Sweat, Safaris, and Santa-Sightings

In the existence of a typical Midwesterner this title makes absolutely no sense. You may understand that sweat and safari may go together in some sense, but Santa? He’s a resident of the North Pole. Lame introduction and alliterated title aside, Rachel and I experienced this this Christmas. At many points over the past month I was asked to fill in a box that asked for the date. Each time I said to myself or occasionally out loud, “Oh yeah, it’s December.” This is a thought or expression that is not possible in the U.S. of A. Everything is gearing up for Christmas. In Dar, it seemed more like a couple of people were getting ready to throw a Christmas in July celebration. Allow me to elaborate if you will by breaking down the words in the title (don’t say its lame now).

Sweat

The first thing that made it seem more like July was the weather. It was a weird thought knowing that I was holding PE classes outside and I didn’t even require students to wear a jacket. Oh and one of the gifts I gave Rachel for Christmas was a couple of nights sleeping with the air conditioner on in the bedroom. I know what you’re thinking: “That Brandon Hundt is a gem!”

Safaris

Thusly, Rachel and I (but mostly Rachel to her credit) planned a safari to cooler temperatures. Fun Fact: Safari means trip in Swahili, not just a trip to see African animals. End Fun Fact. And cooler temperatures it was. We went up into the Southern Highlands of Tanzania and relaxed at a fishing lodge for a couple of days. Don’t worry those that know me, I didn’t fish. It was simply a nice mountain lodge with fresh air.
We then hitched a ride with the Shenks (another AIM/HOPAC family), who willingly took us down the road to Iringa in Central Tanzania. We then decided to change our plans and stay two nights at a campsite near Iringa, allowing us to take a safari at Ruaha National Park. So finally we have some pictures of some “Real African animals” in the photos section. Enjoy.
But one of the best parts of the trip was experiencing the many variations of the Tanzanian geography. It is truly impressive. Rachel describes our view from the bus we took this way: “One minute you’re shooting like a wobbly and over stuffed bullet through an open-horizoned savanna, then that bus is forced to slow down as it putt-putts its way up a strenuous mountain road at some obnoxious degree of positive incline, only to eventually reach the top to go flying again.” I’m glad we got to see the rest of the country.

Santa-Sightings

Finally, in every place that we visited, it was plain weird to see images of Jolly Ole Saint Nicolas. A big fat white guy with his big fat gray beard, nothing seemed more out of place. Fortunately, there weren’t too many references outside of the large Coke billboards or the animated, singing Santa lawn ornaments the Indian grocery store was trying to sell.

In conclusion, Christmas was refreshing from the standpoint of we didn’t have to put up with a corporate controlled Christmas (another alliteration), and we were able to experience more accurately the environment into which Jesus was born. At the same time we were also able to give back to the community outside of the gates of HOPAC. We held a Christmas Party for the workers in our compound, and gave them gift baskets for their Christmas Bonus. We were also able to revisit Madala Village, just outside of Dar, with the youth group (consisting mostly of HOPAC students). We played games with the children, and gave them gifts such as school supplies, sweets, and clean drinking water. William, HOPAC’s head cleaner on weekdays, and Madala’s pastor on weeknights and weekends, said the kids really enjoyed us coming and that we are their friends. However, despite all of the Sweat, Safaris, Santa-sightings, and Service (another keen addition to the s’s), we missed our family and friends very much and we won’t try to hide the fact that parts of this Christmas break were difficult. We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are planning a fun New Years! We are going to beat you to it.

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