July 26, 2018
Jambo for the last time, family and friends!
We’re here at our hotel in Arusha, packing up our duffels to head back to the States, and we’ve gotta say, we’re so sad that this incredible journey is coming to an end. We have many an hour of travel ahead of us, and we’re grateful that we’ll have time to reflect on all that we experienced here in Tanzania.
We’ve just come back from an unbelievable section of our trip in the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. We were astounded by all the wildlife that we witnessed IN. PERSON. We kept reflecting on the differences of seeing zebras, lions, etc. in The Lion King versus in Tanzania in real life. Sarah, Map, and Taylor kept singing The Lion King soundtrack in their safari cars, though, just to keep us all aware of the tunes that these animals are capable of singing in the Pixar world.
Our first day in the Crater was a hit! We had zebras grazing in our campsite as we pulled up to eat dinner and make camp for the night. Quinlyn took some pretty epic photographs of the group next to the zebras, and our crew had Moonup amongst the different animals of the Crater calling to one another. Earlier that day, James, Thomas and Ollie tested their strength against the Maasai warriors in a jumping competition, and Sam almost tasted the blood of the goat we saw sacrificed (don’t worry, we dissuaded him from partaking). We went to sleep wondering if any hyenas would visit the campsite’s trash cans.
When we woke up the next morning, Court led us in morning huddle with a quote that geared us up for a big day of game drives in both the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. That day we saw ALL five animals of the Big 5 (cape buffalo, lion, rhinoceros, leopard, elephant) with an exceptional view of ten male lions walking RIGHT by our safari cars. Claire got some incredible pictures of the lions that are going to appear in a National Geographic someday. Our view of the rhino was a bit obscured due to distance, but we had some pretty epic encounters with multiple hippopotamus.
As we entered Serengeti National Park, we belted out “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King and spent the subsequent two days seeing all that “nature had to offer us,” as our safari guides kept saying. We were lucky to see lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants at sunset, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, flamingoes, and so much more. We celebrated Owen’s birthday in style with a few of his favorite Tanzanian candies and a cake at our final banquet.
We made our way back toward Arusha with many new memories in tow and made a stop at the Mungere School to say a final goodbye to all our friends from the community service section of our trip. Ashley and Olivia busted a move in one last “Chile Po Po Po” circle, and a few tears were shed by all.
We got back to Arusha to celebrate an amazing trip and many remarkable moments. We gathered at a local restaurant for some cheeseburgers (Coleman had been craving one for the past 20 days…ha!) and laughter with a few of the guides who have been with us the entire summer. Our final Moonup focused on “the important places” we’ve encountered during our time in Tanzania and the ways in which we’ll carry those places with us as we travel back to the States. We are looking forward to sleeping in our own beds, but are torn as we say “see you later” to a place that has really shaped us these past few weeks.
Both Thomas and I are so grateful to each and every one of you reading this trip update – parents, Moondance staff, friends, and supporters in every form. You have made it possible for us to experience this incredible place this summer and all of us, students and trip leaders alike, are so thankful for our time in this place. We hope you know just how much we’ve LOVED getting to spend time with each and every one of the students on Kili 3. We’ve been encouraged by the tender hearted, compassionate students that you have raised. They have carried themselves beautifully as we’ve encountered moments of adversity and triumph here. We just love ‘em! And we’re going to miss them.
Thank you again,
Mary and Thomas
July 20, 2018
Jambo again, family and friends!
We are back from one grand adventure! And boy do we have some stories for you, so we’ll pick up right where we left off!
After arriving back at our luxurious Arusha hotel, we were briefed by our head guide, John, who would eventually become a best friend and just another fantastic member of the team. He gave us all the insight and strategy about how to perform and behave on this kind of extraordinary expedition. Court then helped us organize a leadership exercise, then we packed up and headed to bed, getting a good night sleep before departing for the largest free-standing mountain in the world.
We woke up Saturday morning ready to rock. With boots on and trekking poles out, we loaded up our bus and headed for the Machame gate where we would begin our climb. You wouldn’t even realize we were about to start such an impressive journey; the entire bus ride was filled with laughter, story telling, and fun games (that would later come in great use on the trail)! But when we arrived to the gate, we were ready to go. After an inspirational pump up speech by Owen and Quinlyn, our LODs for the first day of the climb, we could not have felt more prepared for our journey! And within minutes, we were singing songs and playing trail games again. When you are with a group of people this amazing and this enthusiastic, no task is too daunting. We hiked through the lush, gorgeous and seemingly untouched rain forest throughout the afternoon, finally arriving at our camp in the evening just before dinner. A warm meal was the perfect ending to a perfect day, and we knew we were in store for a once in a lifetime climb with this group, as it was filled with unwavering positivity, energy, and genuine love for life.
