Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

One Last Hoorah

Austin and I decided to go for it and take one last trip to Arusha. We took the long bus ride over on the 6am Dar Express. We hung out with Zac and Hannah for just a couple days, as they graciously hosted us, took us around the town, and fed us. Our time with them was refreshing and challenging.

We also decided to do a safari in the Ngorogoro Crater. Zac and Hannah hooked us up with some other people from Arusha to save us some dough and we headed out to the Crater.

It is about a 3 hour drive from Zac and Hannah’s house to the bottom of the crater which is a pretty easy drive. Our driver Nixon, has been a tour guide for a long time so he taught us lots about the crater and more. As we drove there, we passed through the East African Rift Valley, which was pretty cool, and we also passed by Lake Manyara, another place that has lots of wildlife.

The Ngorogoro Crater was once a volcano that is now just a big huge bowl that is just over 200 square km inside. When we arrived we were not able to see the view from the rim, because of some cloud cover, but we were able to see it on the way out and it was breathtaking. You can see herds of wildebeests, zebras, flamingos and others massed together from the rim. There are grasslands, a forest area, and lakes of water as well. The crater is a perfect place for animal life to thrive because it is so protected. It is a great place for breeding and feeding, especially for the cats who pretty much have their choice for dinner.

Once we made the descent into the crater we saw so many animals! We saw enormous elephants that were around 60 years old. Nixon told us that the Crater is like a retirement ground for the few elephants there because it is so peaceful, has water and lots of greenery to eat. During our lunch break two elephants walked right through the parking lot we were in. Many of the tourists were being typical tourists and got too close to them, making them not so happy. I decided to stay away, but we did get some sweet pictures. We saw herds of zebra and wildebeests hanging out together in massive numbers. Apparently Zebra have good eyes, and Wildebeests good ears so together they are able to help each other out when predators are own the prowl. We saw hippos going in and out of the water, but we stayed far away because we have heard they are some of the most aggressive animals around. We saw a cheetah, trying to hide out and hunt some wildebeests. We saw rhinos at a a distance, but I really couldn’t make out their shape even, so we weren’t close at all. We saw a bird, I forgot what it was called, perched on a dry tree eating a rat. He was so content with his catch, and working vigorously to eat the slimy guts we saw. We saw tons of flamingos across the lake. They were some of  my favorites. Their color is so beautiful and I love that they are always in together. Our biggest find for the day were the lions. We saw three all together. The first one was a male who was hanging out in the grasslands by himself. He posed for a picture for us and then went back to his cat nap. He was not nearly as exciting as the lion and lioness we saw shortly afterwards, who were mating. At first I skeptical that we would actually see anything besides them laying there. But they were so majestic laying around watching over the creatures in the Crater. Then after about 10 minutes of being there the male jumped on top of the female for all of about 3 seconds hopped off and that was it. The female, rolled over as if to show she was exhausted, and then laid on her back playfully as if to say she was so very content. It was pretty funny. Our guide told us that when mating they will continue this pattern for 2 to 3 days every 15 mins or so. That must be tiring! I guess it does really help to ensure that their population will keep growing. It was fascinating to say the least.

After a long full day driving through the Crater, we headed back out. What a beautiful look at God’s incredible creation, He is the ultimate artist.

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Island Paradise

Welcome to Mbudja Island!

Just off the shore of the Indian ocean that we live one mile from, there are a few islands that you can take day trips to. There are Tanzanians that live on the Island and take all the money from the wazungu that want to spend the day there. However, it is well worth the 30 dollar trip in my opinion.

Snake Island (We chose not to go there).

Another boat we ran into on the way.

We started with a short boat ride on a “speed boat.” It was not so speedy but it did get us there. When we arrived we set up camp in a banda and then headed out for adventure. I was unsure if you could actually walk around the entire island but found out that it was possible. It took us about 2 hours to walk around the whole thing, and thank the Lord it was low tide or else it would not have been possible at all. We saw all sorts of sea life including, starfish big and small, sea cucumbers which I have never seen in the wild before, crabs of all sizes and colors, many different fish, sea urchins everywhere, and we even saw an eel that was about 3 feet long, and had babies. It was an exciting adventure to say the least. While out on the far side of the island we were also able to see the bigger waves that break right at the barrier reef just a few miles from shore. If only they broke right at shore. Then Austin could have perfected his surfing and opened up the first ever surf shop in Tanzania.

Starfish #1.

Starfish #2. It was HUGE!.

