July 8, 2018
What a way to conclude our time in Tanzania! Safari was more magical than we could have imagined. Our trustworthy guides, Amani and Fisson, picked us up in two land cruiser safari cars to begin our next adventure. On our way to the Ngorogoro Crater, our guides surprised each of us with our own traditional Maasai blanket for us to wear to our final visit in a Maasai village. Our visit began with a demonstration of how the Maasai community slaughter goats for eating. The main staples of the Maasai diet are meat, milk and blood. It was quite difficult for most of us to watch the man take the goat from life to death but we all felt an immense amount of respect for their culture and their insistence on not wasting any bit of the body. Following our welcome dance and home tours in the Maasai village, we made our way to the Ngorogoro Crater.Within the first thirty minutes of being inside the boundary of the conservation area, we witnessed two elephants crossing the road, a hyena and multiple Cape buffalo! We were all shocked by the reality that we were surrounded by such wild beings. The next morning we made our way down into the crater where animals of all different species live in close proximity to one another. With the roof of our safari cars popped, we gaped at all of the beautiful animals that we had only ever seen in zoos. Our first day we encountered countless herds of zebras and wildebeest, a bit fretful in nature. We awed over the families of warthogs, tooting their way through the tall grasses. We slowly and quietly followed male lions as they glided gracefully in packs. We adored the cape buffalo as they always looked as if they were wearing Victorian wigs. We were even lucky enough to see multiple black rhinos lying low in the grass to hide their ears from the wind. Our guides pointed out every unique bird species and helped us to appreciate the animals that might not seem too exotic but are an important part of the ecosystem. Hundreds of small and large gazelle hopped across the road in front of us as we zig zagged our way through the crater.The next two and a half days we spent in the Serengeti, which is a Maasai word meaning “endless plain”. We spent each day with our heads out the roof, our favorite music playing, and cameras and binoculars in hand. The animals live harmoniously across this landscape, just as you can remember in the Lion King. Some of our favorite moments from the Serengeti include (but are not limited to): being just a few feet away from a lion chasing a hyena, watching a lioness stalk her prey, almost running into a giraffe as it frantically crossed the road, quietly watching a cheetah snack on a gazelle, standing by a family of elephants as they tore down trees with their trunks, watching a female ostrich run madly away from a male, and feeling overwhelmed with joy as we drove through an unforgettable sunset. Our safari experience has shown us the variety of wilderness that exists on our beautiful planet and the importance of conserving that beauty.We felt full of life as we embraced the bumpy and dusty road that lead us out of the Serengeti. A very large baboon managed to jump into one of the safari cars as we were signing out of the park (you can imagine how loud those screams were). We listened to “Africa” by Toto maybe too many times and stopped at a couple souvenir markets on our way back to Arusha. We spent our night piled into one hotel room expressing our gratitude for each other and this absolutely incredible experience that we have shared. We all have so much to be thankful for, but most of all, thank you parents for sharing your wonderful girls with us this summer. This trip would not have had such a positive impact on us as leaders and all whom we encountered if each and every one of these girls had not been here. So thank you, thank you, thank you. We are all sad to leave this beautiful place and to leave each other but we are returning home with full hearts and big dreams.
Below are some shoutouts from the summiting sisters!!!
The Kili 4 gang
Skylar- I had the time of my life and I never felt this way before but I swear if it’s true then I owe it all to you
Ansley- I had such an amazing time with such amazing people
Gabby- thanks mom and dad for helping me to live my “here for a good time” philosophy. I love you long time:))
Frances- I will be forever grateful for this incredible experience. Thank you mom and dad 🙂 love you big.
Patricia- Thanks a mili for sending me to Kili!!! Mom and dad, I love you so much and can’t thank you enough for this experience.
Mandi- Thank you for this unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience. I had the time of my life!! Love you guys to the moon and back.
Megan- My experience was amazing! Thank you for the opportunity! See you after traveling from Kili to Cali 🙂
Caroline- If I don’t come home, it’s probably because I sold my hand in marriage for 17 cows. I’ll send you the bill for the dowry. xoxo Carol
Mollie- hey y’all it’s me mole. love and miss you guys! Thank you so much for everything. 🙂
Briggs – hey fam. I have enjoyed every second here and don’t want to leave. I’m gonna live here some day and have learned so much. Thank you for this opportunity!
Cross- I have had the best time! Thank you for this! Love y’all and see y’all soon!
Maggie- had a great time! Looking forward to seeing y’all soon. Love ya
July 3, 2018
JAMBO FROM TANZANIA!!!
It looks like the good news has already been told and yes, it is true…. WE ALL MADE IT TO THE ROOF OF AFRICA!!!! Potentially the first all girls Moondance Kilimanjaro trip? We’re making history, ladies!
