Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kilidogs Video!!

Check this awesome action out!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Almost There

One more flight from the UK to Boston and we are home!!! So far everything seems on time. -JR

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No News is Good News

We haven't left news in a while, but that's mostly because we have packed our days quite full (and lost a few entries to power failures and dropped connections). But no news is good news and we';ve been having a fabulous time. A brief recap.

Kidogo the hamster, five guides and most of our crew summited Kilimanjaro and stood atop Uhuru Peak at 19,500 feet above the Indian Ocean. We safely descended and gave Kidogo to our guide Living, who promised that he would use it to lift the tired spirits of Kili hikers for years to come. Our other gift to the local guides was to introduce them to the concept of Zombies, and thus our head guide Bruce very quickly became the Zombie King, wishing us to bed each night with the phrase "Sleep like Babies, wake like Zombies."

After a half day of washing up in Moshi, we headed out for a three day safari, which we paid for by selling Madison along the way to some locals. Some highlights of the safari included seeing gnu, dikdik, baboons, monkeys, hippos, baobobs, gazelle, zebra. lions, elephants, baby elephants, a Finnish guy, and way off in the distance what was either the elusive Black RHino or a rock. Nihal actually saw 6 or seven Black Rhinos along the way. Our safari included trips to Lake Manyara, Ngorogoro crater, and the Tarangire National Park. All told, a magnificient few days.

From there we headed to the beach where we had a chance to swim, walk, build sand castles, eat, snorkle, and sail on an old, traditional wooden dhow. We had a great time and after about 48 hours of paradise (which is about the time it takes for our boys to become bored of paradise) we headed south for Dar Es Salaam. We are now a few minutes from taking our final dalla-dalla ride to the Airport, and from there we head back to Boston, with just a few stops in South Africa and Britain. Other than that, pretty much a straight shot.

We've confirmed our flights and expect travel to go well. When we arrive in Boston, we'll be able to deliver 7 healthy, smelly boys with bags full of gifts, memories, and wretched smelling clothes.

To the parents in the house, Elsa and I are looking forward to delivering you your loved ones shortly.

Signing off from Africa,

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

back from kilimanjaro

We are all back and safe from trekking up kilimanjaro. We are exhausted and some of us are trying to get over tummy bugs but we had fun and stories will follow...

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Hello again eager parents, friends, relatives, siblings, and creepy stalkers. I will begin on this entry with June 29, when we traveled from Moshi (a city we now think of as our home) to Mramba Primary School. We arrived at the school to a warm welcome from Mfanga and Laurent, a teacher and the principle, respectively. They gave us a wonderful tour of the school and delegated a task list. During the tour, we observed chalkboards with chemistry, math, English, and history scrawled across them. Surprisingly, many of us had just learned a large amount of the material in school that we saw here. The two best options for tasks included painting classrooms and building walls between classrooms. There were giant openings in the walls between classrooms, and classes were being disruptive of each other. After a quick lunch, we walked into town to buy paints, concrete, sand, and bricks. On the way back, we stopped at the local market to marvel at the cornucopia of passion fruit, bananas, jackfruit, and oranges. Later in the evening, we played an enjoyable game of DEMOCRAAAAZYYY. After a productive day coordinating our construction efforts, we retired to our sleeping bags.

