Trip Updates

Kilimanjaro 4 • July 9-July 31, 2019

Final Farewell!

August 1, 2019

Mambo! Vipi!

It is with heavy and full hearts that we write this final trip update. We have landed in Atlanta, some of us have gone on to catch connecting flights, and some of us have collected our luggage at the baggage claim. Sadly, our crew has formally disbanded. We stepped out of the jet bridge after our back to back flights and suddenly realized that the time had come to say goodbye.

We left Africa content because of the amazing friendships and memories we made during service with the Mungere School, the Kili climb, and, finally, the blissful safari. Getting on the airplane yesterday, it felt like we still had so much time together. During the flight, we got up to check in with each other and soak up the last moments as a family—toko pa moja. It went by as quick as a flash. Before we knew it, it was time for us to go our separate ways.

We are so proud of this group. They embraced their time together, which is all we want in a trip. As long as we enjoy the people who surround us during an adventure, a new experience, or a even plane flight, being happy is easy. Being happy has been easy during our three week journey together. We have learned so much from each other, we have learned so much from the Tanzanians we have crossed paths with, and the challenge of Kilimanjaro has taught us what we are all capable of achieving.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t thank all of our parents one last time. Your kids are amazing, and they are lucky to have such supportive parents.

To our kids, our parents, our guides, everyone who contributed to this experience, and everyone else reading this, we wish you a beautiful last couple weeks of summer.

Ahsante sana. Nakupenda.

Ellie and Wick


Sweet Sightings and a Stupendous Safari in the Serengeti!

July 30, 2019

Mambo! Vipi!

We’re back in Arusha enjoying the comforts of our beloved lodge (beds, hot showers, clean clothes). Our three days on safari were unforgettable, and we witnessed wildlife happenings that few wildlife enthusiasts ever have the opportunity to see. Safari was the perfect way to unwind after our trek, and we feel complete!

Our first day of safari took us into the Ngorongoro Crater (technically a caldera… but who are we to argue). Ngorongoro (the mountain) once stood taller than Kilimanjaro, but collapsed and left a flat caldera surrounded on all sides by a rim that stands 2,000 ft. above the caldera floor (we’ll just call it a crater from here on out). The floor of the crater is a place of dense wildlife concentration and incredible biodiversity. The entrance to the crater takes you down a precarious road chiseled into the steep wall of the crater. We felt safe and comfortable in our giant land cruisers. Our safari guides Mwinyi and Felix enthusiastically pointed out landmarks in the crater from our elevated vantage point. The ambient temperatures in the crater are relatively cold compared to the surrounding climate (around 50F around sunrise), which makes for extremely active wildlife during sunrise and sunset.  Lions are everywhere in the crater, as are elephants and antelopes of all sorts. Ngorongoro is also home to a small population of the endangered black rhino. When we say small population we mean around 20 — these guys are hard to come by — but we saw one!!! It was awesome.

That night we stayed on the rim of the crater and our campsite was visited by an elephant! In the course of a day we had already seen four members of the big five! Now we just needed to track down a leopard in the Serengeti. The big five are as follows — lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino. Every animal in the big five have been targeted by poachers for their fur, ivory, or horns (elephant tusks, rhino and buffalo horns, leopard and lion furs).

The next morning we headed to the Serengeti on washboard roads that left our brains rattling. That afternoon we went on a leisurely game drive and spotted hippos, some lion and cheetah cubs, and a family of elephants up close. That night our camp was visited by some mischievous hyenas. The hyenas kept us up all night laughing about who-knows-what. We forgave them in the morning. After all… they are dang cute little guys. Just kidding. They’re hideous. And massive.

