15 October 2017 Sunday -Arusha, Tanzania ~ Day 6

Today was a “slow day.” The pre-trip to Masai Mara is over, and this marks the start of the “official” trip. There are five people on the trip who didn’t take the pre-trip extension (Bonnie, Jim, John, Betty, and another Mary), and they just got to Africa, so I think we’re taking it a little easy so they can adjust to the new timezone.

We’re staying at a lodge called the Moivaro Coffee Plantation. It used to be a full coffee plantation, but it’s not profitable. So now they just grow coffee for people staying at the lodge.

The lodge is beautiful, with excellent food, and even Internet access! So I was able to check my Facebook for the first time in days.

I spent some time taking photos of the unusual flowers. I’m not that big on flowers, but I didn’t recognize a lot of these.

Some of the plants at the lodge are labeled. I found this one amusing: a Flamboyant Tree. I didn’t know there was such a thing, but here’s your proof:

Then our Tanzania guide, Eki, told us the plan for the day.

Our first stop was at a company called Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa. This is a really cool thing. The owner spent some time in Central America learning a process to create a special porous ceramic pot that takes dirty / unsafe water and filters it through the pot to make it clean and safe. The clay has a special formula of clay, ashes and colloidal silver that makes it porous, and allows it to trap bacteria and other dirt. When the pots are fired in the kiln, it creates a layer of hardened charcoal that acts as a filter. So basically, you dump dirty water into the pot, and out comes clean, safe, drinkable water.

Every day across Africa, poor people get sick because they’re drinking unsafe, dirty water full of bacteria and disease. One filter can process enough drinking water, making it safe for an entire family. These filters can change their lives.

Our travel company, OAT, does a very cool thing: They give people on the trip the opportunity to buy one of these water filters and donate it to a family in need, later in the trip. It costs a fair amount of money to produce these filters, due to the expensive components in the clay, like colloidal silver, that do the filtering.

I asked Eki: “Since it’s ceramic, isn’t it fragile? What if the drop it and break it?”

He basically said that the families know how important and valuable the filter is. It’s a lot of money to them. It’s worth an entire goat, so they’re going to treat it with a lot of care and respect.

So Kathy and I bought a water filter for forty dollars, and a few days from now, we’ll drive to a well in rural Tanzania where poor families gather water, and give them away to whomever happens to be there. Eki said he will explain to the recipient how to clean and maintain the filters at that time.

We were disappointed that only four pots were purchased, including ours.

They set up a little demonstration area in the shop and gave us a talk about how the filters are made and how they work.

They showed us shelves where the filters were drying before being fired, and after they’re fired.

Then they made a filter using their special clay formula and a press.

They had grinders for the filter ingredients.

They had a big stash of corn cobs for getting the kiln really hot. It was awesome they could reuse a waste product to do this.

Here you can see the activated charcoal that gets fired into the clay:

The owners also make some normal pottery to supplement their income. They are made with normal clay, not with the expensive ingredients used for the filters. The owner showed us his skill at making a flower pot.

The company has won international awards for their work, and it is changing the lives of poor people across Africa.

As we drove through Arusha, we saw some unusual sights you can only see in other countries. Here’s a guy transporting some corn. Not just on the cob: he’s got the whole stalk.

Here’s how you transport long PVC pipes:

We saw the “Donald Trump Hotel”! Many of us thought it was hilarious that someone would call name a hotel in Tanzania that. Eki said that it was probably not meant as a spoof, or to get publicity. It was probably meant to honor the President, if you can believe that.

When you live in the forest, but you got to walk to work, well:

Next, we drove to a secret Albino sanctuary near Arusha. This is a very interesting thing I didn’t know about.

The woman who runs the place, (an albino) gave us a talk about the problems facing albinos in Africa. It was very touching and interesting. I had no idea this was going on.

It turns out that there’s a lot of cultural taboos and superstitions about albinism across Africa. Apparently, if someone gives birth to an albino child, they think the parents are cursed. Many albinos are killed outright as babies. The ones who don’t get killed need to stay hidden because they’re shunned, shamed, ostracized, and treated as outcasts. Many people don’t understand that it’s just a recessive gene they get from their parents: genetics.

To make matters worse, there are apparently witch doctors who tell people to bring them the hands, arms or legs of an albino as part of a treatment for some curse. Consequently, albino people are often maimed and mutilated.

There are all kinds of superstitions and misunderstandings about albinism. For example, many albinos are locked in a room, kept hidden from the public. They often die young, and are buried secretly. So people tend to think that albinos don’t die. They think they just disappear from one place and appear another place.

Albinos have no skin pigment, so they need to keep their skin hidden from the sun most of the time. Their eyes are very sensitive to the light, so they avoid the sunlight and often wear sunglasses. So people think they’re like ghosts, or vampires, and can fly.

This safe-haven is a place where albinos can be safe from harm and make a little money without being harassed. It is really strange to see “black” people that are pasty white like me.

I asked the woman, “What about me? I’m just as pasty white as you guys. Do the superstitious people think I can fly, or disappear? Do they think I don’t die? What’s the difference?”

She said that everyone knows that a white person is just a white person. Go figure.

After the Albino sanctuary, we went to a fancy hotel where we ate a fabulous lunch. They even gave us a cooking lesson.

That hotel also had a big flower garden, so we spent some time walking around their garden and taking more photos of flowers.

After lunch, we went back to the lodge. After a bit, a bunch of us went for a walk around the area. This was a hillside village near Arusha. First, our guide showed us the coffee plants, and what the coffee beans look like when they’re ripe and harvested.

Next, we walked around the village. We saw a bunch of different fruit trees, like avocados, mangos, and such.

We saw how they keep their animals. Some family complexes were more poor than others.

A local boy started following us around. I think he was trying to learn or improve his English language skills. For some unknown reason, he started clinging to me like I was his best friend in the world. It was really cute. I think he said his name was Alexander. Maybe he was attracted to my strange white hair and skin. That would make the plight of the albinos even more sad.

We saw how bananas grow on trees:

We saw a local fresh produce store:

I don’t remember why I took this photo of Kathy, but it’s cute. I think I was experimenting with settings on my camera.