April 22nd, Grace Allen It is hard to believe that we are already reaching our fourth week of being here in Tanzania. After a rather emotional goodbye to family and friends at Sydney airport we boarded the plane en route to Africa, stopping in Dubai for a few hours after completing the first leg of our journey. Then it was off to Dar Es Salaam where Jamie and Maddie paid for Tanzanian visas, while the rest of us filled out immigration forms. Once we came through customs we were shocked to see our bags moving along the luggage belt and quickly went about grabbing as many as we could recognise. Eventually re-checking our luggage before walking across the tarmac and up a small set of stairs onto a very hot and smelly plane seating no more than forty people. Flying into Tanzania we watched the sunset over Africa as the reality of the adventure ahead began to sink in, being met at the airport by a smiling Beatrice, holding a sign saying Ì¢‰âÂèÏCamp TanzaniaÌ¢‰â‰ã¢. Excitedly we piled into two cars and began the one-hour drive, in the dark, to camp, quickly realising that here, there was no speed limit and no road rules to abide by. Once we reached Mbokomu Grant, Millie, Clay and the Dutch and British gappers came running out to meet our cars and helped by grabbing our bags and showing us around camp. Meanwhile those who were coming to the end of their stay headed off to celebrate at La Liga, a local nightclub in Moshi. Despite invitations to head out the rest of us fell into bed, struggling to tuck in our mosquito nets, but eventually falling into a well needed sleep. Being woken by the farm yard animals next door at around 5.30 in the morning, caused us to realise that getting up wouldnÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t be as big of a struggle as we had thought, many of us experiencing our first cold shower that very morning. In order to adjust better to African life and gain a greater understanding of what weÌ¢‰â‰ã¢ll be doing here, Beatrice led our orientation walk, first up to the school, then to the local markets and the next day into town with Anderson. It is a fifteen minute walk from camp up to the local school where we are continuing to help build a new dining hall. Assessing the current dining hall was a very daunting task. Walls blackened from the smoke of cooking meals on an open fire every day, the tin roof falling apart, brown and rusted, while the floor is an uneven pile of ash and gravel, forcing the kids to sit on the dirt outside while they eat. It was then that it became apparent that the task ahead was far greater than expected. Personally I became very worried as this was like nothing I had every attempted before. With cameras in hand we continued walking along the uneven dirt road, flanked by rows of vegetables, women and children working their land, elderly ladies walking along carrying huge bunches of bananas, buckets of water and bags of rice on their heads, with small babies strapped to their backs, all wrapped in colourfully mismatched pieces of fabric and wearing huge smiles on their faces as they waved at the group of MzunguÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s (white people) walking past. Eventually we came to a slow stop as we looked across a seemingly endless expanse that was the local village market. It is at this point that I struggle to find adequate words to accurately give the description that this scene deserves. Before us was an endless sea of colour. Elderly women gathered under dusty umbrellas, their goods laid out in front of them on scraps of fabric and plastic, almost every eye looking in our direction as we stood huddled together in the middle of the road. Men, women and children walked past us loaded with bags of grain, fruit, vegetables and second hand electronic items, re-stocking on inventory that had taken most of the day to sell. A two metre high bunch of grass, strapped above the back wheel of a mans bicycle, rolls effortlessly through the crowd as children begin to make their way towards us. Stained brown buildings line the dirt road while old men sit against walls playing checkers, deep in discussion. Making our way through the centre of the chaos just blew us all away. It was a massive culture shock causing us to quietly retreat back to the familiarity of camp, unwinding with a bottle of Sprite from the Keys Hotel next door and a slow game of pool. The next day we were picked up by a huge army style truck, which drove us into Moshi, stopping along the way at the craft markets, which we have revisited more recently to buy some paintings and gifts for family and friends. Then it was onto Moshi town, which carries with it the familiar hustle and bustle of any main city, only with more run down infrastructure and a friendlier more laid back atmosphere. Cars raced