The next day was insane. We saw four young cheetahs corral a group of Thomson’s gazelle, but the quartet failed to make a kill. A few hours later we happened upon a pair of lionesses hunting another group of Thomson’s gazelles. The older of the two lionesses approached our land cruisers and used us as cover as we inched forward to flank the gazelles. The younger lioness slowly stalked forward in the grass straight toward the gazelles. After 30 minutes of waiting patiently the lionesses burst into simultaneous action. The younger lioness flushed the gazelles toward the elder, who promptly sprung out from behind our vehicle and snagged a young gazelle in the blink of an eye. We had witnessed a kill! It was morbid but we couldn’t deny how cool it was to see it go down so close. After that we were dead-set on finding a leopard. We drove all around the Serengeti when Mwinyi and Felix stopped abruptly at a seemingly random tree. They were convinced that a family of leopards was sitting at the base of the tree, but our untrained eyes couldn’t see a thing. Sure enough, as the sun started to sink lower, a leopard cub effortlessly hopped up into the tree and swung its tail back and forth as if it was waving to us. Our big five checklist was complete, so we headed back to camp under a sunset that only the Serengeti could produce. Everything felt right. We felt complete.

That night we reflected on our experience and Tanzania… Here’s what our Kili Fam had to say about it…

Sam H. learned about how much he can accomplish as well as how much the world has to offer. The trek up to Uhuru Peak humbled him, but he pushed his physical and mental limits. It’s worth mentioning that throughout the trip Sam took more photos than all of us combined. Safari only amplified this as he stayed vigilant, watching for anything from a warthog to a leopard from the roof of the land cruiser. His experience showed him how much more there is outside of the bubble of the US.

No matter where we were on this trip, Sam B was “in it”. Whether it was trekking slow and steady toward Kibo or hanging out in a safari car, he embraced the time with his peers. On summit day, he felt the accomplishment of overcoming a massive challenge together—as a team. He also had his camera at the ready during the Safari and kept us all entertained with games along the way. The animals and landscape of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater showed him another beautiful part of the natural world.

Elinor’s inclination is to take in all of her surroundings and tread lightly, which is the sign of someone who values an experience. During the trek, she learned that pain and discomfort are temporary, and it’s always worth pushing through a challenge. We will never forget her face when she got to Uhuru Peak and had overcome the inner challenge that is climbing a mountain. There’s so much beauty around us—the mountain, the students of the Mungere school, and the Serengeti is no exemption. She was taken aback by the beauty of the natural world during the trip.

Patrick clarified his ambitions to climb mountains and knock down challenges in life during this trip. He wants to climb the rest of the 7 summits, an incredible goal. He feels like he can do anything now. The trip has opened his mind to world travel and exploration. He’s seen what just one country has to offer the past three weeks and wants to discover more. After all, he is our in-house encyclopedia for all things geographical, political, and otherwise! He kept us all entertained with his bits of knowledge, however random. Combining his ability to enjoy the journey with friends as well as the end goal, we know Patrick will accomplish great things.

We’ve done so much on this trip in just 23 days, and Kennedy realizes how lucky we are to have opportunity to work with the Red Sweater Project, climb Kilimanjaro; and see the wildlife the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater have to offer. Wherever she goes in life, she wants to soak in the experience totally. She got to the root of the trip when she expressed that all we have needed is each other and the relationships we create together. We could be doing anything anywhere as long as we had this group. That’s what Moondance is all about. Kennedy kept a positive attitude and enjoyed her friends throughout the entire journey.

Barrett notes the relationships made during the trip from Mungere school students to our group. The group made the experience for her, and she expressed gratitude for those people who made her 23 days worthwhile. She was correct in saying that we couldn’t have done this trip without each other. Her goal during Safari was to live in the moment—the Moondance motto. Unlike other safari experiences, she allowed herself to soak in everything that was happening without the barrier of a camera. She understands the value of unplugging and giving herself the freedom to enjoy life.

Similar to Barrett, James spent most of the Safari without a camera, however, it was not planned. For him, it was a blessing in disguise. He was able to live in the moment and appreciate the experience through a different lens. Exploring the Serengeti opened his eyes to world travel. There’s so much more for him to explore in this world, and Tanzania has been another experience to add to his repertoire. Being here taught his that he can complete any challenge if he puts his mind to it. Traveling and climbing mountains requires uncertainly and an uncomfortableness. He overcame all the obstacles on this trip by getting to know his peers and enjoying the moment.