We awoke early the next morning to the sound of Laurent’s cow mooing near the classroom we stayed in. Our strategy: divide and conquer. Some of us negotiated with the Foondies (skilled workers) about the price to build the walls, Max and Justin stayed behind as the “Domestic Operations Coordinators” for the day (fondly referred to as cooks and maids), and the construction team began to sand classroom 1. We had a total of five classrooms to paint, and we decided upon a sequence of chores:
1. Sand walls
2. Plaster holes in the wall
3. Sand again
4. Coat of Primer
5. Add 2-3 coats of white water-based paint
6. Add coat of cream oil paint that extended about 4 feet from the floor
7. Wait 10 hours (drying time)
8. Add second coat of cream oil paint
9. Wait 10 hours (drying time)
10. Add red oil paint band that extends up six inches from the floor
11. Wait 10 hours (drying time)
12. Add second red coat
13. Mop floors
14. Scrape paint off floors
15. Mop floors
After this simple list of tasks, a room was finished. We spread people out through all five rooms in order to maximize our time. Throughout the week, we divided into teams. Chris helped the bricklayers do heavy lifting, and he continued to sand once they were finished. The entire team worked on miscellaneous sections of sanding in addition to Chris. Justin was our plaster master. Seth, Madison, Nihal, Greg, and Pete spearheaded the white paint and primer effort. Max and Elsa covered the majority of oil painting. Unfortunately, Nat was feeling sick for the first few days, and remained resting. We figured it was better to be sick there than on Kilimanjaro. However, once he recovered he enthusiastically launched right into working with the rest of us. During down time, we also taught English classes. We introduced students to basic introductions and conversational hints. In an effort to teach body parts and professions, we had students sing the hokey-pokey and act out jobs and make us guess them.

The next five days progressed in a similar divide and conquer manner as we rotated in and out of being DOC’s. One night however, we got a marvelous surprise. We were invited to a wedding of a local couple. We were instructed to give small cash gifts, so after the ceremony we danced up the aisle as the band played, shook hands with the happy couple, and deposited our gifts. We proceeded to dance back down the aisle accompanied by many joyous wedding-goers. The “cake,” as they called it, was actually a spit-roasted goat. The other amazingly memorable nighttime experience included a large bonfire on July 4th. We sang the national anthem to a small audience, and explained American independence. Other nighttime experiences included a short walk to a good viewpoint of the town and Kilimanjaro as well as stargazing.

By July 5, we had completely finished four of the five classrooms, and the fifth was ready for oil paint. That was okay though, because two more full groups of world challengers from Newton North were coming through in the weeks to come. We returned to Moshi later that day after a deep thank you from Laurent to find many more westerners in the town. This helped with the distribution of pesky vendors, who by this time we had developed strategies to deal with anyway. We were amazingly grateful for the showers and laundry services we found in Moshi, our base camp.

Today, we organized our expedition up Kilimanjaro with Zara Tour Co, and booked our safari for R+R week. We also had some free time to wander the city and buy assorted goods. Kili was looming over us in the distance all day, like a precurser to our next seven days. We are all amazingly excited.

Still no casualties,
-Max and the Kilidogs

Quick word pre-kili

Hey Everyone, Elsa here. Things are hopping here in Moshi with lots of tourists around. This means that internet time is hard to come by. Max is going to try to find some moments to do a blog update on our last week working with the Mramba primary school, but we leave for Kilimanjaro in the morning so he may not have time...
hope all is well with everyone and I hope we have a sizable post on here before the night is out...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Children Children EVERYWHERE

We have all been stunned by around 400 primary school children. We painted their classrooms, played football with them, and enjoyed their town. It was crazy. I've lost contact with the English language currently, so now Manks or some other team member has more to say on the whole trip status.

still no casualties,


PS: We as campers are involved with a little thing known as swill. Swill is the residue at the bottom of your camp dishware when you have finished your camp meal. We are also familiar with the art of "drinking your swill." this is the process of mixing your residue with water and drinking it... so there is less to clean. i told you all this so i could quote J Reich.

"Drinking your swill is like watching the Highlights real, you get to experience the meal all over again."

That is all.

Back in Moshi

Greetings from the leader! Well, at this point I'm pretty much the old follower guy, but that is according to plan.

I'll let the boys give you all the whole story, but we are safely back in Moshi after a week of painting, brick wall building, English teaching, soccer playing, and featuring prominently in an African wedding.

We are all safe and healthy and looking forward to a day of rest before we make an attempt at kili. Thanks to all for comments and keeping in touch.

