Day 1-Well, here we are in Tanzania. It was not a fast trip to say the least. Our adventure started right in the airport. We had to kill an hour and a half while we waited to board. Robyn joined Katie, Alex and I for a quick bite. Little did we know our flight had boarded and when we got to the gate, the attendants were screaming that they were pulling our bags and we could not get on the plane. Katie and Alex were in the rest room and we were pretty frantic, explaining loudly that they could not do that. They wanted us to board without them!!!! Fat chance! Then Katie and Alex strolled over and we convinced them we were getting on the plane. Even after that, the plane was still at the gate for another 15 minutes. Why did they get sooooo excited. I must say the flights were pretty smooth, very little turbulence. We left from Newark Airport July 12 at 6 p.m. although we arrived at the airport 3 hours earlier. We flew to Amsterdam for a 3 hour lay-over. We thought it was 3 hours and we boarded. Apparently something technical was wrong with the plane, the anti-skid computer was not working and it was rainy in Amsterdam and Nairobi, sooo 2 hours later we took off for another 7 hour ride.
Then we landed in Nairobi, took a couple more hours to get a visa and our bags. They were all there- I was worried those attendants had pulled them off the plane. After all, we had all the XO computers besides our clothing.
Someone named Duke picked us up. Who was he? Apparently Larry, our guide, was busy trying to re-arrange our other tour so he could not come. So who was Duke? Oh well, any port in a storm. We loaded up the jeep and proceeded to go to Arusha where we would spend the night before going to NgoroNgoro. That was another 8 or so hours, believe it or not. The quick road was closed so we had to go the long way. The problems we had at the border!!!! We had to first stop on the Kenya side, wake up the attendant and fill out paperwork and fingerprint. Some young guys were surrounding the car, speaking in Swahili with Duke and it was very scary. All our money was either on us or in the car and I was trying to act tough watching their every move while the others were filling out paperwork. Then we crossed into Tanzania and for the next 2 hours tried to get through. They SLLLLOWWWLLLY again did paperwork, picture taking. There were so many people. Some were fighting. Duke needed to give them a copy of his car insurance. They did not have power to make a copy. So they had to wake someone up to get the copy made in Kenya. A nightmare, especially since it was pitch black and everyone was milling about. Who did we know???
Finally we arrived at one hotel, looked inside. It was 7:30 a.m. but no one liked it so we found another one, The Crown. $74 for a twin double. We ate some breakfast Alex stayed with Robyn and Katie and I stayed in another room. We fell dead asleep. Well, except for Robyn who does not sleep hardly at all. We got up at 1 and then proceeded to get our act together and wake up Alex from a deep coma. At 4 we left to see the Waarusha Tribe. It was about a half hour drive up a mountain. We said Jambo to everyone and some responded with smiles and waves. We went to the main house . We petted the cows, jumped over the ants and laughed and laughed. Robyn is soooo funny, losing things, just generally agreeable and fun to be with. At one point the cow was licking her hand and she said, Oh, I haven’t been kissed like this in a long time. We roared as the cow loved her and she smiled.
The Waarusha tribe is close in culture to the Masai tribe. They live in huts but are a vast community of 4000, including 1600 children. Men are allowed more than one wife and they live in harmony. We met the king of the hill, who welcomed us and told us all about the community. They had been started by the government but now are independent and these tours support the community, especially the widows with children. They build schools, this year a secondary school with the tour money. We paid $50 each. They served us dinner which was delicious. Rice, potatoes, some meat, carrots mixture, pea mixture and avocados grown right there. They farm for their food. We went into a typical hut (one of the widow’s), and met many many children We saw that the boys usually sleep by the opening with their dad, the girls sleep in the back with the mom. The kitchen is a lamp which lights some wood where they cook. The cows come in at night to keep the family warm. The whole hut is probably about 15 feet round and in sections for people and cows. We walked around, met all the children in the fields playing in the dark. Everyone knows each other and children never get lost. They wanted candy – they called it pee pee but we did not have anything. Next time!
The we drove back to the Crown and went out for icecream---well after searching several places. Ended up in a five star hotel, for it.
We have a motto. Starting with the trouble at the border, Robyn started saying to everyone. “Nice Country , nice People” everyone is so nice here. Definitely tongue in cheek but as the day went on, it became our mantra. Everywhere we went, we said Nice country , niice people and we really started to mean it.
