Videos from our safari in the Ngorogoro Crater

I will do a separate post on our safari adventure in the Ngorogoro Crater which we experienced on Sunday, November 13, but wanted to do a separate post with some of the iPhone footage we took while there. All of the animals were specular, but I especially enjoy the videos of the lions (that roar vibrated in our chests), the zebras, and the ostriches. They were so close to us we could have touched them! Animals are amazing and I hope you enjoy!

Beautiful zebras on their way to the watering hole; they are one of my favourite animals to watch.

A magnificent, happy bull elephant makes his way to the watering hole. We watched him come down from the mountains and he crossed right in front of our vehicle.

A male and two female lions. We were watching them sleep when one female approached the male and this amazing roar happened. The shunned female sauntered away and laid down by herself while the male marked his territory by peeing on the second female who barely lifted her head through all the commotion. Amazing!

Many hippos in the hippo pool. What appear as rocks are this dangerous animal. Hippos are the second largest killer of women in Africa. Mosquitos are the first. Women are responsible to gather water in the early morning hours and are often attacked by these ferocious beasts.

 

Olivia wanted an ostrich. I couldn’t believe how many we saw in the Ngorogoro Crater! This one was close enough to touch, and I was nervous it might try to peck us through the window!

 

The LONG Journey Home

After a VERY late night of FaceTiming with D’Arcy, Olivia, and Evan at 7pm their time/2am my time (there may have been some drinks and celebrations after we finished our working on Thursday night…) we were up to meet for breakfast at 8:30 before Stan, Willy, Aturebecca, and Marynurce joined us for cappuccinos and a debrief of the workshop. We had positive feedback from the students, with most stating that the course had exceeded their expectations. The main negative comment was that the course was not long enough and the participants would have liked to have had five days together.

The amount of work we had gotten out of the participants was remarkable. They were all dedicated and determined to write a usable business plan. We had the suggestion to create a network beween the participants in the Veta projects and the participants from the NSCC projects, including facilitators, supporters, and students. Kellie and I were both able to talk to the team about future Enactus projects in Tanzania, the first one which we’re planning to implement in May 2018.

Amy & I excused ourselves at 10:00 to finish packing-up, since check-out was at 10:30. We moved our bags in to Kellie’s room, then went to the pool to chat with Aturebecca and Marynurce while Kellie, Stan, and Willy finished their meetings. At 11am, we all met up to say goodbye and take some group photos, and give many hugs.

We were being picked up to go to the airport by Amiri at 1pm, so we decided to sit by the pool and finish the last few beer we had bought on one of our first days which was still sitting in our fridge. We didn’t have an opener, so our new friend who works at the pool and in the fitness centre opened them for us using a beer can. We continued to tell stories, laugh, and reflect on the week.

When Amiri arrived, he took us to the bank so we could get out a few extra Tanzanian shillings and then we said goodbye to Kellie and went to the Maasi Market to see if we could find some authentic spices for Amy.

The Maasi Market is similar to the Slipway where Jim took me to shop in Dar es Saalam. It’s a series of shops, each the size of a closet, filled from top-to-bottom with knick-knacks. It’s hot and smelly, and you mostly find the same items in every shop. The shopkeepers are pushy and invade your personal space. They invite you in “free to look” and push their items on you. One shopkeeper said to us, “Just buy small thing; TSH 1000 (about 60 cents) will buy my lunch” Amiri obviously had a connection with one of the shopkeepers, whom he introduced us to and asked him to take him to take us around. He made a beeline to his own shop where I was able to find the African Nativity set I had missed out on purchasing at the Slipway when I was here in March. After we had made the purchase at his shop, he left us on our own to navigate the rest of the shops.

 

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With a shopkeeper at the Maasi Market

Amy found a canvas and some small gifts to take home, but unfortunately no spices. Luckily for me, Amy was as uncomfortable in that environment as I was and was happy to leave without going through the whole market. Next time we come to Tanzania, we’ll make sure we get to Zanzibar and take the spice tour there.

We did ask Amiri to take us back to the hotel for a short time so that we could use the washroom before driving 1.5 hours to the airport. The drive was beautiful and we were amazed at how much of the construction had been completed since we’d driven the same road just one week before. One bridge we had passed over had been torn down during the week. We passed Tengaru, and the banana and coffee plantations we had seen the week before.

