Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: The Hubby -- Volunteering in Tanzania Part 1 of 4

My hubby recently spent 18 days in Tanzania and because he is A-MAZ-ING he has agreed to share his story with all of you. Below you'll find part I of his story that he is posting on his company website. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did...thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for parts II, III and IV in the following weeks-K

Expectations - Volunteering in Tanzania Part 1 of 4
Unavoidably perspective altering. And that's a good thing.

That's how I've been summarizing my 16 days in Moshi/Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (18 days if you include travel time/delays). The entire mission trip was so positively mind-blowing that I've been back for one full week, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the volume and contrast of the activities and events I was fortunate enough to experience. Like most things that seem daunting and overwhelming, it helps to take a step back and digest the big picture a little bit at a time; that's how I'm going to tell my story of Africa - in a 4-part series:

1. Expectations: pre-trip vs. a jam-packed TZ reality 
2. Cultural immersion: not a tourist and not on vacation 
3. Volunteerplacement...and other fun stuff! 
4. Now what?

There may be more, or other surprise editions that will consist mostly of pics & vids, but let's begin at the beginning and take things one part at a time...
Part 1:- Expectations: pre-trip vs. a jam-packed TZ reality

I'm sure you already have a general awareness of the background for these blogs, but I thought I'd give a quick reminder of why I'm writing in the first place: I, along with 6 other Lilly colleagues were extremely fortunate to be selected as the August Tanzania International Ambassador group for the Connecting Hearts Abroad program; a partnership between Eli Lilly and Company and Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) to place groups of volunteers in countries that have a need. In total, 200 total Lilly employees applied and were selected to roll up their sleeves and become part of the community in 10 different countries, during 23 separate trips spanning the 2011 calendar year. You can learn more about Tanzania and the program {HERE}

With quite a bit of company and program knowledge at my fingertips beginning with the selection announcement in February, along with many words of wisdom from my family and the 1st group to visit Tanzania in April, I was more than prepared to lose myself in the Moshi community and give back anything I had to offer at my volunteer placement, right? Well, sort of...

Yes, I had a solid packing list, good idea of where we would be living, what we would be eating, and more local custom & basic Swahili tips/tricks than I knew what to do with; and I even mentally prepared for my volunteer placement teaching English to nursery school children at Magereza (school located within the Kilimanjaro Prison Compound - more on this in another post), but I was NOT prepared for how quickly I could fall in love with a country and its people, and how welcome I felt in just 2 short weeks. Nothing could have prepared me for being away from my wife and two princesses, but even they provided me with pictures and artwork galore to set my heart at ease. Even after being back in warm and friendly Indianapolis (i.e. the Moshi/Kilimanjaro USA Doppelganger), I find myself drifting into daydreams about Tanzania and all the people/children I met at least every 15-20 minutes...this can't be a productive way to spend time with my family and at my job here! Obviously, I'm still processing...

What was reality like living in the heart of Tanzania? Close your eyes and imagine this...well - don't really close your eyes b/c you'll have a hard time reading further, but imagine each day starting like this...

Alarm goes off @ 5:30am - every day (even on the weekends if you want to get breakfast and be ready to head out for the day's activities)
Struggle to untuck yourself from a dorm-style bunk bed fully enclosed by a self-wrapping mosquito net (don't want to get malaria while you're here)

Greet your roommates, or try to be quiet for your roommates depending on your room assignment situation (we all slept 3 or 4 to a room, which I hadn't done for a couple of decades)
Brush your teeth, but be sure not to use the tap water b/c it will make westerners sick             Take a shower...which may be warm, but is ice cold ~50% of the time due to frequent power outages throughout the night, which would have deactivated the hot water heater for the room

  • Decide what you'll wear for the day; which is MUCH easier than usual, for a few reasons:

  1. You've probably already worn it once...or twice...this week so it should be right on top of your clothes pile
  2. It WILL be dusty because everything in Tanzania is dusty, so just choose the least dusty thing
  3. Nobody cares what you wear...seriously, this is one of my favorite things about life in Tanzania-everyone is grateful for any/all clothing they have and very few people give it a second thought. Refreshing right?

  • Chow down on some chakula cha asabuhi (Swahili for breakfast) when the fabulous chefs ring the metal bell at 6:30am
  • Board the CCS vans sometime between 7/7:30am for a full day of cultural immersion that usually ended sometime between 5 and 10pm depending on what the day had in store for us.
...I'll stop there, b/c I think you may be getting the point...I've only typed out the 1st TWO HOURS of each day, and I'm already getting exhausted! It's a different existence than any of us westerners, or Europeans are used far! And I haven't even gotten into the clothes washing/ironing bit - whew!

I think it's time to tie up part 1 of my Tanzania experience recap, and start providing you with some pictures/videos of the above content for color. I'll continue with the life-in-the-day-play- by-play in future posts.

Landscape view of the CCS Karanga home base as taken from the balcony outside our bedroom window (please enjoy Mr. Jason Ryder's appearance as a Moshi "Where's Waldo" insert):
Completing our short-term-resident paperwork for the government; needed for our volunteer assignments (this area was also our daily breakfast/lunch/dinner venue):
One of Lilly roomies, Jason Ryder, preparing his mosquito/non-malaria net for the 1st night:
Heading to the CCS transport vans for the 1st time, on the 1st day (that's me in the middle w/the blue Billabong shirt & tan shorts):
Bottom line: I was so over-prepared for my trip prior to departing, that I was severely under-prepared for the magnitude of the penetrating, life-altering experience that lie ahead.

For parts 2-4 of this series, I'm looking forward to telling you stories of:

  • The Changga and Maasai tribes
  • Kilasiya Falls
  • Electricity, running water, and other such luxuries
  • A visit to a Moshi orphanage
  • Mount Kilimanjaro & the "big" city of Arusha
  • People I met, and consider new friends
  • Magereza & Eliroi Nursery Schools
  • WEECE and other women's shelters/centers
  • Running with Amani
  • CCS Karanga
  • Traditional Dance
  • Non-traditional Dance (including more Justin Bieber than you can imagine!)
  • and much, much more...


  1. Sounds like an amazing experience!!! I look forward to reading the other parts of the series:)

  2. Volunteering is the best option for amazing experience.
    Volunteer in Africa