Day 2 – Tanzania
We tried to get up at 6 and we sort of did. We stumbled downstairs to a waiting Duke and another guide Stanley who knew more of NgoroNgoro Conservation site “where people and animals live together” . We had a very nice breakfast again and set out about 8 a.m., arriving in Ngorongora at about noon. There were stops along the way. It seems that our car and licenses have to be checked by every police officer on the way. This is actually surprising because there is literally only ONE road, so if we were checked once, where might we have come from with bad documents. We checked a lot. Having a Stawa University sign on our jeep seemed to indicate the car was a business car, but Duke insisted it was private. There seemed to be lots of talking back and forth in Swahili to end up the same. We were on our way again. Maybe the police officers need someone to talk to. Unfortunately, they are only to be matched by the guards at every border and entrance. The entrance to the park took over an hour with paperwork and of course, more money.
The park was wonderful. We rolled around on very bumpy roads for about 6 hours. My body is still vibrating, my head tizzy. Our jeep was a raised roof one and we were able to stand and look out. We saw tons of beautiful animals, wildebeasts, zebras, crane, baboons, gizelles, secretary birds, rhinos, hippos, Katie spotted an elephant. She has eagle eyes and could see animals way in the distance and identify them! We saw the lions!!! We were within 20 feet of them as they slept and rolled around in their sleep. One was watching us though, all safely in the jeep. I have been to Africa three times now and this is the only lion sighting I experienced. Katie was the photographer and eagerly caught some great shots, adept at switching lenses. (Boy, did I luck out!) These kids are GREAT, and are really enjoying themselves! We tried to remember all the animals. There were many more. A wonderful day! Robyn added to our mantra of “Nice Country, Nice People” with “Nice Animals, Nice Life”. More laughing. Duke and Stanley drove all day, mostly Duke. We returned to the Arusha Crowne Hotel even though we really wanted to head toward Nairobi tonight. Not possible too tired. We ate Chinese food locally and my tummy might not have liked the vegetables they sneak into the dishes. We will leave for Kampala at around 6 (ha!) again. As Duke left, Robyn added “Good Food, Good Driver” to our mantra. More laughing! But, we are sticky, dirty and sweaty. Oh well, time for a shower in our triple room and off to bed. Robyn, the sleepless one is down in the lobby working on her lessons. The girls are showering and will join her. After all, they had no trouble sleeping in the jeep as it bounced all over God’s beautiful country.
Day 3 –We left Arusha around 10 a.m. and to get to the point, we arrived in Kampala at 6 a.m. the next morning. Picture us in a crowded jeep, 7 suitcases and a camera bag, with each of us also carrying a carry-on that contained much more than what would go in a purse. Robyn sat in the suicide seat and Katie, Alex and I sat in the back seat, definitely seat-belted not really ready for what lied ahead. We thought we would arrive in Kampala in the late afternoon. NOT SO! We arrived at the Kenya border in a few hours and spent 1 ½ hours getting over into Kenya. Duke disappeared for quite a while, presumably getting the car permit to get over. We added Nice Business to our mantra because we believed Duke must be conducting some kind of business…(We did the paperwork across the dirt road and figured out that we have to pay again $20 because our original entrance to Kenya was just transit, not a single visa. Single visit would have cost $50 at the airport and covered our entrance into Kenya for all our visits. Now, it was 20 at the airport, 20 coming back from Tanzania and we will pay 20 again to get to our airport in Nairobi again. )
We were swarmed by Masai women trying to sell us bracelets and necklaces ( you do know the meaning of the word swarm until you have experienced this. We could not walk or even breathe. They were all over us.)
