Monthly Archives: August 2013

Faraja School, Fields of dreams

Faraja is a school for disabled children in remote Tanzania.  At least it seemed remote to us.  It is pretty far off the beaten path but located on an electric line and perched on top of a good well. Founded in 1999 the school is a dream come true for people at the Lutheran Diaconate Center, who dreamed a dream of having disabled children from all over Africa come to a place of learning, healing and most of all, acceptance into society.

Our first morning there we witnessed a touching flag raising ceremony where the children sang their National Anthem which is much like the South African anthem that we love so much.  The students were challenged to thank the people in America who support the school by studying hard and keeping up with their physical therapy.

Our first interaction is to do some one on one small group play and learning with the kids assigned to library.  Emanuel becomes a fast friend who sticks close to us during our week there.

I meet Ellie during this time and we play matching games.  She is so smart and responds with her touch, eyes and smile, but does little talking.  She is new to the school and was homesick this first day with us. Just two weeks prior to our coming, she had to leave her home and her Grandmother, who was unable to care for her any longer.  I was happy to step into her grandma role even for a short time.  She smiled a lot for me and I spent as much time with her as I could.  Writing this makes me miss her.  Isn’t she beautiful?

All 93 kids gather in the large multipurpose room for meals.  They sing their thanks to God at the beginning of each meal and then sing a praise to Him at the end of each meal.  The kids are served this large ball of pap or corn maze meal, called ugali, at almost every meal.  We had rice or pasta with a sauce, served with all the spinach you could eat, grown in their own garden and a variety of fresh fruits, including bananas, papayas  avocados and pineapple.

After dinner there was much singing and dancing for the guests.  The children love to sing and dance, usually in praise to the Lord.

Meet Godbless,  a nine year old who is just over 2 feet tall.  He is an absolute delight to be around and his smallness does not interfere with his love for life.

This is Dennis, a very bright boy who grows weaker too quickly. Confined to a wheel chair now, he is a good reader and is so pleasant, as you can tell by his lovely smile.  He works very hard to keep up his strength during his physical therapy sessions each day.

Here is Godlistened.  He comes from a Masai background and is missing most of his hands, which stops him from doing absolutely nothing.  He will soon graduate and has become an outstanding leader in the school.  He enjoys working in the barn with the cows.

Milking by hand is no problem for him.  The school is teaching the children skills they will need when they leave the school for the world beyond.

We spend some time in the classroom with the children. Sometimes we are given small chores such as sharpening pencils with this small hand held sharpener. Other times we help them with reading and comprehension of the English language.  Ellie is hard at work writing her lesson.   I think our concentration facial expressions match.

Saturday afternoon was playtime for the kids.  Some were able to play kick ball and other running games while those who were stationary enjoyed each others company.  I was told they love the stories from the Bible, so I found a book and began reading.

After I read our interpreter retold the story in Swahili. I was amazed at how long the kids sat and listened.  I asked once if they wanted me to stop.  They told me no, and I read till supper time.

Although the kids are taught to be self sufficient, there are times when it is acceptable to help each other out. Dinner time is when everyone gets a helping hand to the dining hall.
 Here at Faraja they are given a chance to dream and get help in realizing those dreams in many different fields.  Many will go on to teach, others will be nurses and some will have families and raise crops for food.  Right now they are children, given the opportunity to do what children do, learn, love, play and dream.

We are so thankful for the opportunity to visit Faraja and meet this wonderful family who have dedicated their lives to helping the school and the students.  This retired couple have made many trips to the school and involved their children, grandchildren and their friends. There are many other supporters now because of the tireless efforts in fundraising and hands on observation of the school in action.

For more information about this amazing school please go to   We love you Faraja!

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Tanzania Adventures

What may appear as clouds over a cornfield at first glance is actually the snow covered top of Mt Kilimanjaro, known as the roof top of Africa and touted as one of the world’s most accessible high summits. Most climbers can reach the crater rim with no more than proper clothing, walking sticks and more determination than we had.

We had only one day designated to mountain climbing and that could possibly get us to the first base camp, which sounded like enough climbing for me.  Here is where it all begins.

The first base camp is supposed to take you 3 hours to climb and 20 more minutes beyond that you would get your first look out onto the land below.  We didn’t get that far. Then you had a 2 and 1/2 hour hike down the same path you took up.

It starts out to be a walk in the park with a slight incline and a good path.  Trouble is, it gets steeper and rockier as you ascend to heights you may not be used to.

The walking sticks came in really handy to dig into the climbing and holding you back to keep your balance while coming down.

It was a lovely walk through tangled old trees and dripping rain forest.  I wanted so badly to take more pictures but unfortunately we were on a time schedule and so far Dick and I and our guide are way behind.