We got pulled over at a random traffic stop (our second of the trip) but this time Amiri had to pull over to the side of the road and he & the traffic officer got into some heated words; it was obvious that Amiri was upset. Although (because) tourism is one of the most important industries in Tanzania, there is much documentation required to transport guests in the country. Although his paperwork to drive non-natives around was in order, there was definitely something going on! He was professional with us when he got back into the vehicle, but we could tell he was shaken.

As we continued to the airport, we had our eyes peeled to see Mt. Kilimanjaro, as it has been hiding behind the clouds all week. We were able to see the base of it, and Amiri gave us hope that we might see the peak from the airplane.

At Kilimanjaro airport and said a fond “until we meet again” to Amiri/”Dismas”, who was wonderful and pleasant to us all week. We tipped him and then went inside to get checked in and get our boarding passes. We had to put our bags through security just to enter the airport and the guard was laughing when he looked an my bag and could clearly see the bottles of beer I was bringing home as gifts, despite being all wrapped up in my clothing.

At the counter, Amy sailed right though and got her boarding passes for all three of our flights. Mine, however, were a problem, and they were unable to check me in. The supervisor took my passport and told us to sit down and fill in some paperwork while we waited. At one point, nine different people were trying to solve the problem and were all talking in Swahili and avoiding eye-contact. WE were relieved that we had arrived at the airport with ample time. Eventually, they were able to print my tickets to get me as far as Toronto, so they took my bag (which was exactly at the weight limit because of the beer; I had to carry the 5kg of coffee in my carryon) and we headed through immigration.

After immigration, we went to a cafe for one last Safari beer, and Amy did some shopping in the airport. Our timing was perfect; while she was shopping, a guest service agent came over to me and said we should clear through security for boarding in ten minutes.

Security was easy, although Amy had to give up the bottle of water she had just purchased. We changed into our travel clothes in the bathroom and after sending a few quick messages home to say we were on our way, walked out on the tarmac to board the plane to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On this flight, we were on a Dreamliner, which was comfortable. The flight was only 2.5 hours in duration, and so we decided to try to stay awake and sleep on our longer flight. I spent my time looking out the window, and writing some blogs on “Word” before I forget the details. One of the highlights of this flight was seeing the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro when we flew above the clouds. We were fed supper on the plane, and Amy had ravioli while I had chicken, rice & vegetables because the airline had run out of ravioli with Amy. We commented on how cool it was that we got to watch the sun rise over Africa as we arrived, and the sun set over Africa as we departed.

In Addis Ababa, we entered into the opposite side of the airport this time, so we were able to access services such as food and shopping. We got a table at a cafe and ordered some wine. By this time, we were getting “beered-out”. Shortly after we got our wine, we noticed two men looking for a table. We offered them to join us if they wanted, and they accepted. We started to chat with them and discovered that they were Canadian peacekeepers, returning home from a six-month deployment in South Sudan. The best part? One Danny lived in Edmonton, but the other Danny lives in Lawrencetown, Halifax County, Nova Scotia!

What are the chances of inviting random strangers to join your table 7000km away in Ethiopia, and discover they live just over an hour away from you?!

We had a good chat with them, and took turns going to the washroom while the other person stayed with the luggage. The ladies washroom was an interesting experience as it was located right next to the prayer room. I think when I went, a flight had recently arrived, and so while there was no wait for the toilet, I had a long wait to get to the sink to wash my hands. The women were preparing for prayer, washing their feet, hands, arms, and faces in preparation. I have incorporated an Islam 101 session into my class curriculum in the past, so I was comfortable waiting and watching the beautiful process. (Thank you, Deanna!) Cross-cultural competencies make travelling so much easier and enjoyable.

We went through security again, then had our papers checked before boarding our 16 hour flight from Ethiopia to Toronto. During that flight, I ate, watched multiple movies, and tried to sleep. We were not on the Dreamliner for this flight, and it was somewhat less comfortable. We were fed supper shortly after takeoff. Ethiopian Airlines appears to have a standard rotation of food. I had the ravioli for my first meal. Around 3am, we were served a breakfast type meal which was an eggy-bread type dish, with potatoes and sausage. Later, we were served either a chicken or beef sandwich which Amy & I both missed because we were dozing. Around 6am, I was served beef stew with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Interesting offering at that time of the day, regardless of what time-zone we were in.

