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Just arrived in Morogogo, Tanzania

June 5, 2017

Arrived in Africa at 2:30 in the morning and had to wait at the airport until 8:00 to be picked up. A man from Senegal named Harry sat next to me, and we started to talk. I don’t remember all the conversation, but we became a team helping to watch bags as the other went to the restroom, bought a drink, or bought a sim car. Harry left just as the other Raleigh volunteers arrived.

There were five volunteers including me: Alice, Jenny, Rosie, Lisa. Al is one of the managers, and he was coming back from three weeks in England. Manuel is one of the Tanzanian volunteers, and there was a driver I never got to know. We had a five-hour drive to Morogoro where Base Camp is.

From Wikipedia:
Morogoro has a population of 315,866 and is located in the eastern part of Tanzania, 196 kilometers (122 mi) west of Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city, and commercial center, and 260 kilometers (160 mi) east of Dodoma, the country’s capital city.[3] Morogoro is the capital of the Morogoro Region. It is also known informally as “Mji kasoro bahari,” which translates as “city short of an ocean/port.”

We had two pits stops including lunch. The toilets in the gas stations are built into the floor. I never got formal instructions, so I have no idea how others use them. There is no toilet paper, but there is a hose that you use to wash yourself off. It was very strange, but the ones I saw were immaculate.

We got to base camp late in the afternoon and were greeted and inducted by the staff.

The small group that I came in with and six others, men and woman, were taken to a house nearby. It is an odd one story stucco building with lots of rooms.

My room has three sets of bunk beds, all wrapped in white mosquito mesh. It looks very peaceful and angelic. I pulled out my mosquito mesh to find it’s black and doesn’t hang the same way as the others. I could never get it up right, and last night it finally fell on top of me. I look like a big blob of black netting.

I’ve been reading over the Technical Guide for Photographers, and it is extremely technical. Feeling overwhelmed and jet lagged. UGH!

Monday, June 5, 2017

It’s 7:33 PM in Los Angeles and 5:33 Am in Tanzania. I’m always up at this time no matter where I am and what time I go to sleep. It’s confusing with clocks set at different times, LA and local. I got up about an hour ago and tried to go back to sleep. It wasn’t going to happen, so I decided to get up, and write. No one is up, so it’s peaceful but not quiet. There is an array of animal sounds coming from nearby. I can distinguish chickens, dogs, birds, roosters, then some stronger sound, more exotic. Up by the main house, there is a cacophony of fog sounds, not like New York bullfrogs. No one here seems to give much attention to the noise. It’s just the backdrop of Africa, and although it’s penetrating and distinctive, it doesn’t appear to effect the little colony I have recently entered.

I have often read about experiences like this. People from all over the world gathering for a cause. Strange bedfellows and then not so strange. I have been looking for common ground – wanderlust, a sense of danger, need for experience, the “average” or an everyday world that most of us come from that doesn’t offer enough, so we pack up and join something that will provide change. No one here had known anyone else before they arrived. They have all come from different parts of the world. Britain is primary, it’s the home country, and there are Londoners, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, an Australian and several local Tanzanians. I am the United States, and I hear there have been many Chinese, Japanese and French volunteers.

I have been on a particular path for a while. The Joshua Tree, homeowner, vacation rental entrepreneur track. I have left that behind me and yet it still exists. I can feel a loose tether.

I would write about Africa. I have only been here two days, and because of all the early hours, it seems longer. It also feels oddly familiar and comfortable. The physical place wraps around you like silk blanket or cocoon. You move in and out of it. It can enclose you and then slip off. The Uluguru Mountains are right behind Base Camp. One member of the staff climbed one of the peaks and said it isn’t something he would do again. It’s winter and the rainy season just ended. Everything is green and lush. Tall stocks of corn are everywhere. The Tanzanians call it Maze. They aren’t fields as I know it, nothing laid out in squares and planted and tended to. The Maze seems to take over the area, although I’m sure there is planting and tending, I don’t see it belonging to one person or one company. It belongs to the area and spreads from house to house like a weed.

I have not figured out what kind of area this is, rich or poor, or what kind of people live here. I have asked my fellow Raleigh travelers, and they just shrug. Many of the houses around Base Camp are huge by any standard, and most of them are not maintained. The plumbing is basic, water is limited and not always drinkable, No hot water anywhere, there are no personal computers, smartphone, and luxuries. I have seen a few satellite dishes, and some of the houses are beautifully manicured, with an array of creative topiaries at the front of the house. I have not seen inside. And so much of what I see has no boundaries. There are shacks attached to some of the big houses, and they seem to have a lot of activity. Women walk around carrying packages, laundry, or clothing on their heads. Children stroll up the red clay paths with goats or hungry dogs. When it rains, everything turns to mud.

The people speak Swahili, and unfortunately, I don’t yet speak the language yet, but I hope to learn while I’m here. Three months is a long time. No one stays in one location except for hired staff, and then the longest may be a year or two. Everyone else is assigned different jobs in different places. I will be moving from one location to anther soon. Right now, this is my training. I’m learning about Raleigh, and what they need from me as a photographer. Rosie is the other photographer, and she will be staying seven weeks opposed to my 12. Two weeks are training, and the rest is on assignment. Apparently, they don’t usually have two photographers. I like it. We are both willing to help each other and both aware of our strengths and weaknesses.

