July 7, 2019
Dear mothers (mamas), fathers(babas), sisters (dadas), brothers (kakas), and friends (rafikis),
The Infamous Moondusters boarded their flight, and they are on their way back home to you. We are hoping they will show the airplane crew and fellow passengers their acapella skills during the flight, and we would love nothing more than to witness this. However, we had to say goodbye to our group of incredible students—our Moondance family.
What a three weeks it has been. From the very start, we knew we’d hit the jackpot with this group. They bought in to the experience, and they connected with the Mungere students, with the guides and porters of Active KiliTops, with us (Ellie and Wick), and most importantly with each other. During our last Moonup we talked about favorite memories from the trip and how we would like to be remembered by each other. Without a doubt, these students touched our hearts and we will not only remember our Kili 2 Moondance Family but, hopefully, continue to be a part of their lives. Be it through the memories, staying in touch, or through the love we gave. They deserved these past three weeks of adventure and cultural exploration, and they made the very most of their experience.
Parents and supportive loved-ones, thank you for giving these students the experience of a lifetime. Without your love and support this would not have been possible, and we wish we had the chance to meet all of you in person and tell you how amazing your kids are. They are on their way home to you with pictures, stories, and so many memories. We can’t wait for you to hear about it.
Yesterday we read a poem with our LODs that we would like to share with you and our students (We hope y’all are reading this!). It is a Moondance favorite by Mary Oliver. Here is “Wild Geese”…
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I’ll tell you
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Wick and Ellie
July 5, 2019
Things are all hakuna Matata here in Tanzania. We just exited the Serengeti after three awe-inspiring days. Safari was the perfect way to decompress after our Kilimanjaro trek. For the past four days, our guides Rodrick and Walter drove us around two astonishing conservation areas—the Ngorongoro Crater and THE Serengeti. Rodrick and Walter, our two Safari guides, gave us tidbits of info about animals and the environment. They made sure we had “front row seating” to the action throughout Safari.
Our first days journey brought us atop the Ngorongoro Crater. We drove through Mto wa Mbu (where we did our service portion) and up the wall of the great Rift Valley, which extends through Kenya, up to Egypt and ends in Syria. We entered the African bush, which meant we were among the animals at the beautiful Simba Camp. Simply stepping out of your tent meant a zebra encounter. We were in it, folks! The next day, we cruised into the crater—technically a caldera or an area where a volcano has collapsed in on itself. Picture a bowl. We camped on the rim and explored the depths of the bowl (the caldera), where all the action took place. The sun rose as we made our way toward true African wildlife. We learned quickly that an early start usually provides for more interesting sights. The animals were active—some hunting, some scavenging. The caldera is a perfect place to see all sorts of wildlife and get an idea of the ecosystem that occurs within conserved areas. We stumbled across lions feasting on a zebra, then witnessed hyenas coming in for the leftovers, then vultures arriving to “lick the plate clean”, if you will. Here we laid eyes on the most endangered animal in Africa—the Rhino.
The second portion of safari took place in the Serengeti National Park. The drive from the Ngorongoro Crater to the Serengeti taught us the meaning of the African massage. The next morning we woke early for a game drive to catch the action. We took siestas during the peak heat wave (just as the animals did), and then enjoyed an evening drive, ending with a sublime sunset. In between you could find us with the wind blowing through our hair in these awesome land cruisers with the tops popped open at the top.
Most importantly, along the way, we spent quality time with one another. Safari is the last section of the trip, and by this point we’ve formed an unbreakable family unit. The beauty of the sun rising and setting in the Serengeti provided a perfect backdrop for our last week together. We reflected on our experiences from service at the Mungere School to Mt. Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti. During Moonup and our downtime, we’ve been able to learn more and more about each other and express freely about what the trip taught us. We delved into the depths of the enneagram together (definitely worth finding out your numbers) to learn more about our personality types, beyond our leadership styles. We love learning more about our students and seeing them learn more about themselves.
Ok—so for the cool animal stuff. There a list of all the animals we saw at the bottom of the update. Spoiler alert—we saw the big 5!!! The big 5 are the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and the buffalo. They are named as such because of the precious resources they tote on their bodies: the ivory tusks of the elephant, the hide of the leopard and the lion, the canine teeth of the lion as well, the horn of the rhino, and the bow (horns) of the buffalo. These features make them worthy prey to poachers, sadly. Protecting these animals is of utmost importance, and we were fortunate enough to see them in their natural habitat, behaving like they should—wild!