This past week has been an experience that will be difficult for any of us to put into words, but that is what makes it so special. We spent five days making our way up the mountain and two days coming down. We had an absolutely incredible crew of people helping to make our dream come true. Our team consisted of ~35 people total: 7 mountain guides, a kitchen crew and porters who carried all of our belongings for us. Each day they woke us in the morning with hot coffee or tea in our tents. They provided us with more food than we could eat for every single meal (and it was so tasty!). And our guides took such good care of us and provided for every need that we had. Mandi was particularly grateful for all the porters and guides did for us and constantly reminded the group how incredible they were. Most importantly, they made our journey FUN. Each day was energized by our guides singing silly songs, gospel music in Swahili and their ability to make us laugh at any moment. The first day’s trek was through the rainforest and was a slow introduction to altitude at 9,842 ft. Sky kept all of our spirits high with her “PMA” list (positive mental attitude), and Caroline kept us all entertained with her perplexing riddles. The second day was spent trekking through the moorland climate zone and ended at Shira camp at 12,598 ft. On this day Mollie kept everyone laughing on the trail and the time seemed to slip away. Briggs encouraged everyone to keep on eating and drinking to maintain our energy, as we all started to feel the effects of altitude. It was on the third day we hiked up to Lava Tower at 15,091 ft and camped at Barranco camp at 12,959 ft. Our gain in elevation to Lava tower was used as an indication of how the group would be feeling come summit day. Everyone’s bodies were handling the altitude well which was positive encouragement for our upcoming climb. The next morning, we began the day with a climb up “Breakfast Wall” out of the Barranco Valley. The wall required us to put away our trekking poles and use our hands as we made our way up. As we reached the top of Breakfast Wall, we were rewarded with a view of Kilimanjaro that was grander than we had yet to experience. We continued through the alpine desert climate to Barafu base camp at 15,091 ft. Arriving at what felt like our final destination to propel us into our purpose of being on the mountain, our upcoming summit bid finally felt tangible!
Some of the girls were experiencing some sickness from the altitude, but nothing could have crushed our positive and ambitious spirits. Before bed time that night, we were blessed with a night sky full of more stars than we had ever dreamed possible. The Milky Way was making its presence known and the moon rose above the clouds (yes, we had been above the clouds for a few days now) and cast a red glow amongst the surface of the sea of clouds beneath us. We went to sleep resting in the peace of knowing that the next day was nothing to be scared of but simply a privilege for us all.
Summit day!!! We awoke at 3am and were moving up the mountain by 4:30am. We chose to leave a few hours later than most groups might in order to have a daytime summit and more time in the sunshine! Our leading guide for the day was named Good Luck… it could not have been more fitting. We used our headlamps as we climbed in the dark for the first couple of hours. Cross’s silent strength and Patricia’s determination and leadership were greatly appreciated. The sun rose as we reached the snow line and cast magnificent shadows of our moving bodies against the white snow and ice. The mountain moved from dark and unknown into a warming orange morning light that invited us excitingly to continue our way up and up. Both Gabby and Maggie persevered through the effects of attitude and truly inspired the rest of the group to continue to push themselves, while Megan quietly sang the words to Hallelujah to keep her mind in a good place. With our eyes still on our goal, we finally reached the rim of the crater at 18,885 ft known as Stella Point! The most difficult part of the climb was over and there was just 400ft across the crater to Uhuru Peak left. We forced sugar and water into our bodies and eagerly made our way to the final summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As we approached that iconic sign that read “MOUNT KILIMANJARO CONGRATULATIONS YOU ARE NOW AT 19,341ft” tears began to stream uncontrollably down all of our cheeks. Yes, tears of joy because we each recognized the challenge that we had not only persevered through but overcome with such admirable strength. At the summit Ansley looked around to all of us and said, ”I can’t believe we made it. We actually did it!”
The top of the mountain looked as if it were an entirely different planet. Fields of snow and ice stretched from peak to peak around us, opening our eyes to recognize the true rarity of the beauty that surrounded us. As we made our way down from the awe-inspiring peak we congratulated one another. We realized that no one of us could have done this without the other. As a small token of gratitude many of the girls decided to offer an extra tip to many of the porters and guides. Frances donated hats to all of our guides, who appreciated it so much. They sent us into our final day on Kilimanjaro with a morning full of singing and dancing. Our final trek down the mountain was once again through the rainforest and we emerged soggy wet and covered in mud. Following our final lunch with our guides at the gate and the tipping ceremony with our porters, we only felt it appropriate to sing along to “Africa” by Toto (“God bless the rains down in Africaaaaa…”) as we drove out of the Mweka Gate and on towards Arusha.
