Tanzania and TCS

Day 1:
36 hours of travel and I have finally made it to Africa! The trip here ended with what was supposed to be an 8 hour flight direct from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, but instead turned out to be a 16 hour flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi, Kenya to Dar es Salaam then finally to Kilimanjaro. We were on the plane for so long that we ran out of water! Needless to say, when we finally arrived here we were pretty excited to say goodbye to putting our seats back in their upright positions, sore knees and recycled air!

View of the valley from the farm
Our accommodations for the week

Tanzania may be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to (which isn’t really saying much as my passport has only been stamped 3 times). Having traveled to Africa in the summer of 2010, I felt that I knew what to expect going into this trip, but so far Tanzania has exceeded any expectations I may have had. The two thoughts that keep creeping into my mind are 1. Tanzania is so much like Kenya.  2. Tanzania is nothing like Kenya. Due to my lack of sleep (4 hours of sleep in 44 hours) and jet lag (we are 11 hours ahead) my thoughts are completely jumbled so I will do my best to give you all a brief rundown of Tanzania. 
Freshly toasted cashews
Smells: The smells of Tanzania are extremely similar to those of Kenya. The air is a mixture of the pungent smell of body odor and burning garbage/corn. The food on the farm fills the air with smells of roasting cashews and coffee depending on the time of day.
My favorite fruit
Tastes: So far the food here is SO much better than Kenya! The farm we are staying on is 100% self-sustainable and everything we eat is made fresh just footsteps away from our rooms. This morning I was treated to toast topped with homemade peanut butter and honey from the Mtuy’s bees. Bennet (our go-to-guy) pointed out the coffee bean tree to me as I was sipping a delicious cup of coffee and I ended my meal with farm fresh eggs and bacon.
Carol and the children
Touch: The children here are just as happy and curious as can be. As we were walking from the farm to the school (on one of the most beautiful walks to school that I have ever been on) we came upon the Baby Class who were out playing on the field. They all came running out saying “Halloh” and “Well-come.” Most of them were hesitant to reach out to us, but the longer we stayed there the closer and more curious they became. Finally one child got the courage to reach out and grab Carol’s (one of the 6 women on the trip with me) hand and the floodgates were opened. Within moments she was surrounded by the children who all wanted the chance to touch the Muzungu (white person).
Village boy carrying Coke
Sounds: As I sit here on my front porch I can hear the river running to my left, the sound of children calling to one another in joyous Swahili  and as I look out in front of me there is a gathering of adults on the grass who seem to be just enjoying the sunset as we do in California. Music is playing in some far off place and the birds are chirping back and forth.
Carrying our supplies to the school
Sights: Tanzania is absolutely gorgeous! The Mbahe Village is lush with banana trees, corn stalks and Lilikoi (passion fruit) vines and the soil is a deep dark brown that is perfect for cultivation. The thought of moving to Africa never crossed my mind, but after seeing the beauty of Tanzania I may have changed it!
View from our walk to school
School: As sleep deprived and Jet-lagged as we were, we all could not wait to visit the school. After downing some delicious coffee, toast and eggs we took quick (warm) showers changed our clothes and headed down to the school. Our walk to the school (which we will be doing every morning and afternoon) was along a trail that traced the river down the valley, then across a bridge and across a big grassy field on then into the school. 
Our first order of business at the school was to unload all of our supplies and get organized. After going through 10 duffle bags worth of supplies we figured out where and when we would be doing our crafts/activities with the students. We then spent the remaining 5 hours filling out maps of Tanzania, making valentines and coloring in coloring books made by the 1st graders at HDS. The children LOVED the map job and weren’t really sure what to make of the valentines and coloring. We could tell that the children are used to being instructed on what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Providing them with something as open ended as making a valentine or coloring in a book was a struggle for many of them. They did however LOVE discovering the magic of a glue stick!
Here are some of my favorite photos of the day:
Our Supplies!

