Monday, July 4, 2016

Final Thoughts… by Brenna Amundson

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

As this trip comes to an end, there’s a lot of thoughts going through my head, along with everyone else’s I assume. A lot has happened these past 17 days. There’s been some downs, but along with that, an overbearing amount of ups. But it’s these ups and downs that make the trip what it is. McMorrow has said that each year is a different year for him, despite being in the same place and having similar action plans. For example, we were the first group of students to have to deal with bed bugs, and he has also had to deal with a lot of giggles during prayer *cough cough chaperones*. Thinking back to the quote that I started with, we will truly never be this way again. We have all gained a new perspective of life from this trip I believe, some more than others, but again, we were told from the beginning of this experience that we determine the quality of our trip. I know that I will miss the person who I am now at this time and place. No matter how hard I try to be that person back home in Minnesota, it just won’t be the same. But like I said, a lot of thoughts are buzzing around Hartebeest lodge on our final night in Tanzania. The people we met, the places we’ve been, and the lessons we learned are just some of the things we’ll remember when I think back to the summer where we went to Africa. 

For starters, we met many wonderful people throughout our time here who could not have made the trip possible without them. We have Baba Dickie, or as most of you know him, Mr. McMorrow. We technically didn’t meet him on this trip, but we have come to know him in a different way than we did before. This whole experience wouldn’t have even been available to us if he wouldn’t have had that dream to return to Tanzania after one visit. He has put in countless amount of hours in planning and communicating with people here and making it the trip that it was. Next, there’s all the staff at our lodge, with David and Aiden to name a few. These two have not left the lodge since we got here and have done everything to make our stay as awesome as it has been. Along with them, there’s all the ‘back of the house’ staff, and Victor who takes down the flags and keeps watch each night. Then there’s Juma, the man who lives here and has done all the planning for McMorrow that he couldn’t do. He’s a great guy to talk to, has a beautiful family, and is an awesome dancer… we learned this at cultural night. Another person who has made a major impact on this trip is Jesca. You learned about her in a previous blog, but until you meet her, you don’t really know how amazing she actually is. Mama Cindy described her as a modern day saint, and I can fully attest that this is a true statement. She is a strong and beautiful woman who has dreams and goals that will take her very far in life. Another person, or actually group of people, are all the citizens of Tanzania that we have come across. Some we got to know well, but many remained strangers. Regardless of our relationship with them, they always offered a warm “Jambo!”, a friendly smile, and in some cases, their phone number to be their friend. We also got to know one another who went on this trip a lot better, all the students and chaperones. Without the group that we were, there wouldn't have been the experience that there was. 
Along with meeting a lot of people, we went to a lot of places. Marangu Falls to start the trip and Manyara National Park & Ngorongoro Crater to end the trip gave us glimpses into God’s creation and how beautiful our world actually is. Ngorongoro took my breath away, and while seeing all the animals I had to remind myself that this was real life and not just a Disney ride. We also created a ton of memories at these places, playing in the freezing water of the falls and pointing out animals from our safari cars. We also got to see the village of Mikocheni. These people were living in situations that many of us couldn’t even imagine, yet they all came out to greet us and welcome us to their village. Seeing the way that people lived really made us all appreciate and feel blessed to have what we have. Visiting the women’s group was another one of our opportunities. With the mamas, we got to make coffee, wash sorghum, dig a “dam”, and have home visits. During these home visits, we went in pairs with a mama and she invited us into her house. These women live in houses with 2 to 3 rooms each, yet welcomed us in there and were proud to show us where the live and what they have. Their hard work and attitude they show each day really shows us how strong, powerful and proud these women are. For seven days of our time here, we got to visit some worksites as well. I was at the orphanage each day, but coming back and hearing the stories from those who went to Agano and Uru was really cool and interesting. My experience at the orphanage was one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. From day one there, I hung out with a boy named Johnson, who was not much older than age one. He is a little guy who loved to giggle and laugh, and give me fake pouts then grin. I never knew someone so small could leave such a big impact on my heart. He was just one kid I got to know, but many others have plenty of stories I’m sure they would love to tell if you asked. Tanzania has so many amazing places to visit, and someday I hope to return to them.

