Saturday, January 7, 2012

Starting the Project!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Finally the beginning of our project has arrived!  Our camp was the rally point for our group, some of the community leaders that we have met and the students that are joining us on-site over the next few days.   They joined us for a fabulous breakfast that included our regular daily porridge along with bananas and mangos, sponge-y pancakes and bacon. 

The leader of the village was in charge of getting the group from our camp to the worksite and we took a slightly different route this time that cut through a cornfield, crossed a bridge in a beautiful valley and rose up again before leading us to the edge of the source that we are here to protect.  There were 40 or so postholes “pegged” (or “staked” as we might say) and our job was to dig holes in those 40 spots using picks, shovels, weighted flat blades and our own bare hands.  We have many more than 40 holes to dig, as you can see in the question and answer section below.  

Though we only arrived at the site at about 10:00 a.m. Tanzanian time, by noon we could see that we would easily finish those holes today.  There were glitches galore, including the fact that we hit some monstrous roots as we delved below the surface of the ground and that several trees had to be significantly reduced to make it possible for the fence to follow a relatively straight line.  On both of these points we deferred to the locals and their excellent (if intimidating) machete work.  They would climb the tree barefoot, take a few well-placed hacks at the offending vegetation and bring down huge sections of tree that smashed down to the road. 

Once the limbs hit, the locals scrambled to claim and sort the wood.  We discovered later that this wood was their compensation for volunteering to help us.  A few small skirmishes broke out as ownership rights of the wood got established but things were pretty orderly considering that the amount of available wood jumped exponentially in just the few hours that we were working on our postholes. 

We got along great with the locals and learned that we REALLY surprised them today with our hard work.  Before we worked together, they seemed to think that we were good people but not necessarily strong and disciplined people.  Now they would add those two descriptions to us as well. 

We actually finished 43 holes by the time we stopped for our late lunch and because the locals wanted to knock off for the day, so did we.  Some of the school boys came back to camp with us to eat and play cards while different ones of us joined them as we also took showers and did hand laundry. 

We are feeling very at home here and our routines are starting to take shape.  For the veterans of trips gone by, the most surprising change so far is that everyone seems to wake up on his or her own without an assist from Shawny.  Even without wakeups, everyone is up by 7:30 or so. 

Tomorrow we will attend church in the village where we are working and we will do another series of introductions and explanations of what we are doing.  We will see what the rest of the day brings and try to post more pictures, videos, and text to let you know.  Thanks again for your support!


And before we close off our post today, we would like to answer questions posed by our third grade friends at Southwestern Elementary in Hanover, Indiana:

1.  How big is the spring and the area around the spring that you are protecting with the fence?  (Derrick, age 9)

Great question, Derrick!  We should have answered that one already.  But to answer it, we will have to give you a math assignment because Tanzania uses the metric system to measure distances.  (Maybe this assignment is better for the sixth graders of Happy Hollow Elementary in West Lafayette, Indiana, who are also out there following us.)  The fence will be 330 meters long with posts approximately every three meters.  We have already figured out how long the fence is in feet and how many posts we need.  Your class can have your teacher help you figure out these numbers so you can know the same things that we know.  (Special note: we need more posts than the math equation might predict, as at corners and ends of the fence we need to double the posts.  Get as close as you can and then we will tell you in the coming days how many we really needed.)

2. We want to see more pictures of bugs please!!!  (Kadin, age 9)

Don't worry, Kadin!  There will be plenty of pictures of bugs (and eventually lots of animals).  Trevor might be your best supplier of bug shots, so we will make sure he keeps them coming!

3. We know you wake up with bells, but what time do you go to bed?  (Foster, age 9)

We don't necessarily get out of bed when the bells ring, as they ring between 4:00 and 6:00 in the morning.  Everyone usually awakens by 7:30 at the latest (which is 11 hours different from our usual California time).  We eat breakfast at 7:30 and then leave around 8:30 or 9:00 for our work project.  As for bed time, it varies with each individual.  We make sure that it is possible for everyone to get eight hours of sleep, so people go to bed between 10:00 and 12:00 at night.  Because we are camping in tents, we have few lights at night, which means we operate mostly by headlamps once it gets really dark.  So far no one but Shawny has stayed up past midnight but maybe people will start staying up later now that we have caught up on our sleep from our long trip.

