6-23 Thoughts

So I finally feel like I’m in Australia, today we went to Litchfield National Park and spent the entire day hiking and swimming in waterfall-fed springs. We left our apartment complex and drove off to the park. There were 20 of us in the group, it definitely felt more touristy than Africa but at that point I didn’t care. About 5 minutes from getting to our first stop, we had our first interesting moment of the trip. We were on a lone road heading into the park following a small car in front. Everyone had been out late the night before, most were still drunk or hung-over, and so they were all sleeping. All of the sudden the car in front of us slammed on its’ brakes because a small bird (which is equivalent to pigeons in the US) ran in the middle of the road causing the car to come to an immediate stop. Our driver, who was driving a large van type thing and driving quite close, had no time to stop and slammed the car in front of us. However, because we were with a tour we were prepared, and had a bush-guard on the front of our van. A bush-guard is essentially large metal piping that is indestructible. So we smashed the back of the car pretty good, the trunk wouldn’t even shut anymore. Everyone described the event as very sobering, and from that point on we were all awake. We spent a few minutes on the side of the road as the drivers talked things over, and then soon we were back on the road.

A little bit down the road we stopped at a termite mound spot. We got to stand beside termite mounds that were at least 15-20 feet tall. It reminded me a lot of Africa. From there we went to our first falls. We spent the first 45 minutes hiking around the falls and then a little bit of time swimming underneath them. There was a hidden pool near the one waterfall with a warm spring. It was kind of like a small Jacuzzi in the side of a rock wall. After we got out, we grabbed lunch and went on to the second waterfall. On our walk down to the base of this waterfall we came across a rock wallaby which was hiding in the rocks; naturally. It was my first official Australian wildlife spotting! Once we got down to the pool, we jumped in and swam around again and then we decided to get out after being attacked by a school of fish. A few days before a bunch of us went out and played sand soccer with a few of the locals and some Irish guys we had met. From the game I had lots of cuts and bruises on my leg. I guess the fish were attracted to it and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a school being bitten by the fish all at one spot on my knee. I don’t think I could say it was the most fun thing ever. So we got out and hiked back to our car-smashing tour van. We went off to our last pool which turned out to be a set of about a dozen small pools formed in the rocks. They ranged from 20 feet to 1 foot deep. There was a small (less than 2 feet) waterfall at the top pool and the guide showed us how to swim behind it. There wasn’t much room and from outside it didn’t look like it was possible to swim behind it, so we had a good time playing around behind there. We spent a few minutes in each pool and eventually made our way down to the bottom pools. Apparently I’m not only a fast walker, but also a fast pool-skipper. One of the guys, Raj, and me continued exploring down the pools and finally came across a fairly deep one. As we were swimming in it, an older lady was walking across the rocks crossing the water and slipped falling back on her head. We ran over to see how she was and it turned out she split the back of her head open quite far. Blood was running down into all the other pools and we had to get a bunch of guys to lift her out of the pools. We then realized that we were more in the way than helping so we went down onto the last pool. There we found the deepest water and hung out there with the rest of the group for a bit. After we were done there, we went back to the van and took off for home. We stopped on the way an aboriginal store with didgeridoos and original paintings. The locals there were rehabilitating a wallaby so we got to pet it and play with it. One of the local parrots there seemed to also think it was a wallaby and would follow it around and imitate it. It even walked around and ate grass. I got to talk with the shop owner and she explained aboriginal art and traditions to me. By that point I was pretty exhausted and from there we went home. All-in-all it was a great day and I’m finally seeing the beauty of Australia.

I’m beginning to realize that indigenous people really had things figured out before we came and invaded all of their land. One thing different about Africa from Australia is that in Africa the tribal aspect is still very prevalent, and it is something that the people are extremely proud of. However in Australia the aboriginals have been outcast much like the Native Americans of the United States. I started thinking about the church and how much of a role it has had in disrupting these people’s way of life. I think the neat part about Africa is that the church was still present, but it didn’t get rid of the culture of Africa. So many times the church has come in to a place and felt that if it was going to be a good missionary, it needed to convert the people to become like they were. If we are the church we must have things figured out and surely people want to be like us. But the Gospel is not the same as the American dream. In Africa, I would have people from the church talk to me about how they were apart of the Masai tribe, or the Arusha tribe, and they loved their culture and their history. Yet the church was still a crucial part of their life and what they centered everything around. It seems nowadays we don’t feel like spending the time to get to know the people we are going to and instead just try to shove the Gospel down their throat. I don’t see how that strategy would ever work. We serve a God who has created thousands of different cultures for us to live among. We are meant to learn from different cultures, not change them all to the same thing. I think I’m beginning to realize why the rest of the world says that America is the country that needs a lot of prayer. I used to think that Africa and other third-world countries were the ones in need of help, but America is facing an even bigger challenge in front of them. We live in a quicksand-like culture, we must be careful not to get drug into the mess surrounding us. But if we can learn to live outside this world, outside of the mess, we find that it truly is a beautiful creation that God has placed us in the middle of.

6-18 Thoughts

So it’s time that I finally wrote a blog from Darwin, Australia. I’ll give you all a little info about what I’m up to now. We are staying at a local apartment complex, all 120 of us, and will be here for the next two weeks. I have three other roommates, two of which are from Penn State and the third from the University of Arizona. They tried to pair up students from the same school. Penn State, Pitt, Michigan, and Georgetown are the ones with the most students here, yet I think Penn State only has 4 or 5 overall. It has been neat hanging out with everyone and finding out where they are from. It had been quite the change to go from hanging out with the locals of Africa to a bunch of college students from America. I thought it would at least take a few days before people wanted to go to the bars, but on the first day they were all at it. I have to admit that I kind of miss the African people but Aussie are pretty cool too. Today I got to meet the other 20-25 people in my Energy program. I’m beginning to realize that I like Engineers, when we went to the bar afterwards with the staff, all of the engineering students randomly started hanging out together. We then went for dinner and then for ice cream. Afterwards we went back to the bar where the majority of the group was hanging out. We stopped to chat with some other people from the program and ending up blocking most of the sidewalk as we did. As one of the Aussies walked by she mumbled under her breath yet loud enough for us to hear, “bloody Americans”. I guess we kind of stick out, especially since there are 120 of us. I hate traveling in such large groups; luckily we will be hanging with just our individual programs for the times we do the actual touristy things. On Monday my group is going to Kakudu National Park. It’s basically the Australian version of a safari but instead of elephants and lions, we’ll be seeing crocs and snakes. I’ll get a picture of the croc for you Hoss. I found another guy here with a scuba certification so we are going to plan that later in the trip. I also found a bunch of guys interested in going to a rugby match and I think there might be interest in sky diving. So it should be a fun few weeks ahead of me. But wow, after having a hot fudge sundae tonight, I forgot how much I miss food from back home; it’s good to finally have some normal stuff. I’ve already had crocodile and camel so far, we are going to have kangaroo on the barbie for the ‘safari’ (that’s a little Australian for you in case you missed that) I had a girl who had to be four years old say ‘good day mate’ to me on the sidewalk, it was awesome! I just responded hi back to her because I was so taken off guard. I’m also really excited for the actual class part of the program too. For the first few days we are studying the economics behind environmental issues. The teachers here are so passionate about what they are doing and have so much experience. One lady, which I’m not sure if she is one of my profs, has found a way to convert waste materials to steels, yeah, pretty cool. The other thing I found out is that it’s very hard for me to go more than a few minutes without telling someone about what I want to do after school or about my time in Africa. Somehow it seems that every conversation gets brought back to that, so I tell them. I’m finding a few other people with similar passions and already making a few connections. One girl’s mom works with disaster management so I think has lots of connections, it didn’t take me long to make more connections. That will be one nice plus coming out of this summer, I hope that will help me in the future. Well I have class tomorrow morning and it’s nearing midnight, so I should probably get to sleep here soon. In case you’re wondering, internet access is still quite poor (although a little better than Africa but now more expensive) so I will probably not be online very often. In Sydney we will have 24 hour access; it’s about time, so I will be able to talk more there. We fly into Sydney in two weeks. Until then, it’s gonna feel like Africa. But I like Africa so I think I can live with that, I’m gonna have to get back there soon! So long from the land downunder!