Throughout this trip, we also learned a lot of important lessons and messages. One of them, a commonly said Swahili phrase, was pole pole. It means slow down. In Tanzania, they like to let life happen as it goes, not rush through it. If mass was supposed to start at 8 am, but didn’t start until 8:30, well, pole pole. The bus was supposed to pick us up at the orphanage at 12, but didn’t get there until 12:45, well, pole pole. Take the time to just let things happen, don’t make them happen. Slow down and don’t get caught up in the everyday jumble of people, and meetings and technology. We also learned about ndotos, or in English, dreams. The whole purpose of this trip was to take us out of the ordinary and get us involved in something that’s extraordinary. Being in this situation allowed us to think about some dreams we have, and how we want to accomplish them in our life. McMorrow encouraged us to dream big, because “It’s those big dreams in life that make life interesting.” Another common phrase throughout the trip was, “Be present, keep two feet in Africa.” Although there was things going on at home, we tried to keep our mindset in Africa and just live here in the moment, because who knows when the next time we return here will be. Another phrase that we were taught here was “Always look up, never look down.” This means that we should always look below us and be grateful for what we have, and never look above and yearn for what we want or think we need. One final message is take action and do something. We came here on a mission for service, and just because the trip ends doesn’t mean that idea for service needs to end. As McMorrow says, “we live in a world of mess, so jump into it and act.” That doesn’t mean that we need to hop on a plane and fly halfway across the world again, because there’s plenty we can do back home without doing that. This trip has taught us a lot of things, both about what’s going on around us and about our personal self. Bringing these lessons and messages home is something many of us hope to do.

All in all, this trip has been an amazing and eye-opening experience. Right now it may not seem like it was a trip that has changed our life, but looking back on it I have a feeling that many of us will look at it that way. Years from now I hope we are able to go back and read the blog, go through our journals, and look through pictures and remember the time we had here. While I know many of us are excited to go home, it will be sad leaving behind a place that has created all these memories. So to everyone at home, we’re excited to see you and hug you, and please ask us about our time here because we have a lot to share. As I started with a quote, I feel like it’s only right to finish with one that I’ve been thinking about the past couple of days that can relate to this trip in many ways. Kwaheri Tanzania, it’s been good.

“But the most beautiful things in life are not just things. They’re people and places, memories and pictures. They’re feelings and moments, and smiles and laughter.”

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Building a dam... or something by Beau Latzka

Throughout every past mission trip to Tanzania students have done a labor project for a local women’s group here in Moshi. This year, we were told that our task was to build a dam. Many of us were extremely excited to learn how this was done and couldn’t wait to get started. Our first day of the project we hopped on a bus- or as it is called here a dala dala- and traveled to the work site. We all thought we knew what we were getting in to; maybe wading in a river and using concrete or brick to build a sort of wall in the water which would then create a reservoir. We were dead wrong. We were dropped off on the side of the road and led into a farming area with a few houses and animal pens. We walked by some corn fields, through some corn fields, and then were lead into the middle of the woods. At this point everyone was extremely confused as to where this “damn” was supposedly going to be. Regardless, we all kept quiet and did what the women told us. They started to cut down an area of banana trees (Sophie was actually hit by a falling tree trunk - she’s fine!) and afterwards, gave us shovels and hoes and told us to start digging. Ummm what?? Not only was there no river, there wasn’t even any water! Apparently here a “damn” is actually a hole in the ground which is then filled with water and fish. After a short discussion and clearing up some confusion the women told us that we were actually creating a small pond for fish. I guess this explanation was supposed to make more sense to us. Smile and nod everyone, smile and nod. What they didn’t tell us is how they were even going to get water and fish into the whole. Essentially we all felt like we were digging a very large grave. As the digging commenced we all took up arms and began ripping through the dirt. Jessica had said we needed to dig about two meters or so down. At first it was a huge cluster; people were crowding in one area and there wasn’t any room to swing the hoe or shovel out dirt. Mary Joe was actually hit in the head with a shovel (she’s also fine!) We all looked up to see her forehead gushing with blood and Jessica trying to drag her back down the path to get to a hospital. Mary Joe knew it wasn’t as bad as it seemed and had Alisse step in and fixed the wound with a bandage. After that commotion we continued our excavation project. It was tough work and very tiring but everyone kept pushing through each day and we actually got a lot done. The women would occasionally take over for us and we liked to joke that they were the varsity team and we were all on JV. It was amazing to see how efficient they all were and it was good for us to learn better techniques as we watched them. We were able to find an efficient system for digging; hoers would dig up the ground starting from the outside and working our way in and afterwards, the shovelers would come in and shovel out the dirt that we had dug up. As some would say, it was hot as Africa, so while we were working the guys ended up taking their shirts off to avoid drenching our clothes in sweat. We were all pretty dirty after our two-and-a-half hour sessions, some more than others. Zack and I were completely covered in mud after every work day and the women laughed every time we came walking up the path. After putting our best efforts into three hard days at the work site we were still unable to finish our project. This was disappointing for us because it always feels better when we are able see the finished product after putting strenuous hours into something but we were still proud of what we had accomplished. The women were extremely grateful as well. They thanked us over and over again and were very impressed with our work ethic and how much we had gotten done in those three days. Even with the hot weather, the dirtiness, and the exhaustion, everyone kept a positive attitude and did their very best. This was what the service trip was all about. It was a great experience for all of us and we are extremely thankful that we were able to learn so much from these women as we helped them over these past two weeks.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Approaching our final days and challenges we have faced By: Alex S

