August 23, 2008

Tanzania, July 2008

Monduli is a scenic and very interesting little village. It is well worth a visit to see and experience life outside of Arusha. It’s a small town, but seems to have everything one would need: a bank, a post office, a supermarket, a restaurant, several guest houses, a lively local market, schools, etc. Like most small towns, it was quieter and cleaner than the city nearby, and there is a pleasant and relaxed feeling in the town.

Hardy Visit to Monduli

• Monduli
• Thomas
• Monduli District Council Rest House
• Activities
• Reflections
• Orphan Projects

There are many farms in Monduli which make the landscape especially pleasing to look at. The rich, fertile soils are dark reds and brown, which create a striking contrast to the bright yellow and green crops. We saw evidence of lots of agriculture: rows and rows of planted crops in fields along hills and mountainsides. There were fields of flowers growing as well. The colors are truly beautiful. There are also areas of forest between Monduli and Monduli Juu, which contain a variety of trees and plants, many of which I cannot name, unfortunately. Many trees resembled those which we have in the States in our temperate forests.

It was a pleasure to meet Thomas. He is a unique and dedicated individual, and obviously has a lot of clout and power in Monduli. He is kind and very well respected. It was fascinating for us to meet and speak to a ‘modern Maasai.’ Thomas speaks at least three languages fluently, Maasai, Swahili and English, making him the perfect host for travelers from the US and Europe. He can communicate with everyone and translate questions for visitors. Because of his stature in this town, all of the locals were eager to please Thomas. He is educated and diplomatic. We felt at once welcomed by him and in awe of his accomplishments. We were proud to be his guests.

The Monduli District Council Rest House
I assume you know the history of the Rest House. We spoke at length to the manager, Emmanuel, and learned of his connection to the place. After some initial confusion about our arrival, the length of our stay, the fees and meals, we were able to have our rooms cleaned and move our things in. We had two double rooms which were similar to student dorms. The rooms were bright, airy, spacious, and colorfully painted. Each room was similar to a suite and had a large sleeping area, a “study” area with two shelf-like desks, a door to the rear garden and a very large bathroom with a separate shower area and hot water. For meals, we went to the dining room which had a beautiful, large wooden table and chairs and was adjacent to a living room area complete with a non-working TV and fireplace. This room, too, had floor to ceiling glass doors to the rear garden.
The grounds are full of beautiful flowers and several resident gardeners excellently maintain the gardens. A fence surrounds the property and there was a night watchman on duty overnight.

In the afternoon, Jonathan and I left the property and walked up the road for a mile or so. We saw many homes and small farms, children and people walking from town or from the woods at the top of the hill carrying bundles of firewood on their heads. Most people were friendly and greeted us. Some children followed us for a bit. The sun was setting as we walked home. The views were just lovely.

Emmanuel arranged for our dinner to be prepared by the woman who cleaned our rooms. She made an excellent chicken curry with rice, potatoes and salad. Fruit was served for desert. We brought wine with us and our children purchased Cokes from the kitchen. Water was also available for sale. Emmanuel prepared a delicious breakfast for us himself which included eggs made to order, sausages, toast, butter, jam, tea with sugar and fresh milk from his own cow. It was a beautiful and delicious spread. During breakfast he sat with us for a long time and told us many thinks about his life, his family and his job with the district council He explained that he raises his own cow to make sure he knows that his milk is safe from harmful medications or bacteria. Emmanuel was distressed that our plans had changed so that we were only staying one night. He hoped that it wasn’t anything that he had done wrong. We assured him that everything was very much to our liking. His were the best accommodations we had during our entire trip to Tanzania! We love the MDC Rest House and recommend that your guests stay there. Just make sure Emmanuel knows the exact arrival date!

The problem for Thomas with our staying at the MDC Rest House was the distance for him to drive, 14k. I think it was partially for this reason that he decided to invite us to stay in his home the second night. While his invitation and hospitality were very gracious and the experience of a home-stay invaluable, it was a drastic change for us to move from the ultra-comfortable rest house into Thomas’ house. For one thing, I sense that it was quite an imposition on Thomas’s family. I’m not sure who was moved out of the room in which we slept, but I’m sure it is someone’s room. I don’t think Thomas’s wife was prepared to cook a meal for five extra people and he ran around town collecting groceries on our way out of Monduli. But, the family’s kindness and generosity were evident, and we felt very welcomed.
Thomas proudly showed us his TV and turned it on, and it remained on and blasting throughout our visit. We were introduced to his children, and met two orphans whom he and his wife have taken in.