The flight was smooth and we landed in Dublin for an hour mid-way to refuel, staying on the plane with electronic devices turned off.

We landed in Toronto and cleared customs without a hitch. We had the perfect amount of layover time. Amy’s seat mate on the flight from Addis Ababa was an older lady, traveling by herself to Montreal, who was slow and didn’t seem to understand much English. Amy took her bag for her, and got her into a wheelchair, pushing her towards immigration until an airline employee took over. Once we had cleared customs and got our bags, we had to find a ticket counter to get my boarding pass to Halifax printed. We had just enough time to purchase some water for the flights and send a few texts home before our final flight was called for boarding. We both made comments on how swollen our legs and feet were. I had received numerous mosquito bites on my calves and ankles during our final evening in Arusha and during the long flight, they had all swelled up and become angry; my shoes were leaving lines in my feet.

The flight from Toronto to Halifax was smooth and easy and passed very quickly. I watched the movie “Absolutely Fabulous” which I didn’t love. I think my taste in movies has changed over the years.

D’Arcy & Olivia were at the airport to greet me because the boys are curling in Summerside this weekend and Sarah was at Nutcracker rehearsal. It felt so good to see them and get hugs. Our luggage arrived, and before we knew it, I had to say goodbye to Amy as we drove off in separate directions after our epic adventure. It was bittersweet.

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Our welcoming committee was very cute! We don’t look tired at all…

Sarah was waiting at home with my parents when we finally pulled into the driveway, 32 hours after my journey home began. (And 38 hours since my day had started!) I did a little bit of unpacking and D’Arcy started the laundry while I gave a few little gifts to the girls; however, the rest will wait until the boys get home.

There had been talk of driving to Summerside to watch the boys curl, but I just wasn’t up for more travel. Although the girls were disappointed, D’Arcy helped me make the decision to take a nap while he took the girls to the Santa Claus Parade in the cold, pouring rain. I did nap, and while they were gone also had a shower. It felt so good to wash off all that travel! When they got back from the parade, they changed into dry clothes and we went to the new Boston Pizza in Truro for a quick bite to eat.

At home, D’Arcy lit a fire and I did my best to stay awake. I was trying to show the girls some of my safari photos, but kept falling asleep with the computer on my lap. By 9 p.m. D’Arcy put me to bed. Olivia had come to cuddle with me and obviously fell asleep because I found him sleeping in her bed when I woke this morning at 5 a.m. (noon by my body’s clock).

I’m hoping that today is a stay-at-home day, getting the rest of my blogs up now that I have fast enough internet to upload photos. D’Arcy also has already set up two of our Christmas trees in the B&B side of the house, so I’m hoping the girls will help me decorate those. I also have some schoolwork to do to get ready for the week. I can’t believe the end of the semester is less than four weeks away! Time to regroup!

First day of class in Tanzania

After getting off to a slow start, our first day of class went well; despite the fact I have been teaching for seven years now, each time I meet a new class, I get butterflies. I had woken up just before 5am and was unable to get back to sleep.

Because our participants are mostly teachers who run small businesses on the side, we are running the class from 1pm – 6pm daily. To be prepared for the first day, we were invited to the campus at 10:30 for “tea” which consisted of beef and andazi which is a Tanzanian donut. The campus is a half hour drive from our hotel, so we had breakfast and a cappuccino outside while rereading our case studies before being picked up.img_4118

While on our way to the campus, we learned that our driver’s name is Amiri, not Dismas. Dismas is on safari in the Serengeti for 14 days. We apologized profusely for calling him Dismas since we arrived, but in fairness, we had been told that Dismas was picking us up. We have been giggling about it ever since because this is the second time it has happened to us since we’ve been here! We were calling our driver in Ngorogoro “Edwin” when his name is Emmanuel. Edwin is the person from the office that we had been corresponding with before we got here. All three of us are name users, so it’s not like we called them the wrong name only once or twice! So embarrassing!

We spent time at the campus getting ready for the session, and then waited while our partners printed off all the papers we needed and finished translating the documents from English into Swahili.

