Tanga is a Tanzanian town along the coast of the
Ocean, and it used to be a booming trade center from the English
and German colonies. Since WWII however,
the town has lost its tourists and economic importance. For the local Tanzanians though – it’s still
a great vacation spot.
We had heard about the opportunity to take the kids on a trip the last time we were here, and this time, we wanted to make it happen. They are pretty picky about which kids get the opportunity to see the ocean, and it’s generally new children to LIA, as well as kids from Mirerani – where the most water they have probably ever seen was in a five gallon bucket.
Our journey started on Thursday and ended on a Monday, with a group of eight kids under twelve, one Mama, one Ramesha (one of the older kids who now works for them), and Abby, Sophie (another volunteer) and myself. We took an “amazing” seven hour bus ride, stopping once for a bathroom break, and arrived that evening to a deceivingly beautiful mansion. The hotel was modest, at best, with electricity, but running water only a few hours of the day (i.e. toilets didn’t flush – draw your own conclusions for those smells) and we paid only about $8/night for 13 people. Hindsight – we probably should have sprung for an upgrade.
Ramesha shared a room/bed with the four boys (5, 6, 7, and 11 year olds), the Mama shared a room with Mary (12 years old), Sophie took care of the twins (6 year olds), and Abby and I were mamas to Ester, a very cheeky (it’s a British term, but the best word we could come up with) six year old.
The main reason we wanted to go on this trip was because both of us remember how amazing we thought the ocean was (and still do). Having the opportunity to watch a child’s face, who’s never been outside of their small, dusty, and dead world was something we had to make happen. We were right, the bus ride and hotel were worth it, just to watch them see all that water and sand.
They laughed and chased the sand crabs, held their breath and popped up out of the water with a proud (yet scared) expression, and wouldn’t come out of the water unless they were told. The second day we took them to a hotel pool, and there they got even more comfortable in the water. Almost every one learned how to swim (or at least kind of float and shimmy though the water), a few of them tried to give us heart attacks with their drowning attempts, and a few even got sunburns (yes, that black African skin can burn).
Being able to watch the kids experience something new for the first time was amazing, but the relationships we formed were priceless. Most of the kids at Mirerani are so shy and quite (and they don’t speak much English), it was hard to tell if they were enjoying their time with us. By the end of the third day in Tanga however, each kid had held each of our hand (even the boys!) and we had gotten to witness enough smiles and hear enough laughter to feel like we had done something special with them. We told Mama Lynn when we returned it was hard not speaking the same language as them, and she replied with “You spoke the language of love darlings, and that’s the only language these kids need right now”.