Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mt. Kimamjaro, Tanzania

I am presently in Tanzania near Mt. Kilimanjaro on a Farmer to Farmer assignment for Catholic Relief Services.  I left home in Billings on the 18th of November on a route that took me through Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then onto Mt. Kilimanjaro International Airport.  Overall the flights took about 30 hours with a long layover in Minneapolis (about six hours) and a shorter (3 hour) layover in Amsterdam.  The bright spot of such long travel was twofold on this trip.  First, upon arriving at Minneapolis I saw the new John Grisham book, The Whistler”  was out which I immediately purchased and read, finishing last evening at the hotel Uhuru in Moshi, Tanzania (TZ).  The second, meeting a very interesting retired 3rd grade teacher from Wisconsin who was traveling with one of her son’s family to Budapest and on to Vienna. 

What a great seat mate she was.  Raised in Rhode Island, meeting a serviceman form Wisconsin who returned with him for a few years so he could finish his collegiate career has made her home there ever since.  We shared many great stories and the trip over to Amsterdam went very quickly.

The last leg of the flight seemed much longer although it was only an hour or so longer.  My seatmates were not as engaging and I was not so much either as I was pretty worn out already.  The flight was uneventful and we landed about 8:30 local time in the dark. 

Immigration was an interesting experience as well.  I had to purchase a business visa as well as a tourist visa to volunteer that totaled $250 US. 

After Immigration, I had to clear customs.  I had brought 3 suitcases and a backpack with me to carry my gear.  One suitcase for my clothes, one for the training documents and the last for items carried over for a previous CRS volunteer.   There were two signs for customs; one for items to be declared and the other no declaration.  I searched about for a sign that would tell me what the value of goods being brought into Tanzania required declaration, but could not find any.  Erroring on the side of caution I went to declare the goods I was bringing in which ended up consisting of running the luggage through an x-ray machine, the same type of machine as when you go through security in an airport.  I walked to the other side and picked up the luggage and carted it off; that was it. 

A driver picked me up from the airport and the ride from the airport to the hotel was in the dark so I could not see much of the surrounding area.  From what I could see I could tell the infrastructure here is much more advanced than where I had been before in Uganda.  The buildings looked modern and well-constructed and the road was in good condition.

We arrived at the Lutheran Guest House hotel, Uhuru in Moshi, TZ around 10:30 pm local time.  True to African custom I was warmly greeted by an English-speaking receptionist and was quickly shown to my room.  The room is spacious with hot and cold running water and air conditioning; amenities that can be hit and miss in this part of the world.  I was ready to sleep, however, the immediate problem is my body thought it was noon so it was not quite ready to sleep while my brain was exhausted.  I dozed on and off a few times while reading “The Whistler and eventually fell off after completing it around 3 am.  I rose about 9:30 am just in time to catch some breakfast.

My contact, Mekee, a Hawaiian Peace Corp volunteer, came by the room after breakfast to pick up the supplies I brought over for the CRS volunteer.  Mekee is an interesting young man who has been here about ten months working in a mountain town area about four hours from the hotel.  I sent him off with the suitcase which he would carry back as a passenger on a small motorcycle.

I took my first look for Mt. Kilimanjaro from the hotel around noon and could not see it.  I went to the guide book to get some facts about the region and learned that Kilimanjaro is usually not visible until late afternoon, 4 – 6:30 pm after the clouds have worn off.  I went back to an observation point at the hotel and got my first looks at the famed mountain.

The mountain peak is a little over 19,000 feet above sea level and the tallest mountain in Africa.  It is an extinct volcano that still lets out some steam and is the reason most people come to Tanzania.  There are several routes to trek to its peaks that are non-technical; however, they all take minimally four days to reach so I will not be making that accent. 
I am wrapping up my first full day in Tanzania just loitering about the hotel and its beautiful grounds.

On Monday, the 21st I will be met and taken to the Kilacha Training Center where I will spend the remainder of my time working with the Accounting Department.  An earlier volunteer was here a year ago and set the Training Center up on QuickBooks.  My assignment is to teach the managers, accountants and bookkeepers how to use the program.  Additionally, I need to write a procedures manual and help integrate the Excel spreadsheet accounting they presently use into the new system.

My expectation is to have a reasonable internet connection at the Training Center so I hope to be able to make daily posts with my comments, insights and pictures.

20 November 2016

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