Arusha National Park and Mulala Village

Sunday May 8, 2011

Well, it’s Sunday afternoon here, which means it’s Sunday morning at home. So Happy Mother’s Day!!

What a weekend! Where do I even begin? Saturday morning we woke up for breakfast and headed out for Arusha National Park a little past 8am. Our drivers Jospeh and Luther and our tent crew Faustine (I really have no clue how it’s spelled but it reminded me of the opera Faust so I associate it with an au but it might actually be an o…). It was about an hour drive to the park. First we experienced a driving safari. I was in a car with Luther and he was absolutely amazing! It was incredible all of the things he could spot and point out to us. Immediately upon entering the park we got to see giraffes. They were so close I felt like I could reach out and pet them! They were right on the side of the road, and we even saw one cross in front of us! Luther told us how to tell the difference between male and female giraffes. The key is in their horns. As we drove we kept seeing many incredible animals and just views. We were in a jungle for most of the time. We saw warthogs, zebras, giraffes, common water buck, water buffalo, little mini antelope whose name I forget, flamingos. Probably more. Then we got to go on walking safari for a couple hours with a park ranger named Hendrick. Hendrick was pretty awesome, too. We got to walk really close to some giraffes. He also pointed out these little black and white monkeys that were up in the trees. It’s crazy how he was able to see them because even with pointing them out I felt like I was looking at an I-spy book! We carried our lunches for about an hour and then stopped to eat them by a waterfall. The lunches were a little odd to be honest: a piece of chicken, half a butter sandwich, but with three pieces of bread, a hardboiled egg, a crepe, mango juice, and a sweet muffin. It was a little weird but mostly good; just an odd combination of things. We continued on our walk after that and saw more of the same wonderful animals. We weren’t walking on a path, which was interesting because in American national parks you have to stay on a path. We just walked through random fields and crossed streams, climbed part way up the mountain. No big deal.

Next we went to visit Mama Anna, her husband Ishmael, their family, and the Agape Women’s group in Mulala. This village is located about a mile and a half up Mount Meru. Driving up this mountain was quite a feat. My car never would have made it that’s for sure. There were so many holes and rocks and pipes randomly in the road we were all over the place. Luther navigated up the road like a pro, though. We never got stuck and he didn’t even have to use four wheel drive! We were greeted by the beautiful women with a wonderful song. They were dancing and singing and laughing and clapping. It was one of the most welcome greetings I’ve ever received. They prepared for us a wonderful dinner. It consisted of (I’m probably going to forget some) roasted bananas, rice with peas and corn, green beans and corn, sweet potatoes, corn and black beans, potato and pork mixture, spinach, oranges, pineapples, and watermelon. Ishmael told us how they make honey. They have stingless bees and they hang logs for them to make nests in. They then cut open the logs and harvest the honey. Every six months they go through and do this. With their 30 logs, the Agape Women collect about 45 gallons of honey each harvest. The honey isn’t sweet like our honey from stinging bees. It’s bitter, almost like alcohol. We then sat around a campfire and talked with Ishmael for a couple hours. After an hour and a half he made us turn around and face away from the fire so we wouldn’t fall asleep. We learned a lot from him during this chat. We talked about how to say things in Swahili, how to stop street sellers from hassling you (sitake komomoa I think. It means “I don’t want to buy”), and some other Tanzanian traditions. Around 9:30 we were finally able to convince him that we were exhausted and wanted to go to sleep. We had tried earlier but he was convinced if we went to bed then we would be awake before everyone else. Our tents, which had been set up by Luther, Joseph, and Faustine were gorgeous. They were tall enough for us to stand up in, and there were 2 beds in each. We got little camping mattresses to sleep on and they were actually quite comfortable. I was so impressed with the set up.

This morning we woke up for breakfast around 8am. Since it had rained last night everything was soaked, but that’s alright. We got to eat breakfast inside of Mama Anna’s little coffee hut. IT was seriously the cutest little hut ever and I want one in my back yard. It was pretty much what you picture when you say hut: round with a woven looking pointed top, there was on entrance on each side and a round table inside surrounded by exactly fifteen logs for sitting (which was perfect because there are 15 students). Then Ishmael took us for a walk through his village. We got to see all of the plants and he explained what medicinal purpose each had. They have one tree where the bark will help with Malaria. It’s incredible to me how they discovered these things. We walked almost all the way up the mountain. We had quite a tail of young children following us, which was interesting to me because that would never happen in the states. I know my parents wouldn’t have just let me wander up a mountain behind 15 tourists. They were all more than excited to see us, though. Almost every child greeted us by yelling Muzungu (white person)! Everyone we passed on the path also greeted us; usually with just a Jambo (hello), but sometimes with more and shaking our hands. Everyone here is so friendly. You just walk around and say hi to everyone you see, which doesn’t really happen back home. After returning from our tour of the village, Ishmael told us how the women make cheese. They make 5 or 6 different types and sell the cheese. We got to try some of the delicious cheese at breakfast! Then we got to have some real fun. We each got wrapped in kangas (around the waist for girls and shoulders for guys) and danced and sang with the ladies. We also got to try balancing a huge bunch of bananas on our heads. All of the women made it look so easy. Ishmael and Faustine could do it too! I think the most any of us got was a couple steps, where they could dance and sing and even jump keeping the bananas balanced. It was incredible! Finally we departed and are now back at the Out Post. I think it’s time for a shower.

Love you and miss you,

Love, Cassie

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~ by Cassie.Becker on May 8, 2011.

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