I had the great pleasure of hosting my parents on their first trip to East Africa! For those who spend extended periods abroad, it is a great treat to have friends and family come visit the life we’ve made for yourself in a new land.
(prepare for a long post and many photos…)
My parents both arrived in Arusha mid February and entrusted me with planning all sorts of adventures and activities. I was so excited to expose them to the unique adventure life is here. After living here for more than four months I had compiled quite a list of must go places and activities I gladly ushered them around to:
My favorite restaurants both local and those with a comfortable western touch. We enjoyed lots of different food and atmospheres while we caught up on months of conversation.
Arusha Integrated Primary School offered a destination and opportunity to walk around the back alleys of Sakina. The sweated out their jet lag and got to meet the school manager who showed them all the classrooms and new chalkboards.
The Cultural Heritage Center houses a unique collection of African art – modern and antique – as well as local artisan souvenirs and Tanzanite. It served as a great cultural introduction to mom and dad on their first day here. It’s odd to have high end art displayed like in a museum, and then have price tags next to them.
Twende Hikes is the local hiking group I have frequented. Dad was happy to join me for Sunday morning as we trekked up and down hills at the foot of Mt. Meru.
Kahawa Coffee Planation Tour is a local Tanzanian/Norwegien owned tour and safari company that promotes the Aranga Coffee Group – an organic co-op of local farmers around Arusha. We had a full day tour with Emmanuel through the local village, the organic plantation, and the small coffee factory. We learned all about how they grow and process organic Arabica coffee. It was fascinating and concluded with wonderful food and delightfully rich coffee! Emmanuel even chased down a chameleon for us!
The Themi Living Garden offers a delightful locally growing vegetarian meal under the speckled green canopy in the heart of Arusha. This women-lead community centre and part of a project implemented by Italian NGO Istituto Oikos is a great lunch spot. The project promotes sustainable gardening in Arusha as a way to improve safe nutrition as well as safe employment and income for people with disabilities or care takers of disabled.
The Masaai Market is Arusha’s local tourist market where local artisans sell their wears in a very dense market. Wall to wall and ceiling to floor booths full of every Tanzanian cultural swag. We were showered with attention every step of the way, found some beautiful pieces of art, and mom and dad found the bargaining entertaining.
The Shanga Workshop is a successful social enterprise which employs people with disabilities to create unique, high-qualtiy, handmade jewelry, glassware and homeware using recycled materials. The products are sold in Tanzania and all over the world, with profits being reinvested back into further employment of disabled people. We loved seeing the weaving, beading, and glass blowing done first hand at the workshop!
Maji Moto is a fresh water spring and oasis in the desert lands of rural Moshi/Kilimanjaro. A local spot whose name means “Hot Water” because the water “boils” up from the ground, though it’s temperature is a pleasant coolness in the Tanzanian heat. We swam and lounged with Johanna’s family and about a hundred other locals and international travelers. The mangrove trees provided lovely shade and great opportunities for rope swinging and limb jumping.
In conclusion having my parents visit was a heartwarming experience. Seeing my life here through fresh eyes reminds me of all I’ve gone through and gotten used to in the past months. It feels very important to have these two people who are such a big part of my life embrace the challenges and differences of culture and life that I have worked into a bit of my identity. I look forward to getting home and sharing more thoughts and experiences with them, knowing they’re more familiar with the context.
Here are a bunch of photos :) And then more on our Safari!
I also was happy to plan our three day Safari which really is a must for anyone visiting East Africa. Othman our guide took great care of us via Greg’s Tours, organized through my friend and guide David. We decided on spending three days seeing three very different spots and made Ngorongoro Crater our priority rather than heading all the way out to the Serengeti. We stayed the two nights at the Lilac Camp in modest cabins below an acacia tree canopy, sharing one night with Johanna’s family.
Tarangire National Park is the sixth largest NP in the country and is named after the Tarangire River which is the primary water source in the dry ecosystem. We marveled at loads of massive baobab trees, quickly saw three bachelor cheetahs, followed around a bunch of elephants, eyed warthogs rolling in mud pits, laughed at monkeys steeling lunches from screaming tourist, and gawked at all the impressive birds. We also learned how to take great photos with our phones through binoculars. Made for weird stares from other safari vehicles toting huge telephoto lens, but we got some great shots (aka the cheetahs!)
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is in my opinion the must see place of Tanzania. Ngoronogoro Crater, in which the safari takes place, is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera at 2,000 ft deep and 100 square miles. The cool weather and last nights rains made for a perfect animal siting day. We spotted an impressive 10 different black rhinos, honeymooning lions, a pack of 6 lion cubs, loads of giant birds, zebras and wildebeest galore, hippos out walking around, and massive cape buffalo. It was a spectacular day.
Lake Manyara National Park is a smaller park at the edge of the rift valley and around Lake Manyara where millions of flamingos gather each rainy season. The day offered a lovely more relaxed tour after our over the top exciting day in the Crater. We casually watched baboons play on our car, spotted hoards of flamingos take flight through our binocs, saw some dik diks in the brush, chased giraffes through the acacia trees, and kept our eyes peeled for the rare leopard in a tree. We reveled in the cool breeze through the trees as we drove along and concluded our tour with a massive bull elephant on the side of the highway going home.
As many may know, my father joined Laura, Tarik, and I on a much anticipated trek up Kilimanjaro the end of February. It was a spectacular 6 days of hiking and pushing our understanding of our bodies and this amazing planet we live on. We all were successful in summiting the 19,341 foot peak and made it down safely with many stories and memories of wonder, beauty, and struggle. This is only a very brief summery. I hope you’re interested in hearing more because I will soon post a detailed trip report filled with photos of the trek!