Signing up for a Moondance trip without knowing anyone is the first challenge for many students. It’s the first step out of their comfort zone, and this was especially true for Charlotte. The trip as a whole was out of her comfort zone. For example, climbing Kilimanjaro with minimal hiking experience. She absolutely crushed it. Putting herself in this situation allowed her to grow. After all, we grow when we learn to find the comfort in an unfamiliar environment. If she learned anything during the trip, it was how much she’s capable of outside of her comfort zone when she’s not “going through the motions” of life.

With every Moondance trip, Dallas remembers that materialistic things at home do not matter. These trips show her true happiness and loving friendships. On this trip specifically, getting to the top of Kili was so hard and uncomfortable in the moment, but when she looks back, she just remembers how much fun it was with her friends. We call this type 2 fun, folks! You might be in pain when it’s happening, but all you remember when you look back is the amazing feeling of accomplishment and joy. The mountain was worth the climb. The juice worth the squeeze. The friends worth the making. 100%.

After this trip, Taylor has the urge to explore more of the world to see what it has to offer. All the little moments are sticking with him. A few examples are an interaction with Sheb from the Mungere School, seeing a lion covered in blood after a kill, or the sunset after our final game drive in the Serengeti. He took the trek up Kilimanjaro pole pole (slowly slowly) and embraced each experience with delight. There are so many little takeaways from the experience, and appreciating the little things means that you’re truly living in the moment and getting the most out of the trip. Taylor practiced this like a pro. His Moonup answers consistently reflected how content he was among his peers, no matter the place. He lives completely in the present.

Thoughtfully, Frances expressed what she learned during the trip in three points. Firstly, she’s not that different from the people here. There are so many similarities with other people in life. We desire the same things and share values. At the end of the day, we all want to connect and be loved. Learning this showed her that she can make friends with anyone in the world. Secondly, she reaffirmed her passion for the outdoors. Summiting Kilimanjaro was so monumental, and it affirms her desire to do more outdoor challenges, as they bring out the best in her and others. Lastly, she noted the growth and transformation from her first Moondance trip to now. Her first trip marked the summer before freshman year in high school. Since that trip, she went through high school and grew into herself and became confident in exactly who she is. The transformation from then to now is evident, and it’s fair to say she’s well-equipped for her freshman year of college.

This trip taught all of us so much about the world, life, and each other. When talking about the highlights and lessons we learned throughout the trip, there was a theme in the answers pertaining to the first section of the trip — Service with the Red Sweater Project. Even though it feels so far away, working at the Mungere School and getting to know the students had an obvious impact on all of us. When recapping the trip, most students remarked on how much the students of the Mungere School taught them. These kids appreciate their education and come to school with so much less than we have. They find the joy in all the small things in life, and they took us in without hesitation. We are not so different from our friends at the school and the experience made our students realize the privileges we have in the States. We have so much to be happy about and grateful for. If we stop to appreciate the little things in life, just like the Mungere students, we will feel fulfilled.

Thank you parents, grandparents, friends, and everyone who made this journey possible for our students. It has been a joy relaying the details of our trip to you through these updates, and we can’t wait for your loved ones to tell you alllll about it firsthand.

Oh wait! Here’s our safari checklist:

Olive baboon

Scally francolin

Elephant

Lion

Zebra

White pelican

White-billed stork

Jackal

Crowned crane

Lesser flamingo

Greater flamingo

Medium flamingo

Secretary bird

Bear-fox

Barking spider

Vervet monkey

Grants gazelle

Thomson’s gazelle

Wildebeest

Buffalo

Kori bustard

Tee diebel

Egyptian goose

Serval cat

Lion

Hippo

Warthog

Black rhino

Mustached lackey

Topi

Helmeted guinea fowl

Leopard

Topi

Impala

Hartebeest

Warthog

Shimmering terabithiak

Cheetah

Giraffe

Nile crocodile

Tawny Eagle

Superb starling

Buffalo

Hyena

Ostrich

With love,

Ellie and Wick


Summit Update!!

July 25, 2019

Jambo! Jambobwana! Habari gani? Mzuri sana!…

Dear loved ones,

We write to you today on a bus from the Mweka Gate headed to the comforts of Arusha. It’s a clear day, so you can see Mt. Kilimanjaro in the hazy distance and say, “We were on top of that mountain above the clouds less than 48 hours ago…W-O-W.” Here is the long awaited update on what your incredible kids/grandkids/friends have been up to the past week. Well, for starters, they summited the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, the roof of Africa, The One and Only, Mt Kilimanjaro. Uhuru Peak, (which translates to Freedom Peak), is where we all went as high as we could possibly go on the mountain—19,341 ft. (5,895 m.) Our family of 13 (kumi na tatu) made it to the top all together. Tupo pa moja kama uji na mgonjaw – we are one like porridge and sick people, as the Tanzanians say. Making it to the top together was a gift. The journey was not free of struggle, and there were moments where the mountain challenged our bodies like they hadn’t been challenged before. In the end, we completed the goal, all at the will of the beautiful Mt. Kilimanjaro… So YES! 100% of our group reached Uhuru Peak. We cannot wait for your people to tell you about it first-hand.

 

We took six days to reach the top, acclimating our bodies as best we could before attempting our summit bid. The Machame Route is known for its summit success rate, as it allows trekkers to hike high, sleep low.

 

The Machame Route (machame means whiskey) starts at the Machame Gate (5,905 ft.). Our first day brought us through coffee farms and lush rainforest. We climbed to reach Machame Camp (9,842 ft.), where rainforest becomes giant heather. The trees started thinning and we knew camp was close after a big first day. Our crew, the “A Team”, welcomed us to camp with song. Throughout the trek they made us feel at home on the mountain, cooking us incredible meals and setting up camp each night. It’s fair to say our group is obsessed with the songs the guides and porters sang us. Even before the trek, we all knew the words to the classic greeting song. So during the Machame Camp greeting, our kids started singing with them! It was a raucous event, for sure. At that point, we didn’t realize the sight before us because it was covered by clouds. However, as the crew sang, the clouds began to part and we got our first view of Kibo. It was a magical, jubilant welcome to the mountain.

 

What the heck is Kibo? We’re glad you asked. The Mt. Kilimanjaro massif is home to three separate volcanoes – Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira – Kibo being the tallest. The second tallest, Mawenzi, is beautiful a collection of jagged spires – a sight we wouldn’t lay eyes on until the 5th day of our trek. Mawenzi rises to about 17,500 ft. and is an extremely technical climb. Permits to climb Mawenzi are nearly impossible to come by these days due to the crumbly rocks and treacherous nature of the climb. The lowest lying volcano on Kili is Shira. Shira stood taller than Kibo hundreds of thousands of years ago, but collapsed and left a plateau around 12,500 ft. that is surrounded by a rim of towers. Mawenzi and Shira sure were nice to look at but our minds were always on the real prize. KIBO! Ok now back to your scheduled program…

 

The next day, we continued moving up the mountain on rocky, steep terrain called moorland. The trail took us above the clouds to Shira Camp (12,467 ft.), nestled comfortably on the edge of the Shira Rim, overlooking the Shira Plateau and a sea of clouds. The views offered on this trek change daily and get more dramatic and beautiful with each passing day. At Shira Camp, we took a short hike to the Shira Cave, one of the earliest trekking shelters on Kili, then to a viewpoint to better acclimatize. Wick brought the guitar, and Ellie brought a harmonica to provide some background music while we talked, built cairns, and soaked in the views. Every night came with a beautiful sunset, followed by a sky full of stars. The night at Shira Camp brought us all out of the mess tent to take photos and watch as the sun went down.

 

Day three brought the big challenge of hiking higher than most of us had been before. We hiked high to Lava Tower (15,091 ft.) then dropped back down to Barranco Camp (12,795 ft.). The climb was steady and everyone enjoyed a break from the steep terrain of the moorland. This day is crucial for acclimating, and the group showed how strong they were. The terrain up to Lava Tower is known as alpine desert. The rock formations are lumpy and bubbly, taking on the form of the lava from many years ago. The gradual climb took us over rocky ridges that kept us from seeing the tower, but we put on foot in front of the other and made it up to 15,091ft for a delicious lunch and a beautiful view of Lava Tower. Here the trail splits and more experienced climbers can take the Western Breach up to Uhuru Peak. We kept on going toward Barranco Camp, knowing that there’s no need to rush and our bodies need more time. There was also still so much to see on the mountain.

