, they are able to rise above the total poverty that many of the Masai villages faces. The fact that these were their homes really touched me and I made sure to treat them and their village as respectfully as possible. The village itself is quite small, with the stick fence encircling about fifteen small mud huts. The huts line the perimeter of the village and in the center is another fenced-in circle for the livestock. They cannot leave the livestock out at night because of the lions. Seriously. Can you imagine?!
When we arrived, a group of men processed out and danced and sang for us. They were such a sight! Imagine fifteen or so men, cloaked in red and purple plaid, very tall and thin with long wooden staffs. The have many necklaces around their necks as well as anklets and bracelets. It was their ears that I loved the most, though. Their lobes had been stretched into huge circles by wooden discs and they had multiple piercings hung with beads and feathers. The sheathed-machetes hidden under their cloaks were the only thing that suggested that they might need to face something more dangerous than an pushy tourist during any given day. The amount of use each machete had seen really drove that home.
After dancing us in and welcoming us in the traditional style, I was surrounded by children. Maybe I am just a magnet for them!!! Actually, it might have had something to do with the candy I had brought to give them. I became like the pied piper and children grinned and followed me for the remainder of my time in the village. I took some time to look at, and buy, some of the gorgeous beaded work the women had done. It is intricate and beautiful, and I cannot imagine how they find the time to do this as well as live the lives that they are living! As I walked, many of the men surrounded me and we took turns laughing and trying to talk. The women watched silently from their huts and I understood that they were not welcome to interact with the guests. That was men’s work. As I began to pay for my purchases, the men crowded ’round me, laughing as I tried to speak Masai. After some bargaining, we came to a price, and I took out my money. It turns out that they had gotten all but 1$ of my money!! They laughed and laughed as I accused them of having x-ray vision. I told them that they could see inside my pocket and knew just how much money I had!! When I waved my last shilling in the air, they laughed and clapped. It was the most fun I have ever had spending money!
After finalizing my sale, I walked out of the village to wait for the other volunteers. They were all still visiting with the Masai, so upon glimpsing an old Masai man up on the hillside with his herd of donkeys, I decided to go for a hike. I approached him with a pocket full of candy and proceeded to sit and talk with him. No, he did not speak English, and no. I do not speak Masai, but as I am sure you know, that did not stop us. A little while later, two of the young men from the village came up to join us, and they settled onto the grass under the sun. The two younger men took out a piece of cardboard with rough squares drawn on it, 12 bottle caps, and 12 lids from water bottles. They proceeded to play a game of pseudo-checkers, each looking up when he won to make sure that I was paying attention. The sun was bright and the sky was a brilliant blue. A cool breeze was blowing and there I was……sitting on a hill with three Masai tribesmen. The grass was soft and we became people to one another. Not a strange American tourist sitting with three men in strange tribal garb, but just….. people. Can you feel how special this was? Even now, when I close my eyes I can see that young mans smile, and hear the other man laugh as they tied their third game of checkers. The elderly man watched contentedly and I wanted to stay up on that hillside forever. When Wilson finally called me down, I went to the chief of the village and his translator. I thanked him for opening their homes to us, and told him how much it meant to me. The villagers talked animatedly, and then the translator said, “They like you very much and they would like to invite you to spend the night in the village”. Oh man!! Talk about an opportunity!! unfortunately, it was not one that I could realistically pull off, so with a million regrets I said good-bye and assured them that if I ever come back to Ngorogoro Crater, I would come and stay for a few days.
You would think that after that, the rest of the day would be somewhat of a let down, but the opposite was true. We descended the rest of the way into the Crater and before we knew it, we were surrounded by giant herds of Widebeasts and Zebra! The afternoon passed in a whirlwind of lions, elephants, wart hogs, hippos, flamingos, giraffes, hyenas, gazelles, and jackals. The highlight of our day was when we came upon two Black Rhinos. They are nearing extinction and it is very rare to see one, much less two. Wilson was so happy that he could not stop smiling! The animals were all very close, sometimes near enough to touch, and their smell filled the air. It was a wild, musky smell and we soon learned that the stronger it was, the nearer we were to an animal. I think the neatest thing of all was to see that many of the animals intermingled and grazed together. This isn’t Busch Gardens or Disneys Wild Kingdom…..this is nature. Seeing zebra, wildebeasts and gazelles all living in the same space was really wonderful.
Near lunchtime, a safari truck passed us, and we all yelled out for it to stop! It was our friends from the Arusha CCS project that had spent last Wednesday with us! We were so excited to see them and we all made immediate plans to have lunch together. As the two trucks headed toward a picnic area, we commented on how cool it was to be a skillion miles away from home, in the middle of the Ngorogoro Crater and to run into someone we know!! When we stopped for lunch, we were informed that because of the amazingly aggressive hawks, we had to eat in the trucks. The sky was full of them, and it seems that they don’t think twice before swooping down and removing the sandwich from a hapless tourist. Seeing as how they usually remove some of the tourists hand along with the food, we all agreed that the trucks seemed like a good idea. We all piled in one and laughed and gossiped as we ate lunch. Before we left, we made plans for the next week to meet in Moshi, and with hugs all around, we headed out.
We drove around for another hour or so, but in the intense heat of the day, the animals take to hiding from the sun. so we all finally agreed that we had seen enough for one weekend. Christy and I sat in the back of the truck and harassed poor Wilson as we climbed out of the Crater. “Are you sure we are not in any danger?” we whined as he laughed and laughed. Before long, we all fell asleep to the sound of the tires and the rhythm of the dirt road. An hour later, I woke up to hear Christy ask me if the mountains are pink. Huh?? “When the mountains are pink, it is time to drink!”, she said with a wicked grin. She pulled out a bottle of something called “Hakuna Matata” and handed it to me. The rest of the trip was spent with us giggling softly as the others slept. The mountains did turn pink with the sunset and gradually the stars came out. The smell of Africa became greener and muskier as the days dust and exhaust blew away. Small groups of people walked along the road, going home after their day at the market, and the sounds of the goats crying came into the window. As the truck rolls into the night, I cannot believe that my time here is almost over…………

Anna aka Mud Butt