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Mary's trip to East Africa with TOPP

My name is Mary and i have been passionate about making a difference in the world since i can remember. I will be going to East Africa for 25 days and i hope i can share all of my experiences while on this trip with you! :)

Diary Entries

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Location: Canada

I am home!

I was going to write some blogs about the Safari, but theres really not much to say other than we saw a bunch of animals and camped in the middle of nowhere for three nights.

This trip has been an amazing experience and i'm so happy i got to travel to Africa like i have been wanting to since grade six.

I am not sure how long it will be until i go back, i really want to explore the whole world. So travelling Europe will be my next big trip... hopefully!

Thanks to everyone for reading my blogs and for supporting me and The One Person Project.

Now i will spend my day watching the Olympics.. supporting Great Britain.. and Canada... and New Zealand.

Thank you all once again.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Location: Kahama/Mwanza, Tanzania

Hey everybody! This week has gone by so fast I haven’t had any chance to write about it! So I will try my best to remember what I did on which day!
On Monday, the teachers week started and we were all worried that not enough teachers would show up, or way too many! Luckily 30 teachers did show up and they were all very eager to see what Sheena, Erin and Heike had in store for them. Brenda, my mom and I went to the Kahama Hospital to meet Dr. Andrew and he gave us a small tour of the hospital. When I say hospital, I do not mean one big building with many floors and long hallways. Their hospital consists of a dozen or so single floor buildings spread around the grounds, being connected by concrete walk ways and metal fences. Dr. Andrew showed us the pre-natal ward, the labour ward, and the post-natal ward. Thank heavens that I didn’t see anything too graphic in the labour ward, I am very happy about that – they deliver around 25 babies a day. We also saw two male surgical wards, two female surgical wards, and the trauma ward. Each ward holds only 14 beds and each bed is separated by shoulder height concrete walls. Here in Kahama and also many other places in Tanzania, there are a lot of traffic injuries, especially with all of the motorbikes. We walked by a little boy who had recently got into a motorbike accident and Dr. Andrews had to amputate his right leg. But it was really cool to see some of the things that The One Person Project has sent to the hospital actually being used. Anyone that comes into town has to sign a guestbook at the district commissioner’s office, so... we signed two. Holy dear goodness I will never complain about waiting in a long line at a bank in Canada ever again. We literally waited for two hours in the hot bank, barely moving. Men kept cutting in front of us and other people in the line, and nobody really seemed bothered apart from the three mzungu’s. We ordered dinner at around six and it didn’t come until eight thirty-ish... I had ‘Chicken and Cheese Pizza’, which actually just meant chunks of chicken (I hope) with a few pieces of grated cheese on top. Since Tanzania time is slower than Rwanda time, that is all we actually did on Monday, but honestly it all takes so long to do anything around here, completing one task a day is a success.
On Tuesday, we met with Flora and Philomena from the Amani group at the hospital to have a meeting regarding the One Person Project. The Amani group is a group of children with HIV/AIDS that come to the hospital every so often to get monitored and treated if needed. They have a room where the kids can gather after their treatments to play with the other kids. Just like on Monday, it was really great to see the items we sent to them actually being used! Our meeting was to discuss what things have worked for the Amani group and what items they still really need. Flora and Philomena are both such wonderfully caring women, I wish I could have just given them both a million dollars to help them and the Amani group. Since The One Person Project and I unfortunately do not have access to millions of dollars, we gave them a small amount of donated money to temporarily help cover the costs of some of the things they need. We also gave them some money to buy two tables and a dozen or so chair for their room so the kids can have somewhere to work. In the afternoon I helped Sheena sort 35 bags full of school supplies and small gifts for an orphanage that we were going to visit on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, Brenda, Sheena and I took a car to a school in Kahama that has a class specifically for children with special needs. I gave them two puzzle mats and a hoola hoop and a few other things. There were only 4 kids there that day with special needs, usually there are