6-17 Thoughts

I Love You
-Sanctus Real

Can I look past the cliché in every moment
Can I learn to be amazed by you
Can I find a simple way to praise you
Even if it’s already used
Can I put my pride aside and learn to sing in time
with someone else’s praises
I love you, I love you, I love you and nothing new

Can I accept in a world of changes
you’re not impressed with something new
If I don’t understand the language of a heart that’s after you
Can I put my pride aside and learn to sing in time
with someone else’s phrases
I love you, I love you, I love you and nothing new

Sometimes God really likes to talk to me through lyrics. It’s amazing how a song I have listened to over and over can all of the sudden make sense. Sauder and I used to put this song on repeat in our room because one the message is awesome and two the song sounds awesome. But as I’m listening to the song now, I finally understand what its’ talking about. Back at home Sunday’s are awesome, by far my favorite day of the week. I love going to church whether it be at Calvary or LCBC, but part of that is because of the style. I like the songs we sing, I am able to connect to them. I like the pastors, they don’t put me to sleep and I am able to relate to their messages. I like the people, they are my friends. But this summer I was able to experience worship with none of that associated. Church in Africa is something that is very hard to describe unless you have been to a service. It’s completely different than anything we are used to back home. Yet despite not having an electric guitar, or a welcoming desk, or even a bulletin; God was still very present. “Can I put my pride aside and learn to sing in time with someone else’s praises.” Can I forget about what I’m used to, can I get rid of the lights or the high-end audio system, can I take down the projector screen, can I strip away everything I am used to when I typically worship, and still find it in my heart the ability to praise our father. “Can I find a simple way to praise you.” For me, sitting through a couple hours of worship in a language I couldn’t understand, made me look at worship from a different perspective. Although I love the way we worship in America, and I am definitely looking forward to coming back to that, it was important for me to realize that worship is not about what’s around you. It’s about what’s inside of you. Worship is business for the heart; your hands and voice are just ways to express what’s going through your heart. Sometimes I miss that. Do I think that our style of worship in America is taking away from that? Maybe. Would I rather worship like they do in Africa? Probably not for too long. I love worship in America, God speaks to me in many ways through the songs and messages preached. But I think before that can happen, we need to make sure our hearts are ready for worship. That’s what God cares about. He doesn’t care if our songs sound perfect, or if we have a record attendance that week. He doesn’t care if we are worshiping in a church on Sunday morning, or on our back porch on a Thursday night. He doesn’t care if it is in English or Swahili. He doesn’t care about these things, he cares about our relationship with Him. It’s a matter of the heart. “I love you, and nothing new.”

6-15 Thoughts

So its 6:30 in the morning on Friday and I am sitting in the Kilimanjaro Airport, in 1 hour I’ll be on my plane and leaving Tanzania, I never thought it would have gone by this fast. So a few funny things have happened since Hoss left, so I thought I might fill you in a bit. On Wednesday night, Hoss flew out of Kilimanjaro, so Wednesday afternoon the three of us all left the orphanage and went into Arusha. We got on a hotel shuttle that took us to the airport to drop off Hoss, because Grim and I had nothing better to do, we went with him. However, because we had just left the orphanage we had to bring all of our bags with us. So Grim and I each carried 50 lbs worth of stuff all the way to Kilimanjaro and then waited at the airport for a few hours and then got back on the same shuttle that had taken us there with all our stuff again. I think the driver thought we were nuts, but we had a good time. We were planning on eating dinner with Hoss at the airport, but we found out that if you don’t have a boarding pass, you can’t even enter the airport, so that didn’t exactly work out as plan. This left Grim and I wondering where we were going to eat, so we walked away from the airport and came across a local place just for the locals. So we strolled in with all our stuff and sat down. We read the menu and got really excited because they had all kinds of food, it was all Tanzanian, but there were lots to choose from. So we tell the waitress what we want, she looks at us kind of confused and then explained to us that they only had one thing to choose from, fish and rice. Although we weren’t thrilled, at least we would both eat it. A few minutes later and they brought our food out, turns out when they said fish they weren’t joking around, sitting in front of us was an entire fish. I have eaten an entire fish on this trip but it was usually cut up. This was looked like they just pulled it out of the stream, it was a shame you weren’t there Hoss (he can’t stand fish for those of you who don’t know). So since we already stood out a lot being the only white men and carrying tons of luggages, we figured we might as well take a picture of it, so Grim took out his camera and took a few pictures. The locals must have got a kick out of us. After dinner we went back to the airport and came across a restaurant hidden on the other side of the building, but we weren’t too upset because we got a good story out of it.

So with one day left, I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was sure that Paradise would help us out and arrange something. The next morning we got up and had breakfast at our hotel. After breakfast, we spent the rest of the day walking around Arusha by ourselves. It’s amazing how well I know this city already. So that took a good part of the day, but it wasn’t over yet. That night, Paradise came and picked us up. We got in our land cruiser for one last night and hit the roads. We drove for quite some time on very poor back roads. Paradise explained to us that the section we were in was one of the worst in Arusha, and that people were always fighting with the police on the streets. We finally arrived at an orphanage called Good Hope. Simply by the looks of the orphanage, you could tell we were in a bad section of town. A large cement wall surrounded the entire compound and the doors to get in were all fastened with large locks. The orphanage housed about 10 kids and the facilities were no where near what we had at Samaritan. We were at the orphanage to pick up one of the volunteers, a girl about our age. After talking with her, we realized that we were living in luxury at our orphanage. Good Hope had no supplies and all the kids attended a 2 room school house run by a volunteer teacher. Our kids all were sponsored from over seas and attended private schools. After hearing her tell about the condition of this orphanage, it gave me a little different perspective. As we talked we drove back into town and stopped at a local bar/pub. We met another volunteer there who was celebrating her birthday. The other two volunteers went off and talked and Grim and I went over to the pool table and watched the locals play. At this point, things then got interesting.

