2011 Fall Africa Esther Needham External Programs Tanzania

Visiting Kenya

Life in Arusha can get kind of monotonous after a month. Its a city but its small and there’s only so many places that a bunch of mzungus (what they call white people all the time, it means westerner) can go together, so after awhile things start to get a little old. We’ve gotten out the past couple weekends though!

Two weekends ago me and two other girls went to visit a girls school in Kenya. We went because one of the girls in my program has volunteered there for three summers in a row now and wanted to go back for a visit. It was quite a trip, the middle of Kenya isn’t nearly as close to northern Tanzania as you might think. It was about a 12 hour trip each way, including the stop at the border for immigration and the horrendous traffic in Nairobi. We took a shuttle from one of the hotels in Arusha that took us to a hotel in Nairobi. Here we met up with a private driver to take us the rest of the 5 hour or so drive to Daraja, the school.

The drive was so beautiful though! So much of the landscape around here reminds me of the southwest of the US. Sprawling red desert full of scrub brush, weird trees, flowers, and cactus’s, leading into mesas or mountain ranges. Daraja is close to the foot of Mt. Kenya so part of the drive, through the rainy side of the mountain was very lush and tropical. The clouds and sunset were so amazing I couldn’t help taking an excessive amount of pictures.  And I also drove across the equator!

The road that actually led to the school from the town, Nanyuki, was extremely rough and full of potholes. Every time it rains they all wash out again because they only ever get patched with dirt. There were a lot of open fields along the road and we saw lots of small herds of cattle, even one of camels! It was hard though because many of the cattle were extremely thin and sickly. The girl who volunteers there said that they are cattle they brought down from the north where there is severe famine. The Masai apparently have shipped the cattle at times instead of walking them, because they would lose more wealth through death of the herd from the trip than from paying for trucks and gasoline- that’s how malnourished they are. Quite a wakeup call.

It was a really great experience though, very beautiful campus and all the girls there are so awesome. Its a boarding secondary school (high school basically) for girls who couldn’t afford to pay for regular secondary school. Because the girls come from a poorer background most of them have crazy stories. While we were there just for the weekend we found out a few stories that had just happened to the girls over break when they went home and they were all pretty heavy. Honestly though, they were all so happy and welcoming and just truly amazing people. Their determination was very inspirational, even if that sounds cliche its so true. This is a link to their website: http://daraja-academy.org/  I would love to come back and visit them some day. Also all of them looove Bruno Mars, so if any of you know him or have some magical connections somehow, I think it would be awesome if he came and played for them! Haha maybe unrealistic, but it would so awesome 🙂

Clouds over Mt. Kenya. On the Road to Daraja.

So this past weekend some of us went on a homestay. For some reason we were all under the impression that it was going to be in a traditional style village for the Masai. But turns out it was just kind of up the hill from where we live, into the more rural mountainy area of the city. It was pretty cool to see, but kind of a weird experience to sleep over. One of the girls with me got bit by a mother dog and we had to pee in a shower drain- unrelated events. When we got there, it turned out we were all staying with different members of a choir. Before going our separate ways they put on a little show for us which was very cool but super unexpected since we thought we were going to a village. All oddness aside they were all very gracious and hospitable. We’re going back in a few weekends to learn how to make chipati from one of the girls 🙂

Guys from the choir demonstrating their jumping abilities, a traditional Masai talent

Tomorrow morning we are leaving for a weekend safari! So excited!

On a side note: Remember the loving pet, Mr. Panya the kitchen rat I mentioned? Well we came to the consensus that he had to go after we found some rat droppings on our dishes and silverware. So the initiative to buy a rat trap had begun. But tonight right after dinner my roommate comes running out of our room screaming that Mr. Panya is in there! Of course a bunch of us run in and shut the door to trap him. Someone carried in a vacuum cleaner and hilarious chaos ensued as we tried to flush him out of all his hiding spots in order to catch him to get rid of him without the doom of the rat trap. Unfortunately, and amazingly, we caught him! Ten screaming girls and one korean guy with a trash can and hose vacuum cleaner. The tragic part was that he kind of got crushed by the trash can that he got trapped under. It was really sad…but probably for the best since none us are too keen on getting any rat diseases. I dug a grave for him with a spoon in the garden and we had a very lovely funeral service for our foe and friend.

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