We feel excited and well deserving of our upcoming safari adventure! We depart tomorrow morning for the Ngorogoro Crater! We’re looking forward to our final week together and planning to soak up every single moment of fun with one another. Hopefully we’ll return with exciting stories that involve safe distances from East African animals!
With so much love,The Kili 4 girls (Jonas included because of his induction via braided hair) AKA the Summiting Sisters
July 2, 2018
Hi Kilimanjaro Families!
We just received a satellite text from Jonas and Mimi, and everyone made it to the top! We are so excited! They are back at camp now reveling in their accomplishment and are, understandably, in great spirits. Girls (and Jonas) run the world! We are thrilled for this group and can’t wait to read their official update in a few days.
All our best,
June 26, 2018
Jambo ,jambo bwana,Habari gani,Nzuri sana.wageni mwakaribishwa (Tanzania yetu) hakuna matata!!!! (This is a song we have been singing all week, and it is stuck in all of our heads).
Mambo! Hello from Tanzania! Update from Kili 4 group: we are having THE BEST TIME EVER!!!!! Our service section in Mto Wa Mbu has come to an end and we are now back at the SG Resort in Arusha preparing for our climb of Kilimanjaro. The past week has been indescribably wonderful. It is difficult to put into words all that we have experienced and the emotions we have felt, but know that we are overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.
Parents, you can find peace in knowing that all of your girls are doing GREAT! Seriously… this group is absolutely incredible. You have created some amazing humans and we are so grateful to have this time with each of them. Everyone is getting along so well and our group dynamics are better than we could have imagined. Girls rule the world!!!! (And Jonas). Everyone is healthy and morale is still high! Are you ready for a day by day account of our past week?! Here we go….!
Day 1 & 2
Travel days! Our travels to Tanzania basically felt like time travel. Our flights were very smooth and problem free. We slept a good bit and watched a plethora of movies. We were greeted at the Arusha airport by one of our guides, Gabrielle, in what looked like an oversized safari car. I suppose we can call it a safari bus. After a much needed shower and a great night of sleep, we awoke to a BREAKFAST BUFFET.
It was a very comforting first morning in Tanzania thanks to the breakfast buffet. We then loaded up our safari bus and drove ~3 hours to the town of Mto Wa Mbu. Our LOD’s (leaders of the day) on day 1 were Patricia and Sky. We chose them for showing leadership on the very first day by showing a welcoming attitude for the whole group. We eventually arrived at the our local lodge, our home for the past week! We were greeted by a delicious lunch prepared by our cooks, Dotto (D-O-double T-O) and Muhammad! We spent the afternoon hanging out by the pool and preparing ourselves for our week of service with intentional and thought provoking conversations about the meaning of service. We played the game “fishbowl” by the pool and a giant maribou stork landed five feet away from us. It was so magical. After dinner we met Msafiri and Shaban (Sheb) who work with the Red Sweater Project. They introduced themselves and told us a bit about what we would be doing at the school this week. Patricia and Sky led us in a wonderful first moonup and Caroline earned the nickname “hermit crab”. Jonas played guitar for the group (Willy’s Song by Rayland Baxter) as it began to sink in that we were finally in Africa. It was also the first time for a few girls to sleep in a tent which was exciting for us all!
We rose with the sun and all of the wild sounds of foreign birds in the trees above us. Jonas led us in an awakening yoga class by the pool before we enjoyed our breakfast of crepes and papaya! Our LOD’s, Mandi and Caroline, led us in an encouraging morning huddle to get the day started on the right foot. Following breakfast, five tuk tuks arrived to transport us to the Mungere Secondary School! Most of us had never been in a tuk tuk before so it was a thrilling morning. Three of us fit into each tuk tuk. Our first drive to school was in silence as we absorbed our new surroundings. The road to school was dusty and bumpy as we drove through small villages and an expansive savannah. Each day on the way to school we passed by Masai boys herding large groups of cows, goats and sheep. The Mungere Secondary School is located at the base of the Great Rift Valley with the plateau looming 2,000 ft above showing off luscious green cliff sides. We were greeted at the school by about 20 students with the most expressive smiles we had ever seen. In Tanzania, secondary school progresses from Form 1 to Form 4. Students can then continue on to Form 5 & 6 and University. The Mungere Secondary School is just Form 1 through 4 with students ranging in ages 13 to 20 Year’s old. They have ten subjects in school and all of their classes, besides Swahili, are in English! It is so incredibly impressive the level at which these students speak English. We spent the first 2-3 hours weeding the garden and chopping up corn husks to make mulch to spread around the banana trees. They have a grove of 50-60 banana trees! After working with the students in the morning, we spent the afternoon getting to know each other and playing games.We played a big game of soccer and some of the girls braided Mimi’s entire head of hair into the worlds tiniest braids. Mimi was immediately popular amongst the kids because of her name. “Mimi” means “me” in Swahili and the way to introduce yourself is to say “mimi ni _______”. So saying “Mimi ni Mimi” is like saying “I am me” which was very funny to all of the students. Mollie’s name was also popular because the students compared it to a mole in chemistry. Her nickname is now Mole. Patricia especially made an effort to learn Swahili from the kids and continue to practice with them. Gabby started an impromptu dance party with the kids which was awesome. Mandi was definitely a driver in the group by getting all of the group games started. And good ole Franny kept us grounded by very noticeably appreciating our surroundings and the new experiences we were having. After school we took our tuk tuks home and Mandi and Caroline led us in a fantastic Moonup. We ended the night with a drum circle and dancing! (You know Sky was bringing in the good dance moves)!