Things were running behind, and we all had lunch together while waiting for the participants. We were told to expect around 10 people, but we ended up with 28!

We made the session as interactive as possible, beginning an hour late, but working them hard until 6:30 p.m. with one break for tea and ground nuts (peanuts). We asked the participants to each give us three business ideas, and it was interesting to see how similar their ideas were. Most of the participants are women, and they were interested in farming, and baking businesses. One woman, who appears to be ambitious wants to write a business plan to start a vocational training college.

We left them with homework to help them narrow down their ideas, and on Day 2 we will spend the day writing business plans. Most of the participants speak English, but a few are only comfortable in Swahili, so we had to be aware to speak very slowly, and our co-facilitators from the college translated for us.

We got back to the hotel around 7:30 and had dinner and some wine. Because the staff have gotten to know us so well, the general manager of the hotel offered us a discount on our meal, despite the fact we weren’t hungry enough for the buffet. We ate from it anyway, our of a feeling of guilt. It was delicious with anything you could think of to choose from. We sat outside on the deck under an umbrella while it rained, and were able to facetime into my Enactus meeting at Pictou Campus. Two of my Enactus students are travelling internationally this summer, so it was rewarding for me to connect Kellie with them further.

It was probably (definitely) way too late when we went to bed, but we’re trying to make the most of each day.

New Venture Design and Development in Tanzania

The purpose of our trip to Tanzania is to be the lead facilitators in an entrepreneurship course called “New Venture Design and Development” at the VHTTI campus in Arusha. We are working with a team from the campus, who are our co-facilitators and will deliver the course again in the future.

We spent the day at the campus yesterday and it is beautiful!  Arusha is a popular tourist area, attracting guests who are on their way to the Serengeti, the craters, and Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The campus focuses on tourism offerings at a diploma level. They have their own operating training hotel with 25 rooms (23 standard and two presidential suites), a training restaurant, business office, and swimming pool.

Amy & I were joined by our colleague, Kellie, from NSCC International on Sunday. She is here to meet about a number of projects NSCC has operating in Tanzania now and in the future, and also is supporting us as we deliver our course. The three of us were picked up by our driver, Dismas, who took us to the campus for nine. The drive to the campus took us through an area we had not been before, which appeared to be more prosperous than other areas we’ve driven through.

At the campus, we were warmly welcomed by our teammates, Willy and Sam, as well as the acting principal, Stan, all of whom I’d met in Nova Scotia in the past. We signed the guest book and then were given a tour before engaging in a series of meetings. We were served “tea” mid-morning which consisted of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, along with potatoes, chicken wings, and julienned vegetables (peppers and carrots).

After tea, we solidified our plan for the course over the next few days. We have been working on the course together virtually using tools like Skype and Google Drive, but it was much more productive to be in a room together sharing ideas.

Once we all felt comfortable with the curriculum, Sam left us to deliver homework (two case studies) to the participants so they could read them and be thinking about them before we begin. The rest of us had lunch together, made by the students, and were joined by Jumbe – another faculty – whom I had met in Nova Scotia this summer.

Lunch consisted of potatoes, rice, green salad, a chicken stew type dish, a spinach and onion dish, and a chicken & vegetable stir-fry made in front of us. For dessert we had homemade ice cream and watermelon. It was delicious – all the food here is so fresh and healthy.

After lunch, which happens in the early afternoon, we drove back to our hotel via the supermarket where we dissolved in to giggles when the store clerk wouldn’t let me carry my purchases, but didn’t seem concerned about Amy or Kellie.

It was one of the warmest days we’ve had so far, so at the hotel, we put on our bathing suits to work around the pool. Because we’re so close to the equator, the sun sets around six and we continued to work outside after dark. When we were finished, we changed and went to dinner where the staff had “our” table waiting for us. We have been eating off the menu rather than from the buffet because there is just so much food. I had a beef, vegetable, and cheese croissant with fried potatoes and salad, while Amy had a chicken dish, and Kellie had a burger. We were responsible and went to bed at a decent time to be ready for school in the morning.

The internet is slow and unreliable here, so safari photos will be coming soon.

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I had an amazing day of learning today, but it was overshadowed by thoughts of Aidan and his family as they celebrated his life. I was very aware of the time all day today, and kept converting the seven hour time difference so that I would know when his service was beginning.