We continued then in the car on the way to Nairobi. We stopped for ice cream and chips thinking we would possibly stop in Nairobi. But time was against us because we tried to make it back to Kampala in enough time to drive once again to Bwindi to go gorilla trekking. We got to the Uganda border at around 11 p.m. Why? The clutch was failing and we stopped to have someone try to fix it. He could not. So we continued using the broken clutch (the fluid had leaked) so Duke kept a steady slow speed in order not to shift too much especially through the traffic and the bumpy road. We thought there were some close calls, but actually Duke was a pro as a driver and weaved quite comfortably through every terrain. When we finally hit Eldoret, Duke decided it was too risky to keep driving on this bad clutch, it would wreck it completely, so he arranged to have a car take us to the Uganda border and Larry was summoned to meet us at the border. We added “Nice Clutch” to the mantra.The idea was to drive straight through to Bwindi to see the gorillas and skip Kampala where the guest house is located. An old car drove up with Chris who would be our driver. We had the luggage moved to that car, but not enough room so poor Alex had to squish behind the suitcase in the back seat. Larry said it would only be an hour or so to the border but Chris said he knew the roads and it would take another 2 ½ to 3 hours as there was construction too. Oh No! We needed 6-7 hours to get to Bwindi when we reached Larry at the border. Finally, we arrived at the border at about 1 a.m. and IT TOOK US ANOTHER 1 ½ HOURS to clear the border. (We added “Nice Passports” to our mantra.) Not just clear the border, but walk across it, travelling across bumpy bumpy, did I say bumpy roads across big Mac Truck Lanes lugging our 7 suitcases for ½ mile while 50 or so persons stared at us! Finally we were on our way to the Gorillas….oops, it was now 2:21 and Larry said we need at least 7 hours to get there if we are lucky. 7 hours would take us to 9:21 and the expedition started out at 8 a.m. should we chance that we can make it, but if we didn’t make it, we would then have to drive 4 hours back to Kampala after the time it would take to get there. We opted not to try. After all , we had already been in the car for 16 hours. So we headed to Kampala instead for another 3 hours. We arrived at nearly 6 a.m. only to find that we were on the 5th floor with no elevator. Luckily some security guards carried up our suitcases. 5 double flights and our suitcases are heavy! We crashed into bed, well almost. Robyn had no bed so she took the foam one off my twin bunk and found me a twin. We slept
Day 4 Kampala
Wasted day. We woke up at noon. Noticed the cockroaches the size of a slug- the beginning of an ongoing battle.. At 2 or 3 we went to lunch nearby by walking a half a mile around. We went to the bank to exchange money and went out to dinner that night with Jim- Italian food. We stayed up until about 3 a.m. preparing for class the next day. My assignment was to teach about technology to preservice teachers. Did they have technology? NO. Did they have a projector, probably not but I revised a powerpoint and inserted some screen shots of internet sites.
Day 5 Kampala
Girls stayed in most of the day because they were exhausted and Alex was getting sicker. It had started in the car, sore throat and headache. Then it got worse, so she rested.
Woke up at 6. Left at 7:15. Lots of traffic! At 8:15 a.m., I met with the ministers of education and had a productive talk about the future of my XO project. ……..Larry drove me and informed me that I was to teach a class on Technology in the classroom at 9 instead of 2. I hoped they had a projector. We met the registrar outside, asked about the projector. When he told me he did not have one, I asked him if I could return in the afternoon after I located a projector. He agreed. I went into a nearby Internet café to try to contact Kenneth or Francis to see where the projector I left last year was located. No luck. Larry was scouting. Someone in the café overheard and suggested I try a professor around the corner. He asked to ride with us. So off we went and met David who really did have a projector. He owned a club that also put on skits. Apparently he makes movies too. He showed me how to use the projector warning me that if the power went out, I was not to turn it on again for ½ hour. Duke drove me back to the guest house and I did some more preparation. At 1:30 we left to go back to the Teacher Institute. There were over a hundred teachers all sitting in a large dark room. I set up the projector – it went on, but there was no outlet for my laptop which was not fully charged. Duke went to find an extension cord. Guess what, he pulled the plug on the projector! Oh no, we could not start it for ½ hour although we tried to after 15 minutes with no luck. So I talked about myself, the philosophy of constructivism while my laptop charged in the only outlet. When the time was up, I pulled the plug on the laptop and connected it to the projector and just about finished the lecture before the laptop battery died.
I taught this class to Pre-service Teachers on using technology. I don’t think they have any hope of getting any technology in the near future but they were attentive as I explained that if they only had the internet, they would have access to enough free programs and activities to support classroom teaching. My PowerPoint was theoretical, emphasizing the “guide on the side” philosophy, cooperation, collaboration, social aspect of teaching. I showed the XO computer and described my hope that I would find funds to bring them to more schools. I explained Google’s philosophy and many Web 2.0 tools. It was like explaining color to a blind person. Wikis, blogs, delicious, polling, what was I talking about? They listened anyway, probably more fascinated by my voice, accent and the speed of my talk. I had some screenshots of websites, thankfully, but they didn’t really understand that. I didn’t have a modem but that would have helped. I also showed them the flip camera and showed them how easy it was to edit clips using Live Movie Maker which is free. They liked that and came up after the lecture to touch the camera and the XO. Some girls wanted to talk afterwards, explaining that they did not want to be teachers. Their parents could only afford this education or else they would have to support themselves. They indicated that it was not a good paying job and were amazed that starting teachers in the US could make $35,000.
