July 13, 2019
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes
We cannot believe this session already has a week in the books. Time flies when you are having fun. We could not dream up a more outgoing, cohesive, or energetic group to take on Tanzania with. We arrived at the airport one week ago and could not have imagined what was in store. Jet lagged and unsure of what time it was or where they were, the group hopped off the plane already friends and ready to meet their leaders. The energy was palpable, and we were all excited to get this adventure on the road. The group loaded up on a great traditional dinner of soup, beef and rice while still getting to know one another before heading to bed for a goodnight sleep and ready to take on the day ahead.
We awoke to the newest member of the group!!! Will arrived after his many adventures across the globe and we were so excited to have a full family and take on this country together. After some great coffee and conversations, we packed our bags and headed through the bush to our destination for the service section of our trip. Driving up to our campsite we were astounded by the beauty of our home for the next seven days. The campsite is set over the town with an incredible view of a valley as well as a lake. The grand boa boa trees make us feel as though we are in a movie and the entire campsite is surreal. After getting settled in and playing many ice breaking games, Ashley, the founder of the red sweater project, gave us an orientation about her organization and the work we would be doing the next week. After a filling dinner we had a long Moonup where we discussed what service means to each of us. The consensus was that service is about loving and forming relationships. As we went to sleep that night we were excited for the day ahead and anticipated with open hearts what was to come.
After a delicious picnic table breakfast, set by a sunrise over the surrounding plateaued ridges, our friends Baraka and Shiban picked us up in our safari styled land cruisers. We drove a few kilometers down the main road before turning off onto the dusty beaten roads that would lead us deep into the Massai lands, all the way back to the Mungere School. Having just finished their holiday break, the Mungere students were excited and eager to welcome us all with bright smiles and open arms.
For the first half of the day we got to work by clearing a grass plain for a new vegetable garden. A few of the students who were excelling in class were given the privilege of joining us all in the project. It wasn’t long before conversation led us to discovering that one of the local girls, Constance, had a mutual friend with Sam; a friend who had been to Tanzania with Moondance the summer before. Along with this connection of old friends were the creations of new friends. From the beginning Irene would not leave Kathleen’s side while Grace followed Lily Grace around sharing stories back and forth of their polar opposite yet oddly similar lives as high school students.
After a long hard morning of gardening, everyone was refreshed by the guest appearance of fellow Moondancers Wick Bushong and Ellie Quinn who decided to join us at Mungere for their day off just in time for lunch. We put our tools all back in the shed and enjoyed our meals under the shade of the school’s banana tree garden.
With stomachs full and legs rested, everyone made their way down to the soccer field and basketball court for an afternoon of fun and games. Raleigh taught a group of the students her Irish Jig skills while Gordy discussed plans with his new local friend Michael on how they were going to get a goat. Many different games of basketball and soccer ensued all evening while the sounds of laughter and newly formed friendships filled the air.
The day ended with a beautiful evening drive back to camp through the Massai tribal lands and the bustling streets of town. Once back at camp everyone enjoyed the pool and tossing around Frisbees. A buffet style dinner, followed by late night music with Wick and Ellie, ended our day perfectly before crawling into our tents to get rested for another incredible day at Mungere.
We woke up again with the rising sun and said our farewells to Wick and Ellie over a hot breakfast and cups of coffee. Again we hopped into our open-air safari cars and made our way back to the school. The field of grass continued to be cleared all morning until lunch, and square plots began to be tentatively sketched into the area.
Afterwards we all made our way back down to playground to spend more time with the kids. Max spent the afternoon teaching lay ups to the students while Cary gave lessons on how to properly “pack someone’s lunch” on the court. Our good friend Constance and her girlfriends got a hold of the camera and began demonstrating to Mary Lee how to walk and pose like models for the photo-shoot. Many others took to the soccer field, with Woods and Raleigh partaking in a penalty shootout with our friend Yuma.
Everyone was bummed when the end of the day came and we all had to say farewell for the night. However, we all were excited to do it again in the morning. We made our way back to camp for an amazing dinner and a night of stargazing. Complete with a view of The Southern Cross, Mars, and an unbelievable moon, Virginia shared her knowledge of astrology and the lunar cycles, explaining to us that we would get a full moon just before summiting Kilimanjaro. That night we closed our eyes with our heads still in the stars, with the best beginning to an adventure one could ask for.
Our day began with the sun, as we once again enjoyed breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit with an incredible view over looking miles of African landscape. The campsite will never feel real. We then enjoyed a morning huddle where Woods, as LOD, shared an incredible parable of a man jumping fully into life, which inspired the group to fully embrace the last three days we had at Mungare. With this in mind we headed to the school ready for a full days work.
