Wednesday, October 30, 2013


        Have you ever seen a young child’s face when they see something very special for the first time?  Maybe it’s Christmas morning and they just are wide-eyed and speechless.  They stand there for a moment not knowing what to do first.  Maybe it was your first time seeing the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center or when you see your child walk for the first time.

        In September, we had the pleasure of accompanying the second year students on a study trip to Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam. We left at 6 am on a Friday, the 8th and returned on Sunday evening.  We boarded the bus as planned.  Everyone was very excited.  Most of the students had dressed very smartly in slacks or jeans.  This is one of the few times during their time at Irente that they can wear make-up and are permitted to dress in casual clothes.

On our way
     The bus was loaded and we were set to start our journey, but first a word of prayer was offered for a safe journey.  We have experienced this in all of our travels here.  Taking a moment asking God to protect us and keep us safe.  We started down the mountain with the students singing hymns. The singing continued for over an hour.  How beautiful the spirit was on the bus.  We were experiencing their joy of the trip and their love for God.  As we traveled we started to see different reactions from each student.  For some, nervous chatter continued as we drove; for others their faces were plastered to the windows taking in all the sights.

    Most of these students have never been on a trip like this. Many have never been anywhere outside their villages or towns except for coming to school at Irente Children’s Home.  We passed many villages; large and small in the six hours it took to reach our first destination.  We also experienced the difference in the climate on our journey.  In Irente , we are fortunate for the lush environment., very green with many plants and flowers.  Bagamoyo was dry, hot and very humid.

     Bagamoyo’s history goes back many years.  It is considered to be Tanzania’s oldest town.  We started our tour at the Kaole Ruins just south of town on the Indian Ocean.   The ruins include two mosques and about 30 tombs set among palm trees.  According to our Tanzania guidebook, the oldest of the mosques dates from sometime between the third and fourth century AD.  The other mosque and the tombs date from the 13th century.    The tombs are stone pillars, some up to 5 meters high, which were inlaid with Chinese bowls of celadon.  (The bowls have been removed and are now in a museum in Dar).  A guide took us around and explained the history.  Also on the site we saw a museum of local artifacts and a baobab tree, which is believed to be over 500 years old.  Touring the area were also several groups of school children.  The students were very interested to hear their history of their country.

A well at Kaole that promises long life
A possibly 500 year old baobab tree

Students at Kaole Ruins
Tomb dating from the 13th century

   After Kaole, we drove back to Bagamoyo to a crocodile farm and then to the Old Fort, which is fully restored and dates to around 1860.  It was started by Abdallah Marhabi and expanded by Sultan Baghash around 1870.  It was built as a place to hold slaves until they could be shipped to Zanzibar.  The name Bagamoyo means “lay down my heart”.  It was a busy port and origin of many caravans into the interior.  The fort then came under German control with the start of German East Africa in 1891.  After World War I, it became British.  Bagamoyo has a sad history of mistreatment of the local people by people from far away.

At the fort in Bagamoyo
Ancient doorway in Bagamoyo

The beach at Bagamoyo
     We walked a few hundred feet from the fort, and there it was…. The Indian Ocean.   I wish I could have taken individual photos of each girl’s face. There was amazement, wonder, excitement, and fear.   Susan took her shoes off and started wading in the warm water and many of the girls yelled for her to get out.  She assured them she was fine. We all walked up the beach some dipping their toes in the water, others looking for that perfect shell to take back as a souvenir.

Fish market in Bagamoyo
Fishing Dhows
     There were many fishing dhow’s of different sizes and a large fish market where some of the students bought freshly cooked fish and shrimp.  We also enjoyed drinking coconut milk right from the shell.  It was very cool and refreshing.


     We walked back to our bus to continue our journey to Dar es Salaam.  While it is no longer the capital of Tanzania, it is the largest city and home to an estimated 4 million people.  Dar es Salaam means “haven of peace”, which is a great contrast to the reality today of people, traffic, and high-rise buildings.  In fact, it took us more than two hours to reach our hotel once we were in the city. 

     Because of the size of our group, we stayed in two different guesthouses, which were located close to each other.  Our room had a queen-sized bed, air conditioning, and an en suite bathroom.  We were all tired and ready to go to bed by the time we settled in.

     In the morning after breakfast, we boarded the bus to visit several sites in the city.  This day the students were dressed as if going to a prom.  This was a very special occasion for them.  Although two of the students are from Dar, most of them had never been there before.  Again, it was fun watching them as they looked at the sites out the bus windows. 

     We took a ride on a ferry, which carries people and vehicles across the port.  This was the first boating experience for many of the students.  We also visited the airport and a street market called Kariakoo.  We visited an orphanage run by the Catholic Church.  This was a chance for the students to compare another institution and see how it is run.  The children at this orphanage range in age from newborn up to 5 years old.  It was a very long and hot day and we were glad when we returned to our hotel.

     The next morning, we boarded the bus for our ride home.  As always, our journey began with a time of prayer.  Even on an early Sunday morning, the traffic was unbelievable.  It took us more than an hour to leave the city limits.  On our return trip we stopped for lunch and also to buy many bushel bags of oranges for the children at the home. 

The fish was very tasty.  Tom with student Monica
     When we arrived at Irente, we offered a prayer of thanksgiving for a safe trip and were greeted by the first year students and staff who had not come with us.  It was a great experience for us all.  Our thanks to German volunteer, Claudia Wallis, for her photos.

some of the Dar skyline
Students of Irente Children's Home on the beach in Bagamoyo, September 2013

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