I was able to spend some time by myself, reflecting on the people I love, and I played “Yellow”, by Coldplay which was going to be sung at the service by Aidan’s cousin.

My trip blog will return tomorrow.

Aidan, you will always be loved and I will do my best to keep being honest & open about the dangers of drug experimentation with the hope to save another life.

 

Karibu Tanzania!

*For some reason, my computer and phone aren’t speaking to one another and my wifi has disappeared from my phone. It’s 3:15am (TZ time) so I’m going to go back to bed for a few hours and hope to figure it out and add the rest of our photos tomorrow… or the next time I get decent internet…

After 27 smooth hours, Amy & I arrived at our destination, the Arusha Hotel a few hours ago.

We left our house around 4:40 am. When we arrived at the airport at 5:30,  I received a text from Amy saying that she had already gone through security and was waiting for me at the gate. I got many hugs and kisses and “I love yous” from my family and I went through security without a hitch. One we were upstairs, Amy & I chatted while we waited for boarding to be called.

The flight from Halifax to Toronto was 2.5 hours and I settled in to do some work, and stare out the window.

During our layover in Toronto, we got some breakfast because they hadn’t served any on the plane. We had croissants filled with egg and ham. Amy had coffee and I had water. I hooked in to the airport wifi so I could post marks for the marketing test my students had written the day before (thank you to my colleague, Rosemary, for proctoring AND marking the tests for me!) so that they wouldn’t have to wait a week to receive them.

Before we knew it, our flight was being called from Toronto to Addis Ababa, Ethopia. We were each lucky to be seated by a window, with a space between us and the next person. The gentleman I had as a seat partner was named Harry and was originally from Cameroon. He was on his was to Zanzibar for his brother’s wedding. His sister was also on the plane with Harry’s six month old niece, so I got to play with her a little bit, too. So sweet!

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Ethiopian Airlines – here we go!!

The 13 hour flight did not feel as long as I had feared.  I spent my time reading and watching movies. I watched “You before Me” (book was better), “Fink Family” (not Nicole Kidman’s finest work), and “The Bridges of Madison County”. I am reading “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline which I am enjoying. We were well fed. Shortly after takeoff we were served a snack of crackers and wine. For supper, I chose a tomato pasta that came with bean salad and a delicious apple cake (with another glass of wine). A few hours later, we were served a sandwich of brie, sliced apples, and lettuce on a ciabatta bun with another glass of wine. I then tried to sleep a little bit.

The flight attendant woke me for breakfast which was an omelette with roasted herbed potatoes, and roasted tomato, served with melons and a croissant. No wine this time; I chose orange juice. It was beautiful to watch the sun come up over Ethopia and when we landed at 8:00 a.m. it was only 8*C.

The airport in Addis Ababa was interesting because there was nowhere to get a snack or anything to drink once you got through security. I was hoping to get a bottle of water to take my malaria pill, but ended up finishing Amy’s bottle from Toronto.

Luckily our stop there was not long and we were bussed back out onto the tarmac to board our plane to Kilimanjaro which we noted was the same one – it had been cleaned during our stop-over though. Again, the flight was smooth, and it was beautiful to watch the scenery through Ethopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Once we landed we were able to zip through customs (after we had our photo and fingerprints taken) because we had obtained our travel visas ahead of time. Our bags were waiting for us, and so was our driver, Dismas. The temperature was 22*C when we arrived and it felt really good. The drive from the airport to Arusha took close to two hours and we did see one accident along the way. Unfortunately, Mt. Kilimanjaro was shrouded in fog, so we didn’t get to see it. Hopefully on our way back… We were looking at everything and Amy confided later over dinner that she had the same initial reaction that I did when I arrived last year. It’s everything you expect and everything you didn’t expect.

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We’re here! Outside of Kilimanjaro Airport

The area in Kilimanjaro was very dry and there were many dust storms. The rainy season is just beginning. As we drove towards Arusha, things started to become greener at the higher elevation. We drove by groves of banana trees, herds of goats and cows, Arabica coffee plantations, and rice paddies. The city of Arusha is a tourist area with a population of about one million people. This is where many safaris begin.