As our final days in Moshi approach and we are all anticipating the hot showers and sleeping in our own beds, it’s amazing to look back at all the challenges we have faced. There was a lot of initial shock upon our arrival in Moshi, the language barrier, the different sights and the fact that all the drivers drive with what seems like no regard for safety. A lot of us viewed some things as challenges while others had no problems with them. For example the food, small rooms and lack of a washing machine. As time went on these inconveniences just became a fact of life. But as the trip progressed so did the challenges. It seemed like every day another handful of people were sick, but Alisse was awesome and made sure we had all the meds we needed to make a full recovery. A recent and unexpected challenge for me and my roommates was the discovery of bedbugs. We had noticed for a while strange red bites on our bodies and had joked that it was bedbugs. We eventually checked under Hannah’s sheets and found that our joke was now a reality. We peeled back the sheets and to our surprise we found tons of little bugs. One of the chaperones googled bedbugs and compared them to the picture, sure enough they were a match. After a brief meltdown we proceeded to evacuate all of our belongings into the hallway. The hotel staff was alerted and our mattresses and bedding were carried from the hotel. Luckily the chaperones and other girls were quick to pull together and offer their clothes, beds and kind words. This incident even shocked Mr. McMorrow since no other trip has ever encountered bedbugs. After fumigating the room and getting new mattresses and sheets I’m proud to report that our room is bedbug free, just in time for our last three nights here. There have definitely been a lot of challenges, but who's ever been on an easy mission trip? These challenges have really added to the overall experience which will be impossible to forget. The good and hard parts of this trip have formed and experience which will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Hey mom, dad and Owen! I’m counting the minutes till I get to see you. Miss you lots and love you more!!!!!! - Alex

Parents as Chaperones and Chaperones in general. By: Jared A and Hannah P

Having your parent as a chaperone isn't as bad as you may think. It’s nice because you have their money to spend instead of your own. You don’t need to bring as much stuff. You always have someone who will talk and listen to you. You don’t feel as homesick. They usually pack everything that you might have forgotten. They can take care of you if you get sick (like Hannah). You have the memories to share with them. You don’t have to buy as many gifts because you can buy them together. You will have someone who understands what you talk about when you bring up stories of Tanzania. You can buy more stuff because you have two suitcases to fill. These are just only some of the pros of having your parent as a chaperone. There are some cons of having your parent as a chaperone. The first is that they can easily embarrass you. They know about all what happens here; even the things you don’t want a parent to know about. They also can easily “borrow” money from you (Mama Cin likes to take Hannah’s money a lot). So as you can see, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Throughout this trip, the chaperones have gotten really close. We always see them laughing and having a good time together. For example, they will have random outbursts of laughter during dinner time. Without them, this trip would not have been the same. We can’t thank them enough for all they have done to make this trip possible. 

