Friday, March 31, 2017

African Adventure - Part 12: A Visit to Karatu Village

A Day in Karatu
July 15, 2016

It was sad to realize that our African adventure was coming to an end, but the last day was filled with special moments.  First up was a visit to Endoro Primary School, located outside the village of Karatu.
Endoro Primary School
Our tour company, Overseas Adventure Travel, is a part of the Grand Circle Travel Company family, and their Foundation supports projects around the world.  Endoro School is one of the beneficiaries of the generosity of the foundation which provides school supplies and financial support.

We met with the school administrators in their small office to learn about the school before visiting two classrooms.  Some of our tour members had purchased a water filter for the school when we visited the Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa factory on an earlier day of our trip and presented it to the school staff.

Cosmas presents the school staff with a new clean water filter.
The principal and another teacher escorted us to a kindergarten classroom where the adorable kids performed a little song for us.  Then we were free to walk about the classroom and visit with the children.  It was a bit heart-breaking to see how very little the students had in the way of supplies.  The walls were almost completely bare - quite a contrast with the brightly decorated primary classrooms we see at home.

The children were rather shy and quiet as we talked with them in the classroom, but when the bell rang for recess, they became the happy, noisy youngsters one would find in schoolyards anywhere in the world.  Recess was hilarious.  Children from all the classrooms, K through grade 8, clustered around us visitors, waving and laughing.  We discovered that the best way to connect with them was to take a photo and then show it to them.  We soon had dozens of kids posing and mugging for the cameras.

Just like school kids everywhere!

Maggie shows the kids the photos she took of them

Students return to class after recess
After recess, we visited a 7th grade classroom.  Once again, the lack of visible supplies was notable - but so was the polite and calm behavior of the students.  (As a former middle school teacher, I might have happily traded a few supplies for some of these delightful well-behaved students.)  The classroom was about the size of an average classroom in the U.S., but there were probably 60 students sitting in it, with three kids to a desk.  All of the children in the school were in uniform, and the girls sat in the outside rows, with all of the boys in the middle rows.

We were introduced to the students, and they performed several songs for us, including a lively ABC song, "Row Row Row Your Boat," and the National Anthem of Tanzania, "Mungu ibariki Afrika," or God bless Africa.  School Songs at Endoro School

I thought it would be nice to return the favor, so I invited several volunteers to come to the front of the class where I taught them the Hokey-Pokey, (with the assistance of several of our tour members.)  It turned out to be a great hit, with lots of giggles when we put our backsides in and shook them all about!  I had figured that there was no way the crowded class could all participate, but the kids loved it and asked to be able to do it, so we did the song again with the entire class at their desks, doing the Hokey-Pokey!

Following the dance, we got to sit with some of the students and ask them about their studies.  I sat with three young ladies who shyly told me about their favorite subjects and their hopes for the future.  Their English was very good - certainly better than my Swahili!  I am amazed on my travels at how many children are learning English.  It is convenient to be a native English speaker, but I'm also sorry that our country doesn't encourage the early introduction of language studies.  It is so much easier to learn a second language as a child than as an adult!

We left the school on foot and had a little walking tour of Tloma village, where we visited a local grocery store and brewery and sampled some of the food and drink.  Our local guide did not hide the more unsavory slices of life here, but included to peek into a shack where moonshine was being distilled..and judging from the grins of some of the people sitting around the shack, being consumed enthusiastically, as well.

We visited with this mother and her baby on our walk through Tloma village

The town distillery

The village was also the home of a local coffee farmer and his family.  He and his wife demonstrated all of the steps of preparing the coffee beans.  The entire family participates - right down to the adorable two-year-old son who solemnly turned the roaster by hand.

I try pounding the husks off of the coffee beans.

This two year old was already an experienced coffee roaster!
What a great surprise we got on our next stop.  In the village church, the choir was practicing for their Sunday service.  Their lovely African harmonies filled the small sanctuary with joyful noise, and some of our group couldn't help but get up and join the choir in clapping out the rhythm.  Apparently this choir is fairly well known and has recorded several CDs.  We left the church humming "Allelujah, Amen" with enthusiasm.

Several of our tour members joined the choir.

Click the link for a video of bits of several of their songs:  Making a Joyful Noise in Karatu, Tanzania

We stopped briefly to see a local brick factory then continued on to our final stop of the day, the village market in Karatu.  This was not my favorite stop.  The market stalls filled several blocks with a hodge-podge of goods from produce to shoes and clothing, similar to markets we have visited in several other countries.  But here, everyone in our little group was followed relentlessly by young men, mostly in their late teens, who tried to get us to buy their trinkets.  The young man who selected me as his target was actually quite charming.  He wore a jaunty fedora and spent quite a bit of time explaining the superiority of the little dried fish in one barrel over those in another barrel.  But his persistence began to wear after a while, and I think most of our group was happy to board the little tuk-tuks that were waiting outside to take us back to our beautiful lodge.

Joan, Lois, and Mary enjoy the tuk-tuk ride.

We enjoyed a farewell dinner at the lodge and packed up for our trip home the next day.  It was a drive of several hours back to Arusha where we would begin our long trip home.  Here are some of the sights of African life we saw along the way.

Here's a sight you won't see along the highways at home!

The entrance to Lake Manyara National Park

Back in Arusha 

Rob and I had an earlier flight the following day than some of the others, so Cosmas kindly arranged for a driver to pick us up at the lunch stop on the way back to Arusha.  Our flight from Arusha took us to Dar Es Salaam on the tropical island of Zanzibar, where we had an unexpected little adventure on the plane.  We had to get off the plane for an hour or so, but when Rob and I stood up in the aisle to depart, we were asked to step aside and make way for the former president of Tanzania who had been traveling on the plane with us!  After a short stay in the airport, we departed for our long flight to Amsterdam and then home.
Our final meal in Tanzania

The "kitchen" at our lunch stop

A glimpse of Zanzibar from our plane.

We were sad to say goodbye to our congenial tour mates - and very reluctant to leave the incredible wildlife of this fascinating continent.  What wonderful memories!