One thing that you should all know about Paradise is that he loves wine, and we quickly found out that one glass off wine gets him very loose. He soon began explaining to us how to be a fisherman, which basically means how to hook up with girls in the area. The more he talked the more it got interesting and we knew he was up to something. He then explained to us that the road we were on was very well known for having many hookers on it. Paradise then went to the bar to get another glass of wine and when he came back, he brought back a local girl with him. Grim and I immediately knew what he was up to. So we talked for a bit and then Paradise left us alone and gave me a wink, so Grim and I naturally had fun with this one. So in case you zoned out, here’s the situation. Grim and I are standing in the middle of a local bar by ourselves hanging out with a very drunk hooker. So we continued to talk with her and every time she answered our questions we were amused by her responses. My favorite was when we asked her where she worked and she just smiled at us and told us the street. The more and more we talked, the more and more we realized she was a hooker and that she was trying to get business from us. I’m not sure how long this went on, but eventually we got out of it somehow. After the bar, we then went to a local barbeque place which is kind of like a combination of Indian food and Texas barbeque, it is amazing! After there we went to a local club. Grim and I aren’t exactly the two people that I would imagine spending time at a club, but sure enough we found ourselves standing in the middle of one in Tanzania. The band was really good but very loud, so we decided to go outside and walk around. There were people sitting all over the hillside so we wandered around. It was pitch black and we really had no idea where we were going. We found a nice spot by a tree and stopped there. After a few minutes, the smell of marijuana found its way to us and we soon realized that we were standing right beside a weed dealer. We were wondering why people kept walking up to him, staying a few minutes, and then heading back inside. Well I guess the way we were acting made us look like potential buyers so he soon started walking at us. We decided that it would be better to just turn away and head back to the club (we had also found out earlier that day that if you get caught with weed the jail sentence is 7 years, yeah we didn’t want to risk that). By this point it was getting quite late so we found Paradise and head back to our hotel. The next morning I was planning on meeting Paradise at 6:10 to have him take me to the airport. Although I would have preferred more time to sleep, it was worth it for the previous night. However, I soon found that the stories weren’t over. This morning at 4:45, we were awoken by a man pounding on our door, sure enough, there is Paradise smiling in the doorway. He told me that he didn’t realize I had an international flight so we actually needed to leave early, so I quickly got out of bed and got my stuff together. I was a little bummed out at first but one moment that morning made everything better, my shower. I got in expecting to freeze my butt off like normal, especially since it was not even 5 yet. However, to my surprise when I stepped under the faucet, hot water rained all over me, it was one of the best moments of the entire trip. What a great way to end my trip! Well my flight is going to board soon so I should pack stuff up. I’m on my way to Australia!

On to the second part

Well, I have made it to another continent, this is the fourth and final continent of the summer, Australia. I am in Darwin currently sitting in my hotel room. It is 4:45am and I haven't slept at all yet, but I did get my shower and it was even better than I had imagined. I think over the next few weeks God's picture will slowly come together for this summer, things are already making sense about Africa. I would write about some of the stuff now but my mind isn't working its' best right now, so I'll wait until I get some sleep at some point. Well I just wanted to let everyone know that I made it here safely and that things are going well. Grim and I have an interesting story from my last day in Africa but I will also wait to tell you that one (this is what professional writers call a cliff-hanger). Until next time...

Here's the plan

So here’s a quick update of what’s happening for the next few days. We are leaving the orphanage on Wednesday morning and then heading to Kilimanjaro, I have a feeling that will be a hard day having to say goodbye to all the kids. Hoss’ flight leaves at night so Grim and I will then stay at a hotel in Kilimanjaro until our flights leave. I leave Friday morning and Grim leaves Saturday. We originally were thinking of hiking part of Kilimanjaro for a few days but this new plan will give us more time at the orphanage and won’t cost as much. From Tanzania I will then head to Johannesburg and then fly out to Sydney. From there I fly to Darwin and get in at 11:40 at night. The first thing I plan on doing is taking a very long hot shower in the hotel; if possible I’m going to make myself a big bubble bath. I probably won’t be very tired because I seem to be able to sleep very well on planes, so I’ll probably just wander around the hotel all night. The next day I am meeting up with the coordinator of the Australia program and from there I will meet up with the rest of the group who will be flying in later on that day. These first few weeks have flown by and I have a feeling the rest of the trip will be the same way. I miss everyone back home and will post back soon!

Johnny's Story

As I mentioned before in one of my posts, a lot of orphans risk the chance of dealing with some form of brain damage as they grow up. A few of the kids here suffer from some degree of brain damage. This trip has been the longest that I have hung out with kids with difficulties like this and I have learned quite a bit from them. One of my favorite songs entitled “The Last Ones” by Matthew West talks about a child with the same challenges. I’ll post the lyrics because they explain so perfectly what I am learning from these children. Please take the time to go and listen to the song.
My friend Taylor she's an angel
Ten years old and beautiful She's a living, breathing miracle
And she proves it everyday
'Cause the odds were stacked against her from the day that she arrived here
And the doctors told her mom and dad she'd always be that way
And I confess when I first met her I was thinking life's not fair
But then she wrapped her arms around my neck
And it all became so clear

God bless the last ones
One day Taylor sent me a picture from her Special Olympics race
And I could tell just by the looks of it she was coming in last place
But she crossed that finish line with a smile upon her face as if to say

God bless the last ones

Maybe the last ones are the lucky ones
The ones who got this whole thing figured out
'Cause when they go looking for something beautiful
They start looking from the inside out
God bless the last ones

I wish we could all be the lucky ones
The ones who've got this whole thing figured out
Maybe the next time we go looking for beautiful
we'll try looking from the inside out

God bless the last ones
I had heard this song a lot before this trip, but a few days ago when I played this song one night I couldn’t get the line “when they go looking for something beautiful they start looking from the inside out” out of my head.

One of the things that has been the most powerful to me on this trip is how often I find the beauty that God has placed all around me. But I have to admit that even sometimes I have to go climb a huge rock to overlook the Serengeti sunset to see God’s beauty. How amazing would it be if we could be so happy with God that we begin to find beauty in absolutely everything we encounter because we start looking from the inside out first?

I had listened to that song a lot over the past few years but after playing with these kids for a few weeks I now understand what the song is talking about. There is something so special about these children. One of my favorite kids here at the orphanage is a boy named Johnny. Johnny is mute and suffers brain damage. He also has a physical deformity and therefore walks with a limp and his arms curled up slightly. His poor yellow sandals have been worn out completely in the front because he places all his weight on his toes when he walks.

Because of these challenges, Johnny attends a special school during the week and then comes back to the orphanage from Thursday to Sunday. Whenever Johnny comes back, he runs at us faster than any of the other kids, even despite his limp. His hug nearly knocks us over and we usually get a mouthful of slobber sprayed across our shirt. But every bit of it is worth it to see that smile across his face.

I have learned a lot from Johnny over the past few weeks. First is that no number of challenges facing Johnny could ever take away his big smile. I have never met a kid with so many things up against him; at times it is even easy to forget that he is also an orphan. You would never guess that someone could be so happy after so much they’ve had to deal with, yet after you receive a Johnny hug, you realize that this is how life is meant to be lived.

Second thing that I have learned from Johnny is that God is to be experienced in the everyday things. Yesterday we were weeding a garden and Johnny was helping us out. We were all on our hands and knees busy with the task at hand, but over in the corner, Johnny was holding the weeds up in the air and admiring them as if they were a work of art. The three of us were too busy trying to make the garden look perfect but Johnny on the other hand was going through everything we were tossing to the side, amazed at the beauty that God had planted in his backyard.

The third thing that I have learned from Johnny is that life is meant to be lived with love. Love as if no one else is watching. Love that doesn’t matter if people are staring at your limp as you run across the yard. Love that wants to be picked up over and over again and swung above your head. Love that comes running at you every day with arms spread as wide as his cripple arms will allow. Love that says that I am a child of God and His beloved masterpiece.

Maybe that’s what it means to start looking for beauty from the inside out?