Our first morning on Mt. Kilimanjaro came with a breathtaking view of the mountain top, which had previously been hidden by constant cloud cover. What an absolute delight to wake up to! It was as if the peak of the mountain was beckoning to us, and we were ready to accept the challenge! But before we headed off on our second day, we were gifted with a fun and beautiful song by our incredibly friendly guides and porters! The dancing, catchy singing, and goofy atmosphere was the perfect tone to start our first full day on Kilimanjaro, and when Sam jumped right into the celebration, we knew we were welcome. With the sun and blue sky shining above us, we began our walk to our second camp of the trek, Shira camp, and it was this day that we realized how much fun we can truly have on the trail. We played seemingly endless games of “STAR” (where you guess a movie someone is thinking of), and Olivia proved herself to be a true film connoisseur. Though the entire hike up to Shira camp was uphill, it felt as though we were walking for five minutes because of the intentionally genuine conversations people were having, the enthralling games that were being played, and the awe-inspiring views around every twist and turn on the trail. On a climb like this, one might be over-obsessed with the single goal of getting to the top, but not this group. These Moondancers appreciated their company, their setting, and their unrivaled experience, and that sort of appreciation reminded us why we love this job. We arrived to camp just in time for lunch, and after a restful afternoon we took a little acclimatizing hike, ate dinner and headed to bed, ready for our first full morning and afternoon of hiking.
Our third day on the mountain offered us our hardest test yet: a full day of hiking. We were again blessed to wake up to such beautiful skies and a spectacular view of the mountain, and with the anticipation of beginning the real meat of the climb lingering, we bolted up the trail. On a day where we knew we would be hiking for quite some time, it was crucial that the group maintain positive attitudes and continue to support each other, and they did just that. Every conversation had multiple people engaged, every game had multiple people playing, and every song had multiple people singing. Claire seemed to be involved in everything! It was a clear indication that not only did this group want to be on this mountain, this group wanted to be on this mountain with each other, and we felt so overwhelmed with pride and happiness watching our students, who had only known each other for a couple of weeks, become such loving and caring members of the team. After a delightful morning of hiking, we arrived at our lunch spot ready for the rest of the day, where we would be climbing up to 15,000 ft to the Lava Tower! Thankfully we had a leader like Ollie, who basically guided us up to that elevation. Once we were at the Lava Tower, Mary Appleton reminded all of us how impressive it was to be at such high altitude already, and how proud we should all be of each other in that moment. We headed back down in elevation to our third, and most spectacular camp, Barranco, where we were again greeted by a fun song and dancing. Before we headed to sleep, we all took time to appreciate a sky that was littered with stars. It did not seem real, but rather a black blanket with a million shiny holes in it! Taylor was able to snap some of the most incredible pictures we had ever seen, capturing the magnificence of the night sky. It was a real bedtime treat before our fourth day of climbing.