Hannah: Hi fam! I hope you aren’t missing me too much! I love you all and can’t wait to see you! 
Marti, I hope you didn’t miss your bunk bed buddy at the cabin too much. ;)

Jared: Hey Dad, Allison, and Kaylee, miss you all! Dad I hope being alone right now doesn’t make you too lonely and I hope that Allison hasn’t taken Libby from you. Can’t wait to see you guys!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Safari Day 1 - Manyara National Park by Zack S

Today we woke up at about 6:30-7. We than had breakfast and finished up packing for the safari. We then got picked up by the safari drivers around 8. We drove about 2 hours to a small shop where some of us got some snacks and other things. Then continued on for about another hour and a half until we reached the Manyara National Park, where we checked in and paid then drove to a picnic site to have lunch. For lunch we had the choice of a burger or a chicken sandwich. After lunch was when we officially started our safari tour. We then got on a very bumpy dusty road and started out by seeing monkeys and some birds. As we drove further we saw many giraffes and at least 10 elephants. I think we were all really amazed by the elephants. We also saw many wildebeests. At about 5 we ended the safari and started driving to our campsite which was way up. We arrived to our campsite around 6 and got a tour of the place, then we had a “snack”, for the snack they served us soup. Then many of us showered in the out door bathroom and got settled in our 2 person tent. Each tent had 2 twin sized beds in them. We had time to do what we wanted till about 8:15 then we all met up at the “lobby” of the campsite and ate dinner. For dinner we had rice, potatoes, and beef. This meal was very similar to a lot of our other meals but was a little fancier. After dinner we had a prayer and share, than the rest of the night was ours to do what we wanted. 

Zack: Hey mom and dad miss you guys. Also who ever else in my family is reading this. See you soon.  

Safari Day 2… Ngorongoro Crater by Quinton and Jacob Z

(sorry, but yes, it is out of chronological order).

Today we woke up at 6:30 in the morning to some annoying birds. We then had breakfast and packed our belongings from our tents. The safari drivers were there to pick us up at 7:30 and took us to the crater. As we entered the park, we had to drive on a bumpy road for an hour until we got to the crater entrance. The moment we entered the park we saw wildebeests and zebras. We noticed that the wildebeests weren’t the smartest or the cutest animals we would see today (or ever). We passed through the herd of wildebeests and moved on to see other animals like gazelle, water buffalo, flamingos, and jackel. We saw some hyenas chasing some of the animals and noticed that they weren’t afraid of anything. The drive through the park was never all that boring because we always had something to see. The landscape was beautiful and breathtaking. When driving along our guide noticed some lions. They were laying by a pond but were too far away to get a good look. This wasn’t our first lion encounter. We then saw some laying by a hill camouflaged in the tall grass. They were also too far to get a good look but one of the lions later got extremely close to the road. After a few minutes of picture taking our guide led us to the hippos. They were really fat and quite useless. On our way back to the picnic area, we noticed a large buildup of safari cars. We pulled up to see a lion sitting on the road. After looking for awhile, we saw our friend Pumba out in the field. The lion walked along the road with its eyes fixed on the lunch it was trying to acquire. After a few minutes of watching, the lion crept in the grass approaching the hogs. After a few more minutes the lion made its move. It chased the animals out into the plains. The lions speed was not a match for the eyes of the hogs. They outran the lion into the open fields. After seeing this happen, we made our way to the lunch area. We ate our lunch in our cars so no animals could maul us (ha ha). We all gathered by the hippo pond for a picture and saw some more blobs (hippos). After lunch we made our way to the exit and said a bittersweet goodbye to the crater. Then our eight hour, traffic filled journey began. We hit a lot of traffic on the way home and turned our four hour drive into a seven hour journey. JZ and I had an issue on the way back. Our bodies were telling us we needed to release some stress and we were in the middle of a traffic jam. Our driver (after 45 minutes) found us a spot to use the old restroom. That stop made the rest of the trip tolerable. 

Quinton: Hello to everyone in my family that may be reading this. I have not died yet. I have drank 7,865 Fantas. 

JZ: Hi family. I have lost some weight. See you soon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Schedule Change


The government of Tanzania has passed a law raising the fees for entry into the safari parks.  The end result is that it would cost us over $1,000 in additional fees if we went on safari as scheduled on July 1 (when the fees take effect).  So, instead, we were able to make a change and go on safari today and tomorrow.  Therefore, you will not hear from us for a few days - hopefully we can get some blogs posted on Thursday night (our time).

Things are going well!  We've had some minor bugs run through the group but overall we are healthy and the kids are doing an amazing job.  I wish I had time to write each of you personally about the amazing growth and efforts I have seen from your child!

Pray for us as we head to Manyara National Park and Ngororongoro Crater!