We like to think of Moondance trips as a chance for our students to embrace their wild sides as well. Without the cages life sometimes puts around us (e.g. cell phones, routines, schoolwork, and other obligations), we not only allow our students to go wild, we encourage it. They don’t have a box or a label here. They can express themselves daily and reflect about life. They are happy, and they are free.
The words we hear from your kids and loved ones assure us that they truly invested in the trip. Let us rephrase—they invested in each other. The love there is evident. We (Ellie and Wick) could not be more proud and impressed. We overcame countless obstacles as a group and made it to the other side together.
Once again, we will let the words of our students convey the true meaning of our experience in Tanzania, and the many truths of life that we learned on the journey. Underlying all of their thoughts as described below is a deep sense of gratitude for the people (we’re looking at you parents) that made this experience possible.
Upon leaving Tanzania, Ryan wants to live life to the fullest. He aims to treat every day like a gift, and to seize every opportunity that he is afforded in life.
Our time at the Mungere School reminded Anna to be extremely grateful for the privilege she has. From the mountain, she learned patience. Patience dealing with her feelings and temper, and patience completing difficult tasks. Good things truly do come to those who wait.
Our time here without the comforts of home have made all of us more grateful for what we have. Grace pointed out how lucky all of us are to have immediate access to a toilet that flushes. Grace met many Tanzanians who are welcoming to everyone no matter what, and she wants to reflect the Tanzanian spirit by accepting new people with open arms. Love everybody right away.
Shelby remarked on how unnecessary a lot of things we have are to be happy. Community service and Kilimanjaro taught her that. She noticed that the Mungere kids are happier than most people she knows back home. Shelby was so happy to be on the mountain and excited to wake up everyday. We have so many good things to go home to, but a lot of them aren’t necessary to be happy.
Margaux is now much more grateful for what she has. She was pleasantly reminded that she isn’t the only person in the world. There are people out there with way less than her that are doing way better than her. Margaux realized that it’s not what you have, it’s who you are and who you surround yourself with that brings happiness. She wants to do little things for her loved ones that will make them happy and make her feel good about doing them.
The situation you’re in doesn’t determine your happiness. Through our journey Critter realized that you can live in a mansion and still be sad. The Mungere kids have happy and full lives. If you do things that make you happy, you don’t need wealth or status. Critter wants to go forth, living humbly and using his energy to serve others. He has seen that doing so will give his life more meaning.
Walker pointed out that we live in a bubble. We have so much. Walker is so grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to experience what life is like outside of that bubble. Most people will never be able to experience what we did on this trip. Walker was amazed by how far small acts of kindness can go. She has been reminded how powerful just being there for others can be.
Pole pole (slowly slowly). Hayes is going home with a new tactic for hiking and life – rest as you go. Going forward, Hayes will do his best to not rush through experiences. He wants to take things slowly, truly live in the moment, and not just wonder what’s next all of the time.
Carter has seen how much it pays to push yourself – out of your comfort zone, or past what you thought were your limits. Getting used to new and uncomfortable things has payed off big time for her. She is heading back home with a greater appreciation for nature and the earth.
AMJ observed that at home, we’re in a mindset that we always have to be on-the-go which can make us lose sight of what’s important. She has learned what should matter most in life – even more than the things that we’re constantly in a rush to get done. For AMJ, Moondance is always a reminder to sit back, reflect, and appreciate the things and people she has in her life.
No matter what Brody is going through, no matter how hard he might think a certain moment is, somebody else in the world is in a lot more difficult situation than he is. Here in Tanzania he learned that even those in the worst situations are able to make the most of what they have, and they have the ability to be happy. No matter what he is going through, he will be grateful for what he has. When it comes to accomplishing his goals, it all comes down to his mental state.
Asher realized how good it feels to have people do little nice things for you, and how good it feels to do little nice things for others. A pleasant wake up in the morning can do so much for a persons day. He wants to help others more and worry about himself less.
Thank you again for sharing your amazing kids/friends/loved ones with us for the past three weeks. We truly believe this experience will show itself through their lives moving forward.