That evening, we went to dinner at a mall location and went shopping for mats to use for my granddaughters jujitsu demonstration. We ended up with 2 thin twin mattresses and a queen sized sheet to keep them together. The gentleman who sold them to me and I had a conversation about why we were in Uganda. He told me of his dream to open an orphanage for the street children. He has 2 children of his own, but he has friends who are street children. He tries to help them. Apparently these children, some as young as 6, are either abandoned, or they are better off living on the streets than with their very poor parents who do not have enough. Some are friendly and have street children friends and others fight. They survive on the kindness of others. The store clerk gave me his email address, just in case I knew someone who could help.
Day 6 Kampala
An amazing day! My granddaughters Katie and Alex accompanied me to the Tropical Primary School. I remembered the people from last year and they remembered me! That was great. Instead of technology, I read 3 classes a story about The StoneCutter and its meaning of believing in yourself, building self-esteem and doing good and avoiding bad. This led to my granddaughters doing a jujitsu demonstration in the classroom. Those mat were essential. The Kids loved the demonstration!!!! Katie talked like a professional explaining about the belts, the meanings of the colors, how long they studied and how this is to protect yourself, not to harm anyone. Then the children ate a bit and came outside for recess, where my granddaughters repeated the demonstration outdoors and took groups of children to practice the basic techniques. They were with the children for at least 1 ½ hours outside, smiling and encouraging them. It was heartwarming to witness and the girls were really please with themselves too. My iphone exhausted its capacity for video because my good camera’ s batteries would not charge! What luck!
We came back to the guest house and were about to rest when Diana said they would like the girls to do their demonstrations again across the street at the boarding school for deaf children. This demo was more amazing. We had a translator who interpreted the StoneCutter story. They were attentive but some were apprehensive. I am not sure how well the story went over, considering they had to watch the interpreter but were probably more interested in watching us. Again my granddaughters did the demonstration and were excellent. Then all the children formed a big circle and Katie explained the basic moves. Their faces glowed with enthusiasm, encouraging the children who wanted to hug them and play with them. The children taught Katie and Alex hand jive routines and they had a blast. The smiles –to die for. My only concern is that I am not sure if the children really understood the non-violence aspect of it. While this was the best placement for these students, it was sad to think they lived apart from family and many of them got into spats and some cried. Apparently in their home towns, they are hidden and not given opportunities. At least in this school, they had a chance to learn and feel “normal” amongst others with a similar condition. The headmaster told me of his dream to try to create a business that would employ these students because upon completion of their education, they are mostly unemployed. He asked if there were some way to find assistance. I took his email address.
Today we visited a school in a slum. That was how it was described. True to form, the school was located in a very crowded area where people were selling goods, others were washing clothes and cars and trucks were trying to traverse the muddy bumpy terrain. It was so hard to find that the headmaster met us at a gas station, jumped in the car to take us there. By the time the headmaster set up the classroom with 3 grades squeezed into it, we had limited time. I told the story of the StoneCutter and the students really liked it. Then Katie and Alex did a demonstration of jujitsu in the crowded classroom and later took the children outside to teach them a few moves. They gathered in a big circle and Katie and Alex showed a smaller circle of children while the others watched. Then they picked others. They loved the demonstration. The most interesting part was afterwards when the children absolutely crushed us with curiosity. They gathered around each of us so closely, it was hard to breathe! They wanted to give us their names so that they could have penpals in the US. One asked me for a sponsor, then another. These children were so sweet and we loved the attention.
At 1, I was due at the Muslim School to give the Technology in the Classroom lecture to preservice teachers. It was a teacher training institute. Again, timing was off and it took quite a while for them to gather the teachers together, and they had other appointments to follow. Katie and Alex were supposed to go to Robyn’s lecture on human rights, but it was too late so they went shopping with Robyn instead. Picture over 500 men and women all dressed in Muslim clothing sitting in a huge auditorium. I had a projector and the adapters but there was no white board. They put up some paper over the blackboard but it was impossible for that large an audience to see it. However, the powerpoint helps me to keep on track. I told them about the XO which they would have loved to have and about how the Internet is a one-stop shop for educational technology. I had to summarize due to time constraints.