Mark and Ranee went on ahead with their guide.  They made it to the first base camp in a little more than 3 hours, but Ranee was spent and did not have the energy or desire to go 20 minutes more to see the sights below.

Dick and I climbed our little hearts out, passing the picnic area before lunch and made it to the sign that said one more hour to the first base camp.  We found a stump to rest on, and as I looked to the left and saw the degree of the rocky hill going up, I said “I’m done.”  Dick was done also and our guide, who had been behind Dick for the most of the climb, sat down beside me and said in a quiet voice,”His foot, no good.”  Indeed his foot is no good for climbing but he did a great job and was glad to be able to go as far as he did.  We headed back down to the picnic area, had 15 minutes for lunch, and continued on to the bottom.  All tolled, up and back, we traveled 6 and 1/2 miles in 6 hours. Our only wild life sightings were a couple of monkeys and a kangaroo mouse right in my path.  EEEKK!!!!!

Our next unique adventure was to visit a Masai community Lutheran Church on our last Sunday in Tanzania. We were greeted by many children singing and dancing as we got out of our cars.  The picture below is after the service where we formed a semi circle as we came out and shook hands all around.  Some of the offering items of corn, eggs, milk and flour were auctioned off and the money then went to the church and was counted toward the donors tithe.

The mountains in the background of the above picture are where the last of the Tanzanite gemstones are located.  The young American girls in the picture were visiting the Faraja School for Disabled Children the same time we were.  I will tell you more about them in next weeks blog.

The picture above is of the choir.  They led all of the singing and did a lot of dancing and shoulder movement to bounce their necklaces up and down in time to the music.  The sermon was translated for us but the liturgical portions of the service were done in Swahili.  I recognized the reciting of The Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed by the rhythm of the words.  A wonderfully different worship experience.
Next we visited a Masia family homestead, where a man lived with his three wives and many, many children.  The wives each had a separate rondoval where they slept with their children.  The father had a larger square house, where I am assuming the wives came in turn to visit.  Not sure, we didn’t get into how all this culture works.  His cattle, sheep and goats were housed mostly on the outside of the compound along with his fields and gardens.  The ladies greeted us with song and dance and much welcoming and cheering, with the high pitched yodel sound, when we distributed our gifts of groceries and supplies to them.

When visitors come it is traditional to share a meal or if time is short, a drink before you leave.  We were prepared by bringing our own case of soda to share.  The children were served last, and the soda, being warm, tickled them with overflowing bubbles as they tried to drink from the bottles.

Here is a peak into the rondoval of the first wife.  The circular home is squared off on the inside to make sleep rooms for the family.  They sleep on animal skins and cook outside on a small charcoal stove made of bricks. They do have fires inside to keep warm at times.  July is their winter and it gets cool in the mornings and evenings.  Cool enough in those higher elevations, near Kilimanjara, to have a sweater on in the daytime.

It was a nice place to visit——–you know the rest.  See you next week.

If you enjoy looking at these blogs please join and/or leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for improvement. Wanda

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What exactly is lion lunch?

I thought that when you were on safari you never got out of the truck on threat of being lion lunch, but at lunch time we saw many of the vans pulled up under a tree with the people walking around.  We ended up eating in the van and pulling it closer to the tree to be in the shade.  Our camp packed us a great lunch, including a cold hamburger sandwich, some homemade cake and bread, fruit, a drink and other things. It was basically too much to eat at one sitting, but served us well for snacks as well into the late afternoon.

Our first, and only full day out, which lasted 12 hours began by chasing down a rhino.  Seems they are hard to come by on this safari and our driver passed up a herd of elephants and other animals telling us we would see lots of them but we couldn’t miss the chance to see a rhino.  By the time we got to where it was sited the huge beast had crossed this remaining creek from the May rains and John said let’s go for it.

He went a little to far to the right and we all felt us hit bottom and I knew we were not going to make it through. He gunned it, and we were going no where.  I proceeded to get out my journal and spent the next half hour getting caught up.  I knew that flat tires and break downs happened on safaris and the drivers knew how to handle the situation. At this time, in this place we were not allowed out of the truck.  Soon other trucks came around to offer assistance.  One tried to pull us forward but it didn’t work. Then they all started leaving.

This is the one they called in to pull us out backwards which meant we did not cross the creek and we did not see the rhino.

Twelve hours later, we watched the sun go down and were in for a wonderful surprise when we entered our camp.