Wick and Ellie (baba and mama Moondance)
And now for our safari checklist! We’ll start with the ol’ big five, then continue in absolutely random order!!
Rock agama lizard
And finally…. the superb starling
July 1, 2019
Mambo! Long time no see!
First things first, if you must know, every student on the trek summited Uhuru Peak (the highest point on Mt. Kilimanjaro)……!!!!!
However, we were missing an integral part of our team. Hayden left our group before we started the trek in order to recover from an illness. Hayden, we shot you love beams every day and night and carried the mementos you left us all the way to the peak. We are certain that you will come back to Tanzania someday to summit Kili in person, as you were absolutely with us in spirit.
Without the support of our amazing team, this would not have been possible. The guides, assistant guides, cooks, porters, summit team, etc. from Active KiliTops were phenomenal. At the bottom of this update you’ll see the list of people who made the experience possible. At the end of the day, all we had to do was put one foot in front of the other. It’s hard to put into words how much the experience meant to us, but here we will attempt to transport you to the glorious mountain they call the Roof of Africa.
Our first day started with a hearty breakfast at our hotel in Arusha. After breakfast we hopped on a bus with our meticulously packed bags and headed for the Machame Gate (5,905 ft.), where we started our trek. The drive to Machame offered us nonstop views of rolling hills, sunflower farms, and little villages.
At the Machame Gate we met our team of guides, cooks, and porters – the people that would become part of our Moondance family over the next 7 days. They greeted us with smiles, song, and dance. It was clear from the get-go that our team knew how to have a good time. Our first meeting with our team went a long way to calm our nerves for the climb. Before hitting the trail we checked in with the National Parks Service, weighed all of the gear we were bringing, filled our water bottles, and struck out with two things in mind – going up, and having fun along the way.
From the Machame gate we strolled through coffee and banana farms, then rainforest, singing our hearts out and enjoying the abundant supply of oxygen available to us at that elevation. Over the next few days we developed a renewed appreciation for the air we breathe. Our first day of trekking ended at Machame Camp (9,842 ft.). We gathered in the dining tent and enjoyed tea followed by a bountiful dinner. After Moonup we settled into our tents and rested up for the days to come.
The second day of trekking saw us leaving the rainforest and entering the heather and moorland ecosystems. That morning we got our first glimpses of Kibo through the canopy of the rainforest (Kibo is the largest volcano on the Kilimanjaro massif). At that point it was hard to imagine that we would soon find ourselves standing on top of what lay before our eyes. It didn’t seem real, and at times it almost didn’t seem possible. We ascended a steep ridge with views of the Shira Plateau below us. Shira was once the highest point on Kilimanjaro, but after collapsing hundreds of thousands of years ago, it left a plateau surrounded by jagged spires of rock. That day we really felt like we were on Kili for real, and Kibo began to loom larger overhead with every step we took. That night we stayed at one of the oldest camps on the Kilimanjaro massif, Shira Camp (12,598 ft.). The sunset over the clouds surrounding the Shira spires was incredible.
The sunrise the next morning was equally breathtaking. After breakfast we headed higher – out of the moorland and closer to the sheer cliffs of the Western Breach of Kibo. Samia, our head guide, pointed out several routes up to Uhuru Peak as we walked. We stopped for lunch at Lava Tower (15,091 ft.), which for most of us was the highest elevation we had ever reached. We took note of how the altitude was affecting our energy levels. After lunch we descended back down into the moorland zone to stay at Barranco Camp (12,959 ft.). The Machame route is ideal because it offers trekkers opportunities to climb high during the day, then sleep at lower elevations.
The next morning we woke up to a clear view of our days’ first obstacle; the ever-intimidating Barranco Wall. As we looked it up and down several times we asked each other (and our guides) how the heck we were going to get up that thing without ropes and climbing equipment. Sure enough, there was a foot path chiseled out of the lava rock that switched back countless times all the way up the 1,000 ft. wall. From the top of Barranco Wall, Kibo somehow looked even more insurmountable than before, but we pushed on knowing that we were all capable of summiting. We spent a fair bit of time taking photos at the top of the Barranco Wall, as it would be our last opportunity to look up and see the Western Breach of Kibo. We stopped for lunch at Karanga Camp (13,106 ft.), then continued up to Barafu Camp (15,331 ft.), to stay and rest for a few hours before starting our summit bid. By this time many of us were feeling the effects of the altitude and getting to sleep that night was no easy task, even after such a long day on the trail.
