Lions and elephants and rhinos, oh my!


Today we went to the he Ngorongoro Crater National Park on safari.  Our safari car (Toyota Land Cruiser) picked us up at 6:30am and took us to the crater.  It was a long, bumpy, 2 hour drive, but totally worth the bum pain that followed.

On the way there, it was foggy and rainy, but once we started down into the crater and got below the clouds, we could finally see!  The early morning light that came through the clouds was stunning and made for some great photos.

The crater formed after a volcanic eruption 400 million years ago.  Now it is home to 4 of the 5 “big five” animals that live in Africa: elephants, lions, buffalo and rhinoceros, in addition to many other amazing animals.  Leopards cannot live in the crater because they live in trees that don’t exist in Ngorongoro and we also didn’t see any giraffes because they can’t physically get down into the hole.  All of the other wildlife stay there for their entire lives because there is enough water and food, unlike the Serengeti where the animals are migratory.  There are salt lakes and a number of fresh water streams, ponds and swamps that provide food and water.

The complete list of animals seen: lions, elephants, black rhino, hippos, hyenas, zebras, buffalo, jackals, ostrich and wildebeest, flamingos, and the Kori Bustard (the biggest flying bird in Africa) .

I feel so lucky to have had this experience, and it is definitely better than the zoo, by far (DEF, you would be in heaven), but I did feel a little sad at times because we were disrupting their natural habitat.  The park does not have a cap on the number of people or cars allowed in each day, so when there was an exciting animal, all of the safari cars would line up to see the it (anywhere from 5-35 cars), which is probably pretty traumatizing for them.  So, I do feel guilty that we were a part of that, but also SO excited to show you all my photos, which I will promptly upload the second I get home!

More importantly, I bought Lucy a new collar today…handmade and beaded by one of the mamas in Manyara House.   I think it will be a perfect welcome home gift.  Yes, Mom and Dad, she is coming home to me VERY SOON!



Today was my first full day as a volunteer.

My day began with sending the children off to school.  Each day, the students meet at the front of the property in their uniforms before they go to school.  Their uniform is a white button-up shirt underneath a red wool sweater, a long blue kilt (girls) or khaki shorts (boys), white and black striped socks and closed toed shoes.  All students are required to shave their heads, girls included).  My morning job is to make sure they all have school supplies (daftari-notebook and a pen or pencil).  They are allowed to trade in broken or too-small pencils and are given a new one to replace it.  If they lose any supplies, they have to do extra chores.  The volunteers walk the children to school and our morning is spent teaching the little ones (more on my teaching assignment later!).

The afternoon is playtime!  After their nap, the kids are allowed to play until the big kids get home from school.  Today I spent my afternoon reading to Ema (ee-muh), a three year old boy. Ema loves animals.  There are a number of pets who live here: two kittens (Mayai and Chipsi) and two dogs, one very old black lab, Kira and a portuguese water dog, Winchester.  Ema spends much of his playtime chasing around the animals and loving on them, giving them kisses, hugs and petting them.  Naturally, Ema and I are already good buds.  So, we read 6 books of his choosing, and all were about animals.  The boy knows what he likes!

After playtime, I went for a walk with Maddy, the volunteer coordinator.  We took a walk through the coffee fields and there were some stunning views.  

When I returned home, I went to Ramundo House (all girls) for Chapatti dinner.  Every Thursday we get to eat with the children.  Chapatti is a less dough-ey, naan-like, oily bread served with beans and cabbage.  We sit with the girls and encourage table manners and speaking English.  I ate with Ramundo House because beginning on the 10th, I will be living there!  The girls were excited to have me as a guest and we had a good time eating and laughing together.  

Almost one week done…hard to believe!