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They found Neema

View Where in the world is Ashley Churchill on AshleyC's travel map.

They found Neema, the student in my class that wandered away on Friday. She only had to spend one night out. Which is a good thing because I don't know how long she would have lasted on her own. Megan wants to leave the placement. I see her point. She's only 18 and this particular position is very demanding. Tracey, one of my fellow Canucks at the home base wants to take her place. Which is absolutely fine with me since Ibra, the CCS guy, doesn't seem to concerned about it at all. There is no way a single person can teach a special ed class of 15 on their own. The kids are starting to respond to me and my lessons. Learning the alphabet is going to be a slow process, but they're catching on. One funny tidbit. I was having them write the letter 'D' today and look at one of them wrote...


And she doesn't understand english. Out of all the words she could have written, she writes 'doom'. Maybe she's brighter (and darker) than people give her credit for. Not much else is new. We had a batik class yesterday. Look at what I made...


I can't wait for my safari on the weekend.

Peace out


Posted by AshleyC 03:43 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

This just gets better and better....

-17 °C

So Megan and I went to the school today with the expectation that we were going to do a home visit. So we would be visiting the homes of one or two of our students. But when we arrived at the school, there were more people there than we expected and a local woman in tears. One of our students didn't arrive home yesterday. I don't even remember her. She only came to class a few times and I never worked that closely with her. But we joined one of the staff teachers and the girl's mom to start canvasing the area. But when we went to the home of this one man that had been attacked the night before, Megan and I started to become very uncomfortable. Most of the time we feel perfectly safe in the area. But we had an encounter last week that reminded us that always have to proceed with caution. We don't know the area that well and we're out in the backroads looking for a girl that we don't really know. So we made an excuse to go back to the home base and left.

I do hope she gets back home. But with her limited mental capactity and the vast landscape of the Moshi area, it doesn't seem to likely.


Posted by AshleyC 05:43 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Kili trek is over, now a whole new mountain to climb.

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This 'mountain' be the figuritive one that is my placement work.

So I arrived back on earth on the 7th and on the 9th I moved into my new home for the next two months. As many of you know, I will be teaching for 8 weeks before I leave Tanzania in my dust and take off again. I've been teaching at the Shiramatuda School for Disabled for almost 2 weeks now. Its very..... challenging.

The head teacher of the class is completely corrupt. She steals and hoards tons of materials from other classes in the school and then turns around and asks me to buy her more stuff. And I really don't think she has been putting a great deal of effort into her work. The abilities of the students vary greatly. From down syndrome and dyslexia everything else inbetween. And the ones that have the more minor disabilities are far behind what they should be. Many cannot indentify an individual letter of the alphabet or even spell their own name. So that is what I'm putting my focus on. I just made some new flash cards that the students really enjoy. To help them distinguish one question from another, I put a number, a shape and the colour of the shape on the card. I'll ask a question like Rangi gani? (what colour?) Numba gani?(what number?) or Umbo gani?(what shape?). And the kids love to argue over what the correct answer is since there are three possible answers.

The alphabet is continuing to be a challenge. They know the ABC song, but thats it. They cannot tell an individual letter from the next. Buts thats only one half of the class. The other half have much more severe disabilities and will drift off into space really quickly. I did introduce one more number into one girl's numeric vocabulary. She would only write'1'. And she would write '1' over and over again until the other kids finished their math work. So put the pencil in her hand and guided her hand to write '2'. So now she is writing '2' over and over again. I'm not sure if she knows what '2' means, but its a step in the right direction.

I keep feeling as though I am the worst possible person for this specific job. I have no formal teaching experience and I haven't interacted with children since I kicked that all-consuming paste eating habit that I like to call the late 80's. The teacher doesn't offer much guidiance. She pretty much hands the class over and says 'teach them'. There is no set curriculum, and I have to create all of my own lesson plans. Not to mention the great lengths I have to go to, to work around the head teacher. Did I mention that they speak absolutely no english and every single one of my lessons must be in Swahili? This placement should be reserved for someone that has formal teaching experience. Not someone that was looking for something to do while they were in the area and thought "I'll teach something to someone." The girl that I'm teaching with wants to get out bu the end of the month. And to be honest, I have been thinking about trying to get transferred too. I'll see how it goes.