The Arusha Hotel, where we are staying, is under construction being upgrade, but is beautiful. Amy and I dropped our bags in our rooms, put on our bathing suits, and sat outside by the pool for a few hours while we tried to stay awake. We shared some beer and some delicious food. We had beef satay, vegetable spring rolls, and a delicious spicy chicken wrap which we both said we would order again! As we sat outside, there were thunderstorms, but they didn’t produce any rain where we were.

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Priorities – the local beer tasted good after all that travel!

The service here has been attentive and amazing. Both Amy & I are highly impressed. We anticipate having some time on Monday when we’re not teaching, so we have arranged with our server tonight, Dennis, that he is going to take us in to the city (on his day off) for some shopping and to find Amy some spices. I’m not much of a shopper, but authentic food products – this will be fun!

We managed to stay outside until about 7pm when we went to our rooms to pack an overnight bag for tomorrow, shower (it was cold, but it felt GOOD to wash all that travel off), and get some sleep. The internet was still slow and wonky for me, so I set my alarm, and I’m pretty sure I was asleep as soon as my head hit the comfortable pillow!

Unfortunately, with the seven-hour time difference, my sleep ended up being more like a nap and I was awake shortly after midnight. I have puttered around and read some, then decided it was as good a time as any to post about our travel day.

I promised my family and my students that I will post as often as possible. It’s good for me, as it acts like a diary later and I remember some of the little details I had forgotten.

Tomorrow we leave Arusha to spend one night in the Ngorogoro Crater. We’ll be participating in a cultural tour at the Tengeru Cultural Village, and then spend the night at the Serena Lodge right on the crater. On Sunday, we will participate in a half-day safari into the crater and have a picnic lunch on the crater floor before returning here to Arusha and teach on Monday.

Hakuna matata!

Home is where the heart is.

Here I am, writing on the airplane as I begin my journey back to Tanzania. It’s been a whirlwind since I found out in September that I would have the privilege to return, this time to teach Entrepreneurship in Arusha, which is in the north of the country, close to the border of Kenya. I’m not travelling with Jim this time, but with Amy, a tourism management faculty from the Annapolis Valley. Jim is just returning from vacation in Thailand and Myanmar and will be teaching my classes while I am away.

It was more difficult to leave this time; we have been dealing with a tragedy in our family circle.

Last Friday, we received devastating news that our friends’ son, (his aunt has been my best friend for 39 years) had been experimenting with magic mushrooms for the second time and had fallen 22 stories to his death. Aidan was an A-student, member of his university’s soccer team, basketball player, coach of elementary kids, volunteer, loving oldest brother, and partner to Becky. He was a young man who had his whole life ahead of him.

It was so difficult to tell our kids – especially the boys. They have grown up together and are like cousins. The family made the decision that they are going to share Aidan’s story with the hope of saving another child so we have been having tough conversations with our kids (and I with my students) about experimenting with drugs – even the “soft” drugs. You just don’t know what you are getting or what it might be laced with. You don’t know how it will affect you one time over another.

It’s not worth the risk.

It can happen to anyone.

Aidan’s obituary

Yesterday, I took a vacation day and took the four kids to PEI to visit with the family. Because of the circumstances of his death, Aidan had to be identified through DNA testing before the medical examiner would release his body. Much of the week was spent in a holding pattern before arrangements could be made. The funeral will be held on Saturday, so we’re not able to go, but we needed to see them, and hug them, and begin to process it all.

As it turned out, the family was holding an all-ages basketball game yesterday in Aidan’s memory. It was wonderful. Aidan had coached many of his younger brother Quinn’s (10) friends and they were all there, plus our kids, Aidan’s sister Hannah, his girlfriend Becky, his roommates, and his life-long friends. Watching the kids laugh and run and play was therapeutic for everyone there. The kids played and the adults talked… and hugged… and shared stories… and some tears…

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Too soon, we had to head home and Evan drove. He did a good job and got us there safely, but it was a harrowing drive.  A transport truck forced us off the road onto the shoulder at one point, but Evan stayed calm and kept the van under control. We passed three separate incidents where police were on site with flashing lights; one was a women who had hit a deer. I know that because we also ran over part of it in the fog. I think we were all happy when we arrived home.