Sea Urchins.

So beautiful!

BIG WAVES!

After our two hours circumnavigating the island, it was lunch time. The menu consisted of Fresh Fish caught while we were exploring and chips (french fries). They were delicious.

We were all ready for some rest after lunch. We sat and read and enjoyed the cool ocean breezes of winter.

The return boat came to pick us up, but not before we got to take a quick dip in the water. The temperature was perfect both inside and outside of the water and it was so refreshing.

Our new friends Mary and Erin.

The way back was a bit choppy as the winds had picked up. We were all completely soaked but it, along with our sunburns, did not spoil our day of paradise at Mbudja Island.

Saying goodbye to Mbudja.

Iringa Camp

A few days after getting laundry done and a bit of rest, Austin and I hopped back in the car and headed to Iringa, a city in the southern part of Tanzania, to serve at the first ever camp in Iringa. We went with Opas, Len, and Neal some of our good friends from Dar es Salaam, who also serve with Young Life Africa.

On the drive over we passed through Mikumi National Park that is the closest safari park to Dar es Salaam. As we passed through we got to see some animals for free, giraffes, zebras, monkeys and cape buffalo just off the side of the road. Pretty awesome if you ask me. It definitely made for a more interesting car ride.

Giraffes on the side of the road.

When we arrived we were happy to see that Iringa, was also very cold. We wore jackets and scarves which is a first for our time here in Tanzania. The town is placed in the midst of hills that are full of rocks. This made Austin very excited as we have not seen any rocks that are climbable since we have arrived here. Too bad we left his climbing gear in America. Iringa also has a great market that we got to check out and buy baskets from. There is also an awesome NGO there called Neema Crafts, which employs and helps disabled Tanzanians. It is an amazing ministry they do and their crafts are beautiful. We bought a few things from them and enjoyed coffee and snacks at their cafe.

We were joined by many of the same team who helped us with the Arusha camp. We all sat together and tried to plan the camp, however, this proved to be difficult because we had never had camp there before and because the University where the camp was to take place was not cooperating.

Nothing went as planned but camp was still a success. Our welcome, was not typical because we were not allowed to make much noise but the kids loved it anyways. The first club was held in a field at the school the kids attend. We had to pull weeds and clean up the area first, but everyone enjoyed it and the weather was perfect.

The First Club.

The kids headed back to the University with their leaders, on a scavenger hunt created by Austin and a few of the work crew.

Upon their arrival we greeted them and gave them a room key. Unfortunately we did not have enough rooms for everyone and many of them had to share with many others, but there was not complaint at all.  I love that about the kids here, they do not complain about much at all. They are grateful and full of joy.

Club #2 went well in our homemade club room. We bought fabric and sewed it together to create colorful walls, and decorated the dining hall as well.

Sewing up a colorful club room.

The food for this camp was incredible. Mama Edda, who runs YL Iringa, had some of her friends cater and they were amazing. Up until this week I did not know such food existed here. Austin and I were  very happy about this!

Obstacle courses, field games and much more went on in the few days to follow, however, everything about this camp was go with the flow. We did not know what was going to happen until the moment it happened. At times I was frustrated with this, but you just have to learn how to roll with the punches.

Alexi playing the vuvuzela.

Overall, the kids, leaders and work crew were very happy with their camp experience. It was a pleasure to serve at this camp and we pray that there are many more to come in the future for Iringa.

I heart Work Crew!

Arusha Camp

This summer we have had the awesome privilege of serving at some local Young Life camps here in Tanzania. First on the map was the Arusha Camp.

The Arusha Camp takes place at a local school called Peace House. Peace House was created 2 years ago by an American, and is school for children who would not otherwise be able to afford any education. The school itself is on a beautiful plot of land that has a beautiful view of Mt. Meru. It is a perfect location to hold camp as there are many dorms, and room for lots of people!

We arrived and were greeted by our dear friends Martin, Alexis, Jaque and others who work for Young Life Africa. Because camp for the Arusha YL had already been there before, they had a good idea of what needed to be done. Austin and I, along with our friends Zac and Hannah were Work Crew Bosses, this means we were in charge of the kids who came to make sure that camp was clean, ready and welcoming for the kids who have not been to camp. Austin was in charge of the Outdoor Crew, making sure the grounds looked great, and the obstacle course was full of mud. I was in charge of house keeping, making sure that everyone had a place to sleep and that it was clean.

