So today is June 24th, which is a very special day. Not only is today my 22nd birthday, but it is also my 2 year anniversary with the Tuleeni Orphans. Two years ago today on my 20th birthday I stumbled onto the tuleeni orphanage road and met these amazing children and my life hasnt been the same since then. So for my birthday this year, instead of birthday wishes or gifts or anything like that, Neema International is putting on a 22 day long event/fundraiser called "22 in 22". we are trying to raise $22,000 in 22 days so taht we can continue with the building of the new Tuleeni Orphanage! The next stage of the building includes the stairs, the second floor slab, and the second floor walls! We are very excited to get started on all of this but cannot do so without your help!!! We are asking everyone to donate $22 to contribute to "22 in 22" to help me celebrate my 22nd birthday and anniversary with these wonderful children. Donations can be made at www.neemainternational.org !! please share this blog post with your friends and family and help us reach our goal!
Tina and I just got back from a great safari to the Serengeti, Ngorngoro Crater and Tarangerie. We went with my friend Edward who owns a safari company here called Pristine Trails. We were on Safari for 4 days and 3 nights and camped in the bush in tents every night :) Enjoy the pictures below!
On the way to the crater, we stopped in a Maasai Village in the bush-- this is one of the most well known tribes in Tanzania and Kenya. These individuals dress in colored robes and live off the land completely. I had done a tour through a Maasai Village in Kenya with my family about 5 years ago, and have learned a lot about them from being in Tanzania so much, but it was still really fun to get to spend time with them again. It is incredible to see how they live their lives-- no electricity, houses made of dung and mud, beds made from animal hyde, and wealth based on cattle. really beautiful to see it all.
When we were in the crater, which was BEYOND freezing due to the high altitude, we woke up at 5:30am in order to see the best animals, and then we drove to this beautiful lake in the crater where our chef Seve had prepared an early morning picnic for us. Me, Tina and Edward had a wonderful breakfast by the lake while watching the Zebra and Wildebeest roam around the pastures
Tina, Edward and I CLEARLY hard at work pitching our tent in the Serengeti
Some AMAZING photos of the three of us with the elephants, zebras and buffalo
While on safari, we saw TONS of lions. In the Serengeti alone, there is a pride of 50 lions. For those who do not know, the movie the Lion King is based off the Serengeti, and lion in swahili is Simba.
Here are some more gorgeous pictures of all our furry little friends from the safari!
Above: Elephants, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hyena, Warthog, and a baby baboon!
Below: our friends the Buffalo, the giraffe, and more zebras!
we also saw gazelles, a rhino, a leopard, two other types of cats, tons of beautiful birds, baby hyenas, mongooses, and more-- I just didnt want to clog the blog with more pictures than I already have!!
after being in the car for 5 hours on the way home from safari, we finally approach Arsuha, which is about an hour and a half from the orphanage. Edward looks at Tina and I and says, "have you guys ever ridden a camel" I told him that I had, but tina hadn't. He looked at us and said "have to fear, edward is here, and within two minutes, he pulled the car into a camel park and told us to get out of the car... there sitting on the floor was a camel with a saddle... he looked at us and said "climb on" absolutely hilarious end to a wonderful few days on safari.
Here are a few more stunning pictures of the Crater and the Serengeti
Hello everybody! So sorry that I have not blogged until now. Things have been beyond crazy since I arrived in Tanzania on Monday night. But I guess it is better late than never! Everything here as truly been incredible and having Tina and Pendo here with me has been a dream come true. I have never felt more at home!
So where to start... Tina, Pendo and I arrived on Monday night at the Kilimanjaro International Airport at around 7:30pm. Within no time, we got all of our bags and Pendo and went outside to wait for paul to come pick us up. We loaded our 6 suitcases, 4 carry on bags, Pendo's crate and Pendo into the van and then we were on our way. Tina and I were starving because we both slept through dinner on the airplane, so we stopped in Moshi at Pub Alberto to get some Samosas before we went to the orphanage. As we starting driving down the road that leads to Rau, my heart was racing and I couldn't contain my excitement. We turned off the asphalt road onto the long bumpy dirt road which led to the orphanage passing the M'samaria Center for Street Children and the Pamoja Tunaweza Center for Women… we were getting so close. We stopped to say hello to Mama Freddy--- she was cleaning up her little restaurant in the street right outside her home-- i jumped out of the car and screamed "Mama Freddy!" she could hear my american accent, and she knew it was me-- she screamed back at me, "Neema! Umerudi!" which means, "you have returned!" i gave her a hug and told her that I would come back the next day and chat. When we were about to pull up to the orphanage, i started honking the horn and flashing the lights on paul's car. within seconds, the children and mama and the neighbors came running out of the house to greet us. they were all so excited to see TIna, Pendo and me. They helped us move our many many bags into the room we were going to be staying in, and then they gave us all kisses and hugs and went off to sleep. Tina and I tried to unpack a little but decided to just go to bed. We were so tired from the long day and a half of traveling, we passed out rather quickly. We woke up tuesday morning at the crack of dawn to the rooster's cock-a-doole-doo-ing. It was a little dark outside still, but we knew the sun would be up shortly, so we got dressed and took Pendo on a walk through the village. While we were walking, I was able to introduce Tina to all the members of our little village-- everyone was so shocked to see that Pendo had come back to tanzania and that she was all grown up. After our walk, we went home and showered and got ready for the day. We then went into town to run some errands--got some groceries for our room, bought tina a cell phone, put money on my internet stick, etc. That night, we went to bed super early! Pendo has been doing really well. she was a little quiet at first, but she is adjusting rather nicely now and either sleeps in her crate or in bed with me or tina. tina and i wake up at 