Upon arrival, our first activity after we left the Rest House was lunch. Thomas took us to a local restaurant/bar which is quiet enough during the day for families. The food was pretty good and the prices very reasonable.

After lunch, Thomas took us to visit the school where he had taught. I had asked him at the Rest House if it would be possible to see a school that day, as the next day was Saturday and I was afraid that school would not be in session. The school visit was amazing. We met a teacher and spoke for a while about some of the challenges the school faces. Then we visited several classrooms, the highlight of which was Religion class because it was a room packed with children singing beautifully. Thomas explained who we were and taught us how to introduce ourselves in Swahili.

After the school visit, Thomas drove us back to town and we had the afternoon free. His plan was to drop us in town, but because my son, Jeremy, was running a fever and lacked the energy to do anything, Thomas drove us back to the Rest House and left us until the next morning. I would have enjoyed the walk through town and never actually go to see many of the streets and businesses there. Steven stayed with Thomas, although he seemed reluctant to leave us alone in town. At that point, there was no power at the Rest House. I assured Steven that we had flashlights and had found a candle and that we would be fine. After our children settled in for a rest, Jonathan and I took our walk up the mountain which I described earlier.

After breakfast the next day, Thomas was anxious for us to get back to Monduli Juu to the Maasai Market. But, we arrived before it was really open. So we unloaded our things at Thomas’s house and met his family. Then, he took us for a ride out of town to view the Rift Valley. It wasn’t really a hike, but a short walk down the road to a point where we had good visibility of the valley below. We happened to sit in a circle on some rocks and chat about some of the work Thomas does preparing children for primary school. We talked about how to get more sponsors for students and how our school, which does a lot of community service on a global scale, can help support some of the orphans in Monduli. Thomas told us the most amazing little story of his own childhood and I could shoot myself for not having had the videotape running!

On our way back to the market, Thomas showed us his campgrounds. We were amazed! It’s a work in progress and needs to have to toilets completed and showers built, but he has a great location with lots of scenic views.
The market was in full swing when we returned and we walked around looking at the many things for sale. Thomas’ plan was to have us eat grilled meat and drink Cokes at the market for lunch. I’m ashamed to say that except for my husband, Jonathan, we were all too squeamish and offered to skip lunch. Thomas realized that this wouldn’t work and drove us all the way back into Monduli to eat at the restaurant. I felt bad about this, but I was relieved.

After lunch, we returned to the market again, and this time we walked around and shopped. Jeremy was better, and wanted to get in on the pool game that some Maasai boys were playing. We hung around for quite some time, looking at animals and chatting with people. Thomas knows everyone.

After the market, we returned to Thomas’ house for tea. We watched TV and chatted. My children played with the family’s puppy and I tried to catch baby chicks.

Toward the evening, we walked up to the Maasai boma and had our visit there. Thomas wanted to wait to go until the cattle returned. When we arrived, Thomas began the visit with the required chat with the elder. He and the elder and Jonathan sat on stools while I played with the Maasai children. Elsa and Jeremy opted to play soccer at the school with Steven instead of visiting the Maasai.

When it was time, Thomas showed us inside a manyatta and we chatted with the residents. It was very smoky and getting dark, but I was able to take photographs with my flash which illuminated the inside of the house pretty well. The people were lovely and welcoming.

When we returned to Thomas’ house, we were offered “showers” before dinner. We weren’t sure how this would work as there are no showers there, so we declined. Steven seemed incredulous about this but we assured him that we would bathe the next night in Moshi. Strangely, no one seemed to bathe that night, or wash up. We had no model to follow so we just stood outside and brushed our teeth, and tried to rinse away the toothpaste with extra water.

Thomas’ wife prepared a lovely dinner for us. She made chicken and rice, and potatoes served with avocados and, for desert, oranges. We ate in the living room around the blaring TV. After the news and the soccer highlights, a soap opera came on that captivated Thomas’s wife and children.

After dinner, Jonathan asked Thomas to teach him a welcoming song that the children had sung at school. Thomas and his wife sang the song several times so that Jonathan could write out the melody. This I taped and you can hear the TV blasting through the whole thing. Then Thomas translated the meaning of the words. This is the only song that Jonathan learned while we were in Tanzania. Thank goodness we went to Monduli!

The next morning, we had breakfast, tea and toast. After a huge discussion, it was decided that we would stay for church services, which began at 10am. That was the most wonderful experience of all. The church choir sings beautifully, in harmony, traditional sounding, albeit religious, African hymns and songs. We taped the part of the service we saw. During the announcements, Thomas stood and greeted the congregation. He had us introduce ourselves and asked me to speak! I stood and thanked everyone for welcoming us and complimented the choir for the most beautiful music we heard in Tanzania.

When it was time to leave, Thomas drove us back into town again and arranged for us to return to Arusha on a safe dala dala. We paid him, thanked him, exchanged email addresses, and said goodbye.

Monduli is definitely worth a visit, but I’m not sure how long a visit is required. Steven thought that the weekend was especially good so that visitors can see the Maasai market on Saturday and the church service (which we almost didn’t opt to stay for,) on Sunday. I agree.

Our stay was two days, and I asked Thomas if he felt there was something we hadn’t seen that he wanted to show us. He wanted us to see the dispensary where his wife works as a doctor and to learn about some of the health issues plaguing Tanzanians.

I would have like to spent more time, an entire afternoon perhaps, at the school, but I’m not sure if the average visitor would want to spend that much time there.

Steven and I also agreed that the Maasai boma visit should be in the morning so that there is better light inside the manyatta.

Here is a recap of (my understanding of) what activities Thomas can offer at this time:
• Visit to a Maasai boma
• Visit to a Monduli primary school
• Trip to see the Rift Valley
• Visit to the Maasai market (should be in the afternoon)
• Visit to the Sunday market in Monduli town
• Attend church services in Monduli Juu
• Visit the dispensary and hear lecture on health issues

• Thomas needs chairs for sitting around and chatting outside, away from the prized TV.
• Monduli Juu needs a restaurant so that the number of 14k journeys into town can be reduced.
• Thomas needs some kind of shower facility, both at his house and at the campsite. (I think he’s building a guesthouse adjacent to his property so maybe these ideas of a sitting area and showers are already in the works.)
• In Dar, I got a cultural tour guide book called Tanzania Cultural Tourism, which you may know, but it lists activities for Monduli Juu as follows:
o A picturesque journey through the evergreen rainforest
o A medicinal tour of plants and herbs, which includes a visit to a traditional Maasai healer
o A visit to Naramatu-a small factory where Maasai women make ethnic jewelry
o A chance to have ‘nyama choma’ or roast meat with the Maasai
o Panoramic views of the Rift Valley, Oldonyo Lengai and Lake Natron
o An insight into the culture of the Maasai and the Waaarusha
They offer half, full, two, three and four day tours. For further information about Monduli Juu, contact, 255-787-755-671. I would like to have seen the factory.

Orphan Projects
Thomas did not have written materials on hand to give me that describe his work. I asked him to send us materials which I can share with my colleagues, administrators and parent body. I think that both Thomas’ project and your project might very well find sponsors among our school’s parent body, particularly third grade parents, because of the Africa curriculum we present. Prior to leaving, I thought about some ways to give sponsors feedback about the child or children they are sponsoring. My rough ideas include:
• A child profile, similar to those in the DK book, Children Just Like Me. (Do you know this book? If not, order a copy on Amazon!)
• Work samples, or writing samples, or drawings the child has made.
• Before and after samples of work, showing work from the beginning and then the end of the school year.
• A small poster or visual resume or report card, which could include thumbnail samples of work scanned in.
• For an older child, a reflection or memoir of the school experience.
• A dictation of an interview with a child and his/her feelings about school and learning, etc.
• A thank-you note from the child.
• A collection of dictated quotes, i.e. I like learning math- Monica; I like seeing my friends every day-William, and pictures with names.
• A simple photo with a name is great, too.

My brilliant colleagues always seem to come up with even more wonderful ideas, so I can run this past them as well when we return to school in the fall.



Your blog is just too good especially all about Monduli and Maasai.
I am heading to Monduli to work as a Manager in a recently openned tourist hotel known as Emanyata Lodge (The website is being built up)and I will start another new activity which is night game drive on the way to the rift valley as if one is going to lake Natron where in the night there are a lot of wildlife animals seen.
At this time you will have also another thing to attractsome tourists and volunteers who are interested in watching up wild animals in night.
Find out about this through

Peter said...

Are you referring to Thomas Meiyan? If so would you be willing to talk to me about a project I am investigating that would involve him quite extensively?

Peter said...

sorry forgot my email