The wedding band welcoming the kids to camp

Campers came being greeted by a traditional wedding band which was awesome. The work crew all grabbed branches from trees and paraded in with them. Martin, who was in charge of program, made sure to give them a big welcome as Mr. Biggie Biggie.

Martin as Mr. Biggie Biggie

After all 290 leaders and campers got settled we had our first meal. To say that it was loud is an understatement. The DJ was blasting, many kids had the world cup staple, the vuvuzela, blowing, and two kids even came in with trumpets blaring. The love LOUD!

After dinner we had the first club which was full of energy! To conclude the night, the campers and leaders went through the obstacle course. They had to crawl through mud, dodge water and flour, and carry their leaders in the cold windy weather, but they loved it thoroughly!

Mastering the obstacle course with vuvuzelas!

The second day was full of work for the work crew. We were all very tired at the end of cleaning up all of the mud from the obstacle course! I even got to serve as the camp nurse, which was interesting because I am not, nor should I ever be a real nurse. However, a few kids needed some mending. One girl had gotten lime in her eyes, because they used that instead of flour. Needless to say she needed a good cleansing. Poor baby. By the end of the week she was back to normal. Praise the Lord.

Later the kids had field games and ended the night with cultural dancing which was interesting to say the least. Each cabin put together a dance that was native to some of their own tribes. Many groups made their own grass skirts, from the fields.

Using nature to show off some tribal moves.

On the third day the kids were taken on a Safari. Most Tanzanians never have the opportunity to go on safari, even though they live in the safari capital of the world, so this is a HUGE treat for them. The kids loved it! While they were on Safari, the work crew cleaned and got to rest. We took a beautiful walk into the hills where there are some flower fields. They were gorgeous.

Flower fields with my honey : )

The fourth day we had one last club, cleaned up and headed out! It was a lot of work in a short amount of time but well worth it.

While there it was easy to feel very out of place. Although I know the ins and outs about camp in America, camp in Tanzania is very different. Not only were we of different color but our ways of thinking, and planning are so very different. I had to have much patience. This opened my eyes very much to what our friends Jaque, Alexis, and Martin must have gone through when we first met them and they were serving at Lost Canyon in America, in 2008. I can only imagine how overwhelming our American camp was to them.

After camp was over, I had a chance to talk to them about this and they very much agreed that it was overwhelming. The experience of serving at their camp was very rewarding and a wonderful opportunity for me to learn how Young Life can translate cross culturally.

All camp photo.

Arusha Time

I have said it before and I will say it again! I LOVE ARUSHA! Whenever we go there I am so filled with happiness and joy! There are many reasons for this but here are the reasons from our past week in Arusha:

1. There are mountains everywhere. Coming from Tucson, I love the mountains so much and miss them greatly while living in Dar. The mountains and hills are beautiful, especially when Mt. Meru, Kilimanjaro’s sister mountain in Tanzania, makes an appearance from behind the clouds.

Mt. Meru and the Wedding Band at Camp.

2. The weather was incredible. We even wore jackets and had gloves on. Maybe it wasn’t quite cold enough for them but either way we were actually feeling cold and I was loving it.

Bundled up (compared to Dar) with Hannah on the porch.

3. Great friends. We have many great friends in Arusha, and this time there were many more that came from Kenya and other areas who we got to hang out with. Zac and Hannah, who do YL at the International schools in Arusha and let us stay in their fabulous house. James and Martin, YL Africa Staff from Kenya who are sure to make you laugh every time you are with them. Alexis and Jaque who run YL in Arusha for the national schools, who are so passionate about what they are doing and great company. Along with these friends we were able to hang out with other people in their circle of friends which was so much fun. I have not laughed as hard as we laughed with them in a long while.

Laughing so hard with our friends at dinner.

4. Great food. Because of the cooler weather, Arusha is able to have things like grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and lettuce available much more often then we have in Dar. We were very thankful and made sure to capitalize during our time there. We also made sure to pick up some of the most delicious coffee (according to Austin the coffee expert), in Tanzania from Burka Coffee. On our final night we had a BBQ with Zac and Hannah and their friends Tait and Hunter and John and Wendy with their kids. It was so wonderful. We ate outside under the moonlight, with a bonfire.

Bonfire time.

All of these things made going back to Dar hard to swallow. I am so grateful for our time there of relaxing and spending time with wonderful people.