nine. They are a part of a bigger school that has a lot of kids attending. Brenda and Sheena gave them a few soccer balls that the teachers seemed to enjoy more than the students. The teachers showed me their ‘kitchen’ where they cook the rice for the special need children’s lunch. It was literally a room with three small fires on the ground with different pots over each one. They showed us the rice they were cooking and Brenda was jealous that it looked better than the rice we cook in Canada. I was sad that we were only able to stay at the school for about half an hour, I wish I could have stayed longer and played soccer with the kids. But we headed back to the hotel and then took a taxi to the orphanage that Sheena and her school support. All the kids were so cute and were all so happy to receive their gifts. It was funny to see the ladies that run the orphanage treat Sheena like a queen, even to the point where they kicked a very old woman out of her chair so Sheena could sit down.
On Thursday I hung out in my room in the morning and in the afternoon we went to the Amani group to see the children and how they were doing. There were about 30 kids gathered around a TV that we had donated last year, watching Arthur and coloring. There were 10 or so mothers there also that had bought their kids to the group. Flora told us that one of the mothers had been left by their husband when he found out that his two children had HIV. This makes me so upset, considering he is most likely the reason that the children have HIV. They had to go home early because one of the children had a terrible fever. There was one little boy wearing a very thick sweater and a grumpy face. Luckily I had brought some T-shirts in my backpack and I was able to give the kid a shirt, so he wouldn’t be so hot. Brenda gave the group some bubble blowers and so I played with them outside for a little bit and watched them happily chase around the bubbles until they either popped them or the bubbles blew away. We gave them some skipping ropes also, so the older children played with them. Visiting the Amani kids on this day was the only time during this whole trip where I actually cried. It’s so hard to see all of these beautiful children with beautiful smiles and knowing that they have to suffer with HIV/AIDS. They were the friendliest kids I have seen this whole trip and I just wanted to take all of them home with me and help them and their families.
Friday was the teachers ‘Graduation day’. Even though I had only been at the teacher’s week thing for a few hours this week, Heike, Erin, Sheena and my mother have been working very hard to show the teachers fun ways to teach English. It was very funny to see them try and teach the room full of teachers Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Since we are from Canada, we decided that Friday would be ‘Canada Day’. We made them Macaroni and Cheese, Fruit Salad, Jell-O and Iced Tea. It was interesting to see their reactions to the meals and most of them, like we expected, didn’t finish their meals. Brenda gave each teacher a Certificate of Completion and afterwards the teachers sung us their national anthem and they all sounded beautiful. In return, the five of us sung O-Canada back to them, and I don’t really think we sounded as good as they did. It was very emotional to hear how much they appreciated what the teachers taught them this week and how excited they are to go back to their schools and teach them what they learnt here. Saying goodbye to them was hard but the experience was wonderful and we are all hoping that we can do the teacher week again next year.
On Saturday we just relaxed and packed our bags and in the evening we had dinner with Dr. Andrew and Major Matella .
Today is Sunday and we had to get up and head to the bus station for seven AM this morning to go to Mwanza which was a 4 hour bus ride away. The bus rides are never bad, but I hate getting off them. It is so overwhelming when we get off the bus and there are groups of people shouting at us to get a taxi or to give them money. We went to the hotel that we are staying at tonight and then went into town to try and find food. I really don’t want to come back to Mwanza anytime soon, because in the three or so hours that we were in town I go to so frustrated with all the people shouting at us. I don’t they don’t mean to be so rude, but I honestly just felt like shouting at them to leave us alone. Some of the people here expect us to give them money just because we’re white, and get mad at us when we don’t. Tomorrow we leave for the Safari and I am so so so so so so so excited!
Next time I’m able to access the internet will most likely be at the Nairobi airport, but if I’m able to sooner I will. I hope everyone is well and that my little beautiful baby niece Eden gets better really fast! I also hope that my sister Ra has a great trip to Thailand!!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Location: Tanzania