It was an early morning drive to the airport as our flight left at 6:45 am. If all goes smoothly, we will be traveling for approximately 27 hours (18 hours in the air) before we arrive at our hotel on Friday afternoon (new time). There is a seven hour time difference between Truro and Arusha. We fly from Halifax to Toronto, then Toronto to Addis Ababa (with a stop in Dublin), then Addis Ababa to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I am looking forward to returning to this beautiful county with its amazing people and culture. I am excited  to teach using some of the curriculum Jim and I designed as a result of our last trip. I am delighted that I get to travel with Amy, and that Kellie from NSCC International will be in Arusha with us for part of the time.  I am thrilled to be exploring new areas and grateful to have the opportunity to go on safari again.

I am blessed that my family understands and supports my travels through my work; I know it’s not easy for them when I am away. For me, today was harder to leave than other times have been; my heart is at home.

Happy Birthday, dear Sarah

Yesterday our daughter, Sarah, turned 12. The years are passing so quickly! Unlike their brothers, who have late summer birthdays when things are busy at the B&B, but not with school activities, we have to fit the girls’ birthday celebrations in when we can!

Olivia has had a countdown going for awhile:

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I am going back to Tanzania soon – only for nine days! Evan likes to pull his sisters’ chains!

Sarah’s birthday happened to fall on provincial inservice day for teachers this year, so none of the kids had school, and D’Arcy & I were both attending professional development seminars in Truro. We rushed through our traditional gift opening in the morning (it is tradition for our kids to give one another sugary cereal on their birthday – which is shared between the four of them). She had asked for a “challenging Perplexes” game for her birthday (she loves Science & math) so we got her the “Epic Perplexes“.  I will buy this type of toy/game as long as they will ask for them!!

My parents took the girls to a new indoor playground in Halifax for the day and they had a ball. The cut-off age to play is 12, so this was a one-and-only experience for the girls.

We all met at one of our favourite pubs, the Nook & Cranny for a celebratory dinner at 5pm, before Sarah had to be at Jazz. Unfortunately, Evan wasn’t able to join us because he was playing football in Dartmouth, but my parents and Alex’s girlfriend, Claire, joined us.

Dinner was wonderful and our service was great. There was one moment of anxiousness when Olivia said she thought her wrap had mayo (it did – and she has an anaphylactic egg allergy). Luckily, she is really good about checking before ingesting, so we brought it to the server’s attention and the wrap was replaced with a safe one quickly and with much apology.

They were happy to serve our safe cake (homemade egg-free cinnamon bun cheesecake) before Sarah ran across the street to dance.

Sarah has a highland dance competition this weekend, so Plan “A” had been for her to sleepover with her grandparents. However, the birthday girl knew some of her family were planning to go to Evan’s football game, so she wanted to join us. In the end, it was POURING a cold rain, so Alex & D’Arcy went to the game while the three girls had a sleepover, tucked in together watching the curling.

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The score was 28-0 for the Cougars!! Dartmouth forfeited at half-time.

Although it was a busy day, with lots to fit in, I think Sarah felt her day was special. The rest of the weekend features a highland dance competition, a B&B get-together, appointment for Olivia, Hallowe’en party, Nutcracker rehearsal, curling, and guests.

A few of my favourite Sarah photos from over the years:

 

So thankful

We had our 8th annual McDonah family Thanksgiving celebration yesterday, and it was quite possibly the best celebration yet. We had 52 McDonahs around the table, including D’Arcy’s parents and my parents. Our kids countdown to Thanksgiving with more enthusiasm than they do for Christmas. I think it’s safe to say that Thanksgiving is the favourite holiday for each of the six of us.

Prep happens early. Pies were made with Sarah’s and Olivia’s help last weekend and put in the freezer. D’Arcy made the bread for the stuffing. I do the planning. The boys mowed the lawn and helped with the physical setup.

I verbalized to D’Arcy on Saturday morning as we were a beehive of activity, “Do you ever think about how lucky we really are? Not only are we fortunate enough to have the skills, the space, and the resources to host our large family for this dinner, but we have fun while doing it!” There is very little – I can’t say there is none – stress.

We did have one of my students here at the beginning of our celebration to take some photos, which I will post later. However, in the meantime, here are some of the candid/phone photos from our weekend, plus our first time lapse of our setup.

Our candid Thanksgiving photos.