We woke up on day four with quite the challenge in front of us: scaling the Barranco wall. This was the first part of our morning hike, and essentially required us to use our hands and climb up a rock wall that overlooked our campsite. Though people understood the task at hand, no one was afraid or nervous by it, and before we knew it Thomas had led us almost completely up the wall. As we had reached the top of the wall, the sun had just crested the mountain and offered us with such gleaming hit that we all felt truly blessed to be where we were. It was also great motivation to continue the positivity and joy that had become inherent themes of our climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro! As we pressed onward after reaching the top of Barranco wall, we continued with our trail games and bonding. Coleman had the fantastic idea of creating a game based around naming our favorite foods, reminding us of what awaited after we climbed this beast of a mountain! The constant laughter and smiling was the perfect fuel in leading us to lunch. After devouring another delicious meal, we were ready for our afternoon with our sights set on base camp! We could not believe we had come this far, but knew what was still left to conquer. It was nothing too much, though, because with the sun beaming down on us and the cool breeze behind us, we were at our base camp, Barafu, in no time! As we strolled into our campsite, which sits at over 15,000 ft, we admired the tenacity, determination, and blatant skill required to make it to this point. Everyone was so happy with each other that every single member of the group had made it this far, and Mary and I could not have been happier to see this sentiment from the group! But because we had such a big day ahead, we bundled up and enjoyed a quick, yet tasty dinner and hit the hay, getting good rest for the summit bid of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Summit day. We could not believe it was already here, and so we eagerly awoke early in the morning (before dawn) to prepare for our summit attempt. With James and Sarah as our LODs on this special day, we knew we were in great hands. With headlamps on, parkas zipped and boots laced up, we were ready for our biggest day yet. We began our summit bid under the beautiful night sky we had grown to love and appreciate, which made our early morning that much more enjoyable. Before we knew it, though, the most gorgeous sunrise we had every seen had lit up the entire sky around us, and we all took a moment to realize how lucky we were to experience all of this. And that is the most valuable lesson learned from summit day: the appreciation of the experience. Though not everyone made it to Uhuru peak, everyone understood the invaluable experience the entire climb itself had offered and the life lessons that had been learned throughout the entirety of the journey. We could not have been more proud of this entire group for giving every single day their all, and being constant sources of enthusiasm, energy, compassion, love and friendship to each other, Mary and I, and every single guide and porter met on the mountain. The way Ashley connected with our cook Dianna was a special reminder on the last day of how beautiful an experience such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro can be in regards to connecting people.
Now that we are back at our home away from home (our delightful Arusha hotel), we could not be more proud of this group, or more excited to spend the next few days with them as we embark on another journey in Serengeti national park! We just want to thank all of you for allowing these insightful and amazing students the opportunity to spend this time with us in Tanzania, and we look forward to furthering our relationships with one another while observing one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Thomas and Mary
July 13, 2018
Kili 3 Update 1:
Jambo, family and friends!!!!
We’re writing to you as we’re gearing up for our Kilimanjaro climb, and, wow, excitement is in the air!
As we prep for the start of the trek tomorrow, we cannot help but look back on the incredible week we’ve just shared with the students at the Mungere School. Both Thomas and I are blown away by the relationships that your sons and daughters formed in Mto Wa Mbu. From afternoon soccer games to “Chile Po Po Po” dancing circles, these Moondancers have demonstrated the impressive social skills required to form bonds with people different from us.
Our first day at the Red Sweater Project (RSP) was one of the best of the summer. (Way to start off strong, right?!) We worked in the garden and then the magic started to happen when Sam led us in a game of Big Booty. All 14 of our students were lined up next to RSP students playing and laughing together. Thomas and I knew we were in for an incredible trip when we saw both the Moondance and Mungere students coming together in that way. After lunch we played one giant game of soccer and Thomas H. and Taylor had us wondering if we were actually part of a World Cup game. Their moves on the field rival those of Mbappé! We wrapped up our day with a dancing circle to the tune of “Chile Po Po Po” and Mary Appleton (Map) blew us away with her “flossing.”
We woke up for our second day of service ready to get back to the RSP and continue getting to know our new friends. We hopped back in the garden and started to form new garden beds for the majority of the morning. In the afternoon we all loved the opportunity to hear Msafiri (one of our RSP hosts) explain the impacts of the garden in an agriculture class. The RSP garden is used to supplement the two meals that the students receive during the school day. Us Moondancers were able to sit in on three different classes — agriculture, Swahili, and physics — and get a taste of school in Tanzania. Sarah discovered a newfound love for note-taking and Ashley poignantly stated that the class structure isn’t all that different from that of ours in the States.
Day 3 led us to a beautiful waterfall just a few kilometers from the school grounds. We walked with a number of RSP students and Coleman sang “the elephant song” with Maurine (a RSP student) the whole way there. We enjoyed more class time that afternoon and Claire and Olivia mastered their frisbee-throwing skills after school.
As we got closer to the end of our time with the Mungere students, it became harder and harder to leave each day — especially when Owen had everyone laughing at the braids that Quinlyn put in his hair. James, too, was such a light to the RSP students and each one of our Moondancers felt a twinge of sadness as we neared Day 4 and 5.
Day 4 was unique as it allowed us the opportunity to walk to the Mungere school from our campsite. We got a taste of the distance the RSP students travel each day to reach Mungere. This offered us a newfound appreciation for the cars we drive to school in or the mere minutes we walk to class. That day we worked on clearing the school’s fence of weeds and Ollie found his calling with a machete. At the end of the day, we gathered all of our photographs together from the past few days and printed them to hand out to the students during our final goodbye.