Mbahe Children enjoying their coloring books

Our pencils being distributed in the Mbahe school

Our pencils being distributed in the N'Garoni School

Drinking water collected from the river below campus

Boys Legs

Girls Legs

School uniforms are worn until the last thread

Peeking into a classroom

Children wore their backpacks all day

Lunch daily: Ugali and beans

Keeping dry during an afternoon rainstorm

Day 2:

Bennet sifting the coffee grinds
I am not going to look back on what I wrote from yesterday, knowing quite well that it was written in complete delirium and brain fogginess.  Today I woke up feeling absolutely amazing. I had no idea what time it was because my phone is currently reading 7:00pm, my computer 10:00am and I know we are well into the 11:00pm hour here, and of course I still don’t own a watch that works. So… I rose when I thought the sun was about as high as it was when we got ready for breakfast yesterday and it turned out to give me just enough time to enjoy a fresh, I mean FRESH cup of coffee. Bennet, our Jack of all trades, picks, roasts and grinds all of the coffee beans for the most delicious cup of coffee (better than my French vanilla macadamia nut kona coffee!) ever. After another delicious breakfast with homemade peanut butter, honey from the bees and a fried egg from the chickens, we headed down the hill to the Mbahe and Ngarnoi schools. 
The letters and supplies from TCS
Making coffee filter butterflies
My first order of business was to drop off the letters from all of the children at TCS. I had 71 letters, 100 sheets of paper and a pack of pencils for the children to respond with. Anita, the English teacher for the school was completely overwhelmed and I felt terrible! When she noticed that there were 71 letters she looked at them, shook her head and said “Oh, so many letters!” I wasn’t exactly sure on how to respond because I made a promise to my students that the letters would be responded too, and I wanted to keep my word. At the same time I am now battling with what a HUGE inconvenience this is to the Standard V and Standard VI classes this must be. I left Anita letting her know that any response would be great.  What I also learned about Tanzania is that Swahili is the primary language taught to the students, whereas in Kenya the students were able to speak Swahili, but they were taught in English. Yes, the letter writing task was not the smartest move on my part. 
Bottle Cap Math
After dropping the letters, we rotated through the classrooms doing various lessons/activities with the students until around 3:00pm, at which time we headed back up the hill to the farm.
Today I fell more in love with Tanzania, the children, teachers and staff are so happy and welcoming of us. I had a wonderful conversation with one of the women on the trip with us about the contentment of the children here. The same feelings I had when I left Kenya last year have once again resurfaced and I am so  thankful for that. These children have one pencil and one uniform (both of which they use every day) to last the entire year. They use bottle caps as counters and often sit 4 to a desk that is four feet long and one foot wide. To say color is lacking in these classrooms would be an understatement, to say that the learn by doing would be unheard of, and to day they have the ability to explore on their own would be absurd. But, these children are SO happy! After eating their serving of Ugali and beans  they play together in and out of classrooms, they run around unsupervised on the field just off campus and they sit on the steps outside of the buildings. Whenever we walk by we are greeted with “Jambo!” or “Hello, how are you?!” (with the most adorable accent ever). I am not saying that these children have the best life ever, but they sure are appreciative of what they have.
Here are a few of my favorites of the day:
Armed and ready with toothbrushes to pass out

Hoping for chocolate...

Happy with a toothbrush

5 to a table and sharing so well!

Coffee filter butterfly success!

Numbers in Standard I

One pencil...

lasts one year.


View from a classroom

Lunch break for Mbahe students

I love the girl in the back

Hooray for tissue paper flowers!

Local woman doing her laundry in the river (where the children gather water for drinking).

Day 3:
Another Perfect Tanzania Day
 As I sit here in bed, headlamp on, wind blowing the door within its frame and crickets rubbing their limbs wildly outside I am trying to figure out a way to capture the moments, meaning and impact that today had upon my little La Jollan life. Today was our visit to the Huruma Hospital, a trip I was not looking forward to based upon my past experiences in a hospital (fainting once and vomiting another time, both trips of which I was not even the patient!). Pasi is the doctor in our little Dutton-duo and I am clearly not. Today, however, made me appreciate those who practice medicine and especially those who practice medicine without the means to do so. My mission of the day was to deliver the 12 blankets my darling students (Elle, Amelia, Quinn, Jack, brothers Johnny & Ryan and sisters Stella & Molly, Jacquie & Marianna) made over three one hour sessions. I had envisioned my having to kindly ask one of the workers at the Huruma Hospital to pose with the stack of blankets so that I could snap a photo for my students, what I got instead was something so much more. Sister Katherine brought me into the room where all of the newborn babies and their mothers were staying and one by one we wrapped each infant in one of the blankets while the mothers smiled warmly, bowed their heads and said “Asante Sana” (Thank you very much) and shook my hand. Or gave me a hug. These little mini moments absolutely melted me and it felt absolutely amazing to be able to connect my little loves in La Jolla to these brand new babies and mothers in Tanzania. So much more occurred today, but nothing has ever brought me more joy than this.
Here is my Tanzania Top Ten of the day:
10. Fitting 8 adults in a truck for a 1 hour drive from Mbahe Village to Huruma

9. Watching Patricia meet 80 of the 1600 orphans she has provided 2meals/day for through her donations of 2 silos and funding to fill them with corn and beans (enough to last 6 months).
 8. Seeing Sister Dr. (forgot her name) expression when she was presented with a large bag of medical supplies (she was most excited about the sutures and catheters).