A few details (to remind me for later years…):

  • 52 people, aged 8 months to 89 years (BIG birthday coming up in December)
  • 62lbs of chicken/turkey
  • “Kathryn’s” potato casserole; squash casserole; zucchini casserole; dressing; frenched green beans, peas, peppers & basil; bean salad; rolls; orange jello salad; gravy; cranberry sauce; apple pie (3); apple crisp; pumpkin pie (4).
  • 2.5 cases of wine; keg of Uncle Leo’s Beer; non-alcoholic punch
  • Score of Evan’s Saturday football game: 54-7; #82
  • Brian & Morag biked the 102km to be with us
  • All six of us went to Mass together, so the table was set after we got home
  • Evan made me cry at church when he leaned in and said, “So this is my last year at home for all of this…” (break your mother’s heart!!!)
  • Things members of our family our thankful for: being present, not on military tour; family; friends; uncles; new babies (expanded family); food; where we live; health;  good grades; good times; freedom; travel; family gatherings; our health care system; clean water; connections; we love AND like one another.
  • Largest food bank contribution to date – all going to the NSCC Pictou Campus food bank (You can’t learn when you’re hungry!)
  • Karaoke party is part of the new tradition

So much to be Thankful for!!! (Professional photos in a separate post.)

Happy New (School) Year!

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The McDonah family 2016-2017 First Day of School Photo

As happens in many households with teachers and children, the first day of school is more our “new year” than January 1st. We had a productive summer, and although we were sad to see it end, there is an air of excitement about getting back to school. From what we can tell, it’s going to be a busy, exciting year with many changes.

 

Two years ago, we finally realized that the first day of school is much less stressful – fun even – when we close the B&B the night before. It’s our tradition to take a photo on the stairs on the first day, so everyone was up early (Olivia’s school bus arrives at 7:15 a.m.), the music was pumping, there were people in multiple bathrooms getting ready, and lots of laughter. Despite the excitement, I couldn’t help but be a bit wistful knowing, that in all likelihood, Evan will be away at university next year and it will just be five of us.

 

This year, Evan is in Grade 12, so will be graduating from high school. He is running with the cross-country team, and has made his high school football team. Their first game in tomorrow night in Halifax. He will be curling competitively again on his own team, and also on the school team. In addition, he is working part-time at Wendy’s restaurant.

 

Alex is starting high school today (Grade 10). He’ll be keeping himself busy also running cross-country, curling competitively, playing clarinet & saxophone in concert & jazz band, auditioning for the musical, and preparing for Confirmation. Alex is intending to take the full International Baccalaureate program in integrated French, and I have no doubt he will find other activities at his new school to join.

 

Sarah begins Junior High today (Grade 6). She will be highland dancing twice a week, taking jazz and ballet, and is so excited to be in an intro-pointe class. She also is curling competitively, taking piano lessons, and playing the trumpet in concert & jazz bands. She auditioned for “The Nutcracker” earlier this week.

 

Olivia is in Grade Four and nervous about being alone at her elementary school this year. Luckily, Sarah’s godmother is Olivia’s teacher this year, so I can’t imagine the nerves lasting very long. Olivia will be taking jazz and step-dancing, playing the flute and the fiddle, and curling competitively. She told us in the spring that her wish is to curl “every day of the week”.

 

D’Arcy is getting back closer to his roots, teaching Grade 8 Science in addition to English Language Arts this year. He’s planning to start a debate team at his school, and will continue to coach his school curling team and his daughters’ curling team. (That should be interesting!) He also is on the board of the curling club and will curl recreationally.

 

I am teaching all new subjects this semester – Marketing, Organizational Behaviour, and Business Consulting. I will continue to be the faculty advisor for our campus Enactus team and Challenge Nova Scotia, and it looks as though I will be traveling to Tanzania again in November to teach Entrepreneurship. The edits from the curriculum I wrote last year with my Academic Chair should be finished by Thanksgiving. My book club is a highlight of my month, and I am happy to have discovered audio books this summer which allow me to multitask.

 

We are fortunate to have my parents close by to help with chauffeuring, greeting guests until we get home, and serving breakfasts for us. September and October will continue to be busy as we transition in to school while still hosting guests. We have five time repeat guests (now friends) arriving from Germany tonight for a few days, so are back in business. I have a feeling it is going to be a fantastic year!