It's hard to put into words, or even cohesive thoughts, everything that I have gained from this experience, but I will do my best, as this is a review. Overall, the trip was an INCREDIBLE experience that I wouldn't have traded for anything else. It is hands down one of the best (if not the single best) things I have done in my life thus far, as it has opened my eyes to so many new cultures and perspectives. My trip began with a view of the most amazing sunset as we flew into Kilimanjaro airport, shortly followed by a delicious home-cooked meal (by candlelight) prepared by the wonderful Mamas! From there, my amazing experiences quickly multiplied, including shopping for fabric at a local market, dancing with a group of grandmothers on a coffee plantation, and hiking through the backyards of members of the Chaga tribe on Mount Kilimanjaro! However, my favorite excursion by far was the Safari Weekend. I have decided that Ngorongoro Crater is my new favorite place in the world--it is so serene and peaceful because the only people there are safari tourists and Maasai. The roof of the safari car raises up so we spent most of the ride standing on our seats, and when you're down there, all you can see is the open sky, rolling plains, and mountains on all sides. We saw zebras, elephants, lions, hippos, impala, and giraffes (to name a few)--some cars saw a lion cross the road right in front of them! Aside from the safari, I think my favorite part of the trip was getting to interact with all of the people I met. One of my favorite moments was when a student looked me in the eye and told me "I write better because of you", to which I replied "I am happier because of you"--I know, SUPER corny, but it's true! Another moment I loved was seeing the excitement on Mama Lucy's face when I told her that her daughter Glari had exceptional English for a six-year old (Glari had spent the evening sitting on my lap helping me play UNO). One of the absolute best moments from my trip was seeing how grateful Mama Hephzibah was when I gave her my sneakers on the last day (it's AMAZING what a single pair of shoes can do!). I was also blown away by how easily our host families accepted us into their homes, and I loved being able to sit in their living rooms and talk for hours about our cultures, dreams and aspirations. The first day I met him my host brother Patric was wearing a shirt with nearly every American logo patched on that you could imagine--he wants to come to America and be a DJ someday! In addition to the native people, I learned so much from my wonderful group members and mentors! It was amazing to hear everybody's stories, people came from all over the place! To name a few, there were six students from China, two Mormons from Utah, a girl from a Native American community in Minnesota, a nationally-ranked pageant-winner from Ohio and one of our mentors was an ex-opera singer on her fifth trip to Tanzania! Although I have tried, I cannot possibly fit everything I want to say into this review, so I will end it by saying that my parents originally said no when I asked to go on the trip (their concerns were cost and safety, neither of which ended up being a problem), but the other day my mom turned to me and said, "I am so glad that you convinced your father and I to let you go on this trip", and I can say with 100% certainty that I'll be forever grateful that I convinced them too!
I would have appreciated having a few more lessons in Swahili so that we could have communicated with the kids more easily. Also, this isn't a comment about GLA but more about service trips in general, but the hardest part of the trip for me was getting to know the other people in my group, at least at the beginning. I think this was partially due to the fact that there were four pairs of people on the trip who came knowing each other, so my advice to people who go on trips with another person is don't be afraid to branch out and meet other people, we want to get to know you!