7. Talking with Father Aloyce for the 2 hour drive about the Tanzanian culture, government, health, education and orphans.

6. Listening to the orphans sing the Tanzanian national anthem
 5. Not getting sick or fainting at the hospital.

4. Seeing a baby that was born within the hour and wrapping it up in a blanket made by one of my students.

3. Passing out toothbrushes to all of the mothers, expectant mothers and their children.
 2. Getting out of the truck to walk up the hill (due to steepness) only to find that we were in front of Rose Id’s house, the pen-pal of Rowan (my bosses daughter) and using the opportunity to photograph her in front of her house with her sister, mother and kitten.

1. Knowing I will be home in less than a week.

Here are a few favs of the day:

Joan and Father Aloyse checking the maze and bean levels

Day 4:
Money for the teachers, from the TCS teachers
Today was a crazy day… We somehow managed to pass out uniforms (donated to the children from a child’s birthday party), teach and “supervise” 8  lessons, enjoy a lunch provided by the teachers of Mbahe and N’gauroni schools and give each teacher $60 ($10.00/each from the teachers of TCS). I was completely wiped out by the time we walked ourselves back up the hill and just as I was beginning to doze off Felix offered to take us on a one and a half hour walk around the farm.  There was not a single part of me that wanted to get up from the couch, but I am so glad I did! Felix talked to us about the way his families land has been passed down and divided amongst the men in his family (a daughter gets nothing and must marry before her parents die!). We walked through the coffee trees, under the beehives and through the numerous vegetable gardens and fruit tree orchards. We ended our hike by visiting the “protein” section of the farm where I saw the cutest little pigs cow and goats.  To say that his family “lives off of the land” would be an understatement. The day ended with one of the most interesting dinners ever.
Happy with his new uniform

Most of our dinners have been HUGE with 2 sides, a main meal and a salad. So tonight I ate minimally and had small sides, but the main meal never arrived! So after dinner I was still pretty hungry (I didn’t eat a lot of the lunch at the school for fear of getting sick) and I asked Bennet if I could have a piece of toast with peanut butter. He smiled and said “Yes, of course.” Then Marty (one of the women I am traveling with) asked if she could have some more potatoes. He gave her an interesting look and said “Yes, of course.” and disappeared into the kitchen. About 20 minutes later her arrived with a bowl of what looked like ice cream rolled in powdered chocolate, too good to be true! Then I took a bite of it and found that the cook had rolled and stuffed the potatoes in peanut butter then “toasted” them in a pan! A new power meal was created.
Here are a few moments captured through out the day:
Celebrating with their new uniforms

Happy with a new pencil pouch

I loved his smile

Happiness captured

His name is Goodluck!

The front of the classroom

A typical classroom

Well used desks

Yay Tanzania!!

The teachers loved Sketch art too

Sketch Art

Where our honey is collected

Coffee Beans

Fabulous Felix!

A waterfall along our hike

Local children

Laundry Time!

