Destination: Kilimanjaro Africa
Date: May 2014
Activity: Visiting an Orphanage
We finally made it to Africa! This destination has been on my bucket list for years and though I am currently 30 weeks pregnant we decided to cross this one off! I’m actually having a relatively easy pregnancy and after lots of discussion with my OB she assured me I could do this trip! I will admit the 24 hours in travel time to fly from San Antonio via Atlanta, Amsterdam and finally Kilamanjaro can be a test of patience for any woman but especially at 7 months pregnant!
Upon our arrival in Kilimanjaro we were greeted by our safari tour company crew African Dream Safaris. What a great bunch of people these folks are! We were escorted straight to customs, through to get our luggage, and right into our safari vehicles for the one hour drive from the Kilamanjaro airport to Arusha.
Our hotel in Arusha was called the Mount Meru Hotel. It was very nice and fit our needs well. Since we arrived at 8pm we were all quite exhausted so it wasn’t hard to stumble up to our rooms and fall quickly into a deep slumber. The only problem was that my internal time clock hadn’t changed so just four hours later I was up and ready for the day! Our group on this trip consisted of seven couples and three teenagers. We were quite a big group and one of the members of our party put together a humanitarian project for us to go and take supplies to an orphanage in a neighboring town of Moshi.
So with a quick hour and a half drive we arrived at the orphanage. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Just imagine the worst possible conditions and then add cement floors and there you have it. The cinderblock walls were roofed with tin and luckily for these children they at least weren’t living on dirt floors. Otherwise the conditions were terrible. However, the children were delightful and seemed unscathed by the poverty in which they were being raised. Just getting out of our taxi van I was greeted by a few of the resident four-year-olds who quickly took my hand and led me into one of the classrooms.
Our group had bags full of school supplies, sports equipment, head lamps, and socks. All things that the orphanage operator had requested to our group leader “C”. Since most of the children were in school taking classes we only had the under seven-year-old group there to show us around and go through all of our bags. They were quite adorable. Since English isn’t taught until a child reaches school age most of these small ones only spoke Swahili. The only way to distinguish genders of the children was to see if they were wearing pants or a skirt since all of them had shaved heads for the hotter African climates (and I’m sure to keep the lice at bay). After a few hours of playing with the small children the older groups began to arrive and we again started playing soccer with them, singing songs, talking, and many of us just sat down and hugged on them. They all loved to be hugged.
One of my favorite little girls was very shy, but became my friend and her name was Happy. It was a perfect name for this delightful little African girl. If I could have snuck her home in my suitcase I would have. It was a very rewarding day but heart breaking as well. When we got ready to say our goodbyes the children sang to us and then quickly ran to our taxi bus and jumped in ready to go home with us. One of the adult children who is currently waiting for her acceptance into university was living there still and had a very positive outlook on life. When she showed me her room she had quotes of inspiration on the walls written in chalk. One of the sayings said, “Never give up.” That seems to be an anthem many of us could remember more often. And coming from an 18-year-old orphan in Africa I pray she never does.
As always safe and happy travels!