Best from Africa,

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Now that we’re back in Moshi, we can finally post another blog entry for all you eager and nervous parents and friends. As you know, we voyaged to Longido on Saturday, June 24. Upon rushing out of our hotel and finding that our booked bus was overcharging us by about $40, we walked to the Moshi bus station. In order to avoid being mobbed, we sent in Nihal, Seth, and Chris to negotiate a price for the ride and left the rest of the team across the street. They agreed on 18,000 shillings (about $16) for all ten of us to go to Arusha (the city halfway between Moshi and Longido). Once in Arusha, we met our “Cultural Tourism” contact, Ali Amadou. He arranged a bus for us from Arusha to Longido for the agreed price of 25,000 shillings, thus placing us about 15,000 shillings under transportation budget for the day (more on this later). We arrived in the small village of Longido and set up tents near Ali’s hotel. As soon as we did, some local children came to marvel at the visitors, and we started an enjoyable game of Frisbee. Ali told us about the customs and a brief history of the local Masai tribe, including a massacre of a cannibalistic tribe from Zimbabwe, dowries for wives that could be up to 50 cows, the Boma system, and the Masai market. After a brief peanut butter and jelly lunch, Ali introduced us to our Masai guides, who brought us for a stroll on the African savannah behind the village. We walked to a Boma, the traditional Masai village, in which five to six cow-dung houses were surrounded by a brush fence. During the walk, friendly children swarmed us and insisted on carrying our Nalgene bottles. They liked this even more when Seth showed them the water cyclone that develops when one spins a Nalgene. Once in the Boma, we were given a tour of the two-room houses and informed of the Masai customs of circumcision, marriage, and up to twelve children per wife (of which a male could have many). While one group was in the house, the other talked with the Masai women (who, of course, were confined to the Boma). We taught them Tic-Tac-Toe and how to count from one to ten in english. Greg pulled out his playing cards and showed them the numbers on them, and Seth’s bouncy balls were an immediate success until one child discovered the fake 100 dollar bill inside one of them. “WOAH,” he exclaimed as he caught sight of it, and ripped open the bouncy ball. Then, the Masai women tried to teach us their first ten numbers, but that did not turn out so well for us, as they all got to laugh at our poor Masai. On our short trip we saw a prairie dog (squirrel), goats, cows, donkeys, and the meat market. Every Wednesday, the Masai gathered to have a cow and goat auction at the meat market. This even included a cow wash, where the cows had to swim across a long pool to become clean enough to sell. We returned to camp to eat dinner and prepare for our long hike the next day, as Longido Mountain loomed over us.

The next day, we awoke to the sound of roosters crying loudly throughout the village. After some oatmeal for breakfast and tales of Malaria-induced Technicolor dreams, we set off at a brisk pace away from the village, toward Longido Mountain. We hiked through the arid lowlands full of red soil, six-foot termite mounds, sharp thorn (toothpick size) bushes, acacia trees, and broken trees caused by “elephant damage” behind our amazingly fit Masai guides. After a relatively difficult hike up and down for seven hours, we traveled almost 180 degrees around the mountain (now we were on the backside of the mountain) and gained about 4500 feet of elevation. After brushing off ticks and burrs and finding water in the woods with one of our spear-wielding guides, we set up camp at a small clearing for the night.