Farm pig

Day 5:
Leaving the farm

I would love to be able to put into words all that we did today, but it would seem like a laundry list of activities. I know this because I just wrote 5 paragraphs and re-reading it was torturous!! So, I am not going to bore you with the details, but instead let the pictures do the talking. Today was our wrap up day at the school and the children/faculty of Mbahe and N’gaouroni sent us away in the most loving and touching ceremony I have ever been a part of.
Mama Lynn and one of her children
We then headed to Light in Africa, an orphanage run by Mamma Lynne, an amazing woman from the UK who has dedicated her life to caring for abandoned children (often disabled in some way). Visiting these children was very eye opening and a lot to take in. I felt as if I was in sensory overload, trying to process the stories that accompanied some of these children (a $4,000 bounty on an albino girls head; a newborn dumped into a pit toilet; a 13 year old arriving in the middle of the night bleeding after having unwillingly gone through female circumscision) taking in the sounds smells and knowledge that these are not orphans waiting to be adopted, but rather children that will likely never know a different life.
In Tanzania it is frowned upon to adopt a child, (although some families, if financially supported, will be willing to support a relatives child) and unheard of to keep a disabled child alive. Mothers that have albino children often have to keep them hidden from society due to the amount of money witch doctors are willing to pay for their limbs. Knowing all of this, and seeing all of these children that have been, in one way or another, abandoned from society just broke my heart. The Tanzanian government (which is run heavily on bribes) also recently changed their rules on adoption and now a foreigner must live in TZ for 4 years before they can be considered for adoption.
After leaving LIA, I cannot stop thinking about how these little itty bitty babies that I held this morning will be living in the care of Mamma Lynne for the rest of their lives because no one in TZ will likely be willing to care for them. What happens to them if something were to happen to Mamma Lynne? How will the orphanage survive if Mamma Lynne is unable to return to the states once a year to speak to people about LIA (which brings in almost all of the money necessary to run the orphanage). My little heart is broken just a little…
Children in the Baby Class

Baby Class receiving their coloring books

Tanzania Twins!

Charles Schulz in Tanzania!

There wasn't enough desk space for the class

N'Garoni & Mbahe school children gathered to say goodbye

The children

Saying goodbye to Anita

All of us and some of the children

Our final goodbye

Waiting outside the school

Mama Lynn's children showing us their beds

Inspecting her new doll

Margaret and her new doll

Mama Lynn and one of her children

Another little cutie

Final Days:
 The final days of my trip were incredible and not well documented. I wanted to take the time to reflect, absorb and take in all of the experiences and changes I had been through without a Nikon hanging around my neck. On our last day in Tanzania I created a friendship with a little girl Upenda. Upenda is one of Mama Lynn's children (she does not call them orphans) who is now 12 years old. She has been with Mama Lynn for as long as she can remember and hopes to become a pastor, to spread love and joy around the world. During our time together she sang to me, taught me songs and wanted to know all about my nail polish, the children I teach and see pictures of Finn. After our day together she asked if I would be visiting her tomorrow and my heart just sank. I was getting on a plane that night and she had no idea. The last few moments of our car ride were spent having me explain to her how long I would be on the plane, where I was headed and if I would be back. There was so much hope in her eyes and it crushed me. I promised to be in touch (a promise I can and will keep) and told her that I would try very hard to visit again. Upenda is just one of the many amazing children that are being raised by Mama Lynn at Light In Africa and I am so happy she has found a home there.
The boys on our field trip

Rosemary, Irene and Upenda

The twins and their bananas

Jacob, who was quite the entertainer

Rosemary, who LOVED having her picture taken

Tired after a long day

My final Tanzania sunset... Until my next visit


  1. I am Marty's aunt. I am at work now and intended to peruse your blog and get back to it later. I could not do that. I had to read every word you wrote. Your journal is wonderful and your photographs so beautiful. Your story made me cry and smile. Thank you so very much for sharing your experience in such a thoughtful and detailed way.

  2. I am Wanda and work at HDS right next to Joan Coleman! Having seen her many pictures, I have an idea of Mbahe, the hospital, and aspects of life there, but your blog really brought TZ to life for me. I am both moved and inspired. Thank you, Lisa.

  3. I also work with Joan and I second what Wanda has written. Very lovely blog and photos!

  4. I am Marty's mother, we have talked over the phone several times since she has returned. I have enjoyed hearing about her trip, but thanks to you I have a much better appreciation as to what it was reaaly like. Thank you so much for creating this blog you did an amazing job.

  5. Thank you for such eloquent and touching discriptions of your recent travels to Tanzania. I now really know why Joan and my wife love to make this journey each year. I have lived vicariously through my wife, Joan and Father Aloyce who somehow touched our hearts and gave us the impetus to start Asante Sana in hopes of providing food and medical care as well as educational supplies. With your help we can and will make their lives better.Keep the Faith, Chet Houston (Pat's squeeze)

  6. Lisa, thanks so much for your blog - Joan forwarded it to me so I could see what you were doing prior to visiting Ndarakwai. You have captured such beautiful snapshots of your trip and together with your words paint a glorious picture which tugged at my heart strings despite my time here in Africa...I hope we'll meet again some day - karibu tena! Ailsa xx