The home base that I'm living on is great. As many of you would expect, I'm deffinately alienating a few Americans. The health care, gay rights, and high dollar strike a few nerves. But hay, if they want to be part of 'the land of the free', they have to take all that comes with it. The food is awesome. I'm deffinately eating far more than I should. I have to cut back a bit. But its all so delicious! I'm going an a three day safari next weekend and I'm going to Zanzibar in March. It'll be a blast for sure.

I'll most more pictures in the near future. I'd hate for the envy back home to die out.



Posted by AshleyC 09:33 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)


-17 °C
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It wasn't easy, but I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro!!! The whole experience took me a total of 6 days (4 going up, 2 coming down). There are about 10 differnet routes you can take to go up Kili that all eventually lead to the much anticipated Uhuru Peak. I took the ever popular Marangu Route.

Me at the Marangu gate

Stuff along the way...

When you first enter the Marangu gate, you are in what appears to be a rain forest. Complete with exotic plants, flowers and monkies. It is a trek of about 7 km until you reach the first camp, Mandara. Its not that bad of a walk. The only thing I take issue with are all the rocks. To be specific, the rocks on the road. It just makes the trek that much harder.

I arrived at the Mandara camp in the early afternoon. This is when I learn one of the most irriating local customs (or atleast when they are dealing with travellers), the food. The food is delicous. But its three 4 course meals a day plus snacks. Do they think every westerner is morbidly obese? During the entire trek, I did not finish a single meal.

I went to see some crater while at Mandara. I forget what its called.
I also looked at the small town of Rongai (there is also a Rongai route up the mountain). Just beyond the town, is Kenya. But don't worry mom, this the closest I ever got to Kenya.

After spending the night at Mandara, I head off for the next camp, Horombo. The surroundings of this part of the trek are vastly different from the previous one. This was far more serengeti-like. No tree is much taller than I am and the only animal in sight is the occaisional crow. Or at least I thought they were crows. One thing I really didn't care for about this part of the trek is how intense the sun is and the absense of any shade. Thanks to my years of dicipline in regaurds to sun, they only burn I suffered was on my right hand (my walking stick hand). Try keeping that in the shade! I ended up putting one of my winter gloves on it.

On the way to Horombo, with Kili in the background.

Anyway, so I see the camp in the distance and breifly toss the pole pole rule aside. I see the presence of shade the resides inside the cabins and haul ass up a giant hill of rocks. And that is when I wipe out and bruise both knees. I told you, rocks just make everythng harder. I guess pole pole is useful for more than just altitude. It is at this altitude, 3700 meters, that you are at level with the clouds. One of the biggest concerns with Kili is altitude sickness. It is highly reccomended that you spend an extra night at Horombo camp to better aclimitise. So that is exactly what I did. I rush to my cabin to see that I am bunking with two young nurses from Portland, USA that are on their way down.

Rose, myself and Heather with Kili in the background

They are fresh out of school and are taking some time off before working full time. I trade travel stories with the nurses before eating one more 4 course dinner and heading off to bed.

During my second day at Horombo, I went to see what are called the 'Zebra Rocks'. Probably the only rocks worth appreating in the entire trek. After taking a few pictures for myself, a climbing from Korea shows up, and apparently, Canadians are very popular with Koreans. To the point where they actually asked me if I would have my photo taken with them! It was like 'Do I resemble a famous Korean or something?' Anyhoo, after chatting with my fanbase for a little bit, I head back to camp. When I arrive at my room, there are two women from the Ukraine inside. They are on their way down as well. One is fine, but one is very ill. A little forshadowing to what my future may have instore.

So after Horombo, I take off for Kibo. This day is still very different from the previous two. Kibo is nothing but sand, rocks, and more rocks. No vegetation and very little wildlife. Lovely. I arrive at Kibo it is incredibly bleak. There is no running water, washrooms, or much of anything. So I unload my stuff onto my bed and start figuring out what I need for my final assault up this mountain. At this very moment when some french newlyweds walk into my room. While the wife has no serious signs of altitude sickness, the husband is very ill. I gave him some pepto bismal that I had with me, but it doesn't seem to help (I carry so many OTC drugs with me, I think I may have been a pharmacist or a junkie in a past life or something). He has to descend, and she goes with him. Its so sad when you put so much effort into a goal, and then have to bail out at the last minute.

