Katie posted the following update on her service work in Tanzania on her blog on Monday, July 23:

"I apologize I haven’t been able to update the blog in a while; it has been an extremely busy week. It was filled with success, lots of bumpy roads, and quite a bit of laughter.

I’ll split up the past week into a few different posts for ease of reading.


I believe I left off on last week Thursday when I visited Dr. Esther in Shirati. On Friday, we all worked extremely hard to finish the playground. We started to put the finishing touches on the monkey bars and the swings – Greg built the A-frame of the set and I had a hand in finishing the actual swing part. We also began to paint a lot of the pieces including the tires that are now sand play areas, the boat, and various other pieces throughout the playground.

I had the opportunity to talk with several women who had received the solar cookers given on our previous trip as well as several who hadn’t received them. It was a great discussion and I believe the best part was they felt comfortable enough to be honest with me with what they liked and didn’t like about them. As co-founder of BTEP and a researcher I was relieved they didn’t feel as though they had to say everything was wonderful in order to not offend us. That is a testament to the relationship we have built not only with the Sisters but also the villagers themselves.

One of them invited me to her home on my next trip. As we were finishing up, I bumped into one of the newly painted blue tires, the paint we were using was oil based paint. Hoping to salvage my pants I had the bright idea to try and use kerosene to try and get it out of my pants. It worked pretty well, but it still looks like I sat on a Smurf. I had to really wash my pants that night to get the gas smell out of them. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

After work on Friday, we went back to our hotel to clean up for dinner at the Sisters convent in Tarime. They cooked us an amazing meal and gave each of us a beautiful piece of fabric for our homes. We were all beat so not too long after we went back to our hotel and promptly crashed.

Saturday morning was our final day to work on the playground and when we arrived the children were already there playing on it. They really did have a lot of fun that morning climbing all over everything, exploring, swinging. We were able to get a good amount of pictures of them, so I will upload them when I return.

The playground was truly a success, the architects Travis and Guthrie developed an amazing plan for the kids essentially on the fly since we weren’t sure what materials we would have until we got there. Everyone worked together on the various pieces and it really came out beautifully. We had our final lunch with the Sisters and left to return to the hotel.

This is where the adventure really begins. Prior to leaving Buffalo, our friend Fiona who is originally from Tanzania but now lives in Buffalo, connected us with the Honorable Riziki, a member of Tanzanian Parliament. The Honorable Riziki had organized an amazing trip for us through the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Kilimanjaro. The only trick was we had to meet them in a town called Mogumo, but we didn’t find that out until the morning.

Seems no one realized exactly how far away Tarime was from Mogumo, turns out its 2.5 hours on an extremely rocky road. Our biggest concern was time, you aren’t allowed to enter the Serengeti after 6pm. We left the village about 2pm, it’s only a half hour to Tarime, the car would be waiting for us, we should just make it. Well, that was until the Sisters van they had been using to drive us started to die. Literally, we couldn’t go above 10 miles an hour, and believe me you don’t realize how hilly someplace is until you have 25 people in a van, going 10 miles an hour, and you’re on a time schedule.

So about 1.5 hours later we finally arrive in Tarime and about 20 minutes after that our car shows up at the hotel, we then begin our loooong bumpy ride. It’s impossible to describe how rocky and bumpy it was. The car we hired, there is no way that thing had shocks, none. It was big rocks, little rocks, constant rocks, a huge rock, all at about 70 miles an hour. I seriously don’t know how we made it but we did.

Once we arrived there we met with Fiona and were also introduced to two other members of Parliament who invited us for tea before we left for the Serengeti. After tea we piled into much nicer cars and drove the next 2.5 hours to the Serengeti. As I mentioned above, technically, you are not allowed to enter the gate past 6:00 pm, we didn’t even arrive at the gate until about 9:30 pm. Thankfully, our friends in high places pulled some strings and we were allowed to enter.

As we were driving to our lodging we saw several zebra cross in front of us, which was pretty awesome. Then the driver for the car ahead of us had to stop because he got a flat tire. Can you imagine? People are coming out of the car so the driver can change his flat tire in the middle of the Serengeti?!? Greg got out of our car to help and promptly told me to get back into the car because he saw at least one set of “eyeballs” when he flashed the flash light. I hung out for a little bit and then got back in the car, because I wanted to, not because he told me too, lol.

We set off again only to stop a short distance later because a hippo crossed the road in front of us searching for food.  We finally arrived and met the Honorable Riziki who is beyond nice and warm and welcoming. Our chef, Michael, had prepared us a late dinner, which was delicious. We settled on our arrangements and the car took a small group of us to a lodge with bedrooms where we would spend the next two nights. I’m going to end this post here because honestly, our first night in the Serengeti deserves its own post."

You can follow Katie's project on her blog at:  http://tanzaniacommunitytrips.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/updating-on-the-past-week/