Katie Got Married

There are very few people in your life that know everything about you. The kind of friend that you grow up with and do everything together as kids. The kind of friend that even through the ups and downs of life, you can still always pick up and leave off right where you left it. The friend who always understands you, well as best as anyone can.

Katie, has been that friend for me since the first grade. Since the first day of school we knew we would be friends. We grew up together; swim team, youth group, soccer, softball (which we were not so good at), girl scouts and so much more. Not to mention, we went to school together from first grade all the way through college. We had our times of trials, like the time in third grade when we broke up, and of course unforgettable times like when we did a talent show routine to Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.”

Anyways, there are also very few friends I would even consider flying across the world for their wedding day, but Katie is an exception. And so we flew literally across the world for Katie’s big day.

Thankfully, I was able to be there for a lot of the festivities. I went to the bachelorette party which was lots of fun, and the Bridesmaids luncheon at the Arizona Inn. I went to the rehearsal, and dinner. And of course Saturday was wedding day all day.

The wedding was beautiful and went off without a hitch. Katie, and her new husband Danny who I think is wonderful for Katie, got married at the church we grew up at, and had the reception at her parent’s house. It was a great event that brought together so many of our friends and family that we grew up with.

Seeing Katie walk down the aisle, was like watching my sister walk down the aisle. I could not have been happier that we were there for the big day.

Congrats to Katie and Danny Marwitz! May God bless you and your marriage always!

Mr. and Mrs. Marwitz

Me and Katie

The Newlyweds

Dancing with my Brother and Daddy

Family Time!

If you know anything about me you know that I LOVE MY FAMILY! God has blessed me so much with an amazing family. The greatest part about my family is that it does not just include my Dad, Mom and Brother. I have tons of cousins, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, more second cousins than you can imagine, friends who have been like family forever, and since I have been married I have a whole new family to add to it.

During our time in the Tucson, we were able to spend lots of quality time with almost all of them. We started with a quiet two days at my parent’s brand new, beautiful cabin. Although I have much nostalgia for the cabin I grew up in, I do very much like the new one and I am excited to spend lots of vacation time there. Not only was it cold there, but we even got to play and sled in the snow with our puppies, who of course are a huge part of our family too! Mostly I loved being with my Mom and Dad who are beyond wonderful.

Me and my family at Katie's wedding

Then Austin’s Mom, Craig and Matty came into town for a whirl wind weekend. We had lots of Mexican food, went hiking in Sabino Canyon, went to Bookmans and ate lots of Eegees. During this weekend we also had a homecoming party so that we could see as many of our friends and family as we could. I made Pilau, a Tanzanian meat, rice and potato dish, and Kachumbali Salad, a caggbage salad, and Mandazi, doughnuts of some sort. We always love to have people over and to throw large parties so this was a treat.

Milkshakes at Little Anthony's with Austin's mom, Craig and sister Amy

The second week we were there we had meetings one after the other, with friends and family. From 7am until 10pm or later we were out and about having coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner with our irreplaceable community in Tucson. I would love to tell you about each of them and how much they mean to us but really that would just take forever. Just know that, that is in my opinion, what is hardest to be away from.

We also had some quality time with Austin’s Dad, Mary, Amy, Veronica and Rhonda. I always love our relaxing dinners at their house. We took Charlie to Baum’s, he seemed to miss the place a bit but really he seems pretty laid back and content wherever and whoever he is with.

Austin's family sister Amy, Mary, Veronica, Rhonda, and Fred

My great uncle Frankie invited us to dinner which was so picturesque, with their views of the sunset and Catalina Mountains. My great aunts and uncle remind me so much of my grandmother, which is hard and wonderful at the same time.

Dinner at Uncle Frankie's with a very small part of the Vasquez side of the family.

My mom’s side of the family came over and we made them dinner which was wonderful and reminded me of the good old days when we all had dinner every Wednesday at Granny’ house. I got some good time with many of them but always wish I had more.

The Terry Cousins : )

My cousin Elena, was even able to do my hair for the wedding, which turned out beautifully! Thanks Elena!

Some of my favorite times, were with my brother. Because he is in his last semester of college, his schedule is much more flexible. This allowed us to get a lot of quality time together. He is and always has been my best friend! We have always gotten along well which is strange for brother and sister so close together in age. He graduates from college and leaves for active duty in the Army in a few weeks, and I am so proud of him. I am so thankful for our time together before his new adventure in life.

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Again, I am so grateful for ALL of my family. I pray for them daily and cling to this verse when I am missing them:

“I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters, or mother or father, or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30