madly around the dirt round about while police walked steadily in pairs carrying large rifles. It didnÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t take long for us to be followed by Ì¢‰âÂèÏfly boysÌ¢‰â‰㢠trying to sell us bracelets and take us to their stores, but on the advice of Anderson and Beatrice we replied with Ì¢‰âÂèÏHapana AsanteÌ¢‰â‰㢠(No thank you), over and over again until they left us alone. Relieved to be back in our truck, we headed back to camp where we re-fuelled, got changed and headed up to the school to begin our first day of construction work. Everyone did their best to watch and learn as the English boys demonstrated how to lay the brick foundations in the trenches that had already been dug by the previous group. Eventually grabbing shovels to start mixing cement by hand, listening to Jimmy (our foreman) instructing us to make its consistency like porridge. Coming back exhausted and very hot, we jumped into refreshingly cold showers and met with Simon, from Camps International, at the Keys hotel for official Ì¢‰âÂèÏwelcome drinksÌ¢‰â‰ã¢. For the rest of the week construction work continued as usual. Heading up to the school at 9.00am after breakfast where we mixed cement, carried bricks and gathered thick layers of mud on the soles of our shoes as we walked back and forth across the buildings foundations. Then back to camp for a hot lunch and some down time at twelve, heading back to the school at two and coming back at four. One day as we are walking back from school a small group of little girls greet us outside the gates to camp. Grabbing a soccer ball from inside, Sarah, Laura, Jamie and I start kicking the ball around and have a great time with the kids, who were so happy to be playing with us. The next day one of the girls, Joyce, grabs my hand as we walk back again from school, skipping along beside me until we reach the familiar white gates of camp. Suddenly an older lady starts waving and pointing at Joyce, Ì¢‰âÒMe Joycy MamaÌ¢‰â she says over and over, clutching at my hand, laughing and smiling, so happy that I was talking to her little girl. The camp set up here is very safe and welcoming. Featuring a campfire in the centre, there are three large canvas tents on cement foundations with corrugated iron roofing, a short walk away is the clothes line and washing area (no washing machines) next to a large shower block of four showers and six toilets. Each tent is spacious and contains single and bunk beds with thick foam mattresses, blankets (which are always being used) and mosquito nets. There is a small supply of electricity to these tents, which is used for lighting, but batteries and ipods are charged in the mess tent where meals and daily team briefings are conducted. At night an armed guard strolls around the camp and we are all able to sleep peacefully feeling just as safe as home. The small store at the end of the road often proves too tempting to most of us, and we regularly wander down the street thrilled to find Pringles and Cadbury chocolate lining the shelves. It is amazing how far money will go over here. A 1.5L bottle of water sells at the keys for 1000 Tanzanian shillings, which is approximately AUD$1, while a pizza, garlic bread and drink costs around $10 at the Indoitaliano restaurant in Moshi. One of the most confronting and memorable moments of this trip so far was the day that we visited the Joy Foundation Orphanage. We began by going into Moshi to stock up on supplies such as Penicillin, Amoxyl, Panadol, clothing, paper and pencils, flour, rice and sugar, lollies, stickers and soap to give to the children. After lunch we loaded into a bus, most of us nervous as to how we would cope with what weÌ¢‰â‰ã¢d be seeing later on in the day. After a few issues with directions we finally pulled up outside the front of the orphanage where we were greeted by beaming children who quickly latched on, many being picked up and hugged, while I just stood completely overcome with emotion as a little girl tugged at my arm looking up at me with a huge smile on her face, so happy that we had come to visit. It was hardly easy to take in everything that we saw that day and even harder to describe, but by the end of our visit we were all completely drained and ended up sitting quietly on the bus home as we all reflected on the world and our position in it. After some rest that afternoon back in our tents we began to get dressed up to go out to La Liga, where we ended up dancing for the whole night to reggae beats whilst drinking Konyagi. The following Wednesday eight of us said goodbye to the majority of the camp and headed up to Camp Kidia, located in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Boarding another army style truck lacking much needed suspension, we stopped on the way at a supermarket and