Johnny and Me

6-7 Thoughts

So it is our last Thursday here at the orphanage and it feels like the past few weeks have absolutely flown by. For the past few weeks, I feel like I have been apart of a huge family. From the multiple mamas that seem to always be doing something, to the gardener outside, to the neighbors that are always walking past our room and calling our names, and to all the kids who come running to us every day with huge smiles and arms outstretched; this place has become a second home to me. It’s amazing how welcoming a group of people can be to a few college age kids from the other side of the world. We have developed this awesome connection with everyone here. Just today, one of our favorite mamas, Mama Agnus, came up to us at breakfast and asked her to help her study for an exam she had coming up. As if being one of the head mamas at a large orphanage isn’t enough, she also takes night classes in town. I asked her if it was just for English, but she explained to me that it covered 7 different subjects, from Biology to History to English. I’m amazed at how someone can handle so many things and still come to the orphanage everyday with a huge smile on her face. So we helped her with some grammar and explained to her why Pluto isn’t a planet and things like that. Since the time we got here, we have got much better at communicating with the mamas. Most of them don’t know much English, if any. However a couple times a day we will glance over at the mamas and notice them laughing at us for something silly we are doing with the kids. It’s kind of a silent form of communication we’ve developed that consists of essentially only laughs. Today Mama Sarah got a kick out of me trying to teach the kids how to do the Macarena and the Congo line. Grim then tried to teach the kids how to do some disco moves, by the end we even had the kids lined up and we were teaching them the Rockettes leg kicking thing. Who knew that I would be teaching dance here? But more importantly than the mamas, our connections with the kids have grown to a whole new level. You can tell simply by the way they greet us everyday after school. At the beginning of our stay, the kids came running to us and gave us hugs simply because we were someone new to play with. But now they come running to us and you can tell that the hugs are because they really missed us during the day. That change alone has been incredible to watch. One of the best sounds to hear is that of one of the kids yelling out our names. Because both Hoss and Grim are Andrew, it was confusing for the kids so they had to come up with new names. So the majority of the time we are referred to as Engineer, Doctor, and Pastor (although it sounds more like Pastah). Today though I did introduce my nickname to some of the kids. Right now they are calling me Sprite which is close enough to Spud so I don’t mind.
On the plane ride here I wondered why it was that God had me working at an orphanage during my stay. I looked into animal conservation and AIDS work, but for some reason decided upon working at an orphanage. Once I got here I started to wonder why God had me placed at this particular orphanage. Slowly I’m beginning to see God’s plan, it’s all so beautiful! I feel like I’m writing as if I’m leaving Tanzania tomorrow, but I still have a whole week ahead of me. I never realized how much you could learn from kids, but when you’re surrounded by two dozen of them for a few weeks you begin to realize why God said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. One of my favorite things here at the orphanage is when I get to play with a girl named Schola. She is about 4 years old and has probably the biggest smile I have ever seen, it literally stretches the entire way across her face and you can see just as much gum as you can teeth. Schola is a kid full of life and loves to sing. Some of the songs she sings I recognize, but a few are new to me and she has to teach me. I think all of them she learned during Sunday school at the local church. In one song, she repeats the word Hallelujah over and over again, I could listen to her sing that forever. But the best part is the way she sings her songs; she sings as if nothing else matters and that even if she only knew that song, life would still be great. I’m beginning to realize what childlike faith really means. I never thought I would learn so much from these kids. It’s kind of sad thinking that I will have to leave this place in a week, but it comforts me knowing that they will be left with the most loving mamas and papas looking after them. So I just finished a book called “This Beautiful Mess” by Rick McKinley. In one of the chapters he talks about kids and the beauty that we can find through them. At one point he writes this: “How silly they are. How wonderfully, worshipfully, beautifully silly!” That pretty much sums up how I feel about these kids. I wouldn’t have wanted to be at any other place for these four weeks, it feels so right here and I know that God had a very specific reason for me being with these people. As everything else in my life, God has it all work out so wonderfully in the end; from the people I meet to the things I get to experience, it’s all part of such a larger plan. I’m sure that as time goes by, more and more reasons for why God wanted me to be here will begin to unravel, for now though it’s kind of sad thinking I have to leave soon. It’s bittersweet thinking that the next time I drop by here, the kids that I know now will probably already be adopted and I won’t see them again. But I know that they will be in a loving home where people would give the world for them, that’s the most important part and all I really care about. For everything that these kids have had to go through they deserve nothing less. I am so thankful for the people at Samaritan Village, I have never seen anyone sacrifice so much to care for others; they truly are living out the Gospels.

Fruit...enough said, by Hoss

Well for those of you who don’t know, the impossible has happened. This was an event of epic proportions, one that will be told about for generations through story and song. Its more unbelievable then Richard Simmons running for president… actually that will probably happen at some point considering the world today. Ok, so a better example would that it is more unbelievable to Grimm giving birth… to a rhino… on the moon. Yes my friends, it is that unlikely.
Steven Franklin Marshall Jr. has eaten fruit. I will pause for a moment while you try to gather yourself. But yes it is true, he ate fruit… willingly too I might add. Before last night, I thought that if Spud was the only human in the garden of Eden then humanity would surely have been without sin. But he too gave into temptation and ate the forbidden fruit.
As you all may know, there have been countless occasions (well 4 I think) where I was forced to eat eggs which is one of the few foods that makes me wish I was never born. And ever since the laughter that has erupted from Spud during these occasions, I made it my mission to get Spud to, one way or another, eat fruit or drink something other than water. Grimm and I schemed up many plans on how to make my dream a reality, plans like waiting until our water was almost completely gone and then dumping fruit concentrate into the last of the water. We even decided that if by the end of our trip Spud didn’t eat fruit, we would wrestle him to the ground and force feed it too him.
Before last night when Spud actually took the plunge, we did have one close call. We visited a church and were asked after the service to come into the pastors office. We were having a great time chatting with him and getting to know him when someone brings in a stack of sodas and some tea. The pastor asked each of us to take a drink. Here we thought that Spud would have to cave into this African tradition, but he held firm. He told the pastor he only drank water. The pastor looked everywhere for water but couldn’t find it. So he started telling us about how it’s proper for Africans to offer their guests something to drink because if they leave the house with nothing in their stomachs it is a disgrace to the host. Even after this story Spud, being the stubborn fruit hater that he is, refused to drink anything other than water. So the pastor decided to give him something since Spud refused to drink anything so he gave him a bar of soap. For some reason Spud was more than elated about this. This just goes to show you the depths of Spud’s determination to never eat anything from a plant that actually tastes good.
That being said, the impossible still happened. Even though Spud said that he would rather live in a pile of feces for the rest of his life than eat fruit, he still sank his teeth into one… well actually I think he swallowed it whole… but the point it that it entered his digestive track and he did in fact taste it.
The main reason why this happened was that the Mammas (our cooks) made a stew that contained potatoes, beef, carrots, and most importantly banana. Under any normal circumstances, Spud would have avoided this recipe for disaster. But he was coaxed into taking a spoon full of the stew by the Mammas who were standing right there telling him to have some. And, considering that it was in fact our main dish, Spud finally caved and put some of the stew on his plate. This of course made me and Grimm elated because this was the closest we had come thus far.
Spud began eating everything else on his plate but the stew, mean while I tried to slickly convince him that he happened to not get any banana on his plate. I had the lure all set, but fish didn’t bite. I didn’t realize that over the years, Spud had acquired a 6th sense: he can sense the presence of fruit. So Spud began to eat the other parts of the stew, leaving the small banana pieces that were almost indiscernible from the rest of the stew.
This is where Grimm and I saw our chance. We convinced Spud that with every little bite of stew he ate, along with it came tiny bits of banana and that he had already defiled himself. Once he admitted that, we convinced him that since he lost his fruit virginity already, he might as well go the whole way. So after several minutes of much mental and emotional distress, Spud agreed to do it, and he ate a fork full (yes full) of banana and potato (this occurred exactly at 8:36 on Monday June 4th 2007).
Let me tell you folks that this was by far the greatest moment of the whole trip. Spud swallowed that bite so fast I was almost unsure if he actually put it in his mouth or dropped in on the floor. We convinced him to yet again take a bite of a banana as a graduation gift for Ali. And, yet again, Spud ate a whole bite of banana… and this time it was completely by itself… and he chewed it! So Ali you should feel valued because you are apparently more important than our pastor friend.
I would just like to go on record by saying that convincing Spud to do this is one of the proudest moments of my life. I may even include this story on my resume. So I guess this all just goes to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