It’s 6:19 now. The sun seems to be coming up, and the animal sounds keep changing with the time of day. I do here roasters all day which surprises me. I always thought they were just morning singers. Not so. No one else is up yet. We don’t have to be at the main house until 9:00 and I probably won’t see anyone until 7:30 or 8:00.

It’s informal here. Breakfast is whatever you want, and you are responsible for it. Porridge is standard, an instant variety. I missed breakfast yesterday. I haven’t figured out the system yet. There will be a chance to go shopping and pick up our supplies. Everyone has to cook one day. I’m feeling very apprehensive about my turn.

It seems safe here, but it’s not. No one describes what happens as a crime. The staff describes it as poverty. If you have a big phone or a computer or a camera, don’t flash it. These things are impossible for the average Tanzanian ever to own, and it might just be taken. It’s not that they mean to steal, someone here said, it’s just they want it.

I’m going to be blogging for Raleigh as well as blogging for myself. I can already see the two blogs will have very a different focus. Mine will be a way of documenting this journey and holding on to it. The blog for Raleigh will be about their work and what it takes to carry out their work. It won’t be hard. I’m already impressed by the quality of people that have volunteered, their selflessness, strength, intelligence, and determination. The managers are from 23 to 33. Niki is in her fifties, and I’m the oldest in this group. I’ve heard there was a man recently that was also around my age.

I will write more and post photos whenever I can. The Internet is only at Base Camp.

The path up to the mountain from the guest house.

The path up to the mountain from the guest house.

 

The side of the guest house. The area around the house is lush and over grown. The greens, yellow greens, forest greens, yellows and moss green feel more like a painting.

The side of the guest house. The area around the house is lush and over grown. The greens, yellow greens, forest greens, yellows and moss green feel more like a painting.

A panorama of the path from base camp to guest house.

A panorama of the path from base camp to guest house.

A local woman walking early in the morning

A local woman walking early in the morning

End of ART Tours and the beginning of the Season – High Desert – California

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Art tours are over and artists have gone back to the drawing board. The colder weather is setting in, sweaters and coats are coming out and the next blast of community craziness is in the air. The holiday season!!

I was actually wished a good holiday season by someone who won’t see me until January. It was a lovely thought, but it shocked me when I first heard the words. Holiday, what holiday, already, what happened to the summer?

The summer is gone, and we are all, like it or not starting to gear up for the Thanksgiving – Christmas season. I’ve already bought a couple of gifts, thought about a Christmas Tree, and felt excited by every blast of cold wind.

Time for a deep breath, a new focus and letting go. How can we be so defined by external things like a time of the year, current activities, catastrophic events, and sometimes even the small things we make big.

I have decided to ask local artists questions. I will post what I learn.

Moira Fain – Sculptor, collage artists, children’s book author and illustrator.

How was the art tours for you?

The art tours are exhausting but fun.

What would you like to see next Year?

I think (the Art Tours) are a time when people come and see what I’m about, how and where I work, my development, and particularly how I fit into this desert.

How do you feel about fall? Describe what you are doing right now that is unique to this season.

Fall is busy and full of changes. I wait all summer to hike without the extreme heat. I like to search out the petroglyphs in the area and bask in that magic.

Any big art projects in the works

I will continue to design larger steel pieces.

Quote: “Life is good.”

I’m beginning a fundraising campaign for a trip to Africa

After seeing an ad for a documentary photographer to work with a British non-profit, Raleigh International, I decided to volunteer. I was accepted and will spend three months from June 4th to September 4th in Tanzania.

I’m mounting this fundraising effort to raise $4,600. $3,200 will go directly to Raleigh and will pay for all of my in-country expenses. $1,400 will cover my flight. If there are any additional funds raised, I will use it to spend more time in Tanzania photographing and documenting the culture.

Raleigh works at a grassroots levels in partnership with rural communities and local organizations to “make small changes that can have a big impact.” They work on different types of projects, but they always focus on “access to safe water and sanitation, protecting vulnerable environments and building resilient communities.”

Raleigh’s purpose resonates deeply with me.

Another important aspect of their work is to focus on young people.

They believe that empowering the next generation is the best way to bring about lasting change. Through working side by side, young people and communities are inspired to build a sustainable future, and the participants experience how grassroots development can transform the world.

You can find out more about Raleigh International at, https://raleighinternational.org

Raleigh’s mission touches my heart, and you too may be moved by their work. This fundraising campaign will go on for the next three months. I will have small funding parties at my homestead cabin, a chance for everyone to see the cabin, I will sell many items from art to home goods to clothing. I will even give nights in the cabin for a donation, and I am also in the process of posting an on-line funding campaign. If anyone is interested in giving to the Raleigh directly or to my campaign, please let me know, and I will give you the details.

Thank you all for the constant support and friendship I have received over the years.

I am adding existing images here that will be part of the collection available for donation.

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