June 28, 2012

Our Adventure: Tanzania 2012

Day 4      6/12/12

We left the lodge before the crack of dawn today so we could get to the crater early.  Before we left we had fried eggs, toast with local honey and crepes for breakfast.
The drive to the crater was a couple of hours and pitch black.  Once the sun started coming out we saw some great scenery with the crater ridge and the fog/clouds rolling in low.

Driving through the crater was Ah. Maz. Ing. 
Words can't even begin to describe & pictures hardly do it justice.  The ecosystem down there is so lush and self-sustaining. 
It's really amazing.  I liked seeing O react to some of the animals.  He tried really hard to say zebra when we saw them and I told him what they were.  Then a couple lionesses walked right next to our jeep.  I totally could have reached out and touched them...
and I really really wanted to!  And.  When the first one walked by, Owen growled at it!  It was so stinkin' cute and everyone in the car had to stifle their laughter as to not spook the kitties. :)
So here's what we saw:
 Flamingos (that's the pink/white you see on the horizon - thousands!!)
Antelope, Buffalo, Ostrich and Jackals (not pictured)
Black Rhinos (can you see 'em? They're really rare to see on a game drive!)
Lionesses - lots! Even a pregnant one - and we saw one climb a tree!

Black Faced Monkeys (also called blue-balled monkeys... for, er, obvious reasons)
A few misc. large birds
And a cheetah -
this sweet kitty was lying right by the side of the road, dying.  :(  It was so neat to see a cheetah so close, but so heartbreaking to see it in the condition it was in. Eric (our driver) called it into the game warden and we're hoping she got taken care of and recovered. 

The drive was so much fun.  We saw SO many animals, had a picnic and got to get out and walk around! (And there were NO fences or anything)  We climbed a neat looking tree and saw some breath-taking vistas on the way back up the crater. 

I feel like God told me today - as I observed all those animals just being - being still, living in the moment - that sometimes I need to do that too.  Just. Be.

Around 3pm we headed to the next lodge - which I thought we'd never get to.  The Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is un-be-lievable.  It's like a 5-star experience.  The tents are walk-in-style, have plumbing, electricity and a porch with a view you wouldn't believe. 

The lodge is amazing.  The food is 5-star. 
The landscaping is beautiful.

And the best part?  The lodge supports the Rhotia Valley Childrens' Home and it employs people from the (very poor) village of Rhotia. 
The childrens' home houses 35 kids ages 5-16,

including Marry.
She was found on the side of the road three years ago.  She was six years old, and weighed only 9 kilos (19lbs - Owen weighs 23 right now!), she was eating sand.  They rescued her and she's happy and healthy now.  And though she has some developmental delays and some physical signs of delay, you can see the joy on her face and she is full of life.  She wouldn't even hold still long enough for me to take her picture, that's how excited she was to see us! 
The owners took us through the home and showed us around. 
I can't believe how self-sufficient it is.  They use solar power not only for lighting but for heating water.  They make their own methane gas, have their own cows for milk, chickens for meat/eggs, their own garden, and even their own bakery that sells bread in the markets - bringing in even more funds for the home. 
The owners both have medical degrees, so they are able to take care of the kids.  The kids go the local school, which isn't a good one.  During the entire school day they may get two lessons, then they are just expected to sit there the rest of the day.  If they move or misbehave they are beaten.  For the close to 400 kids at the school there are only three teachers.  THREE.  So the kids at the home get extra help and lessons taught by missionaries that visit, or local Tanzanians on Saturdays and after school. 

This place is awesome.  I really felt bad at first for staying at this lodge (even though it was out of our hands, the Safari Co. chose it).  But then I felt like God was telling me two things - 1) Accept it.  Enjoy it.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.  Missionaries don't always have to sleep in mud-huts and tents, take this opportunity to bask in My presence and be thankful.  And 2) If you weren't staying here, that childrens' home wouldn't be getting funds.  You are blessing them by your stay here. 

So major props to the Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge/Childrens' Home - it is an amazing place that strives for excellence.  The owners are awesome and have big hearts, humble spirits and welcoming smiles.  I would go there again in a heartbeat!

Even as I proof-read this before publishing the blog, I'm seeing that I wasn't really listening to God.  I heard him tell me JUST BE during the game drive, but when we got to the lodge I was so concerned about being a missionary 'living in luxury' that I wasn't obeying the words God spoke to me just hours ago that day.  He wanted me to Just. Be.  I love looking back and seeing how God works :)