Our first morning in Tanzania:

Kigongoni Lodge: Our room and view

After breakfast, we met with Abu for an orientation of sorts. He talked about what our expectations should be for the trip, what we’d be seeing and the guidance he would give us along the way. Abu was our guide until we left the Serengeti on Saturday.

Our first day was not to be an animal viewing day, but a visit to a local village supported by Thomson (and therefore by us too). Ng’iresi village is on the slopes of Mount Meru.

Our host, Mr. Loti, is the highest elected official of the village. There are about 1,000 people who live in the area. Broken into segments, each person has a representative that equates to our city council. The village meets once a month and at least one person from each household must attend the meeting. If they miss subsequent meetings, they are fined a cow, goat or something similar. That would be a huge loss to a family, so they have a very active democratic community.

During a tour of the area with our local guide Harry, we learned about how they have been farming the countryside to prevent erosion and have developed an irrigation system. What got me the most is how they take care of each other. The widows especially are held in high esteem. Children are encourage to attend school and by the looks of their blackboards were learning subjects over my head (physics!).

A highlight of the visit for me was learning the village has received animals from Heifer International. It’s a program I have supported in the past, so I was thrilled to see it in action. Truly helping the village be self-sustaining.

Another highlight of our day were the children. They are so welcoming and warm. We had one boy show off his fist push-ups, but mostly they just want you to talk with them. Hold their hand. Take their picture (and show it to them!). Or do cartwheels like Allison did.

After the tour and lunch, we returned to the lodge with time to kill before dinner. As the clouds finally parted, we were able to see Mt. Meru from poolside (it was too cool to swim).

We sat by the pool for several hours, just talking about our amazing day. It was our first chance to sample African beer and wine. We had an excellent dinner with our group of five. Here’s a self-portrait of Carmen:

P.S. I’ve decided to have separate posts about food, lodging, shopping, etc . . . after I’ve finished the main daily posts.