The following morning, we awoke around six to find complete darkness. We departed at 7:45 with our guides up the mountain. We ascended through arid desert as described above, temperate forest similar to forests in Massachusetts, and then rain forest above 7000 feet. Today, our guide Aleesha carried a rifle to protect us against any wild animals, which included baboons, lions, buffalo, and elephants. When we reached about 8000 feet, we took a quick snack break and deployed a summit team. Unfortunately, Pete was feeling a bit sick so he and Elsa remained behind with one guide while the rest continued the short distance to the final summit. We ascended a 100-foot, medium steepness, narrow path full of fire ants, wet rocks, and roots to find a stone plateau towering above the plains. The clouds started to open up and we caught sight of miles and miles of desert, acacia trees, and termite mounds extending in all directions. After a few minutes on the summit, we descended the narrow path down to Pete again to eat a full-fledged lunch of peanut butter, cheddar cheese, and Nutella on shortbread crackers. We descended another 90 minutes to our camp and cleaned up (today we were slack-packing). At around 4:30, we departed from this camp and completed the final trek down the mountain with all our gear to meet the transport at about 6. We somehow got about 18 people and 10 packs onto this truck safely, and then took off toward our campsite, where we set up camp and were greeted with the most amazing dinner cooked by the Masai women. It is a tradition for them to cook us dinner after we climb the mountain, and they have apparently had lots of practice. The plethora of mashed potatoes, bread, bananas, roasted meat chunks, watermelon, cucumbers, and rice was delicious and well deserved after two hot days of hiking. We thanked the cooks profusely and then crashed into our sleeping bags, most of us completely exhausted.

The subsequent day was Masai Culture day. After breakfast and a short expedition to buy 20 packs of Marie biscuits, two bottles of spirits (fuel for the Trangea stoves), plum jam, and peanut butter (all for about 8000 shillings - $6.50), we walked again out into the savannah with our guides to a cave in the woods only partially up the mountain, where the Masai men were completeing an amazing tradition of preparing for the dry season. On the walk Aleesha taught us all about the different traditional medicines that the Masai gathered from the shrubs, including the morning after pill, an antibiotic, an anti-pneumonia leaf, tea flavoring, and the toothbrush tree. They would kill cows and goats in their cave and boil the meat. By stocking up on this food, they ended the rainy season (it just ended when we got here), and initiated the dry season. They cooked a piece of goat while we were there and passed around samples. It was very good, but gave a few of us a bit of indigestion. On the whole however, it passed quickly. At the cave, the Masai were very friendly and welcoming, and loved seeing our cameras, sunglasses, and walking poles. They made fun of our tiny pocketknives and jauntily flashed their two-foot spears as we used the knives on the goat chunks. On the walk back, we stopped at the Masai market and bought traditional jewelry, water gourds, and walking sticks. We returned to camp in the early afternoon to find some free time on our hands. Instead of having a leisurely afternoon, we somehow attracted about 60 children, ages five to fourteen, to the field near our campsite. We played with bouncy balls, Frisbees, and spun the children through the air. We all had a wonderful time getting absolutely mobbed by kids wanting us to pick them up, spin them, throw a bouncy ball or Frisbee, or just take a picture of them. After collapsing near our schoolhouse/kitchen site, we made a delicious dinner of spaghetti with vegetables, tomato sauce, and cheese, along with a no-bake cheesecake. After tipping the deserving guides and saying farewell, we all collapsed into bed again completely exhausted.

We woke early today to prepare for our ride back to Moshi, which passed without incident other than the vehicles being very crowded. We arrived, recovered our day packs from the storage company, checked in with Will (the World Challenge man stationed here), and then returned to the Buffalo Hotel to eat lunch. We had oranges, passion fruit, guanabana, mini sugar bananas, and PB + J sandwiches. For the afternoon, we split into groups to divide, conquer, avoid pestering street vendors, and plan for our service week in Mwanga at the primary school. That leaves me here, writing this entry.