We were greeted upon arrival by the students who now felt like old friends. We hopped out of the cars and conversations naturally continued to flow as we completed work on the garden boxes. We raked and hoed until there were blisters on our hands and sweat on our foreheads. With five minutes to go until lunch, Gordy and Robert showed off their skills by each clearing an entire box within a minute. That’s the kind of work ethic we were looking for!!! The progress that had been made amazed all of the students, Mungare and Moondance alike. We could not wait to see how the finished garden would look filled with vegetables from Chinese cabbage to pumpkin to Ndizi (banana). We relaxed for lunch in the shade of the rabbitry as we prepared for more fierce competition in the field and on the court.
The afternoon began with another intense game of World Cup. Mary Lee watched from the sidelines, taking photos as self-proclaimed soccer mom while Grace showed off her skills, scoring many points for her team, Tanzania. To our surprise, right as the game was wrapping up, Sheb brought out a speaker and a serious dance party ensued. The cha-cha slide was a group favorite as well as Despacito by the one and only Justin Bieber. As the group sat down for a little rest, Will decided he was looking for a new style and had several of the Mungare students cornrow his hair. Man, we cannot wait to share the photos. The afternoon ended with many smiles and laughs, waving goodbye as we drove away but excited for two more days.
Back at camp, an afternoon yoga session broke out and by the end everyone was practicing his or her crow to headstand transition. Trust us, within two weeks everyone will have it down. We enjoyed a nice soda by the pool, while we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Max got some incredible drone footage of the sunset and we are all waiting in anticipation to see the movie he is going to put together at the end of the trip. Tired from a hard days work, we hit the hay early after a Moonup that made us all think and bring us closer together.
A restful night left us refreshed and excited. When we arrived at school, the kids surprised us, informing us that instead of working that day we would be taking a hike to the local waterfall!! Passing by monkeys, through banana fields and local villages, we traversed in the rainforest to an astounding 50ft waterfall. The beauty is unmatched as we trekked closer to the pool over boulders and through streams. We learned many new Swahili phrases as we walked. Cary even learned the words to the famous Tanzanian song “Jambo”. It was a wonderful time to forge deeper relationships with each other through the talks on the trail. The bonds we already had with the Mungare students were deepened as we got a further glimpse into their lives.
As we returned to the school, the surprises didn’t stop. We had another cultural experience in store. That afternoon we were going to have to opportunity to visit a local Maasai tribe and hear from their leader about the customs and traditions of their people. We walked up to a small circle of mud huts completed with a livestock ring in the middle, and a protective barrier of thorn branches and vines around the outside to keep out lions. In their traditional Massai attire, the whole community of around twenty-five, greeted us with a traditional welcome ceremony. A synchronized marching dance, complete with chants and shouts had us all fully captivated and in awe of the cultural beauty. We were then invited to join in on the march as we entered into the village. The women began placing jewelry on the girls, teaching them more dances. The boys were handed sticks and began partaking in the jumping ceremony. We entered a traditional “boma” and were able to ask questions about the typical day-to-day life of the Maasai. It was an experience none of us will forget for years to come.
We could not be more thankful for the day we had. The conversations about cultural differences, yet personal similarities lasted long into the night. We closed our eyes, excited for one more day at Mungare, but knowing we need to soak it all in as it would be our last.
Our final morning began a little differently than the previous. In order to really understand the way of life of the students who had become our dear friends, we decided to walk to the Mungare School as the kids of the community do each day. The walk was a beautiful one, through the village and rice fields. As we walked we picked up more and more student on their daily commute. It was a somber experience, yet an incredible opportunity to truly walk in the footsteps of the kids in the community.
Our afternoon was filled with more basketball and conversations as well as a new game named “snowflake” that is a game similar to tic tac toe, but with much more strategy. As we played, danced, sang and laughed we enjoyed every second of each other’s company. The goodbyes came too soon. We hugged and tried not to let our emotions get the best of us. The friendships we made in this short amount of time are unparalleled and we are forever grateful to have been influenced by the students at the Mungare School. We left the community with heavy, yet full hearts ready to embark on our next adventure: REACHING THE ROOF OF AFRICA.
Report back soon!
MK and Robby
July 6, 2019
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
We have heard from our Trip Leaders that the group flight has landed, and all students are safely through security. The group is headed to their hotel tonight for some well deserved rest. We cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventures!