Sunset in Tanzania
Melanie McDonough – As we start our 4 hour ride back to the Kilimanjaro Airport I feel like I should have a lot more on my mind, I am trying to process all that I have experienced but I’m finding it difficult at this moment. I’m sad to leave and happy to get back to the “cushiness” of my American life. It feels weird leaving this place knowing I get to go and start my engineering career and so many here don’t get to feel hope for a better life. In fact almost everyone I have seen and met is poor and might not know what the future will hold for them. I don’t think it’s guilt I feel but rather pure luck, why am I so privileged? Why did the stars align this way for me? I am strong in faith and believe God has a plan for all of our lives so I think that it’s not just pure randomness that I was born into a wonderful family in the states- but I don’t feel like I am so special that I deserve this life, I know I am not more intelligent than my sisters here in Africa, I know that I am not a harder worker, is it my heart? Have I been put on this Earth and given this privilege so that I might help others get to where I am? But as emotional and empathetic as I can be I know that I am not more loving than the population here so I just continue to wonder why I have been given the life I have. I also wonder how I fit into the big picture, what my role in all of this will be. I know that humanitarian work for developing countries has been laid on my heart but I have yet to decide how to move forward with it. All I can do is continue to take the opportunities I am given like this one and keep an open mind and an open heart. Time and time again I have tried to plan out what my life will look like and my future continues to morph into something I didn’t suspect. I do hope I get to come back here but it’s weird knowing that maybe I never will. These past two days on Safari have been incredible, the views are by far the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I got to see monkeys, elephants, lions, zebras and more all up close and in a natural setting. So exciting, majestic and powerful are the animals of Africa but one thing that I will continue to bring with me wherever I go without a doubt is the people of Tanzania. So many people have asked me to pray for and “remember Tanzania”. I will take their requests to heart and spread the word of the beautiful people and need that resides within this country. Now that I have seen the incredibly overwhelming need of not only the people of Marwa but the people of the entire country I want their story to be told so that I might play even just a small role in the betterment of their lives. I hope more than anything that the people of Marwa will soon have water and I know that if any university has the capability to do it it is Ohio State. I might not have the funds to sponsor a child or fund a project right now but maybe I will meet someone that does and maybe I will be that someone in the future. But until then their story lives within my heart and soul and I will remember you Tanzania.
Sierra Heaton – As our time in Africa comes to an end I have so many different emotions. Happy, sad, anxious, nervous, you name it, I feel it. So it’s going to be hard to write this post. First, I am so happy to have had this experience. I truly feel I was picked for this project for a reason. The people I have met and got to spend time with getting to know is an honor. I sometimes felt as though I didn’t deserve it. Not many people can say they have gone to another country, let alone Africa. And not many people can say they got to visit a Masai community, or learn KiMasai, or share a meal where you eat goat and chipati with your hands. At our last meal with everyone involved in the project at the Elephant Motel, I looked around the table and thought “WOW. So many people have gathered here to work together, to link arms and work for change for Marwa”. We were all sitting there with different backgrounds, different stories, different roles, but all with the same goal for Marwa. At the same time I’m nervous. So many have come into Marwa and have promised to help change their lives and have let them down. I’m nervous, but I believe if anyone can do this, H, Tony, OSU, Kateri and KiHO are the people to make this happen. As much as I enjoyed myself here and all the stories I will be able to share, I think I’m ready to go home. I need to take the time to step away from this situation and the experiences I have had here to truly appreciate them. I can feel in my heart this is not my last time in this country. It’s going to be weird not hearing Swahili anymore, or saying Jambo, Sowa, Twende, or answering “Mambo?” with the happy word Poa. I enjoyed the past few days of travel and safari, but I am ready to go home and enjoy all that I have been blessed with. I have so many plans for when I go home, I am anxious for it to begin. To conclude, I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do here. I enjoyed everyone moment, every conversation, every smile, every laugh. I learned, I did work, I stepped out of my comfort zone, I was impacted by my experiences. But most importantly, I believe I have started to help lay down the foundation of the journey to change the lives of so many and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Alex McWhirter – So many times we write about the highlights of our experiences because the 4 hour car rides and the toast for breakfast become mundane details, but it is the combination of the two that depicts reality. And the reality that I’ve experienced is a beautiful country with beautiful people with tragic stories. Stories in which we hope to have a sustainable dialogue, chapters we share towards a rewritten ending. Metaphors aside, we were literally welcomed into the homes of Marwa, taught (some of) their language, feed and given goats and chickens, prayed over, and promptly, we left.
When you travel to Africa, you will be asked if you went on a safari. But what they don’t know oedipus is that ‘safari’ is a Swahili word that means journey. We started this journey a long time ago, some of us a year ago, some several months, some might say our journeys always led us here. Yes, on the last day we traveled in an open Jeep and lions and giraffes, and you can see those pictures on our blog and Facebook, but for 9 days of our safari, we experienced a new reality. Our safari started long ago, and while we have returned, The Safari continues.
I would like to thank Mzee Umbisa for his time to lay the foundation for the language of Swahili, as mentioned several times, just knowing greetings had the power to change the mood of an entire room. I’d also like to thank the incredible drivers from Rickshaw; Richard, Kent, Edward and Rashid, you were the literal means of travel for our journey. My peers, it was truly a pleasure to work with you all over this past year. You all are bright, motivated and have beautiful souls. I know I will need you when I have “Marwa days” and I try to process everything. Robbie, can I call you Robbie? I have never seen someone so impassioned by a cause and a culture, you showed us how to live in Tanzania. Tony, I learned so much from you and I hope our journeys cross again. H, I am so thankful for you, the knowledge you have shared, the realities you have shown us. I hope all your students and the people you work with know how passionate and hard working you are.
For those debating whether or not to do a project like this, know that a project and trip like this will break you in the best way possible. Rearranging the pieces into something beautiful is up to you.
Pat Enright – Reflecting on this trip I have very conflicting thoughts and emotions bouncing around in my head. Half of me is excited and confident that we will get this project completed successfully in a short amount of time and half of me is terrified that something will go wrong and we will have gotten our now friends’ hopes up again just to let them down. This fear was expressed to us from many villagers, but they welcomed us with open arms and were so genuinely hopeful that we would truly be the ones that save them from their plight. Robbie put it best by saying that he was feeling a type of survivors guilt but in the moment. Why them and not me? These are genuinely good and happy people, why do they have to suffer this fate? People have and will ask me if I’m having fun here. I love the people and he relationships we have built and all the new things I have learned, but the “fun” part is marred by the pain and suffering I heard in their voices and saw in their eyes. Hearing a young women with five young children talk in a broken voice with tears in her eyes about how she can only get her family half of the water that she needs is something that replays over and over in my mind. I have been both elated and heartbroken on this trip. It’s an experience that will shape me as a person and I have had such great interactions but I can’t say this trip was fun like a spring break vacation. I don’t say that to cheapen the experience but to give it depth to the people that can’t understand what we saw. I have said this in previous blogs but this experience has strengthened my resolve to complete this project. Times next semester when I want to stop working to do something else I will think of the look in the eyes of the people and that will motivate me to keep going. Another realization I have had this trip is the enormity of the problem. We only saw one village and there are thousands of villages with the same problem and even less capacity to do anything about it. I get weighed down by thinking I’m not making a difference but then Tony reminds me that it only takes one to start a change. One village to teach another village how to do the same thing. If I can positively impact just one persons life with what we are doing here then I am extremely lucky and I have done my job. I have seen the intelligence and industriousness of the people that all they need is a start and some opportunity and they will thrive. I truly believe that. I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life and I am incredibly thankful for everyone that helped me get to this point today. With the trip coming to an end, I am trying to take in as many sensory experiences as I can. Writing this from the car, I’m feeling the wind in my face, see the beautiful mountains dotted with houses, see the people and cars and trucks, see the trees and fields of agave, and smell a smell here that I will never forget. I have tried to describe it in the past but that didn’t do it justice. The earth has a very unique scent here and you smell the farmers burning brush in their fields. I hope my clothes hold the smell as long as possible so that I continue to get brought back to this amazing time and place in my life. I am going to miss hearing Swahili spoken every day and seeing little kids run after the car pointing at us and yelling “Mizungu, Mizungu!” I am going to miss a lot about this place, this will not be the last time I see their faces.
Randall Berkley – As I lay here about to go to sleep for the last night in the elephant motel, which marks the end of the work aspect of the project, I’m trying to remember everything we did. Fortunately, Dr. Hagenberger provided us with notebooks for the technical parts and I brought my own for the memories part but it is still hard to comprehend just how much we did. Since arriving in Kilimanjaro International Airport over a week and a half ago the team has bonded and done everything within our power to soak in the wonderful culture of Tanzania. I’m not sure anyone has mentioned it yet, but we were lucky enough to get private Swahili lessons from Mzee Umbisa once a week during the semester and he deserves a lot of thanks. We are all still far from mastering the language but just by knowing some phrases it helped our confidence and really allowed us to connect with the locals. I’m not going to rehash everything we have done this trip but this morning at breakfast when Tony and I were waiting for the rest of the group to join us, he asked me, what’s your favorite memory from the trip. It took me awhile to come up with an answer partially because we did so much but mostly because we did so many great things. Eventually I decided my answer had to be watching some of the children. Whether it was the children in the school, around the village or just kids we passed on the drive they always had a smile on their face, waved and generally yell Mzoungu. Working with the elders of Marwa was great and the hospitality of all of Tanzania has been fantastic, but at the end of the day I remembered that the greatest impact of Maji Marwa is going to be on the next generation. Hopefully by providing nearby water through distribution points some of those children can stay in school longer, they can grow up and start their own businesses with the new free-time and most importantly they can live without the fear of when their next glass of water will be. If I can help that happen for just some of the children we’ve met along the way, then it is all worth it. There is a lot of work to be done from here but I think our trip has been a success and the next group led by Dr. Hagenberger and Pat should be able to make a lot of progress when it comes to bringing water to the people of Marwa. Now I’m headed to get some sleep before some of the fun adventurous of Arusha and Ngorogoro crater.
Rob Pesarchick – I’m sitting at Sopa Lodge in the fog, watching – from 8,000 feet – the clouds crash to earth all at once; hoping the magnitude of the moment will open and inspire some inner dialogue. Three major questions in mind:
What is to be made of my first trip here back in August? As the group begins to isolate and look to help in one specific village, we find it entirely more involved and delicate than I’d first anticipated. So then, new sense must be made of our previous trip, where we’d seen maybe twenty similar communities, all with similarly delicate water issues. The magnitude of the problem is staggering. I’m not sure anything good can come from dwelling on scale. Maybe scratching at the surface day after day needs to be enough.
Second, what can I make of this trip, of Marwa? I’m proud of my new friends in Marwa. They’ve taken responsibility for their future. They’ve done their home work, determined appropriate design elements, and have developed a plan moving forward toward a future where Marwa is a green, thriving place. I couldn’t overstate how impressed I have been, or how proud they ought to be in themselves, stepping up to the plate like they are.
On this trip more so than the last, I’ve gotten to know living, breathing, singing, laughing people. I’ve heard personally from possibly hundreds of them. It would seem impossible to bisect myself from the humanity I’ve fallen into this time. That said, my final question
What do I do now? I don’t know. I could set to work helping to write funding proposals; sharing Marwa and Africa’s story with anyone and everyone. I can offer service as a consultant to future students as they build on the foundation we’ve lain. I can do everything in my power to return.
This last question won’t resolve itself until I take steps, so we’ll see. Similarly, everyone can ask themselves the same question: what am I gonna do now? I encourage you to identify the capacity in which you can improve the world. Volunteer at a food bank, support humanitarian programs. Hell, go play cards at an assisted living facility. Contribute to the world and make it great.
Special thanks go to our hosts in Tanzania, especially our friends at the Elephant Motel. Thanks to Kateri and the rest of KiHO. A huge thanks to our intrepid drivers: Uncle Richard, Kent, Edward, and Rashid. I’d also like to thank Mr. Tony Duke for coming on this trip with us and advising us on cultural development issues. Finally and foremost, I gotta thank Professor Hagenberger, who came to OSU just two and a half years ago with a special idea. He invited myself a few other guys to help him get it off the ground, and I’m so happy to have been included, and am proud of how the ball is rolling. Thanks for reading!