 

From Barranco Camp, you can’t help but stare up at the Barranco Wall. The wall rises about 1,000 ft. above camp and it looks impassable. However, there’s a route etched in the rocks that allows for a relatively simple ascent to the top of the wall. It’s the most technical part of our climb because of its steep, rocky features. However, it gave us a chance to use our hands and climb up certain spots while our guides ensured we were completely safe. The juice was worth the squeeze. When we got to the top of the wall, our team of cooks and porters had a blanket out with breakfast and hot drinks. We rose early for the climb and were well rewarded at the top. It was a moment on the trip our students will look back on fondly. They cuddled around the picnic breakfast and simply enjoyed exactly where they were. After this we traveled to Karanga Camp (13,123 ft.) to end the day’s trek. Our lead guide Daniel took us on a small acclimatization hike to end the day.

 

As each day passed, we could feel and see the summit getting closer and closer. The next day brought us to our summit base camp, the last place we would sleep before our summit bid. The landscape during the ascent got more and more moon-like as we walked toward Barafu Camp (the most common summit-bid base camp). We passed Barafu Camp (15,091 ft.) that day in order to camp closer to the summit and give ourselves the advantage of starting the summit bid an hour’s walk closer than Barafu. We called Kosovo Camp (16,006 ft.) home that night. Here we fought the altitude, keeping in mind that we were merely napping that night. The plan was to hit the trail early enough to reach the summit at sunrise. That meant waking at 11:30pm, donning our summit gear, eating a quick bowl of porridge, and leaving for the summit at 1am. At midnight we emerged from our tents and were greeted by a yellow moon rising above Mawenzi.

 

The layering of clothing on our bodies was impressive and deserves some explanation. We had two layers on our feet (two pairs of socks), three layers on the legs, five layers on our tops, gloves, hats, ski masks, you name it, and our stylish summit parkas. We hiked up with headlamps, and the darkness did a good job concealing the steep, long trail before us. We stayed together, pole pole (slowly slowly), and our guide Daniel led the way. A highlight of all of our summit bids was the singing guides and porters beside us, without a doubt. They shouted and whistled as they sang us numerous Tanzanian classics. Some of our students made room in their lungs to sing along to some. But it’s a fact that those songs fueled us and pushed us through an extremely tough climb. We are still singing them today. It blew our minds to hear them sing nonstop for what seemed like hours as we sucked in all the oxygen we could get.

 

After four and a half hours of pushing uphill, an amber glow appeared on the horizon. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We could just barely see the saddle on Kibo’s crater rim known as Stella Point (18,815 ft.). At Stella Point we realized that Uhuru was well within reach for all of us. Reaching Stella and seeing Uhuru in the distance was energizing. It didn’t hurt that the sunrise was among the most beautiful sights we had ever seen. From Stella, all we had to do was walk along Kibo’s crater rim for another hour or so. Although the walk from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak is a gentle climb compared to the previous few hours, it proves to be surprisingly difficult due to the relative scarcity of oxygen. Nevertheless, we downed some sugary tea that our guides brought up for us and pushed on.

 

Before we knew it we found ourselves slapping the sign that marked the peak of the highest free standing mountain in the world. We hugged. We cried. We danced. We took an absurd amount of pictures. We went down because we wanted our fair share of oxygen. At this point we had been awake for eight hours and we still had a long day ahead of us. We had brunch back at Kosovo camp then continued down down down to Mweka Camp (9,842 ft.) to stay for the night. After six days of going up it felt good to descend almost 10,000 ft. in one shot. At camp, with clear heads and full stomachs we discussed what we had learned from summit day, and the ways we could take this experience home with us. Below we have paraphrased what everyone had to say…

 

Through our experience on Kilimanjaro Dallas learned that good things only come with hard work. Things are more exciting and enjoyable when you work your butt off to accomplish a goal. And that she did. She pushed through the effects of altitude and realized the temporary pain was well worth the feeling of accomplishment.

 

Barrett pointed out that life is full of challenges. You don’t get to see the rewards of life without going through struggles, and the rewards often outweigh the struggles. She can’t wait to take this new perspective on life home with her and apply it to her education.

