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Just about everything we experienced in Tanzania opened my eyes a lot wider and often made my mouth drop open in awe at the beauty and vastness and warmth that we experienced. Each and every day came with lessons and new perspectives, often some anxiety at the newness of it all, but most of all growth and change and doing and seeing things I never imagined. Every lodge, every meal, every game drive made me fall a little more in love with Tanzania, but it was meeting school children that completed this trip.

Over the course of our travels, we visited several schools. Some were random drop-ins, where the children had never met Westerners. Thanks to Grand Circle Travel, we were prepared with soccer balls, which, in Tanzania where kids play with balls of trash taped together, are like gold.

school visits in Tanzania Whether we were scheduled to visit a school or not, the things that didn’t change were the looks on the children’s’ faces, the pride in their schools, and their desire to show off for their guests.

Tanzania school


school visits in Tanzania


The schools themselves were mostly very simple, though the secondary school we visited had some new buildings and a computer lab with tablets. For the most part, however, the schools were marked by broken windows and cracked floors; they are in need of repair, they are in need of assistance.

But that’s not what they are all about.

Tanzania schools

The children in these schools are often hungry, many are missing one or both parents due to death, and some of the children walk for over an hour each way just to get to class. Their challenges are massive; they are unimaginable, and yet these children are absolutely overflowing with joy and appreciation.

soccer in Tanzania They were joyful especially when the soccer balls came out. They were full of curiosity and song. They melted my heart over and over again on our visits.

The school where we spent the most time was the Ayalabe School, which is supported by Grand Circle Foundation. A little about the school:

Ayalabe has 15 classrooms and 17 teachers that serve 379 students, ages 5-16. Due to overcrowding and a lack of funding, every 2-3 students share a single desk and the student-to-book ratio is as high as 1 to 7.

The school constantly owes on its line of credit to local stores where they buy school supplies. Prior to our trip, we were informed of what the school needed, and we all stocked up on crayons, pencils, notepads, bubbles, stickers, and more to bring to the kids. Generous donors also sent items with us; in all we had 10 duffel bags full to bring to the school.


Other items included hula hoops and jump ropes, which were a huge hit with the kids.

Ayalabe School

The little girl on the left kept holding my hand; it was the sweetest thing. Her sweet smile and quiet demeanor set her apart for me. Her little glittery sneakers, worn and with holes, were clearly a point of pride, and she beamed when I complimented them. I find it hard to even write this or to think about her, possibly going to school with a growling belly or not having opportunities to go beyond primary school due to poverty. What’s worse, much worse, is that things like domestic slavery and sex trafficking are all too common. Children left to walk long distances alone or play on the side of the road while parents farm are easy targets for sick and greedy minds. Learning about it after actually being there was all too much to bear.  The teachers and donors and program managers for these schools are doing amazing work for these kids. They see such difficult things day in and day out. I don’t know how they keep it up, but they do, and with love. There is a harsh reality learned at an early age, and it is not okay.

schools in Tanzania



On a lighter note, our visit included bringing enough books that each child could have a book of his or her own, and we did some reading aloud in English while our guides translated into Swahili. The schools do teach English, and it was sweet to have the children try to communicate with us in our language while also teaching us words in theirs.

Grand Circle Foundation School school visit in Tanzania Ayalabe School  Ayalabe School The Ayalabe School and the other schools we visited, including a secondary school sponsored by Grand Circle Foundation, are doing great things. In the secondary school, the foundation is providing scholarships to students, mostly girls, so that they can stay in school. They’re bringing bicycles to help with the hours-long travel to school. They’re giving girls simple items like sneakers and toiletries, all things their families can’t provide for them, but most of all they are giving these amazing kids more confidence and curiosity. In the secondary school, one of the young girls, who has never left Karatu, never been on a plane, told us she wants to become a pilot. I have chills thinking of her dreams and ambitions, and as I ready to go to sleep tonight, I pray that with the help of the community and her own drive, she will be soaring someday.

If you would like to learn more about the schools in Tanzania and how you can help, please visit the Grand Circle Foundation website.

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Tags: Africa, life changing, Tanzania, Travel

Today Nova Star Cruises kicks of its second season sailing between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. This weekend we had the opportunity to tour the ship and to spend the night on board in Portland, which was really cool.

Nova Star Cruises

Nova Star is enormous! It’s a 528 foot ship with 162 passenger cabins, two hoistable vehicle decks, a casino, a spa, three restaurants, four bars, and an area especially for kids. And there’s so much more! Our tour took us all around the ship, including up to the bridge where the ship is piloted. Even though it was a foggy gray night, it was really cool to be up in the bridge looking out over the sea.

Nova Star Cruises

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dining on Nova Star Cruises    Nova Star Cruises

The ship’s many features include a buffet restaurant, fine dining restaurant, pub, and a shop that sells gift items, duty free items, and local offerings such as Nova Scotia wine. Nova Scotia is a rapidly growing wine region that has its own Tidal Bay wine, which reflects the coastal terroir.

Nova Scotia wine

Nova Star Cruises

While it is traveling between ports, the ship also features all sorts of entertainment, from ice cream socials, to wine and beer tastings, chef events, bingo, live music, art lessons and more, depending on the schedule.

We spent the night in one of the exterior cabins, so we had a nice big window overlooking the Portland Harbor. Cabins are all equipped with private bathrooms with showers, and everything was absolutely spotless. The beds were super comfortable too! I had a great night’s sleep in the cabin, and we woke up to a beautiful morning.

Nova Star Cruises cabin


Nova Star Cruises

Nova Star connects two beautiful coastal locations, both with exquisite natural beauty, excellent food, and maritime culture. Getting to Nova Scotia from New England has never been more fun. We’re hoping to plan a trip to Halifax sometime this summer, using Nova Star to kick off our vacation from the second we drive aboard. For more information on the ship, things to do on board, and Nova Scotia as a destination, please visit


*I am doing some work for Nova Star Cruises. All opinions are my own.

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Tags: boats, cruises, Maine, Nova Scotia, Portland, Travel, travel blog

bananas in Tanzania

ngorogoro farm house Tanzania

ngorogoro farm house

ngorogoro farm house

ngorogoro farm house

ngorogoro farm house  sunset

sundowners on safari

ngorogoro farm house

Sandwiched in between our wild stay at Maramboi Tented Camp and camping in the Serengeti was the lush mountain retreat of Ngorogoro Farm House. We arrived at Ngorogoro Farm House after our dusty, hot morning with the Maasai, and a green tropical garden area set with lunch and wine was a welcome site.  This lodge emanated relaxation, and we did well to enjoy pool time, a long nap, sundowner cocktails and snacks, and live entertainment by an open fire. Our cabins were spacious and simple, with comfy beds, located down a long walk surrounded by flowers and gorgeous views. The property contained an organic farm where much of the delicious food was sourced from. Made-to-order stir fries at dinner combined local flavors and ingredients to make healthy, filling fare.

Staff at the lodge was incredible, as was the staff everywhere we stayed in Tanzania. Everyone went out of their way to take excellent care of us and made us feel at home. We only had one night at the Ngorogoro Farm House, but I would love to return to spend several days, lie by the pool, take the garden tour, and spend more time in the schools in Karatu. If you couldn’t tell from my past posts, Tanzania has a special hold on my heart. Thank you for letting me share that with you.

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Tags: Africa, hotels, lodging, luxury travel, safari, Tanzania, Travel, Travel Tuesday

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