Before dark that day we took a short stroll to a lookout point to lay eyes on Mawenzi, Kilimanjaro’s third volcano (the other 2 being Kibo and Shira). Mawenzi is a collection of jagged peaks that are even less accessible than Kibo despite being 2,000 ft. lower in elevation. Summiting any of Mawenzi’s many peaks is a task best left to the worlds most skilled and daring climbers and permits to do so are nearly impossible to come by.
Despite our restless night, we woke up at 3am the next morning, ate a quick breakfast, donned our giant puffy parkas and started putting one foot in front of the other “pole pole” (slowly slowly). As we hiked up in the complete darkness, we gazed at the stars and did our best to conserve every bit of energy we had – we knew it was going to be a long day. It was so incredibly cold but we were lucky to have relatively calm winds for our summit bid. Day started to break and an amber glow started to emanate from the sea of clouds below us. Eventually the sun rose above the horizon from behind Mawenzi, but the cold wouldn’t subside for another 2 hours. Daylight proved to be energizing, but it also made the extent of the task ahead of us dauntingly clear – we still had over 2,000 ft. of climbing left and it was only getting steeper. Through all of this, our students were unceasingly positive. Encouragement and affirmation acted as gasoline on our collective fire and we were all depending on each other, our guides, and our porters for support that came in many forms (water, song, candy, jokes). After about 6 and a half hours of battling uphill we arrived at Stella Point (18,815 ft.) which marked our arrival to the crater rim of Kibo. From this point we only had 526 more feet of elevation to tackle before reaching Uhuru Peak, which seemed like “a piece of watermelon” at first glance, but at that elevation lifting up your water bottle is enough to make you want to take a nap.
Ok, so now for a WOW moment.
At Stella Point we stopped for a short break and briefly chatted with a group that had just summited and was on their way down. One person in their group saw the Moondance logo on our puffy summit parkas, then proceeded to tell us something that blew our slightly delirious minds… This person that we met at Stella Point had actually done the Kilimanjaro Moondance trip 5 years prior, only he didn’t have the opportunity to summit Kili on the trip due to an illness. Here he was 5 years later, he had returned to Tanzania to successfully summit Kilimanjaro, and we were the first ones to congratulate him while he was on his way down from Uhuru. Full circle!
We finally made it to the summit. Uhuru Peak. 19,341 feet above sea level. That’s 5,895 meters. We would’ve gone higher but there just wasn’t anything left for us to climb. Except the sign that marked the summit. And yes. We climbed that too. Our fatigue turned to joy and we hugged each other and (some of us) cried. Emotions were flowing. We shared our moment in the sky, took photos, looked around, then decided we really wanted some sweet sweet oxygen again.
Ok, so now for another WOW moment.
I think we speak for the group when we say the experience was made full because everyone got to the Peak, one way or another. No one feels the same at this altitude, it affects you in many ways. That being said, on the way back from Uhuru to Stella Point, our first crew of summiteers encountered a member of our group who felt the altitude more than most—Critter. He was just minutes behind us, but seeing him make the final push with our head guide Samia felt like another summit. We hugged him, reassured him, and (most of us) cried.
OK LAST WOW MOMENT
After encountering Critter, we kept descending toward Stella Point, where we would gather before the big descent. When we got to Stella we were hit with another wave of pride and joy and happiness. There was Anna! We huddled around her and the group immediately began telling her how close she was to Uhuru Peak. Again, the group was overcome when they saw her and you could see their energy transfer directly into Anna. Support on the mountain reached a new level when we sent her off to Uhuru. We felt fulfilled in a way that would not have been possible without seeing the whole team summit.
The walk down from the summit was long and extremely tough but it seemed to fly by. We all had our eyes on the same prize – a nap back at Barafu Camp. And nap we did. After napping we descended again to Millenium Camp (13,200 ft.) to stay for the night. At Millenium appetites were low but spirits were high. Our bodies were normalizing again and we were all digesting the monumental experience that we had just taken part in.
The next day we were feeling more and more like our normal selves. We descended to Mweka Camp (10,170 ft.) while listening to some of our favorite tunes on a little portable speaker. Mweka Camp is situated right at the edge of the rainforest and it made for a very comfortable home for our last night on the mountain.
