Where to start?? As you can see from my history, I'm a sporadic blogger. :) It's tempting to just start showing the pictures from my trip to Africa, but first you need to understand why I went in the first place. I met an extraordinary woman named Amanda when she came to a Dining for Women potluck. We had many friends in common, and I eventually also joined her book club. Amanda had an idea to get a group of women together to go to Africa to do something amazing. She wasn't exactly sure of the details, but she knew that there were so many women in our area looking for something to do; something meaningful, something fulfilling. She felt like this "thing" she was looking for was in Africa, so she began to figure it all out.
After a little research, she started planning a trip to Tanzania and got in touch with a group called Afrishare Solutions. They provide all the arrangements for people to come to Tanzania and participate in responsible "Voluntourism". It is run by Tanzanians, who really know the needs of their community the best. They had a great website, and good reviews from people who worked with them. Then Amanda planned an interest meeting, and without disclosing the details (in an almost cryptic email), she invited women she knew, who she thought would be interested in this sort of trip. Luckily for me, I was invited. I knew after my trip to Uganda last year that I wanted to return to Africa, and not just as a tourist. It felt like traveling back in time, and the country and people were so beautiful. This was the perfect chance for me to do that.
Amanda was ready, and gave a fantastic presentation about her idea, complete with a powerpoint show. Her plan detailed 2 weeks of intensive volunteering at schools, orphanages, or clinics (depending on your interest and experience), classes in Kiswahili, Culture, Health, and Education, and then 1 week of Safari and beach time in Zanzibar. She talked about how this trip could be a catalyst for change in our lives, and other people's lives. That the effects would spread out like ripples, maybe even spurring other trips that would affect even more people. That through our experiences and stories we would share, maybe we would open the channels of understanding and inspire other women to travel with open minds and hearts. It was so cool.
The original meeting had around 12 women there, but a few of them knew right away that they wouldn't be able to go. Most often the reasons were childcare related, but some were financial, and some were moving soon and didn't even know where they'd be. It was a 3 week trip- many women just can't (or don't want to) leave their family for that long. Some didn't want to inconvenience their husband. Some were not entirely convinced that this organization was trustworthy, or they worried about the details that hadn't yet been hammered out. I hesitated- not because of leaving the children, but because of the money. Without me bringing in a regular paycheck, money would definitely be tight in order to afford the trip. But in my mind, once I was committed to going, it was going to happen.
Now, I'm blessed to have a fantastically supportive husband- Marshall was on board from the very first time I mentioned the trip. I think he knows that I've been left with everything on my own so many times, eventually it was going to be his turn! :) He has tons of leave saved up, so he worked it out so that he could be off with the kids, but then it all worked out that he didn't even have to take much time off work at all. He's also extremely competent, and capable. But, after seeing and hearing what other women went through, and seeing how many women either flat out said "No", or dropped out of the trip for other reasons, I feel so lucky that Marshall was (and is) supportive of my dreams and encourages me to go and find them wherever they are. Even if they are in Africa.
We planned some fundraising activities, and they were very successful. We didn't even know what we were going to use the money for, just that we were going to find "need" in TZ, and use the money to make a difference there somehow. We were so amazed how generous people were with their time and talents to help us raise money. We collected stuff people didn't want anymore, and sold it at flea markets. We had a Chiropractor donate her services for an entire day, and people could just pay a donation to our group. We also had a hairdresser and massage therapist do the same thing! Just amazing positive energy revolved around the whole project.
So, through various twists and turns of life, our group dwindled down, and eventually it was just four of us. When I think about it now, it was actually a great number to have. Traveling with 12 women would have been a completely different experience. Amanda said that it would all work out, and that she knew that the right people would be there- and we were. That didn't mean that we didn't miss our dear friends who had really wanted to come, because we certainly did. It just meant that the timing or the circumstances weren't lined up for them yet. The door isn't closed for the other ladies- not at all- when it's meant to happen, it will happen. The ripples are already headed across the water.
Then I got a job. :) I was THRILLED to get the teaching position, but I worried what it meant for my TZ trip. I explained the Principal the entire situation, and he was totally cool with me still going. He said that I had planned the trip in good faith, not knowing that I'd be hired at a new job in January. Still, I felt that 3 weeks was too long to be gone after starting a new job, so I cut it down to 2 weeks. It meant that I wouldn't get to go on Safari or Zanzibar, but I'd still get to do the volunteering, and that was most important to me.
February came, and it was time to leave. We departed for the airport in cold, snowy weather- headed to the sunny, 90 degrees of Moshi, TZ!