stocked up on chocolates and digestive biscuits to keep us going for the week ahead. As we began to climb the mountain we noticed a considerable drop in air temperature, while we bounced around, laughing and screaming as the truck shifted gears and seemed to head directly for the pot holes that riddled the road ahead. After an hour of driving we pulled up outside a large white house where we were greeted by our host Eustace and three local mamas who ended up taking excellent care of us during our stay. One of the first adventures in Kidia involved us walking down the mountain to sign a registration book to ensure that we were looked after and as a sign of respect towards the local laws of the Kidia village. After a rather intense hike back to camp we settled by the fire drinking warm Milo waiting for the generator to kick in, hoping for some warm water from the shower. Coming back from Kidia we were all a lot fitter, having to walk down the mountain to the school and back every day for a week. Despite some minor set backs from rainy weather we made considerable progress down at the school. Jess and Ellen put their artistic abilities into practice, drawing and labelling a beautiful flower on one of the walls that we had plastered. While Ingrid and I spent most of our time stuffing seedling bags with dirt, then planting cuttings towards the end of the week. Although Sally, Millie, Ingrid and Sarah focussed on plastering the outside wall, while the rest of us began cementing a dangerous set of stairs, notorious for kids falling over and hurting themselves, they later became more involved in the stair making, along with Lucy, who became very skilled at placing the right sized rocks in the right places. We were fortunate enough for Eustace to organise lunch for us at a local ladies house. With great trepidation we headed back down the hill to a little mud house where we were greeted warmly as the ladies wrapped our waists in large lengths of fabric as to protect our clothes during the food preparation process. Leading us around the side of the house we cut a huge bunch of green bananas from a tree, which we then began to peel with our oiled hands, while they were chopped up by the mamas and thrown into a pot of water. As we sat waiting for the women to finish adding the beans and stiring the mixture over a fire it became apparent that my head had been infested with ants. Having leant against a tree for some well needed shade, Ingrid, with a look of horror on her face put her hands in the air and informed me and the rest of the group of my predicament. What followed was a lot of screaming, laughing and hysteria as everyone began smacking my head to get rid of the little ants. As the mamas shook their heads and laughed at our reaction, we were each presented with bowls that were then filled with banana and bean soup which. We bowed our heads as our host said grace and then looking at each other for support began to eat the lovingly prepared meal. That afternoon we joined the local boys in a competitive game of soccer. Spending most of our time laughing at our poor soccer skills and eventually cheering as by a pure fluke, I kicked the perfect goal (although we still didnÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t win). A huge highlight of the trip to Kidia was a long walk down the mountain to see the waterfall that we had observed from a distance on the drive up. This hike down to the waterfall was precarious and required a lot of team work and encouragement from within the group. Although I slipped and nearly missed the side of the mountain by a couple of metres, once we reached the bottom it was truly one of the most amazing natural wonders that I had ever seen. Dreading the walk back up, we were all so proud of each other once we reached the top in one piece and our thoughts were with Jacquie, Grant, Claylia, and Joey as they continued to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, a huge challenge that was ultimately very rewarding. Currently, as I write this there are eight of us back in camp Moshi, while the English and Dutch are in Zanzibar and Laura, Gretal, Clay, Grant, Jamie, Joey, Maddie, Sarah and Sally are touring Ndarakwai. Despite this we are all becoming closer and although the construction work has proven a test to our endurance and perseverance, it has generated a great sense of purpose and team work amongst all involved. Often, when we are exhausted and ready to give up, we will look around at the little children playing happily and remind ourselves of the bigger picture, that we are here to help this school as best we canÌ¢‰âÂå_ Unlike any movie you could ever see, this country, its people and the emotion that comes with it is something that only the individual can truly comprehend. I have fallen in love with Africa.