No casualties,

Friday, June 23, 2006

Moshi - 4:18 PM - June 23, 2006

So, this will be a longer blog entry that covers the last few days now that we have more free time. I will start with Day 4 (June 21). Starting off the morning, we landed in Johannesburg around 7:30 in the morning. After waiting in a long customs line, we proceeded to baggage claim, where we discovered that unlike Logan airport, the operators don’t give you warning before they start the rotating belts. The airport porters thought this was incredibly funny, as Seth, Greg, and I jumped off the belt yelping. After this, we discovered that Pete’s bag was missing! After attempting to sort out the lost luggage, we cleared the second customs line and Seth finally found about four Appletizers (in many flavors) at a small café in the airport. Soon after, we took a four hour flight to Dar es Salaam International Airport on South African Air. Upon leaving the airport, we were immediately accosted by taxi and bus drivers attempting to have us commission their services. After a minor fiasco with finding a “bus,” we finally agreed upon a driver to bring us to the US embassy and then our hotel for only 35,000 shillings (about $30). After jamming all ten of us and our packs into a medium sized van (it was cozy, to say the least), we started into the city. The drive was amazing, as we experienced first hand the poverty that plagues much of Africa. We drove past dilapidated houses, desperate street vendors, children begging for money for a soccer ball, and black, smog-emitting buses. After a slight complication at the US embassy, our embassy pack was finally accepted and brought to an embassy employee. Then, our driver brought us to Hotel Jamba (Hotel Hello). This hotel was like nothing we had ever experienced, and would have been considered terribly run down by American standards. After reserving three rooms at the agreed price of only 72,000 shillings (about $60), we walked down the street to “Chef’s Pride” restaurant. The food was surprisingly Americanized and delicious. We proceeded to an internet café, where 30 minutes on a computer cost us only 500 shillings (about 45 cents). After an intense scrabble game, most of us retired to bed.
The following day, we woke up around 7:40 and ate breakfast (included at the hotel). It consisted of a juice, an egg, and toast. As soon as we finished, we power walked with all our belongings to the Scandinavian Bus Line station in Dar. We took the 9:30 economy bus to Moshi. This was another shocking, eight-hour voyage. As we drove out of Dar, the city faded and small, adobe and concrete villages began to pop up along the road. As we left these villages, green shrubs stretched consistently out in all directions. In the occasional village, vendors selling fruit, cashews, cell phones, cigarettes, etc swarmed our bus. We suspected that the driver stopped on purpose in order to let people try to sell us things. Occasional silhouettes of mountains emerged in the distance and then faded away. As we approached Moshi, a mountain started to emerge in front of us. It was probably the most massive mountain most of us had ever seen, and we all exclaimed “KILIMANJARO!” Well, about ten minutes later, an even bigger mountain emerged from the clouds in the distance. We were all immediately awed. This one was really Kilimanjaro. It was a looming figure about 300 kilometers away, and yet, it was still the biggest object any of us had ever seen. Approaching Moshi, we began to get better views of the mountain. Upon arriving in Moshi, we met a World Challenge representative, who gave us a hint to find a good hotel. Taking his advice, we proceeded to the “Buffalo Hotel.” This one was infinitely better than the first in Dar, however it would still be considered “not so great” by our typical standards. After negotiating our room fee ($50 for four rooms) and settling in, our first thought was to go to the roof. As we did, we got an amazing view of the top of Kili as it emerged above the clouds. We discovered that Moshi was a much more “manageable” city than Dar. The people were generally nicer, the city was cleaner and in better condition, and there was far less chaotic activity on the streets. We went to dinner at the hotel, and some people ordered steak. Although there was some apprehension, a steak dinner (only 3000 shillings - $3) was absolutely delicious and caused no nasty side effects. There was another internet café about 10 feet from our hotel, which is where I am now. My personal favorite moment of the day was outside the hotel and café, as a man introduced himself to us, as Tanzanians frequently do. After the usual formalities, Justin commented “it was a hard day for us, but a great one for you.” He was of course, referring to the World Cup, in which Ghana had just defeated the USA two to one. After a look of confusion on the man’s face, Justin exclaimed “The World Cup!” The man immediately broke into laughter and a wonderful conversation ensued about soccer. The conversation managed to bridge all rifts between us, and it was incredible to find something we all had in common.
After a comfortable stay in our rooms, we awoke today to a great buffet that consisted of toast and passion fruit juice. We walked to Will Woodstock’s office (the in-country World Challenge agent), and he gave us a brief synopsis of the city’s dangers and wonders, and how to proceed in arranging our trip to Longido tomorrow. We split up into groups of four and bought food, cooking fuel, rebooked our hotel, set up a bus for tomorrow, and talked to Zora (our Kili guide company). As usual, numerous street vendors selling jewelry, art, fruit, clothing, etc approached us as we wandered the dusty streets. After sorting food and changing over a bit more personal spending money, we were allowed to explore the city, and that brings us to me creating this blog entry.
We will probably not have another entry for a few days because tomorrow we are going to Longido to hike and meet the Masai people.

