A Tanzanian Thanksgiving (or ketchup, mustard and unicorns)
I just got home from a two and a half week trip to Tanzania (East Africa if you are geographically challenged). I went over to help Mike Fry with One World, One Rope teach rope skipping at some various schools and street centers for runaway kids. I landed in Dar es Salaam the day before Thanksgiving and then spent Thanksgiving day on an 11 hour bus ride from Dar to Moshi (at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro). If you have never experienced bus rides in 3rd world countries, you are missing out on quite an adventure. I got the back row of the bus comfortably squashed between 7 other people, none of whom used deodorant...and there's no A/C in 90+ degree weather and 100 percent humidity. You get the picture.
I mention this because the conditions of the entire trip were pretty well summed up in that bus ride. Little to no cooling, bathing out of a bucket and really hot weather with lots of B.O. Most people would find this type of trip quite miserable...not me, I loved it. In fact, when you get to a country like this and see how people live and thrive with the conditions they have, you really start realizing what being thankful really is. I have a much greater appreciation for what I have after numerous trips to locations like this. Take a trip to a third world country if you get a chance, it will change your perspective on everything. Now on with the jump rope talk.
I arrived in time for the first 2 day workshop scheduled for the trip. We spent all day Saturday and Sunday teaching 26 kids a bunch of skills in Single Rope, Double Dutch, Traveler and 2-Person 1-Rope. These were all students from 3 local schools who were told they should learn as much as they could and then take it back to their schools and teach others. The principle is quite simple, we teach the teachers so the sport will spread as fast as possible. In this case, the teachers are 7 year olds, 12 year olds, 16 year olds. You're never too young to teach. At the end of the 2 days, we chose 1 student from each school to go to a larger competition/camp that we were doing the second weekend of December. The choice was tough (both this weekend and the following one) because the kids work extremely hard and it's really a difficult decision deciding who will learn the most. But in the end, a decision was made and we encouraged the kids to keep working hard and maybe they would get a chance to go next year.
We headed back to Dar and did 3 shows/workshops at schools around the city. Jumping in the dirt, in dingy classrooms and surrounded by loads of kids was hard. The only thing tougher...those kids did it barefoot, something which I can never bring myself to do. I remember a situation last year where a number of the kids were given shoes, except they kept taking them off because they would miss, it had to be the shoes. Barefoot is so much better. I guess you get used to it. We had another 2 day workshop (from 9 to 6 each day) then had a couple days to prep for the upcoming competition and camp. We ended up getting a really cool location booked last minute, the Makumbusho Cultural Center. We originally stopped by to see some traditional African music/dance, but talked to the owner and he let us use the facility for the competition and then a demo for his customers.
Unfortunately, I was not able to stay through the entire camp as I had a show in Montana already booked for Sunday (and the camp was Sat-Mon). I took off on a midnight flight out of Dar and flew all day to get to Laurel on time for the show. I had a great trip to Tanzania and can't wait to get another opportunity to go back and work with some of the most rugged, hard working kids I've ever had a chance to meet. As I sit in my cold office (which I'm enjoying thoroughly after the heat blast of summer in December), I can't help but be thankful for my wonderful wife, my great living conditions and the fact that I have opportunities most of those kids will never realize. I'm blessed and you are too. God Bless, have a great Christmas!
I almost forgot. Mike had a wheel rope that was red, yellow and purple. He said it was probably the ugliest rope he's ever used, and yet he didn't know why he always had it on him. I told him that the colors were quite inspiring to the kids there and he should showcase it proudly, they were the colors of ketchup, mustard and unicorns. Who says we ever grow up?
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