The next morning we packed up and headed all the way down to the Mweka Gate (5,413 ft.) – sorry knees! At Mweka Gate we bid one more fond adieu to our guides, porters, and cooks. They put on a grand finale of song and dance and we all joined in. Saying goodbye to them was tough knowing that we might not ever see them again. Our support team was made up of kind and impressive people that truly cared about how we were faring. They always went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable, and they enabled each of us to make our dream of summiting Kilimanjaro come true.
Now we are driving away from the mountain, looking back at her in the clouds. It’s hard to believe we were right on top just 2 short days ago. Kilimanjaro taught us so much. We thought it appropriate to share with you all exactly what the students learned on the journey. Similar to our last trip update, we threw it to your kids to explain what this experience has offered us.
On the way up to Uhuru Peak, Asher saw first the stars, then the faint glow of the rising sun. He saw beauty in the journey, not just in the summit. He appreciated every moment and every person who made his experience possible. He felt gratitude for the porters who carried his pack and for the mountain, which taught him unforgettable lessons.
Grace, among others, encountered the power of positivity through words and through mindset. During our summit push, she felt affirmed and supported by our guides who were singing to us and spreading positivity. Emmanuel, her porter, told her how strong she was and took on her pack when the going got tough. Her mantra, “I am going to do this”, along with the support of the group and porters was the flame that pushed her to the peak.
Margaux learned how much respect the trek demanded. Mountains deserve respect. Kilimanjaro is big and old and powerful! She was humbled. She also remarked on how the people getting us there, the guides and porters, deserved our respect. Her porter Naza (Nazareth) was especially supportive of her on the way up to Uhuru peak.
For Walker, summit day brought on big emotions. When she got to the summit, there was so much overwhelming pride and happiness. She noticed how the porters and guides were hugging and congratulating us—they truly cared about the group. Also, seeing our two group members who followed just behind brought her such joy. She was amazed to see the strength in others and herself.
Hayes reflected on what the experience taught him in terms of the support we received. He learned that one cannot climb kili or overcome a challenge without support. During the summit bid as well as the entire journey, the porters, guides, and students offered support to the group. He put it perfectly when he said, “Support on a journey is not a weakness, it is an asset that should be coveted.”
Anne Mallory brought up mental power versus physical power. On the way up to Uhuru Peak, she kept the “why” on her mind, reminding herself, “I am so lucky to be here.” Kibo showed her how much of a privilege it is to be on the mountain, and this positive mindset kept her mentally strong. She also remarked on how the summit would not have been possible without our team.
On her journey up the mountain, Shelby learned so much respect for the Earth. She realized how much we put into this experience of summiting a mountain. It is such an accomplishment because nature shows it’s true forces when you are above the clouds at the will of the elements. When the going got tough, Shelby leaned on her faith and trusted it to help her along the way.
Carter beheld the beauty of the mountain during the whole week. There were more stars than we’d ever seen, there were glaciers, and there was a wide variety of beautiful mountain landscapes. During the challenge of summiting, Carter realized how capable she was and how much a group can accomplish when you support one another. She found pure determination from within and strength among her peers.
On our second day on Kilimanjaro, Brody saw Uhuru Peak for the first time. Seeing it made it feel real. Throughout the journey, he recognized diverse landscapes and saw the mountain as a teacher. The mountain is a natural wonder that deserves respect, and he was so aware of the power of nature. He told about how on summit day, it took so much mental strength to get to the top.
Critter’s motto during his summit bid was “I’m going to make it.” Again, it was such a mental challenge that taught him the power he holds within. Throughout the day, porters and guides were by his side. They made sure he drank water, and they took his pack for him when his strength started to dwindle. This support taught him that it was not an individual feat to summit Kibo but a collective one. He cherishes this experience and the lessons it taught him in perseverance.
Anna learned the power of perseverance as well. Getting up to Stella Point on summit day was the hardest challenge she’d ever faced. She turned within to keep herself going and showed more strength than you can imagine. Not only did the mountain teach her how strong she is, it also showed her the value of support from her peers. With the encouragement of our group, she finished the summit push from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak. In order to accomplish anything, you need support from others, but you also need the strength from within.
