Monday, January 9, 2012

Our first posted video!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Everyone slept in a bit today, staying in bed until almost 7:30.  Our plan was to walk out of camp by 8:30, which didn’t quite happen but we got pretty close.  We walked down to the worksite, claimed our tools from the house closest to the spot where the fence will be, and kicked right in to digging more holes.  The whole/hole experience was different today than it was on Saturday because we started uphill toward the source and learned that nearly every spot where a hole belonged either had a huge rock (or lots of medium sized ones) just below the ground or enormous tree roots growing horizontally through it.  The work was slow and difficult, but those issues just made it more satisfying to actually complete any particular task. 

The presence of the tree roots allowed us to buy a couple of our favorite tools for these trips: machetes!  We only bought two because EVERYone here already has one.  Many of the locals spend the whole day just clearing areas where poles belong, trying to create the least possible disruption of the area while still making it possible to drive a row of concrete posts along the edge of the tree line.  Hopefully the video for today will load and you will get a chance to see how the locals sharpen their blades.  

We got to a total of 75 holes today, meaning that we should be able to finish digging tomorrow.  The first set of concrete poles (you’ll see) should arrive in the afternoon and some subset of us will start to sink those while others continue to dig.  It takes a few days for the concrete to set satisfactorily, so we need to space out the pouring of the concrete over the next couple of days to prevent the whole job from coming to a standstill.

We also learned about some other side jobs that we might be able to complete as we continue on the fence project.  One involves bringing a dusty old school near our camp back to life, another involves reforestation using local trees and yet another includes doing some jobs on the coffee farm on which our camp is located.  We are working out the details on all of these jobs but we can see how each of them would make a big difference in the future of this community so we want to fit in as many as we can.  Sadly, our budget is running out due to our commitment of most of our resources to the top priority water protection project that is our number one job.  If you are interested in helping to sponsor the main project or any of these side ones, please let us know and we will help you figure out how to make a contribution.  

Speaking of the coffee farm where we live, we haven’t told you much about our living conditions so we will fill in some of that information here.  We have a series of questions from our sixth-grade friends at Happy Hollow Elementary School in West Lafayette, Indiana, so we will provide answers to them and share that info with the rest of you as well.

Our camp is on a dirt road up the hill from the main junction that is the commercial center of Marangu.  Whatever you are picturing right now as we use the phrase “commercial center” is way more complex than the place that we are referencing.  It really is an intersection where there is a post office along with some other small businesses that sell lumber, tools, food and some services. 

Our camp is owned by a retired petroleum worker who is now a leader in sustainable energy and the overall “greening” of Tanzania.  He is credited as the person who convinced hikers, guides and porters who were summiting Kilimanjaro to stop using wood to prepare food (using gas canisters instead) because he could see that the mountain was being deforested far too rapidly by the popularity of the climb.  Though he could not convince the Tanzanian government to issue regulations on this subject, he managed to convince the expedition companies and the offices that issue permits to change the practice even without official laws requiring them to do so. 

Now he owns a coffee farm on which our small camp is perched.  The camp has a small outdoor kitchen, a bath house that has two working showers and two working toilets, a little hut that has electricity that we use for our media work (including much of the writing of this blog) and two small hotel-like rooms that we use for locked storage of our tools, first aid, media equipment and “valuables.”  We can wander around out among the coffee trees if we want and we also have befriended the cows on the property. 

We spend most of our time, though, right out in the middle of the “lawn,” where we have four camping tables and a set of folding chairs all lined up like a big banquet zone.  We sit there more than anywhere else and, of course, we eat all of our meals there.  It would be fun to do time lapse photography of that table to get a feel for our daily lives.  In the mornings, we would be found all bundled up, wearing hats and fleece jackets with socks squeezed into our flipflops in that totally uncomfortable way that never really works right.  As the sun starts to shine on different people, though, their layers start to reduce until eventually they are just in work clothes (t-shirts and long shorts or cargo pants) as we prepare to leave for the site.  When we come home from work, we are all really dirty and sweating profusely.  We sit around the table or lie around on extra air mattresses until we kick into picture selection or video editing.  As it gets dark, almost everyone wears a headlamp (or at least carries one).  Then the layers start to pile on again until we go to bed. 

Our beds are air mattresses in enormous tents (18’ x 10’ with no more than four people in any one tent).  The tents are roomy and sturdy, but it gets cold in there at night.  The lowest temperature we’ve encountered is probably about 47 or so degrees.  Mostly, though, it’s in the mid-50s at night, which can feel pretty cold when we are all very still and trying to sleep.  (In the day, though, it gets to almost 100 degrees.  The changes are pretty extreme!) 

As for our equipment, we have some chargers that stay plugged in all the time and we frantically get our cameras and computers charged whenever the electricity is on.  When it’s not, we work on battery power as much as we can.  There are lights in the bathrooms and showers most of the time, so that’s nice. 

We will tell you about the food and other stuff in upcoming posts.  Thanks for reading!

A fly.

Amelia and girls.

Amelia reflecting on the day's work.

Ciara in one of the worst holes.

Dennis and Jesse working really hard.

Dennis sparkling.

Digging holes in the stream.

Doing work.

Enjoying the sun.

Erin digging in one of the wettest spots.

Jesse shoveling water.

Kyle getting his hands wet. 

Matt very interested at the moment.

Our local friends and their machetes.

Wrestling grasshoppers?  Grasshopper parent?


  1. WOW!!! I'm so very, incredibly impressed with all that you all have accomplished so far! Congratulations on finding several projects (so it seems) that line up with your group's capacities and the locals needs/wants. It seems that you all are using your time exceptionally well and are working on projects that will be meaningful and lasting.

    Also, major props for keeping this blog so engaging and up to date! The pictures are very cool and the latest video was especially impressive. Very well done Kaimati! I hope you all got some sleep even with the uploading, editing, transferring and painstakingly slow internet! Thank you so much for your hard work. The blog looks amazing and it is so much fun for us back here to follow along on your adventure.

    You all are doing amazing work and I sincerely hope that the joy evident in your pictures and videos is profound and contagious enough to carry you all through the rest of your trip!! All the best to each of you!

  2. I am also very impressed with your work and your enthusiasm. The people seem so appreciative of all you are doing. You making such a difference in their lives.
    I would be interested in how I might help restoration of the school.
    Thank you all!

  3. Great video! Tell Trevor to stop lying for fun though, he looks like he is about to throw up or pass out when he eats that bug.

    -Matt Beutner

  4. Trevor.....Fear Factor here you come......:)