By Ken and Mary Bingman, Delegates, 2008
At a very young age we remember reading about the people and animals of Africa. As youngsters, we dreamed about visiting some of the people described in our geography books and seeing wild elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinos and zebras in Africa. The PTP trip of 2008 to Tanzania brought those descriptions to a wondrous reality and provided much, much more. We shall always treasure our experiences there. In many ways they changed our lives forever as the understandings of the different cultures developed through first-hand experiences.
Two of the many cultural highlights were: A visit to The School of St. Jude in the Arusha District of Tanzania which serves orphaned and vulnerable children. We were delighted and sometimes overwhelmed by how friendly, happy, and high achieving these students were. We shall never forget the glint in their eyes and the thirst they had for learning and making us feel welcome. In addition to attending classes and visiting with them, we had the special privilege of riding one of the school buses to take them home after school. It was so heart-warming to marvel at their enthusiasm for life and to see their quaint villages.
Another cultural treasure occurred on a very remote area of the Arusha Plain. It was a welcome by Maasai Elders to their village in their ceremonial dress. The small village consisted on 25 or so mud huts surrounded by tall sharp poles driven into the ground to form a wall to keep out the lions, leopards and other wildlife that might kill the people or their cattle. The families were friendly and welcomed us to teach the ABCs in their small thatched-roof school constructed of wood poles, guarded by a Maasai Warrior. For Ken, who taught 50 years, it was a highlight of his teaching career.
As we visited Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti wildlife areas, the animal and plant life were unbelievably spectacular. On the Serengeti, the migrating zebras and wildebeests were on the move by the thousands. The lions were constantly scenting the air for prey. The very rare and closely guarded black rhinos were a special treat. Also, to see a take-down of a wildebeest by a mother lion to feed her three cubs was a life-time memory. In addition thousands of other wildlife, we got to see three very rare cheetahs hazing a herd of zebras for a possible meal. It just doesn't get any better than that.
Other highlights included the Olduvai Gorge, the Grand Canyon of human evolution where the Leakeys' discovered ancient human-like fossils that revolutionized the understandings of human evolution. The single engine plane ride to exotic Zanzibar above the plains of Tanzania dotted with Maasai villages and the snow capped Kilimanjaro mountain in the background is a memory that will last a lifetime.
In summary, it was very sad to leave Tanzania, because the memories of the wonders of the vast grasslands, the abundant wildlife, and the spectacular geography. However it was the people that captured our hearts forever. It is a People to People experience personified in the most meaningful way possible. Mary is ecstatic to return to Tanzania on the upcoming trip, to live again our cherished memories, visit with old friends, and make new ones.
Ken Bingman is a member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame and Mary is starting her 45th year as an active leader in the Antioch Baptist Community Church.
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