To infinity and beyond,

-Max + the Team

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Jambo Inn - Internet Cafe 9:33 PM 6/21

We arrived in Tanzania this afternoon and took a taxi to the US Embassy where we dropped off our information papers. We then continued on our taxi adventure to a hotel called "The Jambo Inn." It is a relatively nice hotel and we are all pleased that we are finally in country. Tomorrow is looking to be an extremely busy day. We must gather our gear and board a bus for Moshi. The ride is 8 hours and should prove to be rather...long. Max has a Scrabble board though, so about 4 hours of the trip will be arguing over some stupid word and/or the definition of "slang."

Till another time,

-Greg + the Team

Monday, June 19, 2006

And they are off.

Welcome to the first blog post for the Kilimanjaro Expedition! Here you’ll be able to track our progress from Boston through London to Tanzania and eventually to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Today was our first proper day of preparation, filled with gear checking, packing, unpacking, searching for minor missing items like our yellow fever immunization cards, calling our parents in a panic to bring out spare clothes et all, repacking, realizing nothing fits, jumping on the bag a couple of times to compress it, and then finally zipping it up all of our stuff and loading it into the car.
When you pack for a long expedition like this, there is plenty of stuff to bring; enough to overload even the largest Polar Gear backpack. But our most precious piece of equipment, isn’t really a piece of equipment. Her name is Kidogo, a little hamster puppet, dedicated as our fearless mascot. In Swahili Kidogo means, “a little,” a name which we all feel is quite apt for such a strange and amusing creature. Kidogo will be our mascot for the trip and will proudly proclaim victory atop Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Today we leave for London, red eye special, and arrive at 9:00 am in Heathrow, Airport where we will hopefully spend the day enjoying the wonderful British weather and, of course, practicing our British humor. As always, the excitement is running very high and we can’t wait to board the plane en route to London.
So from the members of Team Kilidogs remember:
You Stay Classy San-Diego…(written by: Seth)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Build-up day

We got our Tanzanian visa's today in the mail from the embassy which officially kicks off the trip as far as I am concerned...

To that end, Justin and I wanted to share our plan for the night before build-up day for the trip. We would love it if you all would join us at our place on Nobles' campus for a potluck supper on Sunday June 18th at 6pm.

We thought it might be fun if a few folks brought some Tanzanian related foods, if that's possible (although any item is surely welcome), to get us in the swing of things. I'll post some suggested menu items and then folks can comment about what they want to bring to coordinate the potluck a bit (ah, the pleasures of blogging). Sound good?

After we eat to our hearts content, the boys will have a sleepover at our house so we can be all set to begin build-up day on Monday morning in preparation for our evening flight. So the boys should be sure to bring everything they plan to bring with them on Sunday night. If there is stuff we decide not to bring with us, that can be kept at Nobles until we return.

Here's a summary of what lonely planet has to say about food:
Ugali (staple made from corn or cassava flour) would probably be the most common dish, served with sauce containing meat, fish, beans or greens.
Rice is flavored with coconut milk (on the coast mostly)
Plantains are another common staple.
Marinated meat kebabs (called mishikaki) are found in markets and often contain seafood along the coast.

And here are a few links I found to some Tanzanian recipes:

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Cookbook/Tanzania.html (please ignore the Duckling Dar es Salaam!!!)


So comment with what you're able to bring and we can't wait to see you all on the 18th.