 

Before Kili, James avoided challenges. This trip allowed for quite a challenge, and he met it head-on. Our trek taught James that taking on challenges is infinitely more rewarding than taking the easy road.

 

Pain is only temporary. Reward will always be greater than the feeling of relief upon giving up and turning back. Throughout our summit push, Elinor met her own thoughts of self doubt with the question “do you really want to turn back?” The answer was always NO. When she reached the summit, she couldn’t hold back the overwhelming emotions that came with the accomplishment.

 

Sam B noted the many summits that arose through the journey, not just the summit at Uhuru Peak. All along the trek, he took in the experience and the beauty the mountain had to offer. There are always highs and lows, and you take them in stride. He’s took the experiences from the whole journey with him as he moved forward. This perspective will help him appreciate the little things in life and the balance of highs and lows.

 

Taylor spit some wisdom about his experience. To start off he said, “Everyone has a story to tell.” He asked many questions and had meaningful conversations with guides and porters, as well as the people in our group. Bossi and Simba told him stories about their many years of experience on the mountain. Listening to everyone’s stories and uprisings filled his experience with meaning. Then he said, “Adversity invites companionship.” (Our job is done here folks—HE GETS IT.) Taylor is absolutely right, this experience brought us so much closer as a group. Together, we experienced things that most people could never even dream of.

 

Charlotte knows she could not have gotten up that mountain by herself. It took a lot of people to get her there—our guides, porters and Moondance family. As much as you might want to go about challenges alone, you will always need support of some kind. She is taking this lesson in community with her. In life, you have to surround yourself with a tribe.

 

The whole trek we talked about taking it slow and steady—pole pole. Kennedy took this lesson to the next level on the mountain. During the summit push, so kept reminding herself to take one step at a time instead of looking at how far away the summit was. To her, it was a mental game that taught her to focus on what’s in front of her and to tackle challenges one at a time, pole pole, slowly slowly.

 

The mountain taught Patrick perseverance and tolerance for adversity. During the summit push he kept hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel—the light being Uhuru Peak. It was a literal and figurative light for him, considering he didn’t have a headlamp for the summit push! The faint glow of sunrise came at the perfect time as we arrived at the Stella point sign. The sun then showed its golden light as we pushed to the summit. It was an emotional moment for Patrick as he reached the top.

 

Sam H also took away a new view on perseverance and persistence during our summit bid. You would never have known he was experiencing physical pain and nausea because he was singing with porters and checking on the team. He pushed through it and shook off self-doubt with mental strength, and it even motivated him. As LOD of the day, he was thinking of the whole group—it was a team effort. Secondly, he learned that the mountain can’t beat you. You are the one that beats yourself. You tackle your own self-doubt.

 

Of course, we could not have summited this mountain without support from our guides and porters. Frances saw their unrivaled compassion and support during the climb, and we owe so much of our success to them. Frances also noted the transformation of our group from day one to now, and she attributed this to a challenging outdoor setting and a common goal. Our group is so much stronger for this experience together, and we were absolutely performing as a unit during the summit push. She put it perfectly—we became a family on that mountain with a foundation of love and support.

 

The students put this experience perfectly in their own words. We trusted the experience would strengthen each individual as well as our group as a whole, and it did. We accomplished something great together and cannot wait for them to share personal testimonies and all the photos with you. With that, we must thank you. We talked a lot about support in this update, and the truth is, it started with you—their parents and loved ones. Without your love and belief in this experience, none of us would be here learning about each other and ourselves. Thank you for trusting us (the leaders) and trusting in the process and educational value of this trip. Even with a week left, the results are obvious.

 

On our final day on the mountain we bid adieu to our camp crew and porters at Mweka Camp. They sang us a medley of our favorite Swahili songs as a final farewell. It was a sad goodbye, but it was also a joyous celebration of our time together. Kilimanjaro stood tall in the distance and we soaked up our final opportunities to look back at our incredible achievement. We made our way down to the Mweka Gate (5,413 ft.) and hopped on the bus back to Arusha.

 

Now we’re on our way to the Ngorongoro Crater for safari! We will check back in soon to tell you about all of the wildlife we see!

