One thing that I really wanted to do when I came to Kenya was to be able to explore the country and possibly even some other countries in East Africa. I've been able to see some different parts of the country and get a little bit of a feel of what it is like outside of Nairobi and this past week I had my first opportunity to explore outside the country. On Monday I went to visit some friends, Simeon and Janelle and their son Malachi, in Arusha, Tanzania.
The journey to Arusha isn't a bad one at all. It is only about five hours, if your bus doesn't have any problems, oh wait, our's did. It wasn't anything too major and we were only stranded along side the road for about thirty minutes. Crossing the border was pretty straight forward and easy and expensive. To get a visa into the country costs $100 US, but it is a one year, multi-entry visa. The multi-entry part is great if you actually plan to go back to Tanzania within the next year which for me isn't the case, but oh well. I realized just how nice it is crossing a border when it is just me and not me and my bike. The majority of the times I have crossed borders in the past was on our motorcycle trip and those borders took a long time, but I digress. The northern part of Tanzania just across the Kenyan border is gorgeous with rolling green hills and wide open spaces and is very sparcely populated.
Arusha is one of the larger cities in Tanzania and is a major tourist destination because of its close proximity to many major parks. The city is nestled at the base of Mount Meru, the fifth tallest mountain in Africa with an elevation of over 15,000 ft. It is a stunning backdrop to a city to say the least. I arrived in the afternoon and spent most of the rest of the day relaxing at Simeon and Janelle's place and hanging out with them. On Tuesday I went with Simeon to the NGO that he is working with through MCC called Global Service Corp. The NGO does a lot of agricultural and health development work in the local villages. I went with Simeon and one of his co-workers to deliver bikes to different people who had been helping out with a chicken vaccination initiative that GSC had started. It was cool to see some of the villages and be able to see the joy on the faces of the recipients of the bikes. On Wednesday I travelled with a group of people I didn't know to visit a couple of the sand dams that MCC had helped put in up near the Kenyan border. I had heard a lot about sand dams because MCC has done a large number of them here in Kenya but I had never had the opportunity to visit one before. To be honest they aren't really much to look at but it was cool to hear the process of how they work and the impact they can have on a community.
I had the opportunity to see Mt. Kilimanjaro on our trip to see the sand dams. Grant it, I only saw the base because the top was covered in clouds but I can still say that I have seen the tallest mountain in Africa. Unfortunately my Tanzania trip ended with me getting a case of diarrhea on Wednesday night. I'll spare you the details of all that went down but let's just say that it wasn't pretty. I ended up taking some pills on Thursday morning before I left to come back to Nairobi and thankfully they did the trick as I didn't have any problems on the bus ride back or since then.
I really enjoyed my time in Tanzania and the opportunity to spend time with Simeon and Janelle and Malachi. On Monday I will be leaving for Uganda and a small town near the capital city of Kampala. After I return from Uganda I'll only have about one week left until I return to the States. It is really hard to believe that my time here is almost over and I'm going to do my very best to make these last two weeks great.