Ryan was impacted by the experience as a whole. It gave him a greater perspective on overcoming obstacles and working as a group. His most memorable section of the trek was between Stella Point and Uhuru Peak. When he saw the faces of every member of the group, especially Critter and Anna, he realized how lifting up others and supporting each other is what the experience was all about.
For us (Wick and Ellie), seeing all of our students summit was a feeling we could not have anticipated. Every time tears were mentioned in the update, go ahead and assume both of us were weeping with tears of gratitude, joy, and pride. The mountain showed us how strong your kids are, and it brought us closer than we thought possible by pushing the whole group to new limits. We have you to thank for believing in your kids and believing in this experience and challenge of a lifetime.
Tuna shukuru (we are thankful),
Wick and Ellie
ACTIVE KILITOPS TEAM
Samia – lead guide
Goodluck – assistant guide
Samson – assistant guide
Robert – assistant guide
Kelvin – assistant guide
Philemon – assistant guide
Wilfred – assistant guide
Alpha – head cook
Mohamed – head cook
Aron – assistant cook
Kevin – waiter / porter
Rama – waiter / porter
Nazareth – porter
Emmanuel – porter
Gaspar – porter
Chazi – porter
Mountain Lion – porter
Juma – porter
Titu – porter
Bob – porter
Combani – porter
Stevie – porter
PLUS MORE PORTERS (at least one for each of us), DISH WASHERS, CAMP CREW, TOILET CARRIERS (not kidding). The support was unreal.
June 28, 2019
Jambo Kilimanjaro Families!!
We just received the exciting news that all students and leaders have completed a successful summit of Mount Kilimanjaro! We cannot wait to hear more from this group soon. They are scheduled to check in again the next few days. Stay tuned for more stories from their adventures in Tanzania!
June 23, 2019
Dear families, loved ones, and friends!
We are delighted to send you an update on our new Moondance family. It has been a meaningful, fun, eye-opening week. Starting off with two 8-hour flights proved to be way more fun than it sounds! It was a chance for us to start forming as a unit. We had cards, endless airplane food, a guitar, and 13 eager teenagers. The recipe for success! After arriving safe and sound, we had a place to rest our heads and fill our bellies in Arusha.
Official Day 1 on the trip brought us to Mto wa Mbo. Our guide Gabriel made sure we had everything we needed as we left the big city and headed to our new home for the week. We drove past farms, shops, bustling streets, countryside, and finally found our way up to Migombani Camp. It sits above Lake Manyara National Park and has made for an extremely comfortable home. There’s a massive Baobab tree (please google if you’ve not seen one), a spacious lawn (perfect for throwing the frisbee), a crew of Maasai tribesmen patrolling the grounds, and three friendly cooks who made sure we were nourished through each day. Our tents made a semi-circle, keeping us in a tight community. Each night as we went to bed we took time to look at the stars—something that amazed us because there is no light pollution. When the moon rose above the ridge line that borders Mto wa Mbu below us, it was an orangey-red color. Every day we climbed this mountain in sturdy safari vehicles named Kiboko (Hippo) and Kifaru (Rhino) to reach the elevated Migombani Camp, allowing us beautiful views to start and end each day. The day we arrived at Camp, Ashley Holmer, founder of the Red Sweater Project (which includes the Mungere School), gave us an orientation to the culture around Mto wa Mbu and the Mungere School. The next day, we jumped in with two feet, as they say.
Throughout the week we expanded our minds through new cultural experiences with the Maasai tribe and local markets, new landscapes, animals, and, most importantly, the service project and time spent at the Mungere School. During the week of service, we worked alongside our friends to create a new garden. We started with clearing and cultivating, and ended by planting seeds. The process start to finish was a thing of beauty. The results from the week of work extend far beyond what will grow in that garden.
Because the service portion of our trip was so personal, we think the best way to convey the life-changing experience we had at the Mungere School is to hear it from the kids. Your kids/friends/loved ones! After our last day of service we sat down to discuss our most memorable moments from the past week, and the things we have learned from the Mungere School students. We (Ellie and Wick) wrote down what our Moondancers had to say and we will do our best to convey the moving things they said in this trip update.