And that final goodbye was a tear-jerker for sure. We arrived at the RSP for one last hug and “Chile Po” circle. Court gave a heartwarming thank you to the RSP for hosting us and allowing us to learn the importance of relationship building across cultural barriers. We left the RSP with tear-filled eyes, and finished off the day with a Maasai cultural visit and a bit of time shopping at the local market.
We’re back at our hotel in Arusha and are sad to leave our RSP friends behind. But we have quite the adventure to look forward to! We cannot wait to share stories from the summit and will update you as soon as we get back from the climb. For now, here are some shout-outs from your favorite Moondancers:
Olivia: hey guys (mom and dad) !!! miss you but it’s amazing here and I can’t wait to tell you everything about it:) hope all is good at home, pet Lilly for me!! Ahh wish us luck on Kili ! #seeyousoon LOVE YOUUUU
Claire: Hi mom, dad, Will, and Kelsey!!! I’m having so much fun and miss y’all tons. We just finished the service portion of the trip and it was so amazing. We’re about to start climbing Kili so wish us luck!!! Love y’all can’t wait to tell you all about the trip when I get home!!! <3
James: Hey mom and dad, things are going great and I’m having an amazing time. We are about to climb Kilimanjaro, wish me luck!
Sarah: hey! Tanzania is awesome can’t wait to come home and get some good food! Say hey to Munson and Mae for me!Ashley: hello family! Tanzania is wonderful and I can’t wait to share all the amazing things I’ve seen and experienced with y’all. I’m thinking of my loved ones and hope you’re all doing well!
Ashley: hello family! Tanzania is wonderful and I can’t wait to share all the amazing things I’ve seen and experienced with y’all. I’m thinking of my loved ones and hope you’re all doing well!
Map: hey mom and dad hope Cali is fun and I’m pretty sure Harrigan is abt to b home so tell him I said hey!! Also I’m having so much fun!! We just finished our service part w/ the school and now we r abt to go climb Kili wish me luck!! <3
Coleman: Hey mom, dad, and holtie!! Tanzania is amazing!! We just finished service and we start climbing soon so wish me luck! Love and miss y’all!! Holtie, pet wimpy kid and fluffy for me and feed the fish!!!!
Quinlyn: Hi Mom and Dad, miss you guys,but Africa has been amazing. We finished our service work at the Mungere school and are now prepping to climb Kili. I’m a little intimidated by the hike but I’m getting up the mountain if I have to army crawl my way up. Having a great time and am staying safe. Thankful for you guys sending me on this trip is an awesome experience. Love y’all
Court: Mom, Dad & Coop, Jambo! We just finished our week of service at the Mungere School and we are starting our Kilimanjaro trek tomorrow. This place is so beautiful, you guys would love it here. Hope everything is well in Utah and Cooper, I hope PNW is amazing. Say hi to the pups for me. Love & miss you!
Sam: what’s up mom, dad, and the bros. I’m not confident that you guys will be reading this, but I’m having a blast in Tanzania. We’re about to start the climb and I’ll be thinking of you guys. Tell mud what’s up for me. Love you guys.
Thomas: Hey Scout and Lily and family. Best trip yet, the service was great and I can’t wait to summit that mountain. Hope everything is good back home cya soon. Also, tell Edward I said happy birthday again.
Ollie: Jambo mom and dad, we just finished our service part of the trip and I’m having an amazing time! We’re leaving for Kilimanjaro tomorrow and I’m starting to get nervous. Wish me luck! I hope all is well and I love you. Say hi to Charlie Lucy and Lucky for me
Owen: Jambo Mom, Dad, and Bud. Just finished doing service and having a great time. We’re fixing to climb the mountain tomorrow. Hope all is well with y’all and would love a mega meal from Milo’s with a lemon pie when I get home. Love y’all.
Taylor: Mambo, Mom and Dad! All is well here, it’s beautiful. We are on the way to Arusha to prepare for Kili. Will, I hope you get a break. Haley, I hope the city is fun! Nancy, have the best time in Peru! I’m so excited for you to meet your group. Shoutout to Beau from Kili 1! Love y’all!
July 6, 2018
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
We just spoke with Thomas and Mary – The group has arrived safely in Tanzania, and the trip is off to a great start. We cannot wait to hear more about their adventures.