 

With gratitude and love,

 

Ellie and Wick

 

 


Successful Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro!

July 23, 2019

Jambo Kilimanjaro families!

We are so excited to share with you that the whole group successfully summited the TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN AFRICA this morning. Stay tuned for a Trip Update coming from the group when they get down off the mountain!

 

  • Moondance HQ

A Meaningful Service in Tanzania!

July 17, 2019

Jambo! Habari gani! Mzuri sana!

We come reporting great news today. Our Moondance family is alive and well. We just finished a week of service at the Mungere School with the Red Sweater Project, and our sights are now set on that mountain we all came to climb. The first week of this trip is all about getting to know each other in the context of serving others. Every day we worked alongside the Mungere School students and connected with them through songs, dances, soccer (football), kickball, basketball, and more.  In the evenings we would focus in on our group, our Moondance fam, as we shared meals, played the game ‘Signs’ for countless hours, and held meaningful Moonups. In addition to service days, we explored the local culture and area. Sheb (the jack-of-all-trades at the Mungere School) took us to a Maasai boma, where they danced and sang us into their home. We also explored the area on bikes, passing villages, herds of cattle, and ending at a beautiful waterfall. We couldn’t be happier with our group. They truly are a cohesive unit, which bodes well for the challenge ahead.

Last night we sat in a circle, as tradition has it, for our final Moonup in Mto wa Mbu. Our friends Sheb and Gretchen from the Red Sweater Project joined us. All the students and leaders had on their fresh, new Mungere School T-shirt’s and sweatshirts as we discussed what we learned from our experience during service. We talked about new best friends and memories. It was obvious how students of the Mungere School impacted each of us in a profound way. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” After gaining new perspectives, our students will return home with their minds tuned into the important things in life. Here we will share these stories and takeaways from the past week…

Dallas and Moana formed a strong friendship even though they only got to spend 2 days together. Moana cried when she couldn’t hang out with us on the third day of community service. Dallas was struck by a genuine feeling of sadness upon saying goodbye. Our group set out to help the Mungere students, but they ended up helping us just as much if not more than we helped them. Dallas was touched by how happy they were just to hang out with us.

Throughout the week Barrett had a series of eye-opening conversations with Miriam and Giveness. Real conversations. The things Barrett learned from the Mungere girls made her thankful for everything she has. Barrett noted that if she knew how she would feel when saying goodbye then she would have soaked up the days a little more. She wants to live her daily life with positivity in mind.

Sam H. learned that anything is possible from his new buddy Shabani. If you make the most of your situation life is simpler and everything becomes more enjoyable. Our time at the Mungere School has shown Sam that he has taken so much for granted and he aims to change that.

Elinor formed special connections with Joyce, Esther, and Nathaniel. She usually doesn’t develop deep friendships super quickly but the Mungere students were so eager to learn about her that she was able to open up to them. It showed her how to find joy and hold on to it.

Taylor and Yusuf formed a special bond on the soccer field. Taylor was blown away by the selflessness that the Mungere students operated with and how that translates to the soccer field. They were always looking to pass the ball, whereas in the US players are looking to showcase their skills when they get the ball. On Sunday the Mungere students had a very small lunch but Shabani still offered to share his crackers with Taylor, and the Mungere students always wanted to carry Taylor’s pack. He admired their toughness and how they take delight in simple things

Sam B. connected with so many kids and took it upon himself to learn names throughout the week (quite a task). He became close with two of the boys in particular—Elisha and Sarafuse. You could find Sam on the basketball court taking photos of and with the kids. He learned so much from the students. He saw how they make the most of their situation in life by living it with joy and happiness. Being joyful and happy is a choice, and Sam saw that so clearly in the Mungere students.

Throughout the week Charlotte saw the difference between all that we have back home and what these kids live with here in Tanzania. Even though they have less, they are thankful. On top of that, she saw how selfless they were. She was correct when she said that it is a choice to appreciate what you have. During the time at school she also took so many wonderful photos of the kids and was able to print some out for them. Her closest friends this week were Monica and Sarafuse, but she was always engaging with the students through photography and, especially, hair braiding.