On day 1, Asher wasn’t sure who he should talk to, so he walked up to a group of boys from the Mungere school and struck up a conversation. Asher was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and friendly they were. They immediately accepted Asher into their crew and bonded over their shared love for soccer (futbol). Asher found his new crew so easy to talk to, and he said it felt like he was just hanging out with his friends back home. Every afternoon Asher was playing his heart out on the futbol pitch and growing closer to his newfound teammates.
Christopher (a.k.a. Critter) was amazed by how much enjoyment and pure happiness the Mungere students got from playing soccer. Most of the Mungere kids played barefoot on the hot hot sand with menacing rocks hiding everywhere. They didn’t care. They also didn’t care about winning – only fun. They tried their hardest because they just loved to play. Critter also noted how skilled they were. He mirrored their enthusiasm for the game, going ALL OUT and taking some tumbles while chasing loose balls. Every time Critter found himself in the dirt, students from both teams rushed to his aid and only resumed playing when he assured them he was all good. Critter marveled at how proud the students were of their education. He aims to never take his education for granted again.
Carter’s favorite aspect of our community service was learning from the Mungere School students and allowing them to teach her some simple truths of life. Hearing their goals to be doctors, pilots, and even fashion designers touched Carter’s heart, and their strong sense of ambition left her confident that they would achieve those goals. Carter found their general attitude towards school and education very refreshing when compared to the typical attitude toward academics that she has experienced back home. Carter is leaving Mto wa Mbu inspired and with a renewed sense of value for her education.
Margaux’s most memorable/impactful moment was during the waterfall hike. Margaux was walking in front of Magdalena and Rafael when Rafael shouted up to her to ask, “Margah (their pronunciation of ‘Margaux’)… are you going to come back and visit us again?” That question was an indicator of the depth of the connection we were forming with the Mungere students. Margaux realized how much she loves these people and the place they call home. Margaux pointed out that we had only spent 3 days with the Mungere students at that point, and everyone (Moondancers and Mungere Red Rhinos) was already wondering when we would be able to reunite.
Grace became particularly close with two girls, Moana and Zumrat. During the third day of service where the Mungere School kids took us on a hike to a nearby waterfall, Grace walked and talked with Moana and Zumrat. The day before Grace told the girls about life back home and about her siblings. She was so amazed to hear that Moana and Zumrat remembered not only her siblings names—shoutout to Eddie, Lucy and Liza—but their ages as well. She realized how much her new friends invested in her and how much they cared to learn about her.
It was amazing to see how quickly our students and the school kids took to each other. Shelby recollected her first interaction on Day 1 with Sherazade aka Shori. She was so welcoming right away, which helped Shelby dive into the experience. Through the rest of the week, they spent quality time together either working on the garden, walking together to the waterfall, or playing basketball during free time. Their connection and the impact of their shared experience was obvious yesterday when they shared an emotional goodbye.
One of the Mungere students that stood out this week was Constance. She was an obvious leader to her peers at the school and spoke English beautifully. Constance and Walker became fast friends. Their bond formed through curiosity as they asked questions about each other. Walker spoke about Constance in a tone of respect and admiration. “She is one of the smartest, most kind, beautiful people I’ve ever met.” Whenever the other Mungere students would talk to Constance in Swahili, she would translate the conversation so that Walker would feel included. In addition, Constance’s desire to step out of the box and strive toward her passion—becoming a fashion designer—impressed Walker. When they talked about their future goals, Walker was able to learn from Constance and step into her shoes. She realized how much they have in common. It was genuine friendship.
We witnessed several of our students become teachers this week. One was Anna. After the first day with the kids, we found her back at camp writing out numbers in Spanish for Shebani and Nathaniel. By the last day they could both count to 100 in Spanish!! W-O-W. She also noted a connection with three of the girls—Amina, Giveness, and Monica. Amongst other memorable moments, Anna orchestrated a photo shoot at the waterfall with her girl gang. She gave everything she had to her new friends and received so much in return.
Similarly, Hayes connected with the students through learning. One day he saw some of the school kids weaving together banana leaves. He reached out to two of his new friends, Sheb and Alisa, to teach him how to do this. Their eyes lit up as they quickly went to grab a leaf for Hayes. They were eager and enthusiastic about teaching him, and Hayes soon became a banana leaf weaving aficionado. This is one of the many examples of connection made through learning and teaching.
