At 7:00 am Amy, Bryce, Joe, Raffy and myslef were sleepily waiting on the side of the Arusha Highway for the St. Timothy’s Students to pick us up in their buses. Today all 134 students were going to the Tarangine National Park on a Safari. This is a field trip that Mama Hope funds annuallly as a way to celebrate the end of their school term. At 7:30am the buses pulled up and kids all stuck their heads out the windows waving to us. When I stepped onto the bus there was a sea of green and white uniforms because it was completely packed with students. There were 4 children to every two seats, they were sitting on each other’s laps but none of the kids seemed uncomfortable. They were all grinning and excited for their field trip so they just scooted around to make room for us and we were all on our way.
Almost immediately your typical “Field Trip Bus” hijinks began. One student would start singing a song like “Bingo” and for a few minutes everyone would raucously join in until it trailed off about 10 minutes later. A few students were playing a version of “I spy” counting everything they saw that was yellow and every time one of the students named Alvin saw a sign for Tarangine he would update me enthusiatically, “106 km and we arrive!”
When we reached Arusha, Esther tapped me on the shoulder excitedly pointing at something in the street, “Look, I’ve never seen one before. And now there are two!” I looked around trying to see what they all were so excited about and then Doreen told me “Look its a stop light. We don’t have them in Moshi”.
A little later into the trip I heard some commotion and Acinta shouted “Meshak, you just farted! Open the window!” Meshak sat there looking embarassed as everyone laughed and the girls looked disgusted. Then he laughed and proudly said “I did!” and played it off like only a 9 year old boy can with the other boys giving him high fives for grossing out the girls.
After about 5 hours we finally arrived at the park and a tour guide got on our bus and said “if you want see the animals you have to be very quiet.” The kids immediately got very serious. It was safari time.
Tarangine’s landscape was absolutely breathtaking it was covered with herds of animals, wildebeests, warthogs, impalas, zebras, giraffes, elephants and hundreds of massive baobob trees. At one point, we were looking at a group of zebra who seemed to be distracted by something and then we saw why. Under a baobob tree about 50 feet away was a giant lioness eating a wildebeest. The kids all clammered to get a look and whispered “simba”. I announced “that is my first time seeing a lion” they all responded enthusiastically “me too!”
After seeing the lion it was time for lunch and we descended upon the picnic area. When we were finsished and headed back to the bus out of the corner of my eye I saw a giant baboon sneaking up on a group of khakied dutch safari picnicers. He broke into a run, hopped on their table, roared and grabbed one of the women’s lunch boxes and jumped over the fence and defiantly ate it all right in front of her. Then if as on cue, 35 baboons emerged from the bushes hopping on tables, stealing lunches and chasing little girls. We all watched from afar and as they reclaimed the picnic area. When we all got back on our buses and left the baboons stood in the parking lot as if to say “And stay out!!!”
Two hours later, after seeing 5 more lions and hundreds more animals, it was 5:00pm and time to make our way back to Moshi. A few hours into the ride Doreen was asleep in my lap, Sarafina and Jessica on either side using my shoulders as pillows and I was balancing Peace’s head in my hand as she slept. The mosqitoe bites on my leg were itching like crazy but I didn’t want to move and wake the girls so I tried my best to doze off as well. Just as I finally was starting to dream I was awakend by a huge “BAM!!!” and a loud clunking noise started coming from the buses engine. It was about 9:00pm and it was pitch dark except for headlights of the passing cars. I stepped out of the bus and stretched for the first time in 4 hours. Soon all of students piled out of the bus excited by this new development in their field trip. They were playing tag and Joe showed a few curious students how to use the southern cross constellation to find Saturn. It was one of those moments I was sure could of never happened in the USA. There was no fear about the dark just joy. There was no complaining from the children or angry parents demanding a refund. Instead while we waited for a new bus to pick us up we watched shooting stars appear above us everywhere.