Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Departure and First Impressions by Dominic and Julia Schmitz

Well it sure has been a crazy last few days. After weighing our bags, we hopped into a car and began our (very long) journey to Tanzania. The car ride in the Dom’s vehicle was fairly uneventful, with the only memorable highlight being Jacob and his mother singing “Pump the Jam” together. We arrived at the airport and soon after flew off to D.C. After landing we stayed at a super nice hotel. As Mike Maleska said, “You know a place is fancy when you have curvy wood as a decoration”. After catching some Z’s we woke up bright and early to get to begin the next leg of our journey. (FYI to my (Dominic’s) dearest mother. I maybe, sort of, for sure left my retainers at the hotel, so if you were to tell the orthodontist about that while I’m gone that would be oh so very kind of you. Love Dom <3) We checked into the airport than quickly killed the layover time by grabbing some breakfast. Dom’s group grabbed some breakfast burritos at Chipotle as our final meal in America. Julia's group did as well. Chipotle must be just that good. After a few hours, we boarded our plane and continued our voyage to Tanzania. The flight was ridiculously long, and incredibly boring so describing the trip is fairly easy. Sat around. Listened to music. Watched a movie. Read a book. Inflight meal. Repeat. After several tedious hours of flight we finally landed in Africa, specifically Ethiopia. We had around a two hour layover at the airport, which was mainly spent soaking in our new surroundings. When we first walked into the airport, the scene was vaguely familiar. There were flight gates, and seat for individuals to sit down and wait for their plane. The similarities ended there. Unlike American airports, the area wasn’t very mall like. Wildlife fluttered around the rafters (mostly rather angry looking pigeons), and it didn’t have the very polished aesthetic that we were used to back home. Dom was out cold for this entire plane ride, but Julia did notice some interesting things about this flight. Mostly, she was jealous of the passengers further back in our airplane because while we were all sitting in full rows, some people had entire rows of seats to themselves. They were taking full advantage of this, many were sprawled out, fast asleep, sleeping. When we touched down in Tanzania, most of us were dead tired, even nodding off to sleep on the floor of the Tanzania airport while waiting to go through customs. Well, maybe not everyone, mostly Julia. She was pretty much falling asleep whenever she sat down. After getting through customs, we loaded the vans and set out towards Moshi. It was about an hour from the airport to Moshi, and Mr. McMorrow advised us as a group to pay attention during the ride and take in our first glimpse of Tanzania. However, Julia was asleep again most of the time. Here were Dom’s first impressions: When we hopped aboard the bus everything we saw on our drive to Hartebeest was really overwhelming. Pulling out of the lot was particularly surprising when we though we might die as the driver took a right into the left lane, which we were used to oncoming traffic driving down. We relaxed after realizing that driving in Tanzania was opposite of what it was coming home, but nonetheless it was still a little scary. The primary mode of transportation in Tanzania seemed to be motorcycles, which zipped by us constantly on our drive. All around were hilly fields covered in patches of sunflowers as we moved along dirt roads. The land was really choppy and structures sporadically spread out across the roadside. Cattle, goats, and chickens randomly roamed the countryside, sometimes shepherded, sometimes not. Despite the rustic look of the land, citizens milled about like they were in a busy city. We yelled “jambo” constantly out the window at the people we saw and were filled with excitement when they responded to our greeting verbally, or with a smile, nod or thumbs up. After settling into the drive for a little bit though, and calming down, we began to notice that the look of poverty that seemed to be surrounding us. The buildings weren’t shiny and clean like our cities back home. Every structure seemed several decades old, extremely worn and unclean. Along the roadway towards our hotel plastic bottles and other garbage was littered across the dusty roadside. Despite the positive vibe that came from the beautiful scenery and friendly faces, it was easy to tell on the ride that this was an entirely different world than the one we’ve known for our whole lives. The group arrived to Hartebeest after about an hour of driving. When we reached the lodge, we were greeted by a very kind staff and a welcoming soup which was very delicious. After getting to our rooms with our luggage, we all claimed our beds and began unpacking. The rooms were surprisingly comfortable. Granted some of us may have set the bar lower than others. No, were were not squatting over a hole int the ground. The rooms had a fully functional bathroom with a toilet, heated shower, and faucet. We were living like kings. The rooms had 3 to 4 beds depending on your amount of roommates. The beds were twin size matrices, with a complementary bug net draped over the mattress. The different groups also entertained themselves by playing cards and talking. Julia passed out once again until dinner. She spent the rest of the night in a zombie-like state, only kind of awake enough to eat. She does remember the food was all very good. Dom remembered the dinner in a bit more vivid detail. It was some chicken with sauce and noodles, white rice, and some mixed vegetables, which all in all was surprisingly tasty. The only complaint was the bones periodically found while chewing, but I suppose this is somewhat reassuring as it probably means our main dish was freshly caught and cooked for our meal. After our long journey, we finally settled down for the night, doing our best to catch up on sleep and excited for what the rest of the trip would hold.

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