We met up with Robyn and the girls. Afterwards, we attended a show featuring a comedian and African Dancing. It was a buffet dinner outdoors and the music and dancing were very lively. We had a good time, even danced and played the African drums at the conclusion of the show.
Day 8- Saturday. We left for Murchinson Falls in the morning. Larry took us. It was a 4 hour drive. We saw giraffes, hippos, dickdicks, Jackson beasts, elephants. Nice tour and it took four hours to get home.
Day 9 -Sunday
Robyn, Katie and Alex went to the Uganda museum. I had visited it last year. I ventured out with Larry to buy a new charger for my camera as the batteries were running low and I could not charge them. No luck. On Sundays, everything is closed. Then Larry brought me to the guest house to pick up another driver, Kabugo, who would accompany me to buy the bus tickets from Jinja to Nairobi. That took a while. It seems everything takes soooo long to do! We did not want to fly because it would have been another $179 each and the bus tickets were only $35. Besides, another plane! Robyn wanted to buy her airline ticket and we waited for Larry. But by the time he arrived, we really needed to leave for Bwindi.
Drove to Bwindi 5:30 was supposed to leave at 1:30. We slept in Hotel 1 hour outside of Bwindi, then drove to Bwindi early the next morning.
Day 10 Monday
Got to bwindi next morning for 9 departure
Left Bwindi at 4:38 and arrived in Kampala at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday
Day 11- Tuesday
Woke for 6 to leave for Jinja for 9 o’clock class- we were 1 hour late because car was breaking down.
Taught Self Esteem, Communication Skills, Coherence in Writing in tent.
Afternoon =back to Brisk hotel to rest
Day 11 Wednesday
Broke up into two groups- second one gigantic
Taught XO ppt and XO Record, Write, Paint
Katie and Alex helped with teaching a lot! Demoed jujitsu for teachers
Spire Road Primary and Blind Children, Oh African child song
Katie and Alex catching chickens
Taught Turtle Art, installing an activity
Katie and Alex helped a lot, making box, triangle shapes
Closing Ceremony, I was interviewed for radio. Later, we heard me on the radio encouraging the children to get a good eduction. Jim left for Kampala
Army School- lots of orphans as fathers died in war. They are hired by the government to fight other countries’ wars.
Met with Kenneth, discussed the problems with Spire and no electricity
Visited Francis house, met Rachel and Miriam and son Rubin
Day 13- Friday.
Sophie picked us up early, sold us her sister’s jewelry and then had us taken to the Agriculture show. Many crops, and animals on display. It was Francis, Ben, the girls and I .
We ate rolex (a chappati with egg rolled in.) We saw pigs, chickens. They had a small zoo with a python, a lion, eagle, leopard and ostrich.
Then we met with Kenneth to try to straighten out the Spire Road school issue, but the headmaster was not there. Ben and Fahad and another guy joined us.
So instead, we took a boat ride to Francis’ school, Kissima 1. It was an island in Lake Victoria. The children greeted us at the shore and held our hands and traveled with us to see the school. There were so many, all adorable. Even the little ones tagged along. I cannot believe they can find their way home and do not drown. When we were about to leave, we had a huge downpour and ran for cover, waited a while and then ventured into the boat again. Uh-oh, another downpour. We were SOAKED again!
Again, we went to see headmaster, accompanied by everyone. We settled on giving them another chance to keep the power on. I explained I did not want to pay for internet when it was not connecting because of lack of power. We were in the home-stretch. Now we needed to pick up our suitcases and get to the bus station to get our bus to Nairobi.
Since it would not leave until 10 p.m., we all went out to dinner near the bus station. I treated. Amazingly dinner for 8 came to about $48 US dollars!
Finally, the bus came. It was late. It was dark, very dark and we hoped we were at the right bus stop. They were sooo nice to wait with us. I was a bit nervous getting on this crowded bus in the pitch darkness heading to Nairobi, in the middle of Africa. Maybe the plane would have been better! But we boarded ready for what would be a 11 hour ride. Luckily or through Divine Providence, I was seated next to another professor, Dorothy. We had a nice conversation and she arranged for us to find a hotel where we could spend the day. We went to the Delta hotel in Nairobi, showered, went to the Market where we bargained for goods, ate a very delicious dinner at the Trattoria Restaurant. The hotel arranged a ride to the airport. Very nice!