The reason people stay up late at night is that they are working on photos, videos, or other parts of this blog.  We have a small room that is like a little hut that has electricity, so four or five people can sit in there and do our media while others sleep.

4.  Do you plan on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?  (Evan, age 8)

Sadly, we will not climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, even though we are probably all capable of making it to the top.  It takes about six days to do the hike, which is mostly a matter of endurance as climbers carry heavy packs up and up and up for four or five of those days then down for either one or two.  (Remember before when we said that Simon had made it up and back in only nine hours?  Now do you see why that counts as a long-standing world record?)

Instead of spending six days climbing the mountain, we are going to spend those days working in the community around us.  At the end of our trip we are going to take a break from work, though, and go on a four-day safari.  We think you will really like to see our pictures and descriptions of that experience.

Thanks, Southwestern!  Keep those questions coming!

Alicia posing for the camera at the site.

Amelia posing for mom.

Dennis digging one of the many holes we dug today.

Claire playing with one of the children.

Everyone watching as the huge branch falls to the road.

Local woman carrying branches and leaves down the road on her head.

Moth in the forest where we were working.

One of the local children took a picture of Scotchy.

One of the villagers in the tree helping to cut down branches.

Our work today included clearing some trees to make room for the new fence.

The river we hiked on our shortcut to work.

Walking to work.


  1. This sounds wonderful! I love hearing about the project progress, and I especially love seeing the pictures. Hugs and support are coming at you from home!

  2. GAELS GAELS GAELS GAELS......Good work. Love it. Keep it up!

  3. Sounds like everyone is working very hard! You said that there aren't really any lights, is that just in the tents, or the camp in general? If so, can you see a ton of stars at night with the low ambient light?

    PS: I know this is of minor importance compared to what you guys are doing, but I thought Scott would be interested to know that the San Jose Sharks have gone 4-0 since you all left. They beat Vancuver, Anaheim, Columbus, and Washington.

    -Matt Beutner

  4. We are very interested to see what will happen each day in your experience.We also have a few comments and questions. We really appreciate that you are identifying team members each day as we have your names, but do not know who is who yet. Keep it up.

    Also we wondered exactly what kind of food your are eating and how much do you get?

    Just how cold is cold at night? And how hot does it get during the day when you are working?

    What are you living arrangements at camp? We saw the one building in the picture with all the luggage. Can you show some oictures of the tents? Do you sleep on the ground?

    Your friends at Happy Hollow School in West Lafayette, IN.

  5. Your hard work looks like it is paying off! Keep on digging :)

    I'm following your success! Keep it up guys! Looks great!

    - Marie Cacciatore

  6. Great work there with the local people.

    To choose the right Kilimanjaro Climb route for you, there are plenty of variables to be mindful of.
    Who: Who is climbing? The whole group's abilities must be factored into choosing a route. The rest of the party is relying on your decision. Pick a route that best fits everyone.
    What: What limitations surround your climb? Are you bound by a budget? Or the number of days on your trip? There are cheap/expensive routes, and short/long itineraries.
    How: How do you see your trek? Do you want the most challenging route or a less strenuous one? These answers will affect which route is for you.
    Where: Where do you want to begin your climb? The routes start from all sides of the mountain. Where you begin affects cost, scenery and scenic variety.
    Why: Why are you climbing? Is it very important to summit? Then choose a route with a high success rate. Do you want to take the best photos? Then pick the most scenic route.
    When: If you are climbing during the dry season, great. But if you are climbing during the rainy season or the shoulder seasons, then the route you select can play into the climb's difficulty.
    So Which is the best route to use to climb up kilimanjaro? Lemosho Route and Rongai Route are the most scenic routes up kilimanjaro. Mt Kilimanjaro Machame route is also a scenic and very popular route with many climbers.
    The Marangu Route Climb is however the most used route since it has the advantage of sleeping in huts with bunker beds, hot showers, beverages and beers in the evenings are also available. Marangu is also the shorter route and can be done in 5 days although an extra day for acclimatisation is recommended.