Today is my god brother, Harry’s 20th birthday – I can’t believe he is so old! Happy Birthday Bro! I’m sad that I won’t get to tell him happy birthday in person, but he missed one of my birthdays a few years ago so now we’re even!
When I woke up this morning, I didn’t expect to be participating in an African music video!! I still don’t even fully understand what happened. I was sitting in my hotel room and I heard very loud music coming from outside. I just assumed that the workers here liked to work while listening to music. After five or so minutes of the music, I decided to look outside... and when I did I saw that there was about 10 women singing a song to a camera with 20 or so people watching them. 5 of us stepped outside and then we got called over by a man that told us that we were going to be in a ‘picture’. We were all so confused about what was happening but just decided to go with it. There were 5 men in suits standing in a row and Brenda, Sheena, my mom, and I all had to stand between them while they sung to the camera, reminding you this is in Swahili... we had no idea what they were singing. My mom and I recognized the tune from my brother’s church and so I know I have heard the song before... but in English. I couldn’t stop laughing at how awkwardly funny this was. After swaying back and forth to the music in front of the camera, we then relocated to in front of a fountain that didn’t have any water in it. All of the singers started to climb onto the fountain and so we did too. I expected to have a picture taken since that what they told us it was going to be, but then they started to sing again and I realized we were in another part of their music video. I was handed a baby that I held for a little while and then someone took her off me. Everyone kept looking at us and encouraging us to sing the words, and we had to keep telling them that there’s no way we could even figure out what they were singing! After the scene at the fountain we had to tell them that we needed to go do work because we really didn’t want to be in any more of the video. I really hope we get to see the video some day, it was all so funny and I know that we all just looked like idiots standing there swaying back and forth and smiling. If I do get to see the video, I doubt I will show any of my friends... sorry!

The rest of the day was uneventful, but i'm really excited for what this week has instore for us!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

4 AM comes very fast when you need to be up at that time. I had all of those typical dreams where I forgot to set the alarm and now I’m running late. Luckily that didn’t happen and we unfortunately woke up to the lovely sound of an alarm clock. We all looked beautiful as we piled into the taxi to take us to the bus stop. We are fortunate enough to have a friend that owns a taxi that was willing to pick us up so early. Wellers piled our 14 heavy suit cases into his taxi van and then we drove down to the bus station, hoping that the bus we had got tickets for was still as big as we thought it would be, and we weren’t going to be put onto a smaller more cramped bus. Luckily we were able to get on the bus, but there was a big commotion about the size of our suitcases that is a big blur now, but in the end we had to pay the ‘owner’ of the bus $33.
The bus was taking us from Kigali, Rwanda to Kahama, Tanzania – meaning halfway through our trip we had to get out and go through the border. The first half of the trip from Kigali to the border was through mountains, making the roads very windey and making me car sick. It was so fun; there was nothing in my stomach so I was just kind of ... .gagging. Great image hey? You’re welcome!
Arriving at the border we had to pile out of the bus and line up to a booth allowing us to leave Rwanda - that took about an hour. Then we had to line up to another booth that allowed us to enter Tanzania – taking up another hour of our day. Luckily for me the roads in Tanzania are relatively straight, but 75% of the roads aren’t really full paved yet, making our trip very bump. The bus was squeaking the whole way to Kahama. I felt like I got a free visit the chiropractor.
We then pulled into the bus station in Kahama and oh my goodness it was the most hectic and confusing thing I have ever experienced. The bus was packed and we had to squeeze our way outside, into a crowd of taxi drivers and people trying to sell us things. We had to rush to the back of the bus to show the bus driver which of the suitcases were ours. We had to stand really close to the suitcases to make sure nobody tried to take any of our things, and to make sure that all our suitcases were off the bus. We needed three taxis to go to our hotel so the taxi drivers started to take away our suitcases to their cars before we had a chance to count them all. I was so overwhelmed I felt the tear in my eyes, so many people taking to us at once. Trying to touch my arms and telling me they loved me, and they were all laughing and talking to me in Swahili so I had no idea what was going on. When we arrived at the hotel we found out that one of our suitcases was missing. This was very upsetting since I had seen both of the suitcases being taken out of the bus. My mom and Brenda took a taxi back to the bus and luckily the bag that was missing had been on the bus... I guess in the confusion it had been put back on. I’m really relieved we have all of our suitcases and I really never want to experience that again. Once is enough.
The hotel we are staying at is called Pine Ridge Hotel and it is a very big upgrade from the hostel we had stayed at for nine days. ‘Tanzanian Time’ is even slower than ‘Rwandan Time’!!! We went up to their restaurant at around 6 pm, ordered food at 7 and the food didn’t show up until 9:30, it made me laugh. I feel like when I go back to work in Canada, and someone complains to me that their food is taking too long, I will just laugh and tell them to be appreciative of ‘Canadian Time’. Next time we order, we will order before we get hungry and then we will go back to our rooms to hangout for two hours or so. Tonight I got to meet Dodie, Dr.Andrew, Dr.Subi, and two teachers we have been connected with to help us with our teacher project that we will be starting on Monday. Sheena, Erin and Brenda went out in the evening to visit an event for one of Brenda’s friends. They said they had a very good time and there was lots of dancing!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sadly today was our last full day in Kigali before we go to Kahama tomorrow! I will miss this city but I will not miss this hostel! I know for a fact that I will come back here again someday and experience the craziness of the city again.
During the day today we just prepared for our long trip tomorrow and packed up all of our things, cramming them into two suitcases that are now bursting at the seams. We went to the local market for the last time... the one with about 25 people not 2500.
At four we went to a nice restaurant called Chez Robert to have dinner with Costa, Franklin and friends before having to say goodbye. Running on ‘Rwandan Time’, our company trickled in throughout the evening for hello’s and goodbyes. The meal was a three course buffet type of thing, but Sheena and I are kinda picky with our food so we had a little bit of salad, some rice and some beef. Sheena had a slice of cherry pie... and it was indeed 100% cherry... seeds and all. Our friends gave us all Rwandan names, and I was honoured with the name Hapana Shalon, which means beautiful calf. In Rwanda they value and love their cows very much, so this is the one and only time I’m happy to be called a cow!! I am so thankful to have met both Costa and Franklin, I feel like I have known them for years, not just days. I am happy that Costa will be coming to Summerland in November and I hope that Franklin will come visit us sometime soon! They both are full of wisdom and wise words - I wish I could have just recorded everything they had said!
We are now going to go to bed early since tomorrow involves a 10ish hour bus ride....woohoo.