The Most Expensive Second of My Life by Hoss

Probably the only bad thing that has ever happened on this trip involves the phone that we have been using. Grimm got an international cell phone for our trip so that we could call home when and if we needed to. He got a great deal on it and all of our calls would only cost 19 cents per minute. So naturally, none of us were not too worried about how long we talked on the phone because it was relatively cheap, considering the next closest price we found was 5 dollars per minute.
But right when we thought everything was great, things changed. We were in the internet café emailing our family and significant others and friends. I was telling Spud that this was probably my favorite two hours ever that I had spent on the internet because it was so nice to hear from people from home and write them back. As we left the café, Grimm looked over at us and said that he had bad news. The bad news he told us was that the 19 cents that we thought we were paying for each minute on the phone was actually what we paid only when we dialed a local Tanzanian number. In reality, we were paying $7.95 per minute for every call to the U.S.
This naturally rocked my world. Its not everyday that a bill increases to forty times that value. This also naturally stopped virtually all phone calls that we made home. Today however I decided that I had to call home because I needed some information that only my parents could give and that I couldn’t get from them in an email before I left. One the way out I jokingly told the guys that my call was going to be 1 minute and 59 seconds because once it gets to 2 minutes and 1 second it charges you for 3 minutes. I called my mom really fast and was getting ready to hang up when I asked her who was going to be picking me up. I then quickly spit out and I love you and good bye and hung up. I looked down at the phone to find that my call was for exactly 2 minutes and 1 second. So I had essentially paid 8 dollars to talk with my mom for 1 extra second. If this happened 59 more times, I would have paid 480 dollars for one minute of talking on the phone. I would also like to note that I will probably have to work at least 1 and 30 minutes when I get home in order to pay for that 1 extra second of talking on the phone. All of this makes me hope that the owner of this phone company doesn’t sleep well at night.

Pictures, but just a few

So the internet still takes forever but I thought it would be worth the ten minutes to upload 1 picture so that you could see the kids. Check out the 2 other new posts below!So this is inside the orphanage and is our dinner table. You can imagine the three of us sitting on these tiny seats eating dinner every night, it's quite the funny site. I'll try to name all the kids in the picture above starting with the guy in the red shirt with his hands up and working clockwise: Simon, Jackeline, Daniel, Clara, Mosess, Everest, Flora, Sofina, Vialeth, Catherine, Schola, Ester, Johnny, David
The kids above are random kids we met on the road one day as they were walking back from school, so I don't know they're names. We were just walking and the next second all the kids came running at us and were holding our hands. It was a really neat experience on one of the first days here.Yeah, I think this picture sums up the trip quite well, we do a lot of this around the orphanage.
But every now and then we actually do something productive, here I am helping two of the kids with their homework. I'm realizing that it is very difficult to help 7 kids with homework at the same time. However I am getting very good at writing my alphabet, especially the letter e.
And every now and then we get jealous of all the fun the kids get to have, so we throw each other around.

So that took an hour to upload, so I hope you enjoy them, ha. I miss everyone back home and wish you were here to see everything! I'll write back soon!

Funny Moments by Hoss

This is an on going record of all of the funniest and most absurd moments that have happened in the trip thus far.