Soon the cook comes into the room. I tell him, 'Look, you can feed me into unconsciousness any other time, but now is not the time for a major stomach ache.'. He responds by to my request by serving me one very large serving of pasta. The best he can do, I suppose. I try my best, but as I have said, I never finished a single meal while on this trek.

So this is it. The time where we seperate the women from the girls, the men from the boys, the Canadians from the pansies. I dress up in 5 layers and head off for my final asscent. A few minutes after I start climbing, its clear that people who put emphasis on cold it is are NOT Canadian. I ended up removing my beleclava and sweater within a few minutes. There is no way I can keep trekking in 40 degree heat. This is when I really start to dislike my guide.

From the very beginning, I felt that he pressured me to go too fast. Completely against the 'pole pole' rule. We'll be hiking up this mountain for at least 7 hours no matter what. If we don't go as slowly as humanly possible and take breaks, we'll tire ourselfs out. And I'm not going let that happen to me. So after 5 hours of climbing uphill sand followed by 1 hour of climbing over boulders in complete darkness (My flashlight went through 4 batteries in the first 4 hours), I made it to Gilmen's Point. I stopped and had a well earned Mars Bar. It was like eating chocolate brick with the cold, but it was still good. After comsuming chocolate bar at record speed and sitting a bit longer, I headed to the very coveted Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. Next to actually reaching the summit, this part was my absolute favorite. With the sun coming up on my left hand side, the snow-covered crator on my right, it felt as if this mofo of a mountain and I were the only things in existace. Looking over the horizon, I can see that the clouds are far beneath me. It was indescribable.

On Feburary 6th 2008 at 7:35am, I set foot on Uhuru Peak. After placing my Canadian flag sticker on the sign(that read, 'Ashley Churchill was here 06/02/08) I pose for my photo op. I step aside and let the other climbers have their turns and soak up the feeling of being on 'The roof of Africa'.

So I start heading back down and it wasn't 10 minutes after leaving the summit that I starting feeling completely nautious and very queezy. It took me almost as much time going up, as it did going down. But of course, this wouldn't be my story without a little extra drama. During the three hours from Kibo camp to Horombo, where I am to spend the night, it rains. And rains hard. So I arrive at Horombo nautious, exausted, wet and freezing. I go to my room and there stand 5 middle aged men from various corners of the world. They are part of a cllimbing group that are on their way up. I stand there shivering while my porter comes to bring me my bag. One of them asks "Are you not well?" I explain that the descent was not too kind to me and I just spent the last three hours walking in the rain. From that second, they treated me as if I were their own child. 'You shouldn't be in those wet clothes, put on my sweater. ...Put on my beanie ...Take my enormous spaceman coat.' Within a few hours, I start feeling much better. Getting warm again makes a huge difference. By the next morning, I feel well enough to take on the 19 km walk back to the park gate. It rains most of the way. But I am far too motivated to get back to my hotel to care. Along the way, I notice that my lips and left hand are considerably swollen.
My left hand
My Right Hand

At the gate, I receive my certificate that says that I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I shower, have dinner, and fall alseep all in the course of 45 minutes.


Posted by AshleyC 05:46 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (3)


sunny -1 °C

I landed in Africa last night. The flights coming over were chaos. For starters, I couldn't get a direct flight from Toronto to nyc, I had to transfer in Florida. It couldn't be any further away if it were on the west coast! So instead of a 45 minute fight, I had two 3 hour flights. The flight from nyc to Amsterdam was pretty uneventful, which is always good. But let me tell you about the flight from Amsterdam to Tanzania. So we're on the plane, and about 2 hours into the flight we do a U turn and go back to Amsterdam! There was a problem with the fuel gauge and they had to go back to get it fixed AND they had to dump a whole load of fuel because the plane was too heavy to land. So all of that turned an 8 hour flight into a 12 hour flight. Adding up time spent on board, I was in flight for about 25 hours. I almost fell asleep in the bathtub when I got to the hotel. I'm taking on Kilimanjaro tomorrow, wish me luck!

Posted by AshleyC 03:08 Archived in Tanzania Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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