Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Last week I left the simple Tanzanian life that I am familiar with, of rice and beans and cold bucket showers, to get a glimpse of the opposite—the side that the extravagant tourist experiences when embarking on a game viewing safari. My aunt Dora from Cambodia had to come to Arusha for meetings, and decided to treat me and my cousin Stephen (volunteering in Uganda came) to a 6-day safari. We spent the first night in Lake Manyara, the next two nights in Ngorongoro Crater, and the last two nights in the Serengeti. Over the course of our journey, we saw not only the Big Five, but many, many more animals. Thousands of zebras and wildebeests, hundreds of antelope, and dozens of lions crossed our path. We were even lucky enough to spot two leopards and four cheetahs.

Seeing all these different animals was amazing, especially with the scenic surroundings, however just as equally we enjoyed people watching. We saw the old retired groups, equipped in safari suits complete with matching khaki pants and shirt, with too many pockets (and yes, there is such a thing as a ‘safari suit’—I saw it listed as a potential item on the laundry list!). Often times instead of looking for animals, we would look for clusters of Land Cruisers stopped because it meant that the other tourists were looking at something good. Sometimes when we were stopped looking at animals, we would take pictures of the other tourists, just for fun. My favorite group was an older man and women whose skin was burnt red from the African sun, the man wasn’t wearing a shirt and the women was hardly wearing a shirt. They both had mangled hair, and truly looked as if they were ‘living life in the African bush’ (or at least that’s the look they were trying to portray). People are just as interesting as wild animals sometimes!

Having daily hot showers and three big meals a day was just as exciting as watching for wild animals. I’m pretty sure we stayed in some of the nicest hotels and resorts that Tanzania has to offer—some of the hotels were even nicer than places in the States. It was a bit of a shock for my cousin and I transitioning to the tourist life, but we enjoyed every minute and my aunt made sure to spoil us!

Now I am back in Dodoma and back to work. I was actually really excited to come back to Dodoma, which I think is a sign that I am in the right place here (I sort of used to dread having to come back to Dar after being away). I am currently in the process of conducting a survey for the people who have taken loans from the church. I have already talked to about 20 people, and plan to talk to around 50 total. I am hoping that after getting a general idea about the situation of the clients who have been lent money, I will be able to help the church to realize a more efficient and sustainable program. I only have 7 more weeks here (!) but I think in this short amount of time I’ll be able to help improve their lending program.

I can’t believe it’s already June… Leah and Leisha, my housemates, are planning a birthday party for me and one of our Tanzanian friends for next weekend. And, in the beginning of July we're having a MCC team meeting here in Dodoma and are going to have a 4th of July party, so I have a feeling these last few weeks are going to fly by!

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