-When Grimm and I first got into Africa, the very first person that we met was a girl named Stacy. She, believe it or not, was an F& M student.
-One day Spud, Grimm, and I decided that we wanted to go on a walk. Josephati said something to us about it, but none of us really understood what he was saying. So we ended up just leaving. We walked about thirty minutes up a mountain, taking at least 4 random turns at 4 intersections. We then paused at the top to take pictures of the scenery. We were there at least 5 minutes, and then turned around to retrace our steps. Right when we started walking back down the mountain we saw Josephati. He had been following our foot prints the whole way up the mountain. How he did this, was beyond me.
-We have had many tragic incidents with our misquito nets since we have been here. For those of you that have never encountered a misquito net before, it is a long 6-10 foot circular net that vaguely resembles the underlining of a tutu if it were camouflage green.
--The first incident was with spud’s net. There is a hoop that is connected to the top of the netting to make the net come out broader. For reasons unbeknownst to Spud (wow I have never used that word before… feels pretty good), this hoop just popped off. This doesn’t seem that bad, but it is literally the most frustrating thing to try to reattach it… especially when your friends (me and grimm) are just sitting back and laughing at you. Eventually the three of us got it back on.
--Later that night (I believe) the same thing happened to me, which Spud found absolutely histarical. Apparently its more funny when it doesn’t happen to you.
--The next night when we were getting ready to go to bed, my whole net fell down. I soon discovered that I could not put this back up by myself, so Spud, being the good friend that he was, tried to help me… all the while laughing histarically. While we were attempting to put it up, Spud lost his balance and fell into me while jerking the net down on top of us. This jerking force, caused my hoop to fall of yet again. After about several minutes we put the hoop on and the net up. It was getting late, so I started tucking the net into my bed to keep those skeeters out, when I felt the hoop hit my head. Since that time, I have put the hoop in time out for its misbehavior and it is currently, and permantly laying on the ground.
-While we are on the topic of myself, I will tell you about the ‘Hoss’ bad day’. This day started out rather ineventful. We ate breakfast and helped do some chores and then relaxed until lunch time, which has been typical of our stay. We then went into eat, and Josephati told us ‘welcome’ indicated that we can go eat. I was first to the service table to see three plates that were covered up. I knew right away that this would not be good. I uncovered the first plate to find a plate full of ‘egg and chips’. They basically made French fries, and put them in a frying pan, and added about 3 or 4 eggs and fried it into an egg and potato disc. I don’t know if you know this, but I hate eggs. It is one of the few things that I really can’t bring myself to eat. I looked back and grimm and spud trying to hide my face of disgust and horror only to see them trying to hide their laughter. In the hopes that not all of the plates would be the same, I gave the first one to Spud (making it appear that I was just being a good friend and giving it them first). I uncovered the second one and saw the same thing and gave it to grimm. I came to the last plate only to find that it to was eggs. Now normally they have other food out for you to choose from, but today, for some odd reason, this was the only thing on the table. So I, not wanting to be a bad guest, bit the bullet and decided to eat it. About 10 minutes later, after I had already eaten half of the plate, and after Spud and grimm had just about spit up half their food from laughing at my expense, the rest of the staff came to join us. They were each carrying a bowl full of food… none of which was eggs, and all of which I was dying to eat. And to top it all off, our host at the end came and gave us all bananas to eat that he opened for us. This brought a smile to my face because not only did I like bananas… but Spud hates fruit, and infact has never eaten it (to his knowledge) in his life. I was smelling revenge… and it was sweet. Little did I know that spuds respect and care for josephati was nothing compared to his determination not to ever eat fruit, so Spud never ate it. Later that day, we were walking with josephati to a market, and I had been wearing sandals that had been rubbing against my feet all day. This became so annoying that I took off my sandals and walked barefoot through the streets. This was going rather swimmingly until I stepped into the stickiest, squishiest poo. Then later that night after supper was over, we went back to our rooms. I was well over due for my visit to the bathroom and went right after spud to relieve myself. Lets just say that I felt like a lost a couple pounds while I was in there. Anyways I then flushed the toilet and nothing really happened. This is typical due to the bad toilets so I tried again and water barely trickled out. I thought for sure that I clogged the toilet. I then tried the sink and no water came out, and then I tried the shower and no water came out. I was convinced that I clogged the toilets so bad that somehow shut off all the water. I soon found out that I was infact wrong, and soon thereafter I was able to flush it down. The last thing that happened during this day was that my misquito netting fell down… infact I put it up and it fell down twice.
-Grimm one day was rather excited about his trip to the bathroom that he was about to take which caused him to pee a little too fast. He ended up peeing directly on himself.
-I (hoss) picked a little girl up named Flora. I was walking around with her for a little bit looking at all of the dirt and mud on her. She had just been playing in little puddle. She started crying a little bit, for reasons I couldn’t figure out. I noticed that my shirt started to get wet, but I attributed that to her puddle. I soon found out that she infact had just peed all over me.
-This actually happened:
Cow: Moooo
Spud: is that my cell phone?
Me: that’s a cow.
-So the other day we were sitting at the table with a couple of kids. We never really play with them inside because there isn’t much to do, so Spud asked us if we knew any games to play with the kids inside. Grimm quickly replied ‘spin the bottle.’
-I would like to report that while lightning does not typically strike twice, there are other things that do. In the same day, I was given a whole plate of eggs to eat for lunch (again), and I was peed on (again) by Flora… I guess that there could be worse things that could happen twice. For instance losing half of my memory or losing a kidney. Let me note however that yet again Spud showed me no sympathy as a scarfed down the eggs… thus the I will search all the more intently for a way of making him (knowingly or unknowingly) eat fruit.
-This may not be that funny or absurd, but it is noteworthy. I, Andrew Monroe Hostetter have swong Andrew something Grimm around off the ground by his legs completely under my own power. We have photo documentation of this. This great feat was one of my prouder moments in life.
-One of the funniest parts of everyday is our shower time. Now before your mind goes places it shouldn’t, none of us have ever so much been in the bathroom at the same time. But what makes taking a shower so interesting is that we have no hot water. Our water is frequently described as: fridged, cold, numbing, and life changing. This is basically how every shower goes… at least for me. We get up every morning and I yell I call shower last. Grimm takes his shower first, followed by Spud. The reason why I constantly choose to go last is the same reason that people would choose to delay their execution… when the time comes you are not sure you will make it out alive. Also, I enjoy hearing their moans and yelps when they muster the courage to finally go under the shower head. When it is my turn, I go in, strip down, and turn on the shower. I stand outside of the shower for a minute or two while I give myself a preshower pep talk. In never seems to really work. So I end up just putting my head under the water first figuring it would be less shocking then if my whole body was not immersed in the liquid ice. I then suds up and do the same with each limb and then splash it on my body. I then just jump completely under the shower and thrash around as quick and possible to try to get the water precisely on the areas of my body that still have soap. I usually can’t stop myself from uttering a ‘whoo’ or two. Then when I am done I turn it off. At the end it normally feels very refreshing… but it still doesn’t stop me from debating the next day whether I need one.
-I don’t know how funny you all will find this, but I certainly chuckled a bit when I saw it. Grimm, Spud and I got dropped off in town one day. We had to go to the bank and wanted to then go to an internet café to email all of you lovely people. We finished these objectives rather quick, and decided to walk around the town a bit until Josephati came to pick us up. Now something that you have to understand is that the people down here are relatively poor. I think I heard the unemployment rate was 70 percent. So when they see white people, they see big dollar signs above our heads. So everywhere we went we had people trying to sell us things using their limited English vocabulary. None of us were interested in buying anything because we still had three weeks left here and we didn’t feel like carrying things around with us, so we all did our best to communicate to them that we weren’t interested. Spud and I did a pretty good job at that. I had about one person try for about 5 minutes to get me to buy something. Grimm on the other hand was not quite as successful. For about the entire twenty we were walking, grimm had at least people around him thrusting things into his face and trying to talk him into buying it. I think that main problem was that grimm, being the nice guy his is, actually entertained them. In fact, not wanting to belittle them, he acted interested and even went as far as to hold many of their products for multiple minutes at a time all the while trying to talk their price down. It was so funny to turn around and see grimm completely surrounded by these people. This all also seemed very ironic to me because grimm has been a world traveler since birth and has been to dozens of countries, and yet he still hadn’t learned his lesson. As the saying goes, if you give a mouse a cookie… he’ll want some milk (I think that is a saying).