Ryan also became a teacher this week, teaching Shebani and Innocent how to count in Mandarin! Their desire to learn had a strong impact on Ryan. Seeing how eager they were to learn outside of the classroom put education in a new light for him. We could tell by how he speaks about the experience that he will go home with a changed view on his own education. So many of our students made this comparison while at the Mungere school—what education is to these kids and what education is to us back home. Ryan reflected on the week seeing that education is surely a gift.
Finding common threads with the school kids was another way we connected. Hayden made friends with Eddy, who shared an interest in Physics. Not only do they both love that class, but they are also interested in mechanical engineering. Hayden found the same with his friend Amani, a Form 4 student. He could see the profound impact that the Mungere School had on his new friends. Without the school, they could be at home working or just helping around the house. Instead, Amani, Eddy and Hayden are working toward achieving the same, or similar, goals. Education once again brings us to common ground.
Anne Mallory quickly found a new best friend in Irene, a strong yet sentimental Mungere student. A.M.’s most memorable time from this week was our last day at the Mungere School. Right when we met the students in Mto wa Mbu to walk to school, Irene was shaking her head and saying, “This is our last day together.” They hugged over and over again throughout the day, and as the time to say goodbye drew near, Irene kept promising A.M. that she wouldn’t cry. That promise was too hard to keep. When we took our group photo and started to say our final goodbyes, Irene burst into tears and was using A.M.’s shirt to dry her tears. That moment made A.M. realize just how much she and Irene had impacted each other. Our time at the Mungere school reminded A.M. of how capable she is of impacting others in a positive way.
Brody immediately connected with a Form 1 student named Sarafuse. From day 1 of our time at the Mungere School, Brody and Sarafuse were attached at the hip. Brody’s most memorable moment with Sarafuse was during the waterfall hike. Sarafuse told Brody all about his life in Tanzania, and about the varying tribes that call this country home. Brody was blown away by the welcoming attitude that we were met with, and by how open the locals were to incorporating us into their community. At the end of the waterfall day Sarafuse turned to Brody and said something that summed up our experience together simply and beautifully, “When you leave, I will remember you, my friend.”
Now we are on our merry way to Mt. Kilimanjaro, eagerly anticipating the start of our trek to Uhuru Peak. We couldn’t be happier with our group and we can’t wait to report back with stories from The Roof of Africa!!!!!
Tutaonana Badae!! See ya later!!
Wick N Ellie
NOW FOR SOME SHOUT OUTS FROM OUR CREW:
Margaux – Hey Mom and Dad! Love and miss you guys but I’m having so much fun. Africa is amazing!
Shelby – Hey Mom & Dad! Africa is amazing, and I’m so grateful! Love and miss ya!
Critter – Hey Mom and Dad! Africa is amazing and everyone in my group is great! Can’t wait to see you guys again!
Ryan – Hey Hey! Loving Africa, our group is amazing and I’m having a ton of fun.
Hayden – Hey mom and dad, I miss you! Africa is such a cool place, and everyone here is so nice! Love you, can’t wait to see y’all soon!
Anne Mallory – Hey Mom and Hayes. Miss y’all and love y’all so much! Hope y’all are having fun without me!
Grace – Hey guys! Africa is so fun and I wish you guys could have met all the kids during service. Love you and miss you.
Walker – Hey Mom & Dad! Tanzania is INCREDIBLE!! The service was amazing and I cannot wait to climb kili. Hope Italy is fun! Love and miss you.
Anna – Hi mom and dad! I miss you and have had a really great time so far with service. Can’t wait to tell you all about it after I hopefully summit Kili LOL
Carter – Hey Dad and Lisa! Tanzania is so much fun and I can’t wait to tell you about it! I loved the service and I’ll be climbing kili soon! Love and miss you.
Hayes – How’s it going?! Tanzania is amazing in every way possible. We just spent a week helping a secondary school. It was so much fun. We are about to start the kili hike. Love you!
Brody – Tanzania is amazing and so are its people. We just finished up our time at the school and made a lot of friends. We are also going to start climbing kili. Love you.
Asher – HHHHHEEEEELLLLLOOOO —I’m having fun!
June 16, 2019
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
We’ve just heard from Wick & Ellie that the group has landed safely in Tanzania. They are heading to their hotel for the night, and the trip is off to a great start. We can’t wait to hear more stories from their adventures soon!