This is Jeremiah and Chef Paul.  Their crew had prepared a special African meal for the four us in the bush under the moonlight.  In the short time we were there we just fell in love with these guys. They treated us like kings.  I helped Chef Paul stir up some corn meal and he told me he was from a Masia family, he studied in Nairobi and wanted to come out here in Masai Country to help his people have a better life.

We walked for quite a little distance by “torch” (flashlight) guided by the crew, then followed a ‘candle glowing in paper bags’ path to a great open fire, and a large grill where a virtual banquet was on hand.

They gave us Masai blankets and set a beautiful table.  Our meal started with Butternut soup, that was so delicious. We had a variety of salads one called Kachumbari. We also were serve Ugali, and wonderful chapatis.  There were four kinds of meat, all so good you couldn’t choose just one, you had to have one of each. Choma sausage, beef steak, pork chop and roast chicken.

They even danced for us after the meal and brought us a goodbye cake.  They sang “Hakuna Matata” from Lion King as they danced around our table. What a fun night, we sure had “no worries” and enjoyed the dinner late into the evening. No wonder that by the time we said goodbye the next morning we felt like we were leaving dear friends. Jeremiah said he wanted us to come back the next week.

We had to leave, for the next day we jumped this 6 hour shuttle bus ride to Tanzania for another safari.  Below is the place where we made the one stop for bathroom break.  This was pretty far out in the country and even though there were toilets here the shuttle bus passengers kept one gal busy carrying buckets of water to flush.  She worked hard for the little bit of money she received for that job.

P.S.  We also learned that if you couldn’t wait till this stop, you just let the driver know and he would pull off the side of the road and you would find a bush. This happened twice along the way.  No one batted an eye, except us.  We drank little water and held on till the scheduled stop.

On the Tanzania safari we were inside the famous Ngorongora Crater.  We saw many giraffes and this tall one made a fabulous run for us which Mark caught on video which I do not have. Sorry.

These are Masia villages just inside the Crater.  The people here continue to live in very primitive conditions. There is no electricity. They live in rondoval huts with thatched roofs raising Brahma beef cattle and goats.  Their food consists mainly of beef, milk and maze.  Their villages are near the top of the Crater.  The animals are down below.
Here is a van full of college students we met up with at our hotel in Karatu Town.  They were doing medical work in some of the hospitals in Arusha and living with local families.  It was great to hear about what they were doing and sharing our stories.
True Lion lunch right here. Feasting on a huge Elan.  Can you see the second lion in the picture?
King of the beasts Tanzania style.

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come along and safari with me

In July on 2013 we took a trip to Kenya and Tanzania, this is my second blog of that trip.  There is still more to share, so I will be continuing on this theme for the next couple of weeks.
A trip to Africa should always include a safari.  We had several great safari days and half the fun is getting there. From Nairobi we went to the Masaimara which is a long and dusty road away.  We passed  a lot of these small towns and we traveled the dry country side for hours.  We watched people walking and children herding cattle and sheep over terrain that had not seen water since May.

 On our 20 hour safari in Kenya and our 12 hour one in Tanzania we saw a lot of Lion action.  This is what our guide called the honeymoon.  Here you see the kiss.

 Here is the action accompanied by a magnificent howl or growl.

And then, 13 seconds later, “See ya babe, I am outta here.”  She took a hike and laid down across the road.  He followed and laid down close by waiting for the next invitation.

 This is actually in Tanzania, by Lake Manyara, It was a nice site indeed with the Cape Buffalo, Zebra, gazelles and Pink Flamingos.

 We saw several impressive herds of the cape buffalo, which is one of the big five (hardest to hunt) in Africa. The only one of the big five that we did not see, on this trip, was the Rhino and had only a fleeting glance at a leopard.

 Next it was hippo action.  It is actually kind of rare to see one up and moving. They are usually lying in  a heap in by the edge of the water.

 It was difficult to get a picture with you and the animals in the same frame.  This is the best we could do, but the elephants are way off in the background.  We saw a ton of elephants in Tanzania.

And a ton or two of wildebeests and zebras in Kenya.  We drove through herds and herds like this.  They kicked up a storm getting out of the way of the moving vehicle. We were told there is over a million wildebeests in the Masimara and 200,000 zebra before the great migration. This was the typical scene, as far as you could see on a flat plain in any direction. Absolutely amazing!

Our last day in Kenya we
saw several hundred wildebeest swim across the Mara River, dodging crocodiles.  Certainly a highlight of the safari.

Just before this scene where we could get a few pictures we were told that a crock had grabbed one of the wildebeest, but the wildebeest got away.  When we got to watch there were no crocks and it was a clean run. So wonderful to see even a small part of this great episode of nature.

Next week more on where we stayed and our “stuck” story.  Come along and safari with me. Comments are welcomed.

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