-One of the funniest things that have happened to us thus far is our epic pursuit of Lindsey Winiefred Cook via our international cell phone. Lindsey is volunteering in Tanzania at the same time as we are, and being that she is a good friend of ours we wanted to meet up with her at some point during our free time. Lindsey gave us her cell number to call her. Now our pursuit started out rather well. A day or two into the trip we decided to call her so we could reserve a day to see her… and we were successful… somewhat. We got her voice mail. So Spud left her a message telling her to call us back on this number to figure out when we could all get together. After a couple more days, she still hadn’t called us back, so we decided to call her again. When Lindsay gave spud the number via the internet, he immediately programmed it into the phone as her cell number, and allegedly had checked her number twice. When we called her the second time, Spud found her number under dialed numbers and called it. Here again we had a bit of success, our call was actually connected!... but instead of hearing lindsay’s perky voice we heard a man saying something in Swahili. This confused us all a bit because we had dialed the exact same number as before. A couple days later we decided to call again. This time they made me do it. So I found her number again under recently dialed numbers, and it was labeled lindsay’s cell as before, and clicked the call button. It rang and yet again I got the answering machine…. But it wasn’t Lindsay’s answering machine, it was my father’s Phil Hostetter. None of the guys believed me when I told them it, so I went back and looked at the number I had just ‘dialed’ and saw infact that what spud put under lindsay’s cell phone number was the exact same cell number that my father had. So as of now, none of us are quite sure how we will get a hold of Lindsay… if there even is a real Lindsay Cook.
-There were a lot of funny things that happened while we were on the safari. There was our incredibly slow driver, the Germans who we ran into all the time at random places, having to get out and push our jeep while standing feet from lions… yes lions plural, sleeping with zebras and trying to herd them (I could have probably touched one if I had sprinted at it), but the funniest (unfortunately) was my toilet experience. Unlike grimm who can hold it til christimas, I am unable to hold it for several days. So by the end of the safari, I was getting ready to burst. Thankfully we had made it back to our camp site, which had bathrooms. So I eagerly ran into the bathroom and encountered my first problem… there was no lights. Luckily it was dark already so I had my trusty wind-up flashlight (thanks mom), so I propped that bad boy up and got ready to do what I do best. Then I turned and looked at the toilet… if you can call it that. It was a hole in the ground with two little rumble strips on the side. They looked like the imprint of the astronauts boot on the moon. Having never encountered anything like this in the bathroom, I was kind of unsure exactly the physics of the device. I figured it was a squatter, but when I went down for a test flight I ascertained that if I tried to take care of #1 and 2 at the same time, I would either end up with one of those two on the ground. I also knew that it would not be possible to do only one at a time do to the urgency of the moment. So after much debating, I decided just to sit on the ground. The moment I sat down I felt my whole leg get soaked in what I can only hope to be muddy water. To further worsen the occasion, I ended up getting bitten by some kind of bug which I never found in an area where no bug belongs. To top it off, I went to the sinks to find that not only was there no water except for one faucet that had a constant trickle, but there was no soap which was an absolute necessity after this occasion. I looked up to find two promising bottles, one was windex and the other toilet bowl cleaner. I knew that it would be inhumane for me to leave the bathroom without attempting some form of the biohazard cleanup that was needed after this experience, so I again weighed my options. I ended up washing my hands in windex because I figured I would be dumb for me to wash my hands with something that went into the toilet. This traumatic event did end on a higher note. I went back to my tent and found some handy wipes (again thank you mom), so I was able to pretty thoroughly clean myself up. So the lesson here boys and girls is that adult diapers are underrated.
-The other really funny experience that happened on the safari was occurred during the last hour of our safari. We were getting eating a packed lunch inside of the Ngoragora Crater which is a huge wildlife reserve that is inside of an inactive volcanoes crater. When we got out of the jeep our guide warned us of the monkeys that were around here; he told us that there are a certain bad group of monkeys which frequently harass the tourists. Having looked around and not seeing or hearing any monkeys we all quickly (too quickly that is) dismissed his comment. We decided to eat our lunch in a patch of grass next to huge bushes which easily could have concealed a host of animals, and a path leading to the bathroom. We were having just a jolly good time talking about the animals we saw, when out of the corner of my eye I saw this grey animal come sprinting directly toward the back of Spud and Grimm. At first glance I thought that this was a rabbit, but I soon realized that this was in fact the monkey that we had been warned about. By the time I got out “O my God, there’s a…” the monkey had literally tackled Grimm’s lunch box. Considering Grimm had no idea this feller was coming, he was startled quite a bit, and jumped back. But when he realized that his lunch was in peril, he sprang back on his lunch box and actually physically his the monkey away. The monkey, not wanting to go away empty handed sprang back and got his hands on Grimm’s banana and sprinted off. Spud later decided that it would be fun to try to lure him in again with his banana so that he would conveniently not have a banana to eat. So he placed it about a foot away from himself. After the monkey finished grimm’s banana he came back for seconds, and slowly crept his way towards us. We all watched him come, and yet Spud was unable to even put a hand on the monkey. I am convinced that he never really wanted to try and that it was all a ploy to not have to eat is fruit.
-The first day that we got back from the safari we were playing with the kids out on the patio because of it had rained that day. This is where I saw Spud doing what could have been interpreted in the wrong way. Spud interrupted my play with one of the kids to ask ‘Hoss you want to come to bed with us?’ You should know that there is a girl named Sophina who loves playing house with Spud, and has done so on most of the days that we have been here. On this particular occasion, she decided that it was bed time. So she and Spud took these big mats that they use to fold laundry on and used it as a bed and covers and were laying on/in. This situation continued to look more funny because next Spud asked a really little girl Flora who had been watching them if she wanted to join them… all the while reading a Tickle-Me-Elmo book. Its nice having a funny/awkward situation about someone else to write about for a change… so thank you Spud.
-The other day we were helping this guy Venice build a cooking shack for the orphanage, when for some reason I don’t remember we started talking about money. Grimm mistakenly slipped in his speech, and instead of saying ‘Shekels’ said ‘shingles’. This in itself was not that funny, but then we started talking about how ridiculous it would be if that really was a countries currency. A Shingle would be worth more than any other countries currency… wallets would reach record high sizes… chiropractors would have a ton of new business due to people having to carry them around… and bank robbery would be all but eliminated do to how heavy multiple thousands dollars of shingles would weigh. I realize that this may not be the funniest to you, but we had hoot talking about it.
-Did you know that Chuck Norris counted to infinity… twice, or that he invented C-section when he round house kicked his way out of his mother’s womb, or that he makes onions cry?
-Grimm’s new nickname is John Henry. I gave him this name while we were digging a huge whole in the ground. I realize that this was not exactly what the real John Henry did, but the name stuck.
-One of the coolest things that we have seen is Venice work on the shed. For you engineers, carpenters and basically anyone who has swung a hammer, you know how crucial measurements and blueprints are to producing a good final product. Thus far in our quest of shack building, he has only measured twice. Just about everything that we did, he eyeballed. Infact, all of his precise measurements have been done with basically only twine. The only tools he brought was string, a hammer, machete, shovels, hoes, and two cementing tools which I can’t think of the name of but basically are just flat objects. What he had he used in ways I couldn’t imagine. He used his machete to make one end of his sticks sharp so it would go into the ground easier, which was a cool thing to begin with, but he also used it to cut through cement blocks. When I figured out that he was about to do that, I almost laughed. To think that a machete that was just a metal blade that was less than 1/8th of an inch thick was capable of cutting through a huge cement block was not something my brain was prepared to grasp. But sure enough, it did it… with great speed too. Several times they cut these blocks… and every time it was done in less than 20 seconds, and it worked every time. And the craziest thing was that the machete wasn’t even dull afterwards! So because of these experiences I have concluded that as far as cutting devices go… the best goes to the machete, closely followed by grimms leatherman which has come in handy on several occasions, and then Chuck Norris’s fists.


