"In My African Dream........." Kilimanjaro Region by Geisha_Girl

Kilimanjaro Region Travel Guide: 179 reviews and 379 photos

At the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro

I came to the Kilimanjaro region to live and work with the local communities, and to interact with the locals with their day-to-day way of living. My experience there inspired me, challenged me, and at times, overwhelmed me. It was different from any other travel experience I have ever gone through. Most importantly, as much as I wanted to go there to help change their lives, it opened the door to new relationships with people who actually changed mine.

My decision to do my first volunteer program in Africa was an easy one. I didn’t even have to think twice about it. The idea evolved when a friend and I were in the early stages of planning our annual big holiday abroad. We were so close to confirming our flight tickets to the Greek Isles and just trying to decide “Which villa and which island shall we stay on?” Simultaneously, something *sparked* inside the two of us, and we looked at each other and thought, “Let’s do something different this year.”

I’ve always felt so blessed and so fortunate to have traveled to faraway lands and been able to explore some of the deepest corners of the world. This time, let’s take it a step a further and explore the deepest corners of my heart. That was the deciding factor. There was no doubt that Africa was calling me. This was an opportunity for us to give something back during our time away from work and our everyday life.

The beauty about all of this was that those closest to me never questioned why I decided to volunteer in Africa. I thought it would completely shock my family and friends, but nobody ever questioned, “Why?” As soon as I broke the news, it was all about “What do you need? How can we help?” ........ I love you guys.

I always thought it quite odd when work colleagues or acquaintances would say to me, “Wow, Africa. You are so brave.” Brave? I didn’t quite understand which part of going to Africa made me courageous.

Recently, a wise dear friend help put that into perspective for me
(….yes, you are
wise, my dear friend!)
As an “outsider looking in to the culture here in the U.S.” he says:

Many many people over here are completely numb to anything outside of their sanitized, controlled environment and because of that they are actually the ones who are selling themselves short. They don't know half of the experiences and outlooks and thoughts that they could have and as a result they become media-programmed automatons who think that they are experiencing a full life.

Now I know that these sorts of conditions exist throughout the world, but if you are a member of one of the most powerful and wealthy nations in the world I think it is your duty to go out and experience the rest of the world and other cultures. Even if it might be difficult.”

In a lot of ways, this explains perfectly how those folks are impressed with my “bravado” of jumping on a plane and heading to far-off Africa land.

There's a baseline of comfort in their lives that seems impossible (to them) to surpass. But it's all quite easy, actually.......anyone can cross over.

The group of volunteers I worked with in Tanzania was comprised of ALL Americans, and one British. A majority of those Americans were from "small town USA" and mostly from the southern regions of the U.S. For some of them, Africa was their first trip out of their home state. (and, yes, I'll admit it........I thought they were "brave"). During our nightly discussions after dinner, they would share stories of how they came from areas of the U.S. where racial bigotry was still so prevalant. There is no doubt in my mind that Africa has brought a whole new perspective in their lives and they will certainly carry on the "crusade" in their hometowns.

So now, upon hearing that I returned from Africa land safe and sound, and someone says to me, “Wow you are so brave,” my immediate response to them is: “You can do it too.”

I returned from my trip a crusader trying to rally up more people to get out there and volunteer in the far off lands. See for themselves what’s really going on in these countries and not just trust what they read in “Time” or “Newsweek.” I’d be the first to inform them that the loose change they drop into the charity box next to the lollipops and BIC lighters at the 7-11 may not necessarily reach that orphan in Guatemala or the Philippines.

What I also realized is that “Third World” or “under-developed country” is not an accurate description. What is a “Third World” anyways? To me, Africa (Tanzania in general) is not “Third World.” It is our world and it is certainly developing.

A peculiar incident happened to me on the day I was departing for my trip. I ran an errand at the
Radio Shack store down the street from my house, simply to pick up rechargeable batteries and some portable travel speakers for my CD player. I was rushed, so a quick 5 min stop was what I anticipated. The sales guy there noticed I was stocking up on travel supplies and inquired as to where I was going. I could already tell by his accent (after months of listening to the “Teach Yourself Swahili” CD) that he was of African descent. When I told him I was headed to Africa, his eyes bulged out in wonderment. Before he could ask, “Why?” I explained that I was volunteering in Tanzania. Turns out, he is a Nigerian who moved his family to the U.S. 5 years ago……and had never traveled outside of his home country until his big move. What threw me for a loop was when this “brave” African man asks me, “Why go all the way to Africa to volunteer? Why not just head to East Oakland or the Bronx?”

Okay, shall I explain my stance to this man in just 5 minutes????

What started out as a 5 min quick stop errand, evolved into a 45 minute debate over why it was important for me to expose myself to this new culture, and immerse myself in hands on service that could potentially reach a global level. I have skills, damnit, that could possibly catalyze social change and I must show my support and solidarity to our brothers and sisters across the globe and allow them to become aware of the world around them through their exposure to other cultures as well !! It’s all about cross cultural solutions, my African brotha!

At the end of my “lecture,” I paid my $34.52 USD, smiled, and he responded:

“I hope you enjoy your stay in Africa. Take lots of pics!”

Oh, the irony……..

  • Intro Updated Jun 30, 2005
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Reviews (3)

Comments (12)

  • Oct 28, 2007 at 11:09 PM

    how you manage to always look so hawt, even after climbing and trekking, is beyond me. i look like a feral after walking 5 minutes to the corner store for my red bull fix!

  • Norali's Profile Photo
    Nov 20, 2006 at 7:48 AM

    Be glad to spend "winter home" in SF as it enables to enjoy better the future "winter home" in far-off countries such as Zanzi or Tanzania. Let's hope there would be many of those foreign "winter home".

  • Hexepatty's Profile Photo
    Nov 19, 2006 at 7:49 AM

    I'm hear... waiting for your pages. ; ) Congrats for ascending to the heavens of Kili, dear! I can't wait to hear and read all about it!!! BIG HUG!

  • JPGoncalves's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2006 at 9:50 AM

    I agree with the Nigerian Man. Hope u had fun.

  • Gypsystravels's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2006 at 9:23 AM

    I had a fantastic hike this past weekend!! The boots felt better. I guess I have to continue to break them in!! How was your hike this past weekend? Counting the days til KILI!!

  • VA_Dave's Profile Photo
    Aug 20, 2005 at 9:40 PM

    Go for it! You will be standing on the roof of Africa.

  • Confucius's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2005 at 11:29 AM

    OK, OK, I was planning on touring the Greek Isles next year, but now I think I should volunteer. I'm learning the local language too, with phrases like "Yo!" and "Wuz'matta You?" Confucius in da Bronx, baby!

  • Johnny_CA's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2005 at 9:51 PM

    you should've told your radio shack friend that you wanted to volunteer in africa because you need to brush up on some swahili. it's good to keep it sharp.

  • luddinra's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2005 at 7:39 PM

    How funny GG. It's not just for them, is it?

  • safardreams's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2005 at 5:05 PM

    mzungu????? you have no idea how much this makes me laugh, thx. i heard that a thousand times in uganda from all the kids. yelling & screaming that word. it was great : ) but i prefer MCHAWI!!!!! d


“If you always heed the fears of others, you will never end up doing anything different”

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