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Recent Messages

From Dee
Thanks for the news from the past week.
Your descriptive narrative sounds like foreshadowing for another trip to Africa for you...?
Take lots of pictures on the safari.
Safe travels and love to all <3
Response: Another trip... Maybe in a few years...
From Dee
You are a wonderful writer Mary! I love your fresh perspective and the way you describe situations with humour and compassion.
Thank you!!
Stay safe and enjoy the Kahama experiences!
xo Dee xo
Response: Thank you Dee! I'm glad you're enjoying my Blogs. See you soon! :)
From Emily W
These are all so inspiring and very beautifully written! I am so very proud of you Mary. I will read more once you post more. :) Hope you are having a wonderful time.
Response: Emily! I miss you, thanks for reading my blog <3
From Daddio
Well written Mary. I was getting emotional just reading about the genocide memorial, no doubt being there will have been a little overwhelming? I miss you being here, but I'm proud of what you are doing. Be safe, enjoy the bumpy rides and take lots of photo's. Love Ya.... Dad
From Michelle
Hi Mary! Hope you are feeling better. Love your blog!:))
Response: I am feeling better, thank you! :)
From The Ezras
We love you sister and am praying for you and your health. We are so proud that you are giving up your time, money and energy to make a difference in this world.

All our love
Ra, Jack, Ella & Eden xxxxxxxx
From Sue
Hi Mary!

Here is to an exciting adventure.

I travelled to Haiti this spring on a similar mission...

I'll keep checking back, to share you adventure.
From Gwynneth
Will be thinking about you as you embark on your big adventure!
From Franklin
Welcome Mary! Cant wait to see you all. Franklin in Nyamata
From Jackie vaughan
good luck Mary so proud of you it will be an amazing experience xx
From Daddio
Nearly time....a couple of things to take care of between now and then!
Suppose I better start getting used to it?
Africa will be lucky to have you
From Dee
I'm adding your Planet Ranger page to my list of home pages so I don't miss anything!!!!
I am very proud of you Mary! <3
Response: Thank you! :)
From Lynn parsons
Just wanted to say good luck,have fun, enjoy the amazing opportunity, looking forward to reading about your trip, last of all look after your old mum and stay safe.
Response: Thanks Lynn. i will look after my old mum, dont worry!