So we just got back from our 4 day safari and all I can say is that it was quite the experience. It was just the three of us plus our driver/guide and personal chef, how much better could it get! So Sunday morning we packed up our Land Cruiser and head off to Lake Manyara. It was about an hour and a half drive. We stopped at our lodge so we could drop off all of our gear and luggage into our room. Our chef also stayed behind and began cooking us dinner for that night. After things were in our room, we got in the car with our guide and started for the lake.
Basically Lake Manyara can be summed up in a few words: baboons, trees, impalas, and more trees. The drive into the park goes through a heavily forested area where it feels like you are in the middle of an endless jungle, along the way you come across many baboons that are sitting along the road cleaning one another. After a little bit, you start to drive into fields of grass where lots of impala graze. We got a kick out of the impala at first, but by the 200th impala, they start to blend in with the trees. Our first stop was at a hippo pool located right near the lake, by this time we were out of the jungle part and in the open planes. We saw a bunch of hippos there along with some flamingos and one random wildebeest. As we kept driving we came across giraffe, elephants, a few zebra, and eventually we saw two tree-climbing lions. They are apparently hard to see so we were quite lucky. However along our way to the lions, we came across another group that seamed like they needed help. We were driving along the road when we looked to our right and noticed a group stuck pretty good in the sand quite a distance off the road. So we decided to off-road it to go help them. We got out there and introduced ourselves to the group. They were from Germany and it turns out that the one guy was supposed to be our fourth member but dropped out at the last minute. Looking back on it, we realized that the 3 of us really weren’t much help to get the car unstuck, basically we took pictures of the whole thing and laughed as everyone else pushed. But they eventually got the car out and we were back on the road. So we got back in our Land Cruiser and headed back to the lodge. (which I never mentioned how much fun it is to drive in the car, they remove the roofs and you get to stand up the whole time. By the end of the trip you have some pretty crazy hair and a few bugs plastered to your face every so often.) When we got back to the lodge, our dinner was waiting and we couldn’t have been more happy, and this wasn’t the food you would think of while you are camping, we had the full deal. It started with popcorn and biscuits (which I’m a huge fan of the biscuits), then we had soup, then the main meal, and then dessert. It was some of the best food I’ve had in a very long time, by the end of the trip we were all quite fond of the soups! After dinner we went to our room and rested up for the next day.
The next morning we woke up and went and had breakfast. By this time we were beginning to realize what the food was going to be like for most of the trip so we made a pact. It turns out that I don’t like fruit, Hoss doesn’t like eggs and fish, and Grim doesn’t like vegetables, so we decided that if any of those foods come up, the other people would cover for the person that didn’t like it. Well it turns out that most of our meals either had eggs or vegetables. The fruit is always a side thing so I never have a problem, looks like I’m gonna get out of Africa without having to eat fruit J After breakfast we got back in the car and headed off for the Serengeti. When we got to the Serengeti, we stopped at a rest stop to eat lunch and take the tops of the roof. While at the stop, we hiked to the top of a lookout where we came across numerous lizards, the best one was about a foot long and purple and pink, I don’t really get how the camouflage worked but it looked pretty cool. At one point Hoss decided that he could try to catch one and he surprisingly came very close, he have it all on video too. So after the stop, we got in the car, stood up, and got ready to experience the Serengeti. Basically the first hour in the Serengeti is pretty easy to sum up, an endless plane. For as far as you can see there is simply grass, with gazelle grazing every little bit. By the end of the trip, the gazelle became more annoying than the impala of Lake Manyara. Once the endless planes start to end you get into the part of the Serengeti that most people would recognize from pictures. There is still grass in every direction, but now there were trees scattered across the plane and the animals become visible. Here’s a quick list of all the animals that we saw over the next two days: gazelle, zebra, baboons, vervet monkeys, hyrax, mongoose, wildebeest, hartebeest, elephant, giraffe, hyena, hippo, lots of random birds, ostrich, cheetah, leopard, and lion. Overall, our experience in the Serengeti was absolutely incredible. We were there during the wildebeest migration where 1.6 million wildebeest and 400,000 zebra migrate around the Serengeti searching for food. It was one of the craziest thing, we would be driving and it would appear as if nothing was around, then all of the sudden thousands of wildebeest and zebra are around you. And for those of you don’t know, wildebeest make one of the oddest sounds, it sounds like a mixture of a cow and a duck. The other cool animal to see was the cheetah, we came across four of them on a hill side along with a few other vehicles. As we were watching them, one of the cheetahs came down and sat beside the tire of the car right in front of us, so we were probably 10 feet from it and got some awesome pictured!. But by far, the best part of the Serengeti was the camping experience. We set up camp 60km into the Serengeti, which is almost the dead center. We made sure our tent was the farthest away it could be from anything and we essentially slept in the middle of the Serengeti with nothing around us except for thousands of wildebeest and zebra, talk about cool!! I got up at 4:45 in the morning and went outside to look at the stars, it was the coolest experience yet. Looking up I could see every star clearer than I ever have, and the milky way was so clear that it looked like it was from a picture in a book. I just sat there and stared for the longest time until I heard a pack of hyena run by me barking, that made me realize that I was standing in the middle of the Serengeti by myself in the middle of the night. But regardless, I decided to stay outside until the sun rose. I sat and listened to the wildebeest grazing just feet from where I was sitting. There was no boundary surrounding our campsite so I was sitting in the bush alongside them. Grim and Hoss woke up a little bit later and we decided that we were going to climb the rock formation thing beside our campsite so that we could see the sunrise better. Now most people would not have made that decision, expecially after reading the sign beside our tent that said: “Do NOT leave campsite. Animals will attack human beings!!” But that didn’t stop us and we climbed on. Once we reached the rock we were planning on climbing to, Grim and I decided that it was good enough, so we climbed completely to the top, which was a little more difficult than we expected, but once we reached the top it was all worth it. We sat there and were able to see the entire horizon as the sun rose, it was amazing. To think that the same sun that was rising there also rises in Pennsylvania was a little hard to believe. After the sun rose, one of the tour guides spotted us and immediately flagged us down and told us to climb back to the campsite. We later found out that those rocks are where lions, cheetahs, and leopards like to keep their cubs; that would have made for an interesting story if we came across a baby lion. But luckily, or unluckily, we didn’t so we came back. That morning we went back out for another game drive and then that afternoon we left the Serengeti. That night we arrived at our campsite which overlooked the Ngorongoro Crater.
Now we thought that after our night at the Serengeti we couldn’t top our campsite, but this one came pretty close. We stayed at a place called Simba Campsite and it sat on the rim of the crater overlooking the entire crater. That alone was pretty cool, but to make it better, as we were waiting for our dinner, a pack of around 15 zebra wandered into our campsite to graze. Immediately our first thought was “let’s try to catch one.” So we all grabbed our camera and took off. Hoss and Grim got quite close as they tried to corral the zebra back to the site. However the zebra outwitted them and managed to escape back into the bushes. We were a little upset, as I’m sure the rest of the campers were because we had just chased off the zebra, but it was worth it because we got some cool pictures and videos. Luckily, ten minutes later the zebra were back and this time we had learned our lesson and stayed on the side and watched them come in. They walked right up the Germans tent and stayed there for most of the night. After dinner I went back to our tent to get my malaria pill and as I came out, I came face to face with the entire pack. They had moved down the hill while I was in the tent. So I quietly sat down and watched them. Two of them started playing with each other and then started chasing after one another, they came running right past me and if I would have stuck my arm out, I would have probably tripped the zebra, but I used my better judgement and just watched. So that night we slept just a couple feet from the zebra, not too bad. The next day we found out that there were wildebeest beside us as well as some wild pigs. So we were pretty excited and ready for our last day which we spent in the crater. In the crater we saw lots of the same animals, especially the wildebeest and zebra again, but we also saw one new animal, the black rhino. Currently there are only about 50 of them left in the world and they are extremely hard to find, so we were quite fortunate to come across one. Oh, and I can’t forget to tell about our lunch experience, probably one of the funniest things that has happened yet. So we were sitting on the ground in the middle of a small forested area eating our lunch. We each had a tubberware box with a bunch of items in it. We were sitting there minding our own business when out of no where, a vervet monkey comes flying around the corner, tackles the box out of Grim’s hands, searched through all the food, comes out holding the banana, and runs up into a nearby tree. The whole thing happened so fast that none of us knew what to do. Grim grabbed the monkey as it essentially sat on his lap and Hoss and I couldn’t keep from laughing during the whole ordeal. To make it even funnier, the monkey’s private parts were the most vivid blue and bright red I have ever seen. We then set my banana out as bait to try to catch it but it didn’t work. I wasn’t exactly quick enough to catch the monkey when he came for it because the whole time I was thinking about the fact that monkey might have rabies. And after the squirrel incident, I didn’t want to test my luck again J After lunch we then went back to our campsite and headed back for Arusha to our orphanage. It was by far one of the coolest trips I have taken and I expect that I will be back at some point. But until then, the nearly 3000 photos that we took should last me! Well that was briefly what happened, there were many funny things but those were definitely the highlights. Well I’m getting tired and think I’m going to head to bed, I’m at the orphanage right now writing this on my laptop. The kids here tire you out pretty quickly, and I’ve only been back one day! Well got to go, talk to everyone soon!!

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