530 or 6am every morning to go for a walk with Pendo-- its been easy to wake up so early because we go to bed sooo early every night because running around all day with children and doing chores around the orphanage is exhausting. Anyways, walking Pendo at the crack of dawn has been great because it is the only time I can really let her off her leash and let her run around like crazy because the village isn't really awake yet, and therefore, people won't be around for her to bother-- all the people here, while they may love Pendo, are either really scared of dogs or do not like to be around them... and Pendo is so darn friendly she wants to go and greet every person she sees, not understanding that they don't really wanna greet her back. So she has instead found new companions.. the chickens. While I have to be careful when allowing her to run around this way, watching her chase the chickens through the dirt roads of Rau is truly hilarious and always puts me in a good mood. Many of the children are adjusting to Pendo being around and they are quickly learning to love her like I do. She has gone to play with us at the local field twice this week--- we broke up into two teams to play soccer and Pendo ran up and down the field for at least an hour chasing the soccer ball and contributing to the game! The kids were AMAZED to see her play soccer-- this was the kind of life I envisioned for her once we returned to Africa-- her being alive and healthy, first of all, and second, getting to see her enjoying life, the way that she did in America. One thing that has been hard for Pendo is there aren't many dogs around here for her to play with... last summer there were plenty of them, but not any more :( upon arriving in tanzania on monday night, I got some very sad news.... two of the Tuleeni dogs, Chapati and Mandazi, who I have mentioned in many of my blogs and who have been around since forever and who played with me and the kids over the past two years and played with Pendo last summer, were killed about 2 months ago. which was beyond devastating for the children. Hearing this news broke my heart. Apparently, the police came through our village here and literally shot all the street dogs that didn't have collars on... the children buried Mandazi and Chapati in our backyard next to another grave or two...
Truly incredible dogs.. so loyal and sooo sweet. and never did anything wrong. may they rest in peace. Now for the next subject: "things that have been keeping me annoyed and busy this week...." the phone and my residency permit... so not fun. Unfortunately, Vodacom has a new policy that when you buy a new SIM card, you have to wait for 72 hours for it to be activated... such a pain! So tina and I have been some what MIA for the week. Our phones finally started working yesterday.. thank goodness. As for the residency permit.. we have been to the immigration office THREE times this week... drove all the way to Arusha on Wednesday and had to pay my friend a ton just to drive us there to find out that we didn't have to even drive to the office in Arusha and could have taken care of it all in Moshi.. but I now have everything I need to get my residency permit, so I will be able to get that all taken care of when the office opens on monday. two days ago we went to the field and played soccer-- boys vs girls... we tied 3 to 3. there were only like 12 of us playing that day so we decided to have a rematch.. Yesterday, we all went down to the field together to have a huge soccer game. Pendo came with us and of course was running back and forth and back and forth up and down the sidelines chasing the soccer ball as it was dribbled across the field. Tina and I prepared guacamole for the kids and ate dinner all together. Then we watched a movie in the house and all cuddled up together before falling asleep. Mwita and Samson were half asleep in my arms.. it was so perfect. I swear I could hold those two for hours. After the children went off to sleep, Tina and Pendo and I crawled into bed and turned offf the lights. this morning Tina and I woke up and went on a walk with pendo. we made chapati wiht mama jacobo and then I taught tina how to do laundry with her hands-- she is a very quick learning and is adjusting very quickly to life here. Then pendo played with the two dogs that ARE left here--- these dogs are extremely skinny and look very sick, so tina and I are trying to nurse them back to life so that the kids can have new dogs to keep them company. I put collars on the dogs and Tina bought them a big bag of pedigree dog food from the mzungu grocery store. these two dogs have two puppies with them as well, so tina bought baby formula and is some what bottle feeding the little ones until they are strong enough to take care of themselves.
Tina, Jonas, Lucky, and Me at the local soccer field
Tina and Me
Tina and Me at Mama Jacobo's house making chapati!
Mwita and Samsoni playing with Pendo!
Now for the news that you are all waiting for... THE BUILDING OF THE NEW ORPHANAGE!!!! Tina, Pendo and I all went out to Uru to the new orphanage site on Thursday. Mama arranged for the contractors, the consultants, the engineer, the construction workers, and the Tuleeni Orphanage board members to meet me there so that we could all sit down together and have a meeting. The orphanage construction is coming along incredibly. Everything really looks amazing and I am still in shock that all of this is ACTUALLY happening... Thank you to all of you who have donated thus far and have supported myself and my friend Jackie Weiss, who started the Faraji Foundation, in helping us to make this dream a reality. As much as I would love to say all is good and well and that we have nothing to worry about, that is not the case. As great as the orphanage looks now, we are in DIRE need of funds to continue building. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me spread the word about Neema International and about the Tuleeni Orphanage. Each bag of cement to build the remainder of the walls and the second floor of the new orphanage costs $10-- please consider buying a bag of cement and contributing to our efforts! Donations can be made at www.Neemainternational.org ---if you have already donated but still want to help, PLEASE send this information out to a handful of people in an email or post it on Facebook or on twitter or whatever social media site you use. We are working so hard out here, but cannot move forward without your help!
Mama Faraji and Me standing in front of the newly constructed orphanage walls!
Pendo and Me at the new orphanage site
Unfortunately, I have no more time to write about this week, but keep checking the website for stories and updates! Love always, Neema