Mollie and Gabby, our LODs for the day, woke us all up and we had our first experience with millet porridge for breakfast! It sounds crazy but it’s so tasty and a staple of the diet here. Briggs was especially fond of it and claims that she could live off of it. At the Mungere School today we continued to make mulch from corn husks and also prepped new beds for planting more food. We also sat all together and collected dried cowpeas from their pods for replanting. The students taught us songs and continued to teach us Swahili as we helped them practice their English. We spent the afternoon just hanging out with each other. Maggie, Briggs, Cross, and Patti (what the students called Patricia) had their hair braided into crazy creations. Jonas brought his backpackers guitar to school today and played for the students. The guitar was then passed around as each student attempted at playing. After school Msafiri and Sheb took us to a Masai market that only happens on the 22nd of each month. There was an overwhelming amount of items being sold from used clothing to goat heads to solar panels to any vegetable you could imagine. We definitely felt a bit out of place there but it was a wonderful part of their culture to experience. Back at the lodge, Ansley showed her skills in bartering for paintings and helped each girl to get something at a good price. We decided it might be a new passion of hers.
Today we woke up to the breakfast of champions. They prepared omelets, toast, crepes, mango, kasava and fried bananas for us! We were fueled up for the day. Once we arrived at school, the Mungere students led us on a hike to a local waterfall! We held hands the entire hike with the friends we had made and continued to practice each others languages. The hike was about 6-7 km, passing through hundreds of banana trees, spotting monkeys along the way, and climbing over big boulders. We cooled off by the rush of the waterfall and spent an hour or two taking photos together and cooling off from our sweaty hike. Two students, who were very fond of Mandi, held her hands on both sides making it very difficult for her to have balance walking over the rocks. It was very cute to watch and of course she had the sweetest attitude about it. After an amazing and sweaty day of hiking we returned to camp for an afternoon swim in the pool! Frances and Briggs led us in an insightful Moonup that assisted in our growth and vulnerability as a group.
Ana and Megan brought us into a new day as our LODs. We enjoyed our favorite millet porridge for breakfast, a few instant coffees, and made our way in our fleet of tuk tuks to the school. We made a lot of progress today preparing new beds in the garden. We spent the afternoon playing hilarious games with the kids. One of which was a game Msafiri taught us called “chilipo chilipo” (you’ll have to ask the girls to sing it for you). It was difficult leaving the school today knowing that our time there is ending soon.
Today was a very special day. One that I believe all of us will carry with us for the rest of our lives. After breakfast, Msafiri and Sheb me us at the camp and we all walked to the school together. Majority of the students walk upwards of 10km to school every single day and 10km to get back home. Our walk from the camp to school was about 5km but we wanted to experience even just a little bit of what it is like for the students to walk to school. The sun continued to rise as we passed by beautiful rice patties with local people harvesting amongst them. This walk to school was a very important time for us to reflect on all that we have experienced thus far and truly realizing the differences within our own lives at home. Once we arrived at the school (all of the students were already waiting on us because they walk way faster than we do) we had about an hour to say our goodbyes with our new friends. We brought a small portable printer with us and gave to them a giant stack of photos that we had taken with them throughout the week. The students had written some of us letters and we gifted them a bunch of soccer balls, frisbees, and about a million hugs. A few of us cried like babies while saying our goodbyes (not pointing fingers, Ana)… but they were also tears of Joy. We were so thankful to Msafiri, Shaban and all of the students at the Mungere School. In a place that feels so foreign, they shared a love with us that made us feel at home. We will never forget the experiences we shared here and will forever remember the kindness of the people who live here.
We are now back in Arusha preparing for our next great adventure, and we can’t wait to be the first all-girls Moondance group on the roof of Africa!!! We can’t wait to tell you all about it.
June 19, 2018
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
Trip leaders Mimi and Jonas just notified us of the entire group’s safe arrival to Arusha – luggage and all! We are so excited for them to get their trip started bright and early tomorrow morning.