Friday, July 25, 2008

Jessie's Blog

On Thursday morning our motley crew of 7 woke up bright and early at 3 am to get going on our very own safari! Our trip was intended to scout out the route for our Ride Tanzania bike trip. The charity and service bike trip, which follows the old slave and ivory trade route, will bring awareness of the issues Tanzania faces with education and child slavery. TFFT believes that education will mitigate child protection issues. We had prepared by the trip by stocking up on water, oranges, nutella, Pringles, and candy! We all piled into the car ready for a long day of driving. It was freezing as we set off on our adventure - 5 girls, Kapanya our guide, and Kitcha our silent driver. We soon discovered that the back seat of he car was incredibly uncomfortable and sloping in such a way that our butts were numb in less than an hour! Day one we had hoped o make it to Nyakanyazi, however we soon realized that this was a stab in the dark, as soon enough we encountered a road block where trucks were lined up in a gridlock and no one was moving while men shoveled gravel out onto the road. We decided to take a detour through the "countryside" but we soon discovered that our radiator was leaking, we were lost, and our was smoking as it overheated. This meant that we had to stop every 20 minutes to find water and fill the radiator; luckily we managed to find little homesteads with water. It was a long day! We eventually arrived in Singida with sighs of relief - 15 hours after setting off! We found a mechanic who claimed he was able to fix our radiator and we set off on foot to find some food. We found food in a small little shack on the side of the road, where we ate Wali maharagwe (rice and beans) - my first truly Tanzanian meal! Little did I know hat this would become the staple in our diet for the next week. After our meal we settled into Osaka Garden Hotel. I was on the floor, whilst Alley and Adelaide got comfy in the bed. There was a baby cockroach but we pretended to not see it. Meghann and Lali were asleep by 6pm, ready for another 2:30 am wakeup call!
The next morning we woke up again bright and early and set off to Nyakanyazi. However we soon realized that our car was not fixed and still leaking. As we stopped on the side of the road for a quick fix-up we saw an enormous baobab tree with a makeshift ladder next to it. It was incredible! Soon after we got back into the car and stopped a small town and ate wali maharagwe (what else?) as our car was at another fundi (mechanic). Once our car was "fixed" we were back on the road until our radiator started to leak again! A bunch of kids came up to our car with the most incredible wooden bicycle equipped with springs and pedals! True ingenuiy! Even though Lali almost broke it, we rode around on it - practicing for the trip. It became clear that our car was a lost cause for the night, so we got a lifty from a nice family through a Lutheran church and they dropped us off in Kibondo while attempting to tow our car. we spent the night in Kibondo as our car was yet again at the fundi. After eating breakfast (some dirty cassava) we got back into our car and drove to Kigoma and Ujiji. Although the car ride was only supposed to take 3 hours, after 7 hours in the car we finally made it to the beginning of our scouting trip! After eating even more wali maharagwe we woke up the next morning to begin our mission. 
In Ujiji, we visited the Livingstone monument where we learned the facts behind the phrase "Livingstone, I presume" from the guide with a most hilarious voice! There we met two South African UN workers, who kindly told us to visit Jakobsen beach on Lake Tanganyika followed by joining them atop their UN Hercules cargo plane for sundown. It was a great start to Kigoma and Ujiji, truly a once in a lifetime experience. Our first day in Kigoma and Ujiji went well - we scouted hotels, conference rooms, and welcoming areas for the participants of the bike ride. After a fun filled night with our new UN friends, we woke up the next morning to meet with district commissioners and educational officers. We visited both the Kigoma municipal and Kigoma rural districts and learned a lot about the needs of Kigoma's educational system. Even though we caused some havoc by breaking a table, the officials we met with in Kigoma were happy to allow us introduce TFFT, and make connections for the trip. Our plans for town-hall type meetings with community members and officials of Kigoma seem a definite possibility! After our meetings, we visited the Kigoma public library - a small but filled library with over 400 members, very promising but with a population of roughly 130,142, access to books could be eased somehow and without cost to the community! After watching the sunset on beautiful Lake Tanganyika, Adelaide, Meghann, and I spent our last night in Kigoma and woke up at 5 am to make our trip to Tabora.
Tabora, founded in 1820 by Arab Slave Traders was once a major trading center along the old caravan route connecting Tanganyika with Bagamoyo and the sea has an important role with both education and the history of the slave trade route. The infamous slave trader Tippu Tib had his headquarters there, as it was once the most populated and prosperous town in all of East Africa. It also gained prominence as a regional education center, a reputation that has managed to retain itself today. The "Father of the Nation", Julius Nyerere attended school there.

After staying one day there, we traveled another 8 hours, north towards Arusha, landing ourselves back in Singida. Thankfully everything worked out and somehow we arrived in Arusha a couple days later and in one piece! (The car definitely did not, though). Full of wali maharagwe, baked beans, corn from the can, and more dust than one could ever imagine, we were glad to be at our home in Arusha! Although the trip did not go according to plan, it was a true safari! We learned a lot in Kigoma and definitely began making some important connections TFFT has now introduced its name into different parts of Tanzania, and can hopefully expand into these areas one day in the near future! The bike trip will definitely be an adventure next summer, and we cannot wait. We had a great time, but I dont think the 5 of us girls will ever eat wali maharagwe or get into the car we drove again!

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