Frances took away two big lessons from this week. One was to embrace simplicity. She saw how much she has compared to these kids. This made it even clearer to her that happiness is not derived from material things. Second, she learned how to better love others. The kids showed so much love to her this week. Miriam offered to take her backpack during the waterfall hike. Moana offered her food when Frances knew she’d already had a slim lunch. These kids have huge hearts and they are so selfless. She wants to love like they love when she gets home.

James spent the week working alongside lil’ Shabani. James realized that we don’t need that much in life to be happy. James pointed out that many of the students barely have shoes but they’re always smiling and having a good time.

Patrick learned a good deal through his new friendship with Shabani (there are quite a few Shabani’s at the Mungere School). On the soccer field if Shabani had an open net he would still look to pass it off. This illustrated the Tanzanian attitude of selflessness. Patrick loved playing Tanzanian tic tac toe. Even if he got beat right off the bat, it was so easy to laugh it off and start a new game.

Kennedy loved hanging out with Amina and Moana. She was struck by their compassion and how much they think of others rather than themselves. She appreciated all of the time they took to weave bracelets out of grass for us. They left us flowers in our backpack pockets simply as a small act of kindness. Our time at the Mungere School made Kennedy reflect on the privilege and material things we rely on, and how we don’t need any of that to be happy.

This experience working with the Red Sweater Project has been so meaningful. We feel fulfilled. If we flew back home tomorrow, we would be able to say that we had done enough to make traveling to the other side of the Earth worth our while – and we haven’t even laid eyes on Kilimanjaro yet. Now we are turning our minds to the mountain. We feel energized by our experience at the Mungere school and we are ready for the challenges that are waiting for us on Kili.

We will check back in after the climb! Stay tuned for some shout outs from our group!

With Love,

Wick and Ellie

 

Africa is sick. I saw a lion on a tree. Miss you. Love y’all.

  • Taylor

Hey fam, miss you all. Having lots of fun in Africa! See you when I see you. Love y’all. Tell everyone I say hi.

  • Barrett

Hey mom and dad. Africa is amazing and I’m thankful for being able to come here. Love you both!

  • Patrick

Hey mom and dad I’m alive and I’m doing great I’ve made lots of new friends and not looking forward to the flight home love y’all

  • Sam H.

Hey mom and dad! All is good in Africa! We are about to climb Kili and I’m so excited! It’s about to be much colder than the Bahamas and Vermont. I’m looking forward to seeing y’all soon! <3

  • Frances

Hey mom and dad, can’t wait to tell y’all all about Africa when I get back. Miss y’all both.

  • James

Mom I’m having a great time. We begin climbing Kili tomorrow, I’m so excited and thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity.

  • Sam B.

Hey mom and dad. Africa is amazing. I am having the absolute best time ever. We start climbing Kili tomorrow, and I am so excited. I hope all is well at home and at the lake. Tell Gram and Jim I say hi. Love you both.

  • Charlotte

Hey y’all! I’m having so much fun here in Africa! I’ve made so many amazing memories that I can’t wait to share. Tomorrow we start climbing Kili and I just know it’s gonna be an amazing experience. I miss all of y’all so so much and can’t wait to see you again! Make sure MA, James, and Sutter know I love them! I love y’all all so much! <3 E

  • Elinor

Hey, please give me and Dallas’s messages to our friends but love you all and see you soon! “What’s up y’all. We are about to crush Kili tomorrow. Also, we met new best friends, so we don’t need y’all anymore. Anyway, we are having so much fun and we miss you all so much! See you soon!!!” Love keeks

  • Kennedy

Hey fam! Love y’all. Pass this to my friends. Miss y’all! I taught the kids “In My Feelings”. We call Ken “KeKe” and it’s funny. Tell Phillip I say hi! Peace out. <3 Dallas

  • Dallas

Safe and Sound in Tanzania

July 10, 2019

All students have arrived in Tanzania and we can’t wait to see where this adventure takes them!

Talk soon,

Moondance HQ


Students

  • Barrett
  • Charlotte
  • Dallas
  • Elinor
  • Frances
  • James
  • Kennedy
  • Patrick
  • Sam
  • Sam
  • Sam
  • Taylor

Staff