Michael Hagenberger – I am writing my final thoughts while sitting in my office in Hitchcock Hall less than 24 hours from arriving back in Columbus. I usually do not write my own thoughts on these blogs, I leave them for the students thoughts, but I feel compelled.
One night while in Same I woke up in the middle of the night dreaming of the Wizard of Oz. However, it was not Dorothy, the Tin Man, etc. but rather I was giving my students character names. I got one or two from the dream but stayed up until I finished all of them. It was a long night, but I knew were on the right path and I had the right team.
Infectious Enthusiasm – Pat displayed extreme delight in learning the Masai language. It had a tremendous impact on the entire team. His enthusiasm inspired me to learn more of the language and engage the community through learning their language. While in the community, he would scribble furiously as he was being given new words and phrases to learn. The smile on his face when he addressed the community and they had a positive response was a delight. I am not sure we could ever measure the impact he had, but I know it had an extremely positive impact on the project. I look forward to working with him in the Fall.
Steady Engineer – Randall is impressive from start to finish. He never gets very excited, he never gets very angry, he is just steady and he is always thing like an engineer but one with a tremendous heart. Read his posts. CH2M Hill is a lucky to have Randall. He will be a tremendous success. I am glad he is in the Columbus area and I can only hope he wants to continue to help future students on the project.
The Heart – Melanie is the heart. The emotion she shared on the trip allowed everyone on the trip to share their emotions. Melanie thought we would take her less seriously if she showed emotion. Just the opposite was true. She provided the opening through which all of us could pass. This will serve her well as she continues her journey. Watch out North Carolina, Melanie is coming.
The Center (Renamed the Equalizer by the Team) – Sierra, the Equalizer. This was my hardest and I am not sure I or the team actually got it right. I kept trying to find the one thing that stood out. She is a very good engineer. She is steady. She is enthusiastic. She has heart. What I finally realized was she possessed this unique combination of many of the other traits people in the group exhibited. This could sound boring or not special. On the contrary, she is and will be a rock, someone people can count on for the rest of her life.
The Organizer – Alex, a.k.a. spreadsheet. The look in his eyes when he was given the task of keeping our accounting for the trip in a spreadsheet was priceless. He simply loves to organize. To be honest, we never would have made the trip without his leadership. On the trip, he would give me subtle reminders of things I had to do. I could always rely upon him to remember details. He was great before the trip and on the trip. DC and Grunley are lucky to have him. He will make an impact, in a very organized and efficient manner.
Intellectual, Emotional Sass – Robbie, so much sass. When we talked about him coming on the trip we agreed that there would have to be less sass than the trip in August. We both knew it would not happen but we had to say it. His delivery is exceptional and comments are witty. Funny thing is, this is just the exterior. Talk to Robbie, watch him under the tree in Marwa, there is way more than sass. He was brought as a second “student leader.” He did that and more. I could not be happier with his as an addition to the team. He added humor, intellect, and heart. Can’t really ask for more.
So that is my all-star team. I could not be prouder of their actions and effort on this trip. I could not be sadder that our goodbye in the Columbus airport may be the last time I see some of them. Because of them we have a great chance of bringing water to the community of Marwa.
The picture at the top of the page is sunset, but this is simply the sunset on this trip. The sun will come up again and we will begin working on the next steps of the journey we are taking with all of our partners.
Of course, there are many people to thank. Here are just some.
Tony Duke – His inspiring words and thoughtful leadership are greatly appreciated. The project trajectory changed as a result of his participation. Thank you!
Umbisa Gusa – Our Swahili instructor. Your gave the students the confidence to learn the language. They used it every day and even learned Kimasai. Thank you!
KiHO – Kateri, Gerry, and Osteri provided a foundation on which we were able to build successfully. This is both engineering and community relations. It is impossible to describe our appreciation for their effort and we simply could not be successful without them. Thank you!
Marwa – The community, from young children all the way to the Village Chairman, were so welcoming and gracious. They shared many things, even a goat and a chicken, but the way that they touched the hearts of our students created a truly transformative experience for them. Thank you!
Richard, Edward, Kent, Rashid – For helping ease the transition of the students. For answering their questions, and being a critical link between their former world and this new world.Thank you!
Rickshaw – Worry free travel. What else can you ask for. Thank you!