After six days and five nights on the mountain the group headed back to the Ahadi Lodge. Details of the trek will follow, but for now we must clean up and rest up for tomorrow’s safari!
After playing games we ate some lunch and then headed out for a short day hike led by Headmaster Longo. We headed up a dusty trail and ran into a heard of goats. Some of the students found themselves trapped among them, but luckily they were friendly! As we hiked up the hill, young children from the town below climbed up to join us. They happily accompanied us for the rest of our journey.
From the top we were able to see Mt. Meru and the beautiful countryside below. This short day hike was just an appetizer for things to come as tomorrow we start our trek up Kilimanjaro! We’ll be out of touch until Friday, but we’ll make sure to take plenty of pictures to share when we return.
After seeing the school, we went down to the field with the students. The boys played soccer while the girls played “basket”, “zigi-zaga”, and other fun games in the beautiful weather. After about half an hour the girls turned the field into a hair salon and started braiding our hair, while the boys finished their soccer game. Despite the language barrier, the children taught us how to play all of their games and we showed them how to take selfies and listen to music on our iPhones. Today was so amazing and most definitely one of the best days of my life!
From our first steps out of the bus and into the dusty square, we knew today was going to be a special day. The thing about today, however, is that it wasn’t just special in the conventional sense of the word. It was an experience that opened eyes, warmed hearts, and brought pure joy to everyone involved.
As we stepped out into the square, we first realized that today was in fact Saturday, no day for children to be in school. Our fears were swiftly set aside when the headmaster of the school, a man named Longo hailing from Lake Victoria, explained to us that Saturday was a day for extra sessions; in effect, these kids were preparing for their important passing exams in September. After a few games of “Ninja” that were carefully watched by some children not in class, we stepped into the cream and cerulean painted classroom. Upon the faces of each and every child standing to greet us with “Jambo!” was a huge smile, one of elation and incredible hopefulness. We took our seats after the introduction of sorts and proceeded to watch the class, equipped with the pens and paper readily handed to us by the children on our left. Other than the fact that the classroom was only halfway filled, what we found incredibly curious about the class was that the children repeated what the teacher was saying to effectively comprehend the subject being taught (math at the time).
After a little while, class was over (for us at least) and we filed out of the classroom and into Longo’s office where he discussed with us the adversity the school faces with trying to educate its students. What struck many of us was that the school didn’t need classrooms or supplies the most, but instead, teachers. With up to 104+ students in each class, he explained that while a chalkboard can be easily moved outside for class, teachers require accommodations for their efforts in the village. Furthermore, Longo explained that in this society, the parents care more about the animals than their child’s learning experience, and some parents even prevent their daughters from attending school because they don’t believe in female education. He left us with profound advice: “Take advantage of the opportunities you’ve been given. Work hard and respect your teachers because the chance you all have been given is unlike any other society in the world.” To all of us coming from a place of immense fortune and convenience, it energized us and gave us something to bring home beyond the tangible artifacts we purchased at the market.
As for me, “asante sana” to everyone that made this day so perfect. It was one of those rare, but poignant days that you encounter maybe once by the time you’re 17, one that I will unquestionably remember for years to come.
~ Katie Nelson
After visiting Shanga Shanga, we went to the Meru Market. There were rows and rows of small shacks filled with all sorts of knick-knacks and aggressive shopkeepers.
This was a completely new experience for us all, as we had to barter with the shopkeepers to make sure we got the best price. Some of the owners would literally drag you into their shop and force things into your hands.
We got key chains, beaded jewelry, funky pants, soccer jerseys